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How Singaporean Sharon Wong’s retail empire Motherswork came of age amid a turbulent retail landscape

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Digression aside, it has entailed adaptability to build an enduring brand in a crowded market. “Running a business across different countries in the 2000s presented a lot of challenges beyond just being in different time zones. Building and maintaining effective communication was very challenging,” shared Wong. So she “learnt to let go” and relied on her general manager to manage the quotidian tasks, while focusing her energy on sourcing and building long-standing relationships with brands in America and Australia.

In the intervening years, she made inroads in China, where she hit the ground running to keep pace with the cut and thrust of a fast-iterating market. “The Chinese are very smart, and they learn very fast,” she reflected. There were initial missteps, when navigating the country’s nebulous regulations. The company was slapped with a fine for incorrect trademark usage. For Wong, it was an object lesson in pliancy. “You just have to evolve and understand that each market is very different compared to what we’re used to in Singapore,” she shared.

Flexibility also extends to her parenting style, which according to her, is Western slanted rather than emulative of the Asian Tiger Mom. “We wanted to raise happy, kind and empathetic kids,” she asserted.

Hence, when her middle child, Nicola, faltered, two years into her law career, the unstinting mother encouraged her to pursue other passions.

“I said to her, ‘It’s time to let go already. It’s not your cup of tea,’” recalled Wong. “She said, ‘Mom you didn’t raise no quitter.’ But it’s not about quitting. It’s about finding a different journey and chemistry,” she added. Nicola, who she’s described as headstrong and similar to her in character, is now undertaking a post-graduate degree in philosophy and theatre in Melbourne.

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