Cassandra Tan’s enterprise, BITSY was actualised after leaving the corporate advertising world behind her.
What’s your story?
It has been a pretty long journey to where I am today.
While growing up, I’ve always wanted to run my own business; perhaps it’s from the influence and culture of my family since they have been entrepreneurs for generations. Throughout college while my fellow mates were busy partying, I saved up my earnings from tutoring and tried different endeavours – organising underage parties, blogshops and starting up a gallery upon graduation. Unfortunately nothing took off and I decided that I needed to get more experience before trying out on my own again.
From there, I joined a global renowned advertising agency and worked my way up; chasing clients, brands and promotions became addictive, like hitting levels in a video game. I really wanted to start a cafe then but the opportunity cost seemed too high and risky. Everyone else who aspires to be an entrepreneur seems to have the same problem.
It was then I realised that if we could solve the problem of long term and expensive rent and manpower, we could really help a lot of people begin actualising their dreams. I left advertising with lots of fear but also found the courage through purpose.
BITSY was then born. At BITSY, we help to find short term space and help for every idea.
What excites you most about your industry?
Nobody in Asia is doing exactly what we are doing hence the industry is still pretty untapped and so, there are less boundaries and a lot of opportunities! We crossover a few industries which is property, F&B and advertising. Our clients are mostly startups and SMEs which we can really add value to since everyone has a problem on either underutilized spaces or shortage of talent.
What’s your connection to Asia?
Born and raised in Singapore by parents, who are expatriates based in Thailand and China, so I know these markets pretty well. My husband and I also lived in Jakarta for two years.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore!! Everything is easy and efficient. I’ve really learnt to appreciate Singapore and its citizens after moving to Jakarta. From starting a business, getting around and raising a family at the same time, Singapore has made it as easy as it gets. The city is also safe and we don’t have to be afraid of petty crimes and scams as much as we do in other Asian cities.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Always give value before asking for any.
Who inspires you?
Business wise– the old times businessmen (in Asian terms: Old Towkays) who started from nothing in harsh environments and have made it today. I find them more inspiring than current startup founders as they had a lot less than us in the past. As for current business founders, I admire Elon Musk for his vision, drive and the courage to make things deemed impossible, happen.
Life – I really respect people who are passionate and purposeful in whatever they are doing; be it a job, a cause or a business. I find it upsetting when people do not know what they want or why they are doing something. It is not just about money but purpose and passion.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
To run a successful business is not just building a good product or service; it is about having a good team and network.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
There’s nothing I would have done differently. I’ve made some mistakes but I think it all serves as a lesson. It is different knowing something from theory versus experience.
How do you unwind?
Recluse to a corner of my house and binge read.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan. I love the culture and food. Everyone is so polite so it really takes off a lot of stress.
Everyone in business should read this book:
There’s quite a number that I like but the current one that I really encourage all my friends to read is – “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” by Ashlee Vance.
It is not your business-tips-kind-of book but it gives insights on how great leadership, vision and execution can push boundaries. I find it very encouraging and motivating. If such an unattainable vision can be reached, we can fulfill ours too.
Shameless plug for your business:
BITSY (www.bitsyspace.com) is a one-stop platform and solution that allows individuals and businesses to find space for their ideas, while helping space owners to maximize their underutilized spaces.
We also have an in-house creative marketing team which helps these space owners or renters to create the experience for their brands and events. This helps to maximise results and reduce fixed manpower costs for the business owners.
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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