· By SGFR Sales
THE SGFR STORY
My name is Mohamed Haikkel. I'm the Founder of the Viral Candy Shop; The SGFR Store. Today I'll like to share you with my Entrepreneurial Journey. My Story will go by in Year Stamps, so let's go all the way back to March 2019.
I had just ended O Levels the year before, I was getting ready to enter Temasek Polytechnic in April, but unfortunately I got into an accident and broke my leg in on 1st March. It was a pretty bad accident. I could not walk for almost 6 months, As such I had to defer my polytechnic education for a whole year.
As I had a lot of free time, I tried several business ideas; one of which was drop-shipping. I made some money at first, However it wasn't very sustainable
I also picked up a few hobbies including fishing. When I started the hobby, I realised that it was challenging for anglers who wanted to start the sport. I had lots of difficulty figuring out what tackle I needed to start Fishing.
After a few months of Fishing, many of my friends had a similar issue to me when they wanted to start the sport. I decided to make a Carousell account SGFishingRigz selling beginner rigs and kits to help people that wanted to start fishing. By March 2020, many people began picking up fishing as they could not travel. Soon after, the government announced the circuit breaker. As such, I had to cease operations of my Carousell shop.
When restrictions eased in June 2020, Bedok Jetty opened for the first time. I was very excited to start fishing again. I went down with some of my friends; Nic, Lucas and Ben. Bedok Jetty was crazy that day, people were catching loads and loads of fish. During the period of circuit breaker the fish were given loads of time to breed and grow. However, I was very shocked to see that anglers kept throwing fish around and killing them.
My friends, Nic, Lucas, Ben & I were very shocked. We were pissed off that Fishing in Singapore looked so amazing for once only to be destroyed by the responsibility of others. I invited Nic, Lucas and Ben to join me in SGFishingRigz as Co-Founders. We decided to work together to not only make SGFishingRigz help people start fishing, but to help people start fishing in a environmentally sustainable way.
We started making educational tiktoks and products such as catch n release rigs with circle hooks to help the public.
By January 2021, SGFishingRigz received loads of support and we decided to incorporate the company SGFishingRigz Pte Ltd. We bonded alot as a team, there were so many ups and downs. We managed to partner with many companies such as Mustad, Rapala and D'Best.
By March 2021 we opened our office store which acted as a retail in Paya Lebar Square. We faced issues from the community such racism, hacking, price wars but we manage to overcome them all as a team.
By September, our sales were doing very well, we brought in a full time staff to help us manage the shop. We also got ambassadors and more members to assist in store operations. One of our latest team member, Bruce (Not his real name), joined us as well.
Bruce had many ideas when he joined the Business, Bruce and I did some documentation together and even got a grant for creating an eco-friendly Fishing Lure
However, even with help, some of my grades were flunking in school, I was so busy with running the business that things were not going too well. I also had some issues that arised in my life that I had troubles dealing with.
By December 2021, I was feeling quite down. I did not really tell my friends except Bruce. Bruce and I had worked quite closely together. Bruce was concerned I had depression and tried asking me if I can still run the Business. However, I just pressed on for the next few months.
As the team leader, I tried hard to compress my issues. I had lots of responsibilities in leading the team. By February 2022, we decided to open a shop with an actual retail front. We opened the store at 139 Tampines Street 11. We had the official opening on 27th March 2022, my birthday.
This actually was extremely stressful, I don't think I was in the best state of mind when opening the store but thankfully we did it. Alhamdulillah.
My mental health was slowly deteriorating very badly, the struggles of leading a team, balancing being a friend and a boss, and other personal affairs had been really getting to me. Bruce, whom I mentioned earlier which kept telling me stuff like "Haikkel that's it you failed as a team leader" whenever sales weren't good etc etc. Hearing this stuff when you are in a Depressed state of mine hits very different.
Bruce was pressuring me to step down and allow him to run the Business while I recovered. One of the things that affected me alot was my staff leaving. Especially when some of them were my friends. Bruce would always use it as a opportunity to say I have officially messed up and again 'failed as team leader'. Even though my friends Nic, Lucas and Ben told me it was fine. His remarks still got to me.
Now I never really understood why at the time his remarks go to me but it really did. Usually I wouldn't care about this kind of remarks. It seriously felt like I was'nt myself - but at this point of my life I was feeling very low. I decided to get it checked out and by a Therapist.
By End April 2022, I was diagnosed with Anxiety Induced Depression and Obsessive Compusive Disorder. My OCD involved his remarks replaying in my head and I couldn't get them out. I also had an extreme fear of failing the team amongst other fears. It was terrifying.
Anxiety feels different from being scared, you feel trapped in a box, like there's no escape. Everything seems so dark and quiet. You feel empty inside, the only emotion that exists is sorrow.
Not gonna lie, the first therapist I had did not help at all. It became really bad by July 2022. I told my friends I was done. There were pretty encouraging. Well except Bruce, Bruce comments got to me and I finally stepped down as the managing director of the company and handed it to Bruce. Bruce was IC of the Company's Direction.
I just kept myself IC of the marketing segment in SGFishingRigz but stopped overseeing stock Purchase.
At this point I spent loads of time reflecting and tried to connect myself better with Allah SWT. I tried out a new therapist and had a new combination of medication
It took a few months but by November I was starting to feel better.
In November, I started to feel Happy again. Honestly I almost forgot how it felt, I learned how to better manage my anxiety. It helped that World Cup was playing during this period too. Lucas would go with me to watch matches at Jewel and this honestly helped a lot. I learned to find peace and I managed to find ways to improve myself.
I had a meet up with Nic, Lucas and Ben and they told me about how the company was in shambles financially because Bruce had been buying random inventory and messing things up. I was still recovering but after reading the companies PnL I saw how screwed our company was. I decided to step back up and by vote, retook the company Managing Director role. In his anger, Bruce had left the company with us along with the huge mess he created.
The Team and I had meetings and scheduled for events in December, however the turnout was terrible. After some time, we realised that at this point, the fishing industry was also doing very very badly. Many shops and suppliers were starting to close down in Singapore. This was very problematic for us as we kept reporting a loss.
I also tried changing the direction of the company to include kayak classes. We planned out promotions, events and partnerships but whatever we did didn't work well. Sales only increased slightly and many of the inventory bought was stuck. We had expenses such as rent and salaries to pay. My friends and I had no choice but to fork out our own cash to pay our staff.
Towards the end of the December 2022, I tried increasing shop traffic. So I tried bringing in 10 cartons the Viral PRIME Hydration drink in hopes it would make our shop more popular. We marketed it on our tiktok. We actually went viral the next day and many customers actually came in looking for it. Even though it increased shop traffic, our customers were just buying the drinks and not the fishing gear. We actually ran out of the 10 cartons in 2 days.
Although it was painful to let go we realised that the fishing industry genuinely started to die down and we needed to pivot. The team and I came to a consensus that we should do a slow transition into pivoting our Business Model.
We also knew we needed more PRIME asap. PRIME is not cheap as it is an imported drink. I started to research on the international snack market and bring International products such as Sour Patch and Swedish Fish in. These items are uncommon to find in Singapore.
We came together with whatever money we had left and used it to purchase PRIME. I was completely broke at this point and used every cent we had to try and save SGFishingRigz. It was a huge risk.
When the Products came, we did some Marketing and it sold out fairly quickly. However, there were many Imported Products I still could not get my hands on. We needed to build a Network overseas to do this Project.
Using some of my savings, I booked a trip to UK. I tried to better understand the international snack market and build a network overseas. I managed to get my hands on the KSI PRIME and actually flew 3 boxes (arnd 120 bottles with me back to Singapore.
The UK Trip gave me the opportunity to build a network there to get people to ship me international snacks overseas and to better understand the logistics of it.
In March, Nic, Lucas and I had a school trip to South Korea. We were able to find contacts there to help us import some international snacks. This added on to our International Snacks Network. We also brought it two new Co-Founders into the Project; Putri and Megan.
When our stocks came in, we did loads of Marketing. We built our international snacks market and was able to open another shop at Siglap Centre. We used marketing and influencers to get the shop out there.
As time went by, our competitors arised. I began sourcing for Investors. However, they said our Business Model was plain. There was nothing unique or special about it.
Selling international snacks was not enough. And asides from good customer service, we needed something else.
The Investor's Words really got me thinking. How can I make The SGFR Store more unique. Around this time, my Aunt had actually brought me to Universall Studios. Believe or not, it was my second time there. I have not been there since Primary School. I noticed that Shops were using Themes in their Store. That makes it so unique.
I was a Huge Marvel & Star Wars fan and collected loads of figures when I was younger. I decided to make the shop model after themed candy stores. Tampines became the superhero themed store, Siglap became a wrestling themed store. and Bukit Timah became the Galaxy themed shop.
Through this we were able to successfully pivot our Business with plans to open multiple other stores in Singapore. The unique theme concept of our candy stores has truly transformed our business and created an incredible experience for our customers. We have live sized Iron Man and Boba Fett which everyone loves taking photos around.
As a result, we have successfully pivoted our business and have plans to open multiple other themed stores throughout Singapore, continuing to provide a unique and memorable experience for candy lovers everywhere!
I know it's a very long story haha. This was 3 years of my life. In the journey of building and growing a business, challenges are inevitable. From personal struggles to the pressures of leadership, every entrepreneur faces their own set of obstacles. However, it is how we navigate through these challenges that truly defines our success.
One recurring theme in my story has been the presence of Bruce, a constant source of negativity and doubt. The presence of individuals like Bruce in every organization is not uncommon. They may be the ones who constantly challenge our abilities, question our leadership, and make remarks that hit us hard. However, it is crucial to remember that dealing with such individuals effectively is the key to maintaining a positive and supportive work environment. Bruce's remarks and criticisms took a toll on my mental health, amplifying the already existing struggles I was facing. But I refused to let his words define me or my abilities as a team leader.
It was during my darkest moments that I realized the importance of surrounding myself with a strong support system. My friends Nic, Lucas, aBen stood by me, reminding me that failure is not the end, but an opportunity for growth. Their unwavering support helped me regain my confidence and push forward.
Additionally, seeking professional help and guidance played a crucial role in my journey towards healing. Acknowledging my mental health struggles and reaching out for support allowed me to develop coping mechanisms and regain control over my well-being. It is essential to prioritize mental health and seek help when needed, as it directly impacts our ability to lead and succeed.
It is crucial to prioritize mental well-being and seek support during challenging times. For me, the teachings of Islam, helped greatly in my struggles. Islam teaches its followers to have patience, perseverance, and trust in Allah (God) during difficult times. This belief system provides a strong foundation for individuals to navigate through obstacles and maintain a positive mindset. By relying on faith, one can find solace and strength in knowing that there is a higher power guiding them through their struggles.
Moreover, fostering a positive and supportive work environment is vital in dealing with individuals like Bruce effectively. Building a culture of teamwork, trust, and open communication creates a space where everyone feels valued and motivated. By focusing on our shared goals and supporting one another, we can overcome any challenge that comes our way. As I reflect on my journey, I am proud to say that my team and I have emerged stronger than ever. We have successfully pivoted our business, opened multiple themed stores, and created an incredible experience for our customers. Together, we have proven that perseverance and unity can turn adversity into triumph.
To all aspiring entrepreneurs and leaders facing their own Bruce, remember that you are not alone. Embrace the challenges as opportunities for growth, seek support from your trusted allies, and prioritize your mental well-being. With determination, resilience, and a strong support system, you can overcome any obstacle and achieve greatness.
In the end, it is not the presence of Bruce that defines our journey, but how we rise above his negativity and create a path to success together.
And yeah that's the end! While me Nic and Lucas go for NS, I'm proud to say the business is stable enough to be handed to the next team. The next HQ Team we have groomed is brilliant and I'm really proud of how far they have come – Hack im proud of how far my whole team has come. Your teammates have your back – through highs and lows, everyone is in this together.
Let us continue to inspire and motivate one another, fostering a culture of resilience, empathy, and unwavering support. Together, we can conquer any challenge and build a brighter future.
Good luck to all aspiring Entrepreneurs out there
Haikkel, The SGFR Store