Like many Singaporean millennials, Lee Jing Lin once thought online dating would be the solution to finding love in this digital age. But after endless and aimless swiping and texting on the multiple apps available in the market, the 26-year-old learnt that it wasn’t her cup of tea.
“I looked at the landscape and realised it was quite problematic. It just felt like a game. We’re just swiping and judging people based on how they look. While it boosts a user’s self-gratification, it’s an inefficient dating process,” she explains.
“What if you are a bad texter but an awesome person in real life? I believe people need to bond face-to-face over genuine connections and ensure they have the same motivations.”
She also learnt that she had an opportunity to improve the local dating scene, and this fuelled her to start Kopi Date with a partner.
Launched in 2018, the dating service matches user profiles and sets up blind dates at unique coffee spots around Singapore. The team also provides the date at a surprise cafe location with a kit of ice-breaker questions.
Full devotion to the venture
To fully devote her time and efforts to Kopi Date, the award-winning creative had to make the painful decision to leave her full-time job at an advertising agency.
“I was stuck in a dilemma. I had great mentors at my previous job but I also saw Kopi Date as a way to stretch beyond my creative environment,” she says.
“When I faced setbacks creating the business, I asked myself, ‘Why did I put myself in this situation?’ But this taught me to take greater ownership and make decisions that could make or break Kopi Date. If I work under someone, I could ask them for advice. With Kopi Date, I have to call all the shots.”
This included wearing multiple hats in the business development, creative and marketing aspects of the service and accommodating the unexpected surge of signups when the service temporarily went virtual during the circuit breaker period.
Her biggest challenge navigating this unusual path? Dealing with self-doubt and comparison to her peers.
“It can be mentally overwhelming and daunting. I have to put myself in the right mindset and know that my limitation is myself. The comparison comes naturally but I need to remember that everyone has a different journey and way we define ourselves.”
She’s happy to keep going
Fortunately, her entrepreneurship journey hasn’t been a lonely one. She met her co- founder Zhiqun on a dating app several years ago and introduced the business idea to him, and romance bloomed during the creation of the business.
While it may be tricky for many to be professional around their partner, Jing Lin adds that it has been a positive experience except for the constant struggle to avoid work discussions during their dates.
The road to creating a start-up is never a smooth-sailing one and Jing Lin’s advice is all about thriving on new challenges in the face of uncertainty.
“There’s a lot of hype about being your own boss. But being an entrepreneur is not bigger or more special than anyone else. There are so many risks and investments I put in with my savings. I’m also investing my time and youth because I believe in my product so much,” she says.
She adds that it would also be best to surround yourself with a supportive team who would push you to a better place.
“You’ll need lots of grit and creative thinking. The next time you encounter another challenge, you’ll need to approach it by saying: ‘Bring it on’.”