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Jan 19, 2022
Nikola Hassan

Thriving In This New New Normal


Thriving In This New New Normal

Last December, the first physical RIUH in the City took place and it was so heartwarming to see the community return in full force, from homegrown brand supporters, curious foodies, Christmas shoppers, adventurous young families, holding-hands couples, and more. Themed ‘Xmas Tropicola’ with a Christmas tree made of fresh tropical fruits, hues of yellow and orange bursting with freshness, the vibrancy of RIUH was definitely back.

And it was also the first in-person RIUH Talks live session since 2020.

With an engaging  line-up of panel speakers, we delved into tips and tools for small businesses to navigate this ‘new new normal’’, which we define as:

So here’s are some key takeaways from each of our panelists:

Julie Yim, co-founder of Lilin + Co.

1. Take the risk to invest wisely - in the case of Lilin + Co., they invested in their first physical store space and heavy-duty machinery to increase output, but kept their staffing lean and efficient

2. Dare to grow - Lilin + Co. started out as retailing their artisan candles online exclusively. Opening a brick and mortar store has helped customers experience the brand more by observing the candle making process, touching/feeling the products, and most importantly for them, to get a whiff of the various scents. Since their store opening, Lilin + Co. has experienced a boost in their sales.

As much as we have been conditioned to think that we should focus on e-commerce, it may be worthwhile to explore a physical presence for your brand (you can start small with a short-term pop-up / collaboration or a booth at a bazaar that caters to your target audience).

3. Stay customer-centric - understand the shift in demands and change of consumer behaviour so you can continue to stay relevant to your clientele. Self-care has been on the rise in the past two years, which saw growing interest in handpoured candles. Lilin + Co. recognized this shift and went more aggressive with their marketing (posting new, fresh content and boosting posts) to capitalize.

Beatrice, Oh Beatrice (illustrator and designer)

1. Put yourself out there - as a creative content creator, seek courage to push yourself out of your comfort zone; let your presence be felt and works be seen.

In the case of Oh Beatrice, she experienced a lull in commissioned works during the lockdown and turned it into a carpe diem moment. She self-published a children’s book, ‘Dumpling the Tiger’, filled with her whimsical watercolour illustrations. This has been a clever way for her to generate passive income.

2. Collaborate to add-value - collaborations should be mutually beneficial. I have seen too many lopsided collaborations where the bigger brand overpowers the smaller one, and this David-and-Goliath imbalance does very little for the smaller brand.

As a content creator, you add value and worth to the campaigns you work on. Identify your areas of strength, and focus on projecting those in the work you create. And make sure that your creative input is valued by those you collaborate with.

Oh Beatrice has a year-long collaboration with artisanal chocolatier, Bennsethicoa. And I reached out to them to ask how the creative partnership has helped their business. Beatrice’s quirky and wondrous illustrations applied to their chocolate packaging has opened up Bennsethicoa to a younger customer base - helping the brand stand out with a fresh and engaging visual palette.

Adrian Yap, founder of Tiffin

1. Build a community, authentically - ‘community’ has been a catchphrase for the past few years with the focus on building a sense of togetherness, unity and coming together for common interests.

Something that stood out for me from the conversation with Adrian, was his approach to community building - 1) slow and steady wins the race; 2) know where your brand sits in the greater framework of society and focus there.

It’s not about being everything to everyone, it’s about being something to those who appreciate your vibe.

2. Adapt to change by creating - continue to remain agile and quick-footed, keep in mind that changes may occur that are out of your control but don’t let this hinder your creativity and ideas. Be brave and go for it!

Tiffin at the Yard was one of the first physical events since the reopening of society at the end of 2021. With every weekly installation, the number of visitors began to grow. Pop into the experience at Sentul Depot now and you’ll see a spectrum of demographics, from outgoing 20-somethings to young families with curious palates.

But this took courage to bite the bullet and just go. Build something of substance, and the people will come.

As I write this, visuals of Wellness Weekend at Tiffin at the Yard are being shared across social media. Another great example of Tiffin’s ability to adapt and create.

Harvinth Skin, Digital Content Creator

1. Master your craft, don’t rely on others - during the lockdown, content creators were faced with smaller budgets and less clients. Naturally, it meant having to cut costs by keeping the production team lean - and in some cases, the content creator was the script writer, director, hair/makeup, sound tech, video editor, client liaison all in one.

When faced with this tough time, Harvinth scaled down to become a one-man show. And much to his surprise (after the initial shock of ‘WTF, this is going to take me forever’), he learned to master all aspects of his craft and this has bolstered his confidence now that budgets are healthier and more client enquiries are streaming in.

Moving forward, one of his key learnings is to keep his team lean and efficient. I’m pretty sure that this experience has also made him a better leader.

2. Build lasting relationships - if there’s a client that you click with, focus on them and do your best to continue to cultivate that connection. Through the good times and bad (ok this is sounding like a marriage vow?), be committed to producing content you’re proud of for them. This will ensure that they keep engaging you for more campaigns to come.

3. Be kind to yourself - our mental health was undoubtedly challenged during the past couple years of uncertainty and worry. Use this as an opportunity to rebuild yourself by checking in with yourself on your priorities, from there you can set your intentions (I think of this as the vibe you want to project) and your goals (what you want to achieve).

A note from me

This has been such a beautiful way to pen my last entry for the RIUH Talks blog, and the most heartwarming ending to a year (how time flies) of collaborating with Marissa, Nabila and the RIUH team.

Over the past several months, we hope to have touched base on topics that are relevant to you, dear business owner. But more importantly, I hope they have fostered your growth and confidence to take the steps you need to take for your brand to thrive during these uncertain times.

I hope that the worst part of the storm is behind us, I truly pray for this for all of us and our country. But the beauty in the struggle was how quickly we banded together to support one another - and I sincerely hope this sense of camaraderie and compassion continues even through the good times.

Keep creating, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and know that the rollercoaster ride (the wins and the losses) are what makes life so incredible. The pain, the struggle, the victories, the milestones - it is all worth it.

Sending you love, positive vibes and plenty of can-do energy.



P.S. I am currently on a social media detox but will be back soon! If you’d like to connect about this blog or any other branding and marketing matters, feel free to DM @riuhinthecity.