Road to Entrepreneurial Track


Cheryl Tan Hui Min, a Hospitality Business graduate from the Class of 2022, shares how SIT has prepared her for her career in more ways than one.

Fresh fruits of all shapes, sizes and colours filled the stall. The rich scented air was accompanied by sounds of cardboard boxes being pried open, meshed with the hubbub of multilingual chatter. It was an audio-visual delight for a young Cheryl, who spent long hours watching her parents sell their assortment of vibrant-looking goods at a fruit stall in Boon Lay.

Boon lay fruit stall

Cheryl Tan (centre) posing in front of her parents’ fruit stall in 2005. (Photo: Cheryl Tan)

Their perspiration-tinged faces always had a smile, teaching her an early lesson in life that business is as much about service as it is about products. As she watched her parents buzz about almost every day, with only a break during Chinese New Year, the truism that sales is the lifeblood of all businesses was seared into her young mind.

Unbeknownst to her, the years of observing entrepreneurs at home had planted a seed – one that sprouted about a decade later – when she realised her aspiration of being her own boss, shaping products, marketing services and never taking her eyes off sales.

Today, the 23-year-old runs Happy Lens Events, a photo booth company, and aspires to run events in the region.

Along the way, she honed her entrepreneurial skills at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), where she has recently graduated with a Bachelor of Hospitality Business with Honours.

“SIT exposed me to a lot of industry projects, which trained me to think on my feet as you don’t know what will be asked during presentations, and you only get a few seconds to answer effectively,” she said.

Resized Cheryl receives award from SIT BOT Ms Gail

Cheryl (right) received the Singapore Hotel Association Book Prize Award in Hospitality Data Analytics from SIT Board of Trustees member, Ms Gail Ong, at the SIT graduation ceremony 2022. (SIT Photo: Keng Photography)

Bossing it up

Cheryl’s parents provided the spark, but organising events during her polytechnic years further fuelled her interest in entrepreneurship, especially in events management. The defining moment came in January 2019 when she set up Happy Lens Events, a photobooth business, to combine her passion for photography with the opportunity to earn some income.

She sought out more humble clients in familiar places, such as university halls or schools, guided by the business ethos shared by her father.

“He said that you do not have to earn the most revenue from a customer, you just have to gain their trust and they will naturally come back to you,” she explained.

The approach has worked well. Happy Lens Events, which started with two people, now has a design and marketing team and a group of returning clients.

Meanwhile, she further developed her business sense during her Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP) last year. The IWSP is a distinctive feature of SIT’s degree programmes, where students undertake up to 12 months of work attachment relevant to their course of study. During her eight-month IWSP at events firm INX Events & Productions Pte Ltd, she learned how to communicate with clients and craft attractive proposals from her experienced colleagues.

She also took her time management skills up a notch as she had to manage up to five or six events simultaneously. “It brought a lot of eye-opening lessons beyond the classroom,” she added.

Cheryl’s IWSP experience did not just impart her with new capabilities – it led to her current full-time role as a project executive at a branding and marketing agency, The Moment Collective, whose founder she met through an IWSP colleague. What’s more, Happy Lens Events is now under the umbrella of her new workplace, allowing her more resources to run and expand the business as part of her job.

Going from running her own business to being a full-time employee in a company is a calculated step, which she believes will give her the knowledge and experience needed to pursue her eventual dream of opening a food & beverage establishment.

“Although this means that I have lesser flexibility for now, it allows me to plan events on a larger scale instead of just being a vendor, which is why getting a full-time job is a win-win situation,” she said.

Athlete, Volunteer, Leader

Outside of university, she also gives back to the community. She once led a volunteer project to help hawkers, just like her parents once were, revamp their signboards.

“I feel emotionally connected to them,” she said. “They have the heart and drive to run a business, but often lack the resources to expand and make their brand known.”

She used her enterprise to negotiate reasonable rates with manufacturers to create signboards that could give hawkers “a level playing field”.

That display of leadership was grooved from her stint as the captain of SIT’s women floorball team, where she often had to be resourceful. On days when the squad could not book indoor courts for training, she organised sessions at external locations such as basketball and tennis courts.

floorball team

The SIT floorball team led by captain Cheryl, (front row, second from left) participated in the Singapore University Games 2022. (Photo: Cheryl Tan)

Her never-say-die spirit led SIT to a bronze medal at the Singapore University Games 2019. Those challenges moulded a once hot-tempered Cheryl into a cool-headed leader, something she now applies as a business owner.

Expecting the Unexpected

Running her own business and leading a sports team are two vastly different activities, yet they both require one to be agile and adaptable. It is no wonder that Cheryl relates most to the SITizen-DNA of “Thinking Tinkerer”. For instance, when COVID-19 brought her photo booth services to a standstill overnight, she decided to launch a virtual photo booth option, an innovation that saved her business.

SIT Bouldering Club

Cheryl (second from left) trying out a new sport in an event organised by SIT Bouldering Club in 2019 with fellow SITizens: (Left to Right) Lim Zhi Yan, Nurul Izlyn and Wong Che Teng. (Photo: Cheryl Tan)

“You can plan for a million things, but if something unexpected happens, you have to come up with a solution for it,” she said.

As a self-confessed workaholic, her family’s support means the world. They would ensure she never goes hungry and offer help in a heartbeat. And so, giving up easily would be a waste, she added.

Her biggest advice for her juniors is to just try. “It’s a test of tenacity and patience. If you fail 10 times, then so be it. You learn from the 10 lessons, and you make the 11th better,” she said.

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