From hobby to career

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Eleanor Ng, who worked as a fashion designer before becoming an entrepreneur, runs an online subscription service for arts & crafts packs for children.Eleanor Ng, who worked as a fashion designer before becoming an entrepreneur, runs an online subscription service for arts & crafts packs for children.

Most of us fancy the notion of turning our passions or hobbies into a career. Few of us actually manage to do that. For a majority of the folks out there, career and passion are two separate things and never the twain shall meet.

A small handful of people have managed to do just that though. Two online entrepreneurs – who happen to be friends – share with us a little about their passions and how they turned them into businesses that they run.

Eleanor Ng, who worked as a fashion designer before becoming an entrepreneur, runs an online subscription service for arts & crafts packs for children. Each month, Little Paper Crate will send subscribers a box of projects suitable for children aged three to six-year-old. Each pack comes with the necessary materials and easy-to-follow instructions.

“Each box contains three to four activities, so parents can opt to ration the projects through an entire month, or let the kids go crazy with the entire box in one sitting,” says Eleanor. “Kids enjoy receiving the monthly subscription boxes and never really knowing what to expect, and the fact that there’s that element of surprise provides them that much extra motivation to complete each box without getting distracted by unnecessary gadgets. It’s also an educational way of teaching this generation’s children the satisfaction in delayed gratification – not everything comes at the touch of a button.”

Jacqueline

Jacqueline Ng (pic), an economist by training, is co-founder of Little Paper Crate and founder of Gin & Jacqie, a cool online store that sells a line of bags created by Jacqueline herself. The core focus of the brand is well-made bags that look good and are appropriate be carried in any setting, be it the office, in a mall or at a resort.

“The fundamental design principle of is the creation of bags that provide long lasting utility, practicality and an unpretentious fashion focus set at palatable prices whilst maintaining a high level of quality. Materials and fabrics are selected to be durable, low on maintenance and wardrobe-friendly,” says Jacqueline. In case you are wonder who Gin is, it’s not a partner but the name of Jacqueline’s favourite drink (Gin & Tonic).

Both businesses grew out of the women’s passions. As a mother, Eleanor wanted to find ways to encourage her kids’ natural flair and talent for creating things. “It’s a treat watching the results of their fun arts and craft sessions at home but it’s not easy to follow through with projects found on Pinterest because the materials recommended can be quite costly as they are from the US,” she says. “One day, Jacqie and I thought what a good idea it would be to offer a service that offers crafts-based projects at local prices.”

As a woman on the go, Jacqueline was always on the hunt for good laptop bags that she could carry day to night and yet not look out of style. Unable to find one that totally fit her needs, she created a few of her own. And that was the genesis of the company, which expanded into many other types of bags.

Both women are certain that online is the best way to go. In Eleanor’s case, the decision was made from the start that it would be an online service as it would be the most convenient way for parents to subscribe. In Jacqueline’s case, she actually started off by selling her bags at various department stores. But seeing the online buying trend pick up, she soon started selling them through her own website and today, the business is totally conducted online.

Since setting up an e-commerce site no longer costs an arm and a leg, literally anyone can start their own online store. What’s to stop someone from copying their business and setting up a rival company? In a word: passion (or rather, the lack of it).

“If someone does something like this just to make money, I don’t think it will work,” says Eleanor. “I do everything, from sourcing of materials, to prepping them for the convenience of the kids, to designing the step-by-step guides that come along with each box. And my kids really help, because they allow me to understand what our customers want and need. That’s what makes Little Paper Crate stand out – it’s not just a business, it’s a personal experience from our home, to yours.”

Jacqueline concurs. “I think in every business, you need to have passion to see things through. If not, you will give up when the going gets tough and rough. Things don’t happen overnight, so loving what you do is important because you will have to hang in there during the difficult periods,” she says.

Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant.

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