Sisters and tech-savvy new mothers Rhonda, 31, and Race Wong, 34, started property app Ohmyhome in September 2016. The app, which fills a much-needed gap in the local real estate market, allows HDB property owners to buy, sell or rent, without relying on a real estate agent.
The ambitious duo admit that launching a startup was not (and still isn’t) an easy task, especially when you are juggling pregnancy and babies. Rhonda has a 7-months-old son Ashton, while Race’s daughter, Cara, just turned 2 months. Juggling newborns and a business in its infancy sounds very demanding, but entrepreneurship is their blood ― their dad also owns a business.
SmartParents speaks to the new mums to find out how they are coping and if they have any advice to offer budding mumpreneurs…
Hi ladies, tell us more about Ohmyhome
Rhonda: Ohmyhome connects HDB home-searchers to home-owners directly ― free. Basically, it’s a real estate platform and a licenced real estate agency which lets users buy, sell or rent HDB flats on their own without any hassle. All listings are genuine, non-duplicate and easy to browse. Users can ask for free-of-charge assistance over the Ohmyhome hotline anytime they need.
Race: For people who prefer a human touch, we have a team of highly experienced in-house agents. The services provided by our team of agents are at a hugely discounted fixed rate. For someone who wants to sell his HDB, the full-fledged service only costs $2,888, payable only upon successful completion of the sale. Through this fixed rate services, we have helped Singaporeans save more than $400,000 to date. We also have a partnership programme for external agents to tap into our database for free. The reason for this partnership programme is to minimise the probability of our users being harassed by any salesperson.
Why only concentrate on the HDB market?
Rhonda: Over 80 per cent of us live in an HDB flat ― the building blocks of our nation. We believe in bringing quality service and education to the most important segment of the market. We’ve no plans to make Ohmyhome available to the private property market, though we pay a lot of attention to our users as they’re the ones we are serving. If we receive strong requests for the private market then it would be something worth considering.
“It’s SO important to have a partner who enjoys raising your child together, it makes it all the more magical.”
What has been the feedback since its launch in Sept 2016?
Rhonda: It has been very positive. Our users like that it’s simple, saves them time and money, and at the same time they have also given us great comments to improve on. We have users who have found a buyer in as quickly as two days! The app started with zero listings. Growing from zero to the first 100 listings was the most tedious because without listings there wouldn’t be buyers or tenants using our app. Likewise, when Ohmyhome was unknown and there weren’t a huge database of buyers and tenants, some home owners were reluctant to adopt the new app. We gave out flyers, went door to door and did cold calling to introduce our app. Fortunately, it didn’t take people too long to know that this is a fantastic app and that the best part is that it’s also free.
What would you say are some of the weaknesses of Ohmyhome?
Rhonda: Right now the platform is only in English language, which wouldn’t be friendly to users of other languages. Also, if you don’t have a smartphone, then you can’t download the app and access the listings. However, we still have our website and hotline that can assist everyone. The other weakness, which can also be our strength, is that our sole focus is the HDB community.
How would you describe the current property market in Singapore?
Rhonda: People are looking for savings where possible, and also to use their own knowledge, combined with the abundance of transparent information available on the internet, in making their own investment decisions. We see a trend in property investors doing their own research, making their own calculated decisions and facilitating property transactions on their own, especially in the HDB sector. In the past, one relied on an agent for information, today, many use an agent to confirm that their research is accurate. Our educated smart nation is capable of doing their own property transactions ― we see a rapidly increasing pool of such users on Ohmyhome.
So, you’re both new mums. What is it like juggling a start-up with new motherhood?
Rhonda: At this point my work still requires heavy time commitment from me and being the CEO, I have the responsibility to ensure that my company is constantly at full speed. I’m still a very new mum, so I can’t claim to be on top of my game. Every day, I’m just trying my best. I have a lovely nanny and I live with my parents, they completely adore Ashton. Knowing that he’s in the good hands gives me peace of mind when I’m at work. I also have a very hands-on and supportive husband. I can count on him to take care of everything when it comes to Ashton. I just have to provide the milk! It’s SO important to have a partner who enjoys raising your child together, it makes it all the more magical.
Race: Motherhood has been a mind-opening experience. It made me realise how tolerant of pain women are. I didn’t realise how exhausting and painful breastfeeding is until I experienced it myself. The lack of uninterrupted sleep was difficult during the first two weeks, but I’m gradually getting used to it. My life and lifestyle completely changed from the moment she arrived. I have to think of my child before I can plan anything for myself. On the plus side, seeing my child grow each day, watching her every expression has been very fulfilling.
“As a business owner, all thanks to technology, I can never be on a real holiday or a real confinement.”
What are some challenges of being a mumprenuer?
Race: As a new mum, the best I can give to my child right now is breastmilk. Knowing that I am going to be busy at work and will not be able to feed my baby directly, I have been diligently expressing milk and storing it in the freezer to ensure she will have a constant supply. As a business owner, all thanks to technology, I can never be on a real holiday or a real confinement. My team keeps me in the loop no matter where I am. Having a good team and an effective work flow is important.
Rhonda: The pros (I hope) is that my son will understand the value of work and appreciate time together. Unlike a stay-home-mum who is able to spend a lot of her time with her little one, I have to make a really big effort to come home whenever I can, just to spend time with him. The cons is most definitely that I have to accept that I would miss on some of his first sounds, actions, funny poses… I miss cuddling him in bed ― that’s just one of the most amazing moments in the world. The other con, is that it can get very, very tiring and stressful. Not only could there potentially be a bad day at home, but at work as well.
What’s a typical day for both of you?
Rhonda: Every day is really intense. As a breastfeeding mom, I still wake up throughout the night. At 7am, I wake up to express milk, read the news, get changed, have breakfast, cuddle my baby for 10 minutes and get to my office by 9am. If my amount of work were physical files, they would pile up so high to the ceiling ― I have so much work to do! 9am to 1pm goes by in a snap. I rush home to express, have a quick lunch and cuddle my baby for five minutes and I’m back to work. Meetings, discussions and more work, its 6.30pm ― I rush home, express, have dinner, then cuddle my baby to sleep by 8pm. I either go back to office or continue working on my laptop till I’m exhausted. Then it’s bedtime and I finally have time to cuddle with my hubby.
Race: My typical day is very similar to Rhonda’s. I wake up several times at night to express, head to work by 9am, rush home for lunch to see my baby and then I’m back to work. I always make time for dinner with my husband. That’s the only time we have to catch up on each other’s day. We love to share about work and understand the things we do and the people we meet daily.
Does it help having your sister around as a business partner and part of your mummy tribe?
Race: Rhonda became a mum a little earlier than I did, so she completely understands the challenges and the amount of rest I need as a new mum. She has been very helpful in taking on the workload as well, as helping me prepare for my baby. She got me diapers, the steriliser, baby clothes and countless things because she knows what I need and knew I was just too busy working until I gave birth. As business partners, we both have really good synergy. I guess it developed growing up as sisters. We know when to compromise, when to stand our ground and how to debate without hard feelings. We go through everything together. Brainstorming and dreaming together during our free time is enjoyable, too.
Rhonda: I can’t imagine there to be a better partner in this world than my sister. The bond we share is very rare and we are both super hardworking. We know our strengths and weaknesses so well and this allows us to be very practical in assigning tasks. We are very open minded in running our company and welcome heated constructive discussions.
“Running a business is a marathon and new mums who are planning to go down this path should take a few months doing research and planning, before jumping into it.”
How do you both handle conflicts with each other?
Rhonda: While Race and I have a say in almost everything in the company, we have also assigned the final say of decision-making to individuals who specialise in those areas. For example, Race is a lot more artistic and creative than I am, so anything related to designs, she would have the final say. Likewise, if an employee has been given the authority to make the final decision, we would respect and honour that. When there’s trust that everyone makes the best decision they can at a certain time for the greater good of the company, there’re no hard feelings. Work wouldn’t be fun if we let every problem get to us on a personal level.
Race: Conflicts are necessary for improvements. We are energised by ideas from different perspectives as it stimulates creativity. All conflicts are for the improvement of the company, so we never have any hard feelings. For most matters, the distinction between right and wrong is not clear. We have got to try things out and learn from the results.
What advice can you give new mums who are thinking of starting their own business?
Race: Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. One needs grit, eagerness to improve, be open to criticism, think strategically and have problem-solving skills. The time and commitment one needs towards starting and running your own business differs greatly from most full-time jobs. Running a business is a marathon and new mums who are planning to go down this path should take a few months doing research and planning, before jumping into it. It’s extremely challenging to cope with your baby and start a business.
Rhonda: Your mind has to be ready for it. It is very easy to give yourself excuses to quit because there are problems every day, but if you’ve done your homework and made your mind up, then there’s a lot that determination can help overcome. It’s also important to be practical about who’s caring for your child and the financial side of things. If you are the sole care giver, you will have to consider if your business allows you to work from home regularly. If you are able to afford help, are you then able to embrace the fact that your child may potentially be very close to your helper? Personally, I don’t see any problems there, because I think it’s important for Ashton to love his nanny too, but I know of mums who have found that difficult to accept and made their helper feel like an outsider.
*This interview was edited for clarity
Photos: Rhonda and Race Wong/Instagram
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