An interview with Shan Shan Yap, founder of anupliftedday.com
It never fails to impress me when a person decides to leave the relative “safety” of a well-paying, corporate job and strike out on their own. Stories like these are what I love the most about ordinarypeople.ink – meeting the new entrepreneur or the seasoned business person. It doesn’t matter if they just started their first endeavour or have had a few under their belt. All of them started with an idea, acted on it and made it come alive. It was no different meeting Shan Shan Yap, founder of online portal www.anupliftedday.com. Finding us through our @ordinarypeople.ink Instagram feed, she contacted us to introduce herself and once I had seen her website, I knew she was someone I would want to meet. It wasn’t just because of the similarities in our ethos – to inspire and bring people something a bit out of the “ordinary”. It was also because of the unique and beautiful range of products she had curated for her online store.
Over coffee, she told me about where she began and how An Uplifted Day came to fruition. I was delighted to speak to her and bring you her interview below.
How did it all start, what is your background and why did you decide to go into an online store?
I spent the first ten years of my career in the corporate world working in public relations, communications and marketing in the B2B industries across the oil, agri-commodities and smart metering segments. I lived the life of a typical office worker in Singapore, always busy and running from one thing to the next. At one point, I was going to yoga practice in the morning, going to work, then attending my MBA classes at night and over the weekends! Because life was so hectic, I was always looking for things and solutions to make my life easier, often shopping online and getting them delivered from overseas because these brands were not available in Singapore.
I also had always wanted to start my own business ever since I was a child and explored several ideas while working. I finally left corporate life in Jan 2015 to start a women’s travel handbags brand. In my last corporate role, I travelled a lot for work, often going from the plane straight to work and could never find the right carryon bag that was functional and made me look put together. I decided to design and produce my own bags and spent most of 2015 working with technical designers, sourcing for factories, material and hardware and creating samples of my design. Toward the end of the year (2015) though, I was not where I wanted to be in terms of the design and production quality of my bags.
From bags to an online store! How did that happen?
I have to say that the idea for An Uplifted Day came very suddenly, out of nowhere. All this time, out of pure personal interest, I was still really into researching and trying new products which could make my life easier and I loved recommending them to my friends. One day, a friend mentioned that she wouldn’t buy a product I recommended because it wasn’t available in Singapore and it was too much of a hassle to use third-party shipping. It wasn’t the first time this comment was made and I realized that there was a gap in the market for high quality, tested women’s lifestyle and wellness products. I then thought, ‘What if I could make all these products I love and really believe in available to Singapore and the Asian market?”.
Because I’d spent so much time working on launching the travel handbags business, I was able to quickly take what I had learnt from that experience to launching An Uplifted Day. Within a few days of the idea, I had a name, the URL registered, a rough idea of numbers and a deck for potential brands to explain my concept. I knew An Uplifted Day would have to primarily be an ecommerce business because our target market – busy women – have limited free time and being able to deliver items straight to their doorstep would be a great help to them.
For awhile, I worked on both business ideas, An Uplifted Day and the travel handbags. It soon became clear that I would have to pick just one to focus on, at least for now, and I chose An Uplifted Day because brands were responding positively and it was immediately executable while continuing with the travel handbags idea would have meant much more time and money to get it right. It honestly felt like picking between my two children! I hope to continue the travel handbags idea someday though!
What made you decide to leave your job to become an entreprenuer?
I’ve always wanted to run my own business as a child, even before I really knew what ‘entrepreneur’ meant! I decided to leave my job when I had an idea I was passionate about and believed in (well-designed women’s travel handbags), some savings and when I felt like I had enough professional work experience under my belt. While I didn’t end up launching my travel handbags brand (not yet anyway!), something else came out of it. Funny how things can turn out when you work hard on pursuing your goals but remain open to whatever else may come!
How do you source your products?
I source the products we carry always with our customers at the forefront – what would make their day better, easier, more inspired, less stressful and more joyful? What do they aspire to and what can we find which will help them achieve their goals and create the days and lives of their dreams? Our sourcing strategy is a prime example of the oft-quoted phrase
‘Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers’!
I also get recommendations from our awesome customers and also am always on the lookout for useful products to stock. I like niche brands because I find that brands who are focused on doing only a few things really well produce effective and high quality products. We don’t stock anything without trying them out first and will only decide to stock them if we continue using them and want to make them part of our own lives.
We often get asked if we dropship or carry items on consignment. We don’t as we like to have control of the entire customer experience and the best brands do not sell on consignment, because they don’t need to. We invest in and carry the inventory ourselves – so we put our money where our mouth is!
Why are the products you curate important to you?
The products we curate are important to me personally because they have all actually made a positive difference to my day. I am a big believer in consciously choosing the items you bring into your life – to only surround yourself with things you love and uplift you. When done intentionally, it’s such an easy way to start creating a life you love. For me, the products we curate are a reflection of this philosophy.
What would you give to your mum or bff?
What’s coming up next for An Uplifted Day?
So much exciting stuff! We hope to bring in more brands and eventually expand our product categories, reach out to more people and have a few more creative ideas in the works!
Is there any advice you’d like to give someone who would like to start their own online store?
With ready-made ecommerce software, starting an online store is now very easy and affordable, you can set one up yourself in half-an-hour! So, assuming you already have or are able to assume the risks of creating or obtaining product, you should just go for it if you find an idea or market gap you’re passionate about as it costs little to set up an ecommerce store and to test the market.
To grow and have a viable business though, you need to think and work really hard on driving traffic and converting website traffic to sales. Just because your online store exists doesn’t mean customers will come, much less buy, especially at the beginning. They don’t know you exist! You’ll need to spend time and money to market effectively (remember to set aside a budget for marketing) and to optimize the purchase conversion process. The average ecommerce conversion rate is 1% which means out of every 100 visitors, only 1 on average will buy something. For new stores, it can be even lower.
The great thing about ecommerce is that so much data is available to you once you set up the right data collection process such as Google Analytics. Always be optimizing and testing, make an effort to understand analytics and the numbers to troubleshoot, improve and make better decisions.
Lastly and this is what drives us – provide great customer service and connect with your customers. In a day and age where everything is done online with little human interaction, make an effort to personally get to know and interact with your customers. Beyond delivering what they have purchased, what else can you do for them? How else can you make them happy? Get creative. Treat them how you would like to be treated, and then some more. Be grateful, always, every day, for each and every one of them.
Thank you, Shan Shan, it was truly a pleasure to speak to you and I personally look forward to hearing more from you and about An Uplifted Day.
For more information on An Uplifted Day:
Whatsapp/SMS: +65 9127 2479
Images provided by An Uplifted Day.