Jolyn Chua, Singapore
“I had relationships with my customers and I loved being down at the store, but I had to let go.”
When Tokyo Bike owner Jolyn Chua first became a mother, she got a crash course in delegation. After two years of doing the heavy lifting herself, her business was taking off and she had to learn how to trust her team to help her as orders started to fly in.
From the importance of having a bit of faith to learning to let go, Jolyn shares her entrepreneurial journey with us.
Entering a man’s world
Jolyn remembers the first time she saw a Tokyo Bike. She was flicking through the pages of a design magazine and couldn’t take her eyes off the beautifully designed city bike.
Spotting a gap for affordable mid-range bikes in Singapore, she got in touch with the founder and designer in Tokyo. It didn’t take long before she was awarded with the distribution for Southeast Asia and opened her first shop on Haji Lane in Singapore. But it was a male dominated industry, and Jolyn had to fight for bicycle suppliers and partners to take her seriously. Customers didn’t even want her serving them because of her gender:
“A lot of them didn’t think a woman would be able to last long in this industry because she probably doesn’t know a lot about bikes”.
Although people questioned her ability every day, she believed in the product, in the brand and most of all herself — so she just went for it.
Educating the marketplace
In addition to educating people that women could know as much about bikes as men, she had to educate her customers about a new category of bikes altogether.
“Everyone knew what a racing bike or a mountain bike was, but when we said Tokyo Bike was a city bike, we were met with blank stares,” Jolyn recalls.
She then set about educating the public about the joys of owning a city bike and changing the way they viewed cycling from performance and speed to exploration and discovery, encouraging them to slow down and enjoy the nooks and crannies of the city.
Juggling a family and a business
In the middle of growing her business, Jolyn was also busy growing her family.
Jolyn learned quickly how to juggle home and work life, but she has learned she can’t do everything. When she became a mother, she became an expert at delegating, handing over tasks like the day-to-day running of the shop to her team.
“When the baby came along my priorities had to change. It was difficult because the business was my other baby. I had relationships with my customers and I loved being down at the store, but I had to let go”.
Having a team she could rely on helped, and Jolyn soon learned to trust them.
Trust your instinct
Although there were times when she thought about giving up, something told Jolyn to hold on. She listened to her gut, trusted her team and waited it out. And as people became familiar with the brand and product, they started coming into the store.
“I felt such relief when things picked up. I was so happy and excited that it was finally going somewhere”.
The business has been steadily growing with a 20% increase in sales each year. It’s expanded regionally and now has dealers in Hong Kong, Indonesia and the Philippines (with even more new markets to come).