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Three successful mums on how they maintain work-life balance

On top of helming multimillion-dollar businesses, these successful women also manage to carve out time for their families. We find out their secrets to maintaining an effective work-life balance.
 


Cheryl Gan, founder and managing director of Mt. Sapola

Cheryl Gan doesn’t feel that she is successful, but most of us would beg to differ. The 38-year-old stumbled upon aromatherapy brand Mt. Sapola while on a trip to Thailand, and was so impressed by its products that she decided to bring them in to Singapore. From a single shop in Tanglin Mall in 2007, Mt. Sapola has grown to 16 stores islandwide, with more expansion plans in the works.

Running a flourishing business inevitably requires putting in long hours – in fact, Cheryl can often be found replying e-mails at 3am in the morning. However, she somehow still manages to find time for her four (yes, four!) kids, who are 13 years old, 12 years old, five years old and 10 months old. “I sometimes find it challenging to juggle work and family,” she admits. “However, I try to manage my time the best I can. I think regular communication is crucial – it’s always important to know what’s going on in your children’s lives.”

“Also, when it comes to family time, I firmly believe that it is quality, not quantity, that matters. I might not be able to spend hours on end with my kids, especially on weekdays, but I try to make every moment count – for example, by having meaningful discussions about the TV programme we’re watching together,” she adds. “I make it up to them on weekends – we read books together, go to the supermarket, and just connect over conversation.”

Sabrina Tan, founder and CEO of Skin Inc

Turning your business from a local start-up to an award-winning global brand is a gargantuan feat, but Sabrina Tan can lay claim to that. The 41-year-old mother of two founded Skin Inc in 2007 to provide customised skincare solutions that address women’s different beauty needs. Armed with a large dose of ambition and grit – but without any actual experience in the beauty industry – Sabrina set up her first shop at Clarke Quay Central. And the rest, as they say, is history. Today, Skin Inc has established itself globally, with stores in 25 cities across Asia, Europe and America.

Despite her hectic schedule – she flies to the US every other month to check on her stores there – Sabrina makes it a point to spend time with her children, Ashley, 11, and Asher, nine, even if it means working into the night after putting them to bed. “I try to be disciplined when it comes to making time for my loved ones. I aim to leave the office by 7pm every day so I can have dinner with my family and spend quality time with them. I especially enjoy tucking my kids into bed, as that’s when we can really have intimate, heart-to-heart talks.”

So how else does she effectively maintain a work-life balance? “Find creative ways to involve your children in your life. For instance, my children sometimes accompany me when I work out, and Ashley helps me pick out my outfits in the mornings. I even involve them in some of my brainstorming sessions for work – you’d be surprised at the creative ideas they can come up with! This equips them with useful life skills such as critical thinking,” she adds.


Tjin Lee, founder and CEO of Mercury Group, and founder and festival director of Singapore Fashion Week

Tjin Lee has a super-impressive resume by most standards. She wears many hats – besides being the head honcho of Singapore Fashion Week (previously known as Audi Fashion Festival), she also holds a directorship position in ten other businesses, including Mercury Group, which comprises Mercury Events, Mercury PR, Mercury Creative and Mercury Marketing & Communications. And she’s currently hard at work setting up her next venture, which she tells us is a co-working space with child-friendly facilities.

With so many businesses under her belt, it’s hard to imagine how Tjin (who is currently expecting her second child) has the time and energy for her two-year-old son, Tyler, or Bubu, as she affectionately calls him. But the 41-year-old overachiever stresses the need to prioritise family bonding time. “I think the fact that I’m an entrepreneur empowers me to plan my schedule around my son – whenever possible, I try to leave work by 5pm to spend time with him,” she shares. “As a result, I managed to witness most of his milestones, like his first step, despite my busy schedule!”

“It’s really important to carve out time for work and family – they are each equally deserving of their own space. Don’t think about work when you’re supposed to be spending time with your children, and vice versa,” Tjin stresses. “Also, motherhood is an individual and personal journey. Don’t ever compare the amount of time you spend with your kids with someone else, for example. The less critical you are of yourself and of others, the more at peace you’ll be. This will in turn lead to better relationships with your loved ones,” she adds.

From the crib

Tjin is one of the co-founders of Crib (Creating Responsible and Innovative Businesses), a social enterprise that encourages women to become successful entrepreneurs while maintaining a work-life balance. Crib has just launched its Women for Women initiative, a project that showcases some of Singapore’s most iconic women entrepreneurs, including Cheryl and Sabrina, in a bid to inspire the next generation of female business leaders. To find out more, visit www.crib.com.sg/women4women.

This article was originally published in Simply Her June 2015.

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