“Searching for all these childhood photos made me tear up a little,” Josephine Tan tells me. “But these photos also brought a smile to my face.”
We’re on set preparing for a special Mother’s Day #throwback shoot (yes, we’re dedicating all of May as the month to show all mums some love!) featuring entrepreneur Viola Tan and her mum Josephine.
Scrolling through the photo album on her phone, Josephine tells me, “When Viola was a kid, my husband and I brought her out to swim, cycle and we had picnics in parks. I loved dressing her and her sisters, and my husband would get mad at me for buying so many clothes for the kids and none for myself.”
As Viola entered teenagehood, her parents grew even more protective of her; they didn’t allow her to stay out late. “Her dad was quite strict with her. I remember writing a heartfelt letter to her, telling her why we love her so much and explain why don’t we allow her to do certain things. She would always comply though.”
The three photos that we’re about to recreate show a young and adorable Viola cozying up to her mum. “Look at those cheeky expressions,” Viola exclaims as she gets her hair and makeup done.
Viola and her family members have been tied up with their individual work schedules so she values whatever time she gets with them. “I think the most precious gift is family time which can’t be bought,” she says.
“My mum is always pleased whenever we get a chance to get together as a family. My family and I went on a trip to Korea recently and even though my mum couldn’t walk for too long, I’m still glad we went there as a family. It was a very memorable trip for us,” says Viola.
Before setting up her own label, the 33-year-old co-founder of homegrown fashion label Love, Bonito was a full time teacher. “Viola also gave piano lessons on top of her full time job to help contribute to our household,” shares Josephine.
Then in 2006, Viola decided to switch from teaching to setting up her own business. “Growing up, I’ve never imagined myself as an entrepreneur,” Viola confesses. “Love, Bonito started out as a passion project and I’ve never expected us to come this far.”
Just like any concerned parents, Josephine was anxious about Viola’s decision to give up her full time job. “I know deep down, she was really worried but she gave me her fullest support,” Viola shares. “She even got my dad to help me out.”
Back then, the brand grew by word of mouth. Today — thanks to the continuous support from loyal fans and fashion lovers — Love, Bonito has successfully expanded to include an e-store as well as shops in Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Indonesia.
I sat down with Viola to talk more about some of the most important lessons that she’s learned throughout her business journey, as well as her tips on working with friends.
On her relationship with her mum, Josephine
She’s always been very strict when I was growing up. She’s taught me prudence, discipline, sheer grit, tenacity and working harder than anyone to excel in life.
I didn’t like to fail in school so I’d always ensure that I do her proud. In hindsight, these values and qualities are what I need to build Love, Bonito.
On the one most important thing that her mum has taught her about life
It’s never going to be smooth sailing. Cherish everything you have and work extremely hard. Don’t take anything for granted.
On the one most important thing that her mum has taught her about work
Perseverance. And always push beyond my boundaries and step out of my comfort zone. Stay grounded and always, always be thankful.
On the one most important thing that her mum has taught her about relationships
Give and take. She always tells me, “Don’t be so difficult!”
On the things that she’s learned about herself since the launch of Love, Bonito
It’ll be my ability to adapt. I’ve had people ask me recently if I was an extrovert but honestly, I’m an extremely introverted person.
On how to work together with a friend without making things awkward
Always be open and honest with each other. Communication is extremely important. When your goals are aligned, pretty much nothing can get in your way.
On the important things that entrepreneurs should have
Passion and a clear vision. You have to believe in what you do more than just the monetary returns.
Creative direction: Hayden Ng
Photography: Vernon Wong
Makeup / hair: Christine Lim using Shu Uemura
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