The Evolution of an Entrepreneur | Freedom Founders EP8


Hi everyone! I’m Krystle, and welcome back
to the Freedom Founders
podcast. We’ve got Linda Hao,
founder of YESAH, in the studio today. And she’ll be sharing with us how she’s evolving as a
businesswoman and the ups and downs she’s
had on her creative journey. Welcome to the Freedom Founders
podcast, Linda! We’re very excited to
have you on the studio. – Thank you.
– For our listeners and viewers- who haven’t met you before,
can you give us a quick introduction about who
you are and what you do? So my name is Linda Hao. And first, thank you for
having me here. – Thank you for being here.
– So I have actually started- -my own label in 2012. I am a designer and founder of
YESAH, my own brand. And at the same time, I’m also
a freelance DJ. I play mainly for
private events. Also, currently I am learning
yoga, so I’m becoming an aspiring
yoga teacher. Wow. Yes, that’s about it. Awesome, awesome. So for a little bit of context
of why we invited you here, it’s because this whole series,
Freedom Founders, is about entrepreneurs, and
this episode is about how you’ve evolved
as an entrepreneur. The reason why we’re doing
this is because you’ve also described yourself as not
just an entrepreneur. So maybe you can elaborate a
little bit more about how you
identify yourself? I think I find it a twitch
when people call me an entrepreneur
mainly because I am a very passionate
person. I grew up in a pretty creative
environment, so I always
thought of myself
as an artist or a multi-hyphenate artist
in that sense. So when I started my own
business and people started
telling me, “Oh, you’re an
entrepreneur!” that made me feel a little bit
doubtful about myself. Because you didn’t see
yourself that way. And I honestly didn’t have
any business background. So I find it very shy to say
I am an entrepreneur because I’m
not good with numbers. If you group me with a bunch
of entrepreneurs together, I think I’m probably
the lousiest at the business
aspect. But in terms of creation,
yeah sure, I love to start something on
my own. I love to create passion
projects for myself. It’s just pure, genuine… Like this creative energy will
come out of me and I know I want to start something or
I want to do something. And in this modern society,
that’s what they label you as, which is an
entrepreneur. So I guess I am, but at the
same time, I’m not. Not in the traditional sense. Yes, yes.
That’s right. So maybe you can talk to us a
little bit about how you got started with the
label YESAH. I mean, for me the first time
we met, I kind of got to know you in the
fashion industry. So how did you even get
started into fashion? Personal, family background? It’s quite a long story. But to summarise, I grew up in
an environment where— because my parents
actually had a bridal business since young. So I literally grew up in that
kind of environment, in the
factory looking
at textiles, looking at pretty garments,
dresses, and watching all the workers
who are seamstresses making dresses. So it was a very natural
environment for me to be with colours,
fabrics, textures. And since young, I have been
in the kitchen a lot as well, helping my
grandmother a lot. So I’ve
always grown up as
a hands-on kind of person. So when I grew up thinking
what my ambition was, at a point in time, I just
thought there’s nothing else
I can do. – I mean—
– You were gonna be… I know I had to be a fashion
designer, because everyone
looks up
to me in that way. In my family,
I’m the default stylist. So I just knew that, okay, I’m
gonna try that first then, if
everyone is,
you know, they look at me like, “Yeah
you must do this.” It
seemed very clear because
that’s how you were— not groomed, but what you
were exposed to. Yes, yes. And I already had so much
experience, way more than my
level students at that time
in Temasek Poly, because I already
learned how to sew way
before
I started school. So to me, it was
an advantage, and that’s why I took that
advantage: Once I graduated, why not I
just start my own label. The idea actually sparked
during my graduation trip in Bali with one of my really
close girl friends. It was really like a,
I don’t know, this calling that came to me
at night. I just couldn’t sleep and
I just thought of the name: YESAH. Because that is who I am —
I’m always about “Yes!” I always
say yes to things. When there’s difficulty, I
would try to find alternatives, solutions to
solve that problem. I’ve always been this
positive and all about like saying yes to life,
basically. So I thought, yes, that’s
exactly what I’m gonna do once I head back to
Singapore. And
there it is, I didn’t take
any other breaks. I didn’t go for
further education. I just went straight to
register a business. What was the reality check
when that happened? I have to say that it was a
real roller coaster ride. It really went so fast
and high that I… At one point, I know that I
underestimated myself, in a sense that

not myself, but the whole process of
actually starting a business, because I
have no clues. I was just winging it all the
time, using my confidence to strive at every
difficulty. Even though I met
challenges, I just go the hard
way
by learning how to fail and making mistakes,
being scolded all the time, getting a lot of advice
from the people around me who have prior experience
and more experience than me. So yeah, I know I didn’t know
much, but I actually had a lot of advice, and I’m
thankful for that. Everyone around me was
pretty much very helpful in – giving me the advice.
– Supportive. Yes, supportive. So I think everyone saw that,
even though I’m not actually doing a very good job at
being an entrepreneur, I guess the fire in me was the thing that was pushing
my brand to another level. Yup. And… To have that fire and passion
to pursue something. Yes, yes. You mentioned — a really good
point you mentioned was that you realised that you
underestimated not yourself,
but that process, right. And you were getting all of
this advice and feedback from everyone,
from different people. What would you say was the
biggest myth or the thing you wish you knew
when you were in it? Like in hindsight, if you could
say, “I would have done this.” Maybe one thing or two things you would have done
differently. Okay, I really have
a few things. – Of course I think about it.- Okay, tell us. First of all, I have always this
very stubborn attitude. So if I have an idea, I will make sure
I make it happen. That’s my stubbornness when it
comes to creating anything. And I would say, as an artist,
especially at that age, being a designer, I
was very idealistic. I didn’t want to do anything
that… Maybe… changes a little bit of my
initial plan. I couldn’t even compromise
just a little bit. So you had this sole focus. Yes, I’m so focused. If I want this, I want this. So now, of course when I look
back, I would’ve thought like, yeah, that’s me being
too naive and too young. Sometimes in life, you just
got to let go a little bit and compromise, so you get
a bigger picture, a bigger result. And for me, I was on my
losing end because I didn’t have a
business partner then. And even now, no I don’t. So I didn’t have anyone to
help me out when it comes to this kind of
logical, practical thinking. Because I have
a creative mind. My mind doesn’t work
in a way that, let’s say, an accountant
would do. So if I had the chance
to go back, of course, I would
definitely make sure that I find this suitable
partner who would compliment me
to become a good team. – That’s a really–
– Yeah. Basically, even if it’s not
having that additional partner, but internally developing the
skills– Yes, exactly. The knowledge,
the information, or even going on causes myself,
or just cutting a
little bit of
my idealistic side. – That would be great as well.
– Yeah. And the funny thing and the
scary thing is, if you don’t
go through that process of being an entrepreneur,
and like you said, being willing to say yes
and trying and failing, you wouldn’t know what
was missing, right? – Yeah.
– You wouldn’t know– –what you
would’ve needed to do in that process. Yes, yup. So, in terms of how… Yes, you went up-down,
lots of roller coasters. In terms of key learnings
for you and where you think YESAH
is now, how has that shaped your
evolution on a personal level and on a professional level? And I’m guessing that happened
from the outside, like was it just
changes in customer needs, or was it also
something that happened on a
deeper level? It’s a lot of change,
I have to say. First, for personal growth,
what I find most rewarding now after
having so much– having overcome so many
obstacles and challenges, I learned so
much about patience, even just for me as a person. Like I said, I used to be
quite stubborn and idealistic, and I might have made a lot of impulsive choices
in
life that everyone
told me about. Okay.
But now you’re like, “Huh, actually, that was
a valid comment.” Yes. After so many years
of all this struggling, succeeding,
failing, I think the best thing
I got out of it is that I am now patient,
or at least trying to be, because
I didn’t care about
having patience at all. I just wanted what I want.
I just went full head-on. But now, I really know how to
take my pace and do what is suitable
at a certain timing. You got to have time
for everything. You kind of have everything
in one shot. And right now, the way that
I’m working is very much in
this kind of
philosophy, – Okay.
– which is a lot more on waiting, training, practicing,
and then release. Okay. So maybe I used to
be more like, just run, hit target,
home run. But now, I’m really
a lot more patient. I will wait for the best
chance to occur, and then I’ll take
my action. So how has that —
that sounds like a massive internal shift
for you– – Yeah.
– to have that, I guess we can call this
“Aha!” moment. How has this new philosophy
shaped YESAH? I mean, is YESAH still operating
at the moment? Or have you completely
revolutionised the Linda Hao brand?
Tell us about that. So this is the very
interesting part. It also links back to a lot
about being an entrepreneur. Because if I were to tell
someone that, “Oh, I actually
just need to
think about my life at the moment and close my business
for two years,” everyone’s gonna think
I’m mad — which I was. So I literally took a pause,
because at that point — like
you said,
a hard moment — it was also during
a moment when I… I really got very deep into the
whole manufacturing side of
the business, and literally,
physically watching and
witnessing how
productions actually run. And after finding out
about everything — the truth, and the ugly things
behind any fashion brand, I just found myself in
a pretty lost and mixed place, which is why I decided
to take a break. That’s when I dived into yoga,
which really saved my life, because it helped me with
my own mental wellness. – Yes.
– And also, because of that, I took YESAH not just
as a business. I don’t see YESAH as
a business anymore. It’s basically just
a brand that kind of represents my
creative personality. It’s my own creative
identity. So it can always evolve,
because at one point– – I was a bit stuck.
– You were always evolving. Yeah, yeah.
But I was stuck as well. So the truth was I was
quite afraid to restart. I didn’t dare to just continue
something that everyone knew was already not
going somewhere. Yeah, I feel like when it
comes to– and not just for entrepreneurs
or people running a business– I feel like there’s
a lot of stigma, negative stigma with
the reset button. Yeah, it’s so hard. Like, “What do you mean you’re gonna put your business
on hold? What do you mean you’re gonna
throw everything away? You should persevere.” That’s
also the message,
persevere. But I think being able to
pause, reflect, – take a step back sometimes.
– Yes. –and reassess where
you are is also important in
entrepreneurship. It’s definitely — yes. It has been very important
to me that I took a step back,
because now, I’m very happy to say
I’m restarting YESAH again, but it’s in another
direction altogether. I believe having skill sets
is something that’s very
valuable, especially skill sets that’s
been passed down from your older
generations. Yes. And now that we’ve come to
this tech-savvy world, all these skill sets are going
to be lost anytime. Now that we’re speaking,
it’s really losing. So when I think about what I
want to contribute to society or how I wish to
inspire people in the future, I just thought that the only
way is to share with people. So instead of just looking at
YESAH
as a fashion brand, I design
pretty clothes… No, I don’t want to design
pretty clothes to sell to
people anymore, because there are
enough clothes out here in the world
right now. And if I have the skills to
share with people, why not sell my
skills instead? So this is something I’m
planning on doing and I’m preparing a lot
this year. So… It’s going to be
totally different. It’s no longer just YESAH as a
clothing brand. it’s going to be YESAH Studio, because this is the space
that I work in. And now I’m confident to let
people into my world and share with people
the skills that I have that hopefully can also
inspire them, or just spark something
in them. That’s it, that’s all
I hope for. For them to pursue
their own passion. Yeah. What could a guest or visitor
at YESAH Studio expect or look
forward to? It sounds like there’s yoga? I’m guessing there’s
gonna be yoga? Yes, that’s for the future leg
for now, because I’m still running
a one-man show. Everything —
like I said, now I’m planning everything a
little bit slower-paced. So this YESAH Studio open
house, it will kick off with the
first edition of a sewing
workshop. – Okay.
– It’s going to be private. Just a two-person workshop,
one-on-one, where I would dedicate
my whole four
hours just to guide you, instruct
you, show you and teach you all about
fabrications, how to
take your
body measurements, what is a properly-made
garment. It’s a lot of educating the
people, actually, because I want people to know
what goes behind every piece of clothing
that
they wear. It’s not just something you
buy from the store — there’s a human actually
working on this fabric. And the entire process
from start to finish. Yeah.
And it’s not so easy — it requires a lot
of concentration. But that is the good point. I’m really happy to do this
because, to me, sewing is almost like
art therapy. It’s a very therapeutic process. So when you focus on a single
stitch or on the machine, you’re actually using
all parts of your body — your mind connecting to your
hands, to your feet. So it’s a full-body
experience. And I hope this kind of
workshop can be experienced for people to give their
thinking brain a break. Right. Because people now are
just thinking too much. They’re losing a bit of
their senses. And hopefully, with my session
of such workshop, it can bring up
this wave of people– To be more in touch. –yeah, more in touch with
their hands-on skills. I like that. I’m familiar with the brand
YESAH, and I like that you’ve taken it to
the next — so you, as an individual,
as a person, as a professional,
you’ve evolved. That’s now been reflected
in your brand. – Yeah.
– I think the last time we met, you came in with a tote bag that
was formerly a piece of clothing – that have been–
– Yeah. Actually I came with it today. Yeah, that’s the bag. So this was actually a
former garment, right? Yeah. This was a former garment, and it’s got a new lease on life. – It’s evolved itself.
– Yes, yes. Just like you. So even for this bag,
this is something else that I’m working on. During the time at the lowest
of YESAH, I had a lot of dead stocks,
to be honest. And when I look at dead stocks,
I just think it’s so sad– You mean,
merchandise you can’t sell? Merchandise that you can’t sell. And it’s not just my brand —
of course I’ve experienced it, so I use my brand as
an example. But when I look around me and… I have a lot of friends in the
business as well, and I often
ask them questions like, “What do you do about
all these things?” The trend happens so fast,
it changes every week. It’s just scary, the amount of
clothes that’s being piled up. And then, it goes back onto
our land as trash. So to me, that is the most
eye-opening fact that I found
out– – in my profession.
– That it’s not sustainable. Yes, that is so not sustainable. And when I was thinking
about
how I can revive
YESAH clothing, I just thought
the best way is to deconstruct and recreate
pieces that are just timeless. It doesn’t need to
be on the body, it can be home wear. So I’m actually making a whole
new collection that is
sustainable items
for your home, which I’m calling
Home Wear. It’s all lifestyle items like
cushion covers, table mats– – And that’s all made from–
– From my clothing, yes. – That’s brilliant.
– From my garments. And it’s all brand new clothing. So to me, I find it
almost emotional to be doing this collection because I’m making everything
hand-made. I’m actually working
piece by piece, going back to that
old-school method. – Of deconstructing, you said.
– Yes. – Deconstructing and recreating.
– Yes, yeah. It sounds like you’re finding
a pretty good balance between what the
market would need. For example, people are
interested in more home wear stuff, – not just clothes–
– Yeah, yeah. –but at the same time, you
are able to pursue your creative passion
and your interests. How though,
because I… I would say I’m an
okay-creative person. I’m not super super creative,
but I imagine that creativity needs to operate within a space
that is free, right? – Freedom.
– Yes, yes yes. But at the same, being a
businesswoman, entrepreneur, multi-hyphenate DJ, whatever it
is you want to call yourself– you need to be disciplined
as well. – Yes.
– Because to do all of that stuff, you have to have
discipline. How do you balance creativity
and discipline? Do you think that
they are linked? – Are they separate?
– I think for me– I have to take a lot of time
to think because, like I said, I’m not
naturally good with numbers. So for me, whenever I finish
my creative thinking, I would spend time to do the
logical thinking. And it’s especially tough
for me, because I’m not that
good at it. So I would consult my
boyfriend, who’s
good with numbers,
and my family members. Just asking quick questions
like, hey, would you actually– What do
you think about this?
Or would you pay this for this? Or how much would you
pay for this? – So I ask questions–
– Making time. Yeah, making time. I have to make time,
because I used to just make time only
for creation. I just design a lot of
clothes, join fashion shows — there’s
nothing
business-y involved. But now, I want to make sure
that– You know, this is a second lap
that I’m taking, so definitely, I want to learn
from my past mistakes. And at the same time — like you
said, how do you balance this– I think it’s very important
to know what you need, like what is
your own lifestyle. How much do you need to
sustain your lifestyle? – And–
– And we’re talking about — I mean to be clear, we’re
talking about money? Yeah yeah, financial. Because at the end of the day,
how much you earn will be sufficient to much you
spend, right? So I ask myself: If I’m doing this,
I might only earn this. Will this be enough to live? Yeah.
That’s a hard question to ask. It’s a very hard question, and I ask that question
all the time. If I’m choosing this life, then
that’s only how much I earn. Am I okay with it? Is it enough? I have to say, a lot of times,
it’s not enough. Because you’re spending a lot
of time making something that– of course you look
at profit, but it’s not a fast fashion
chain or a business with a huge
turnover rate, – you understand?
– Yeah. So… So, personally how I balance
it out is to get other areas
of
income elsewhere. Right. Yeah, which is why I
have to do a lot of different things,
just so I know this
is enough to sustain
me for a month. And that’s how it happens. Yeah, I think what you said
about doing the second lap and doing this with
a fresh set of eyes and with all of
your learnings in your bag, you know now that there’s
a certain price – associated with something.
– Yes, yes. And I think that
reality check just knowing what you’re
going to do– It’s a real
world we’re living in. That’s a very good
learning point, and how you’re
balancing
creativity and freedom, as well as discipline. Would you say that your family– you mentioned your parents are
entrepreneurs as well– as business people,
would you say that that’s also shaped how
you see business and how you see discipline? Hmmm. Would they be very disciplined
business people? Are they role models for you? Yes yes, definitely. I would say, in my family,
we’re very big on discipline. My grandparents are
very strict, traditional Chinese. So we have to eat punctually
on the dot at a certain time, and everyone has to be
seated together to pick up the
chopsticks. Oh wow. – So that’s how I grew up.
– There’s some– – cultural influence as well.
– Yeah yeah yeah. So if I’m given a task, I
would just close the door, shut myself out, and finish
the task. – That’s it.
– That’s it. I wouldn’t even think about
having fun — I would just want to
finish the task and have fun later. – Right.
– So that’s my– That’s where the discipline
comes from. Yeah, it’s just
embedded in me. If I know there’s more
important work to do, I want
to quickly finish the
work so I can play later. – Don’t procrastinate.
– Yes. Don’t procrastinate. – It’s a good note for me, too.
– Yeah, yeah. And you have to constantly,
I think, get motivated with your peers, the people
that you have
in your community. Because I have to say, if
you’re always kept alone, you would lose a lot of
self-discipline also, because
no one’s watching. I can do anything I want,
I can work anytime I want. But that would become very
dangerous eventually, because then you would
have this sense of, oh, since no one’s checking,
so whatever. But no no no no. Yeah. It’s always good to
go back into a community of people
that you trust. You help to uplift and
motivate each other, so you get more
support. You don’t feel like
you’re alone. So you have that sense of
community, but also
accountability, because people
are kind of
checking up – and backing you up–
– Yes, yes. That’s a good point. It’s just, naturally you have
conversations with people. You want to know what
people are doing as well. So when you hear others
doing well, or are very
well-disciplined, it’s just a motivation
on its own. They don’t need to say anything. Just by telling me what you’ve
done for the past, say, five months — if I’m
impressed, I get motivated. That’s just a natural way
of life, and I think that’s very
important. I like that, to have that
circle of – accountability and community.
– Yeah yeah. Surround yourself
with good people. It’s very important. Yup, yup, that’s very true. So, in between all that’s
happening — the YESAH Studio and so on– What’s next for you? What’s
next for the
Linda Hao brand? I think what I’m doing now is
going all around, because I know
I’ve been quite greedy in terms of creativity, like I want to
do this, this, this — everything, music, art. And there was one point that
the reality of life really hit me and
made me think, okay, maybe I just got to do a
nine-to-five job just to make
myself sustainable. But thank God I didn’t,
because if I did, I would have killed my
soul or something. And I’m glad I’m doing it now and still fighting for this
kind of freedom lifestyle, because at the end of every
creation, it’s so satisfying
and it’s honouring. And it’s also something
to be shared with people. It’s not a job that you do
on your own. After you complete that job, you are actually sharing it
with people. And that reward, to me,
is the best kind of reward. I feel like it’s a meaningful
kind of job because I made a
certain type of impression or impact into
people’s lives with the skill set that
I have. So, moving forward,
I think it’s just more motivation
and just keep on going at it. This year, to me, it’s a year of really just going at it. Whatever ideas that I have
that I felt rejected before, I didn’t dare to try– – now is the time–
– Keep saying yes? Yes. So now, it’s the time
to just go for it. Right. Love that. So I’ll just keep going forward. Love that, love that. Love that energy
and that positivity. I think that’s so important,
whether or not someone’s starting up
a business– – or as an
entrepreneur.
– Yes, yes. Okay, very very good sharing. Thank you so much. Thank you. We’re gonna wrap up
with one final question. Okay. So, Freedom Founders. Linda Hao,
what is freedom to you? I think freedom,
ultimately to me, is having
the space
to be able to do what you wish. And it also comes with a set
of responsibilities to be able to really
complete what you wish for that moment that you
think you have freedom, but you might be tied down
to realistic life chores, for example. And you have to face
the consequence as well. You don’t just have the
freedom to do everything and neglect
everything else. That’s not real freedom to me. The real freedom is more
on a wholesome level, where you have
the space to think, to
create, to do
whatever that you wish for. And you want to make it, you want to have good results
after that. Yes, responsibility as well. Responsibility as well, yes. – Thank you.
– Thank you. Very good sharing, very
good insights for an entrepreneur or
businessperson. If you like the video, don’t
forget to like, subscribe, share, comment. Send us some love,
and look out for what’s coming for
YESAH Studio. – Thank you.
– Linda Hao. Thanks for having me.

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