By her own admission, Caryn has been a beauty junkie all her life, and having seen her up close, let me tell you, I believe it. This girl, she’s got that kind of perfect pore-less complexion that most of us can only dream about (and spend thousands of dollars on products trying to achieve). As if that wasn't enough, she's got a mega-watt smile, charming personality, a four-legged best friend named Bruce and a rapidly growing business to boot!
She’d have made a brilliant banker, but when an unbeatable opportunity came along, she decided to ditch banking and pursue her lifelong passion for beauty, setting up HANDS + FEET STUDIO – the only nail spa and foot reflexology shop in Singapore.
In the six short months that HANDS + FEET STUDIO has been around, they’ve grown from strength to strength, with a loyal following of Easties on the regular roster, and some West Coast girls who make the trek out for the killer pedicure her shop offers.
I sat down with her for a quick chat on sole-searching and what it took to say goodbye to banking. This Q&A is the first in a series of conversations I've had with some inspiring young women who have decided to pursue their passions, leverage their talent, and do it all for a purpose. I hope you'll enjoy the read as much as I enjoyed putting the pieces together.
So, you bit the bullet and said goodbye to banking. Kudos to you. What did it take to make the leap? And why did you go from banking into beauty?
A little insanity and a lot of support. The most ideal location opened up, and I knew I just had to take the chance. So I signed the lease and left my job. It involved a lot of market research, and I couldn’t have done it without the strong support of my loved ones. My boyfriend even helped distribute fliers all around neighbourhoods in the East when we first opened!
Pampering is important. I’ve always enjoyed spa treatments, massage, manicures and pedicures. So I knew if I were to ever start my own business, it had to be spa and beauty related. (AT: As they say, when you do what you love, you'll love what you do!) When I looked at what the spa scene in Singapore had to offer, I noticed a gap, and it was in that gap that the HANDS + FEET STUDIO concept was born.
I wanted a place where I could get a quality pedicure and a decent foot massage, a place where my boyfriend could get a clean foot rub while I got my nails done (most spas in Singapore are overly feminine and make most men uncomfortable, and foot reflexology shops have dodgy reputations). I wanted to create a place where moms could go to get their regular manicure and keep their kids close by and occupied with a foot rub and a little more space to play. That’s what HANDS + FEET STUDIO offers.
Hands+Feet has been around for a good six months now, what are some of the best (and worst) things about being your own boss?
The best part? Being able to set your own schedule, manage your own time, make and meet your own targets. I can strategize the business the way I want to – there’s a lot of opportunities to learn, make mistakes, and grow, without the fear that it might be a career ending move!
The worst thing isn’t actually a bad thing, but it takes some time to get used to. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with running your own show, and it can be quite daunting to realize that you are responsible to each and every single employee, and that the paycheck you issue at the end of the month feeds their families! Some days, their personal issues can feel like your issues too, but it’s about learning to balance your role as their boss while being compassionate to their personal needs.
The government’s always going on and on about how easy it is to start a business in Singapore – is it true?
This varies from industry to industry. For the spa industry, we are really feeling the impact of the government’s decision to tighten regulations around the hiring of foreign workers, and Singaporeans just aren’t as willing to work in this industry. There’s also a lot of red tape and regulation to contend with when it comes to spa licensing.
Trying to get the information required to start a business in Singapore is also a huge hurdle. I wish there was a course in school to tell you where all the forms are, where we can go to read up on the policies, and how to go process it all accordingly. The government websites are just not user friendly and information is scattered all over the place, and let's not even go near the hotline.
AT: Funny you should say that since our government claims to be very pro-business...
It’s not that they are not pro-business, there’s just a lack of alignment, bureaucrats will not think the way business owners do. For example, business owners need to react quickly to what is happening on the ground, we cannot wait a week for you to process a form. We would have lost out by then.
BUT, there is one area in which I have to take my hat off to the government. I am incredibly impressed with their dedication to upgrading and developing the skills of older workers to keep them employed in a rapidly changing world. The information on those subsidies and grants have been well thought out and communicated to the public, and it’s important for the older workers that I employ to stay relevant.
One piece of advice for would-be entrepreneurs?
Never fear the worst, take one step at a time. Running your own business, you cannot expect permanent solutions. You also have to be patient, and address each issue as it arises.
You also have to be very willing to get your hands dirty and do the work yourself. This isn’t a bank, you aren’t an employee, you have to be flexible and capable of taking on different roles: customer relationship officer, HR manager, marketing and PR, you’ve got to manage the cash flow and make sure your people get paid. It’s a lot of work, you can’t be afraid to do it yourself
AT: Even scrubbing other peoples’ feet?
Yes, even scrubbing other peoples’ feet. If you won’t do it, why should your staff?
One rule from your beauty book? Actually, no, make that your entire beauty book. Care to share your trade secrets?
Never chase beauty at the expense of your health, and try not to overdo the skin care regime. Keep it simple with a cleanser that works for your skin type (I use Bioskin Cleanser), and perhaps a mask when you have a big occasion coming up (I like the Cool Mint Mask by AHP – Asia Health Partners) or a pimple to get rid of.
Radiant skin comes from good circulation and a lot of water. Regular foot reflexology and massages will give you more radiant skin by improving blood circulation. It also helps you relax, which is the only real way to battle those wrinkles and frown lines.
Where possible, opt for natural products or treatment. Our Ginger + Liz polishes (from New York) are really popular with pregnant women as they are as natural and non-toxic as nail polishes can be. They also don’t leave your nails with an awful yellow stain after long wear.
And because you lovely people took the time to read this little Q&A with Caryn, she'd love to extend the following offer to all of you:
Readers are entitled to a discount on a selection of HANDS + FEET STUDIO's suite of services. All you have to do is call them to make an appointment and quote LAVISHLEY, each person can pick their favourite treatment:
1. HANDS + FEET STUDIO classic manicure + pedicure for $52 (U.P. $66)
2. HANDS + FEET STUDIO regular foot reflexology (1 HR) for $32 (U.P. $38)
3. HANDS + FEET STUDIO regular foot reflexology (45 MIN) for $26 (U.P. $30)
The offer is valid Monday-Friday and runs till the 31st of October. This offer is restricted to first-time customers of HANDS + FEET STUDIO, and you must make an appointment!