This is the third in our series SINGAPORE START-UP STORIES. Stay tuned for more insightful interviews with successful female entrepreneurs!
Jacqueline Chang, co-founder of Prep, is responsible for Singapore’s first wash and blow-dry only hair salon. She and her two co-founders were inspired by the days of old, when women were always immaculately groomed and got their hair 'set' every day. Prep has now evolved into Prep Luxe, with a full suite of grooming services available for women, including hair and make-up.
Jacqueline is not content with just one impressive job title; she also runs her own wedding photography business, 5degreeshift. She tells us how she balances her professional priorities, what lessons she has learnt and how Prep manages to stay ahead of the competition.
What inspires you in your professional and personal life?
Everyday people – who are wise, who have largeness of heart, and who can see what others cannot see.
What lessons have you learnt as an entrepreneur?
You have to speak a lot with a lot of people, and you have to speak with all of your heart. And then you have to listen a lot to a lot of people, and you have to listen with all of your head.
Do you see yourself as a role model for young female entrepreneurs?
No. I will never see myself as a role model for anybody – it’s just not my style. I’d rather be an encourager any day than a role model.
Why did you choose a hair salon as a business and how do you stay ahead of the competition?
When we started Prep, it was Singapore’s first wash and blow-dry only hair salon. We didn’t do cuts or colours then so we were unique. We saw a market gap and a market need based on social trends, that’s why we started a hair salon. Three years on, we have evolved to Prep Luxe, which is a full-service salon. This evolution was in response to the demands of the loyal group of customers we have built relationships with over the years who kept requesting for the expansion of services.
To stay ahead of the competition, of course our stylists are always well versed with the latest global hair trends and even adapting hair trends off the fashion runways into Prep Luxe. It’s about accessibility of hair trends to the modern, everyday woman. They’re also constantly upgrading their skills. Hair design, like most other crafts, is a never-ending pursuit of honing perfection. But above and beyond that, we’re more than just a hair salon and treasure the relationships we have built with people from all walks of life who have stepped into Prep Luxe. We’re all about getting them prepped for different instances in life and taking that journey with them.
There are those who recognise that grooming is simply a respectable activity you owe to yourself and the people around you – whether for a job interview, a business meeting, a hot date. There are those who seek a quiet respite from the hustle of fast-paced modern living and 24-7 connectivity and their time at the hair salon is their only me-time. There are those who come every time there is a milestone, whether celebratory or otherwise, for instance before their own weddings or their best friends’ weddings, or after making a career change or something as simple as a decluttering life-modifying spree.
In all instances, it’s about understanding why they are coming into Prep Luxe that day and getting them prepped for different life occasions. Prep Luxe is not just about beauty in appearances, but also beauty in the vernacular.
What do you think are the qualities that every successful entrepreneur has?
A successful entrepreneur is one who is able to recognise that success comprises both public and private success. Very often we only measure success from a public view, but actually success in one’s private life is equally, if not, more important.
These qualities are:
- As trustworthy in little things as they are in big ones
- Constant principles in both good times and bad, i.e. when they have everything and when they have nothing
- Is the same loyal person with the same drive whether in a work relationship or a personal relationship
You also run a photography business, how do you balance your various jobs and professional priorities?
Knowing when to say no and what to say no to is very important. Surround yourself with a solid group of people you look up to and are better than you in more ways than one – there is safety in a multitude of counsellors.
What advice would you give to women in Singapore who are thinking of becoming entrepreneurs?
Always be relentless with working with whatever little you start off with in your hands and be thankful for it. Keep your heart strong and keep your head close to the ground.
Stay tuned for more inspiring stories about female entrepreneurs based in Singapore. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out our stories about the HER WORLD WOMEN OF THE YEAR and YOUNG WOMEN ACHIEVERS, and discover this year’s winners: Meet your Her World Woman of the Year and Young Woman Achiever 2016!