PHOTOGRAPH: Simply Her Team
“Friends ask me where to take their kids because I know about activities first”
Casie Millhouse-Singh, 34, founder of Leela Pass, a kids activities website. She has two daughters, Vita Soul, 2, and Lela Funk, 4.
It started when Casie was an energetic two-year-old, jumping on the furniture at home. Exasperated, her mum took her to a gymnastics class and their home was soon filled with medals and trophies.
When Casie moved to Singapore in 2010, she wanted the same active outlet for her own children but says: “There didn’t appear to be one single source to find activity classes, or fees, easily.”
Her solution was to launch Leela Pass (leelapass.com). Leela is Sanskrit for play and the site is an online platform for parents to source for and book activities for kids under three years old, from music and movement, to arts and crafts.
With experience in blogging, coding and building websites under her belt, and the voluntary help of three web developers, Casie’s focus is on cultivating community and partnerships on the site.
She sources for local providers who pay for a page where they can list classes and take bookings, and she also works on events to bring Leela Pass to life. Casie typically collaborates with clients that offer family classes, such as yoga in the park.
Her benchmarks for a winning idea are her children. “They’re my guides. It’s important I take their opinions on board,” she says. “Parents should bond through their children’s early life experiences.”
“Mums are an untapped and underappreciated resource”
Monica Lim, 46, founder and director of writing agency, Hedgehog Communications. She has two children, Lesley-Anne, 19 and Andre, 15.
In 2002, Monica had had over 10 years’ experience in heading up corporate communications departments. Yet, as the mother of two kids, then five and two, she realised her career was preventing her from enjoying their childhood years.
Read more: Jaime Teo’s many leaps of faith
So with the support of her husband, a passion for writing and a handful of contacts, Monica started a copywriting business from home.
“I was naturally apprehensive, and with two very young kids to feed, many friends thought I was out of my mind!” she laughs. “But I gave it my all, made a gazillion cold calls, knocked on doors and hawked my CV around.”
After five years, Monica’s skills for writing projects such as websites, brochures and reports, were in such high demand that she needed help with her workload, and the candidates she actively sought out were mums.
“I knew there were lots of mums like me in Singapore who wanted flexi-work so they could spend more time with their kids,” she explains. “I understood first-hand that they’re an untapped and underappreciated resource – very capable, often with great corporate experience behind them, reliable, effective and loyal.”
Today, the majority of Monica’s writers are mums with young children who work from home and are free to take on as much as their schedules allow. “Everyone pulls together,” she says. “Especially when a writer is suddenly unable to take on a job – that’s the ‘mum culture’ at work right there!”
And Monica hasn’t looked back. “The bond I have with my kids, who are now teenagers, is elephant-glue strong.”
“Our clients are unable to leave the house but are craving some pampering”
Stella Tan, 36, and Amber Chong, 36, helm The Outcall Spa. Stella has two children, Hailie, 7, and Matthias, 2. Amber also has two children, Avril, 7, and Eason, 7 weeks old.
Stella and Amber are just like us – huge fans of spa treatments. But, as every mum knows, when kids come along, getting a massage becomes the last thing on your to-do list. “Such treats become a rarity, yet I missed my me-time and I knew I wasn’t alone,” says Stella.
Together with a friend she met through her daughter’s kindergarten, Amber, they embarked upon the idea to set up a service of premium at-home spa treatments. “The easy part was knowing we wanted to set up a fuss-free mobile service where the treatment comes to you,” explains Amber. “But everything else was tough!”
Looking for the right therapists (who had prior experience in premium spas), trying each one out personally, finding the correct beds, drivers and setting up the website and operations schedule was hard work all the way, but they persevered.
Within a few weeks of opening earlier this year, they were overcome with bookings for their massages, which range from deep tissue to breastfeeding massages. Says Stella, “Our clients are mums, just like us – unable to leave the house easily but craving some pampering. By having the spa at home, they get relaxation without the stress of travel and can still be dedicated to their families.”
As blissful as it sounds, life is not always as chill. “Being an entrepreneur is not a job, it’s a lifestyle,” says Amber. “We’re constantly thinking about how to improve. For example, we’re offering facials and scrubs soon but our passion can take over our entire lives.”
“Helping mothers feel less anxious about their children’s future is the biggest reward”
Karen Goh, 35, is the founder of online tutoring service, Learn Mojo. She is mother to Mea, 7, and Matthias, 9.
“I feel lost.”
“I don’t feel good enough.”
These words came from the mouths of Singapore teenagers who felt that, while they aced maths and science in school, they struggled with humanities. As a mother and former history and social studies teacher, Karen discussed the issue with other mums and discovered they were also worried for their kids.
In March 2014, she took action. “I started teaching after my day job at a non-profit healthcare company,” Karen explains. “I had little sleep and worked late nights and weekends… it was crazy!”
Yet the interest she garnered as a private tutor grew rapidly – and gave her so much satisfaction that in September 2015, she quit her job to concentrate on tutoring.
“The idea of designing an online coaching programme for time-strapped students really grew on me,” she says. So she attended workshops and courses, and spent weeks creating an online teaching structure and Learn Mojo was born.
Karen isn’t just a tutor. She goes one step further by setting up a Whatsapp chat group between the mum, student and herself. “Often, Mums call me to share their worries. I keep them informed about their child’s progress and abilities – sometimes I’m a bit of a mediator.”
“Seeing my students transform from passive to proactive and confident is incomparable,” she shares. “And helping mothers feel less anxious about their child’s future is the biggest reward.”