Single Mum-of-three Overcame Depression To Become One Of S’pore’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs

·15-min read

There are moments in life when the odds stack up against you. The darkness just won’t fade away and you seem to be running around in circles with no exit from this rut. For 49-year-old SH Ling, that was the case a couple of years ago.

The entrepreneur, before she turned into one, was burdened with finances as she worked hard to raise three children as a single mother.

To add to the hardships, Ling was also suffering from depression that made things all the more complicated. Not the ideal background for a successful e-commerce entrepreneur you would think. But that’s the brilliance of life.

While some decide to search for the light in the darkness, strong women like SH Ling are the ones who find the light within.

Overcoming odds and setbacks – both on the professional and personal front, Ling decided to take charge of her life and change her fate. She switched to becoming an e-commerce entrepreneur in 2017 by joining Leap Vista. She started her journey into Amazon in late 2019 and achieved a 10k revenue in two weeks and a six-figure revenue in just less than four months.

Ling is now an external Amazon Coach of LeapVista, and guides new sellers on how to go about their new venture. Her life is a reminder that it’s never too late to start.

theAsianparent recently had a chance to catch up with the mumpreneur and learn more about her journey, what has been her driving force towards the paradigm shift in life and what advice she’d like to give to other mums.

Here is the excerpt from the interview.

Raising Three Kids As A Single Mum

SH Ling
SH Ling

SH Ling with her children in 2014

TAP: Please share a bit about your parenting journey?

SH Ling: The journey has been tough and I have felt lost at times. But at the same time, it has been very rewarding. Being a mother for 21 years now, the love my children’s love for me is beyond words. If not for them, I would have ended my life.

When I decided to get divorced, I felt guilty towards my children for not providing a complete family. It was a decision I made, in which they have to face the consequences. I have learned that parenting is not all about the children, but also how I handle myself when interacting with them.

I used to scream and shout at them, and could not keep my cool when they do not behave as per my expectations. Over time, I learnt that I need to have self-care in order to care for them. When I’m able to fill my own love tank, only then I’ll let the love overflow to my children. That’s when I’ll be able to handle parenting challenges with calmness and assertiveness.

I also try hard not to take all possible growth opportunities away from my children. Especially when my children are going through a tough time with their school work, relationships with friends, and coping with stress. My heart aches and I want to step in and help them but I know this will not benefit them in the long term.

I always believe mistakes made at a younger age cost less compared to adulthood. Allowing them to experience tough times now is better than experiencing it later in life when they might find it tougher to cope. I would rather they dislike me for the right reasons than to like me for the wrong reasons.

Dealing With The Challenges During The Pandemic

TAP: How has the pandemic affected you both in a personal and professional capacity?

SH Ling: I felt helpless and lost to the point that I had to seek help from the family center for parenting issues. The pandemic has really stretched my capacity to the limit. Having the family all cooped up in a three-room HDB flat space was a challenge.

I had to constantly make meals, and deal with endless household chores, all while resolving conflicts within the children or me. The business also underwent a challenging period as there was a risk that my source of income might have stopped.

However, all these were beyond my control and there is nothing I can do about it due to the circumstances. I must say that the pandemic has really pushed me to grow both in my personal capacity and professional capacity. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.

TAP: How do you balance your many roles as a woman, (/mother) spouse, and a professional?

SH Ling: It is not easy but possible with self-care, planning, and an acceptance of imperfection. Only when I am able to care for myself as an individual, I can balance myself emotionally and physically to wear multiple hats.

Everything seems like a priority. Knowing what really matters to me helps me prioritise and plan my focus on my calendar. Allocating time for different roles does require effort to keep what was planned. Having the flexibility allows me to stay cool with daily surprises.

Accept imperfections – with tried and error methods helping me to see what works and what does not. Keep the methods that work and abandon those that are not working.

“Ask Yourself ‘Why’ If You Want To Succeed,” SH Ling

TAP: What’s your secret to success?

SH Ling: I was once told that the secret was to study well and get a good job. That was the ‘secret’ to success. However, this formula does not work in this modern era anymore. For me, it all started with the “Why’.

Why do I want to succeed? My ‘Why’ is my children and parents. I want myself to be able to provide a better future for them. I want to make a change not just for myself but for my children and parents. With a strong Why, I figured out the Hows and persevered.

Here are my Hows:

Start small and dream big. I set goals, huge goals that I never dream of achieving. Even with limited resources, take baby steps and work toward the big dreams.

Ignore the naysayers. It was tough doing something not many people believe was possible. My friends told me to give up several times. Their advice was to give up and go back to the workforce.

I know they meant good, and they did not want me to go through a tough time. Before I started my venture in e-commerce, I learned about all the negative comments about e-commerce courses and the industry. It was tough to decide, but with my own eyes, mind, and heart, I decided the path for myself.

I was blessed to have Benjamin, my mentor, who would always be there to support and help me achieve my goals.

Give back. When my heart is open to giving back, I can create change for others, and that is priceless.

Balancing Life As A Mother And Business Woman

SH Ling
SH Ling

SH Ling says that unless you begin to love yourself, you cannot share it with your kids

TAP: What has been the most significant barrier you’ve faced as a woman or as a mother?

SH Ling: Culture and value. I could not break away from what was no longer working for me. I used to believe that I should not shame myself in front of others. How relatives and friends see me is far more important than how I see myself.

Putting others first and self last seems to be the only way for a woman and a mother. Over time, I realised that I should be the one who gives back and not only takes. I learned that it should be a win-win partnership for all relationships to work and last. I need to learn to take and give at the same time for my sanity as a person.

Currently, the most significant barrier is balancing between my personal love life and my children. How can I have my children accept my life companion as part of their life, something which I cannot demand of them?

My children are so close to my heart. But at the same time, being a woman, I would love to have a life companion till my old age, but you cannot rush these things.

Seek Help When You Need It

TAP: Who/what inspires you, and why?

SH Ling: Hope! Over the years, I came to understand that people commit suicide not because they had the courage to die, but because they see no hope in their lives. Years back, I faced monetary problems, marriage issues, retrenchment, and had to single-handedly raise my three young children.

Emotionally, I was drained and worried about money all the time. One night, after all my three lovely children were asleep, I broke into tears. My only thought was how I could get out of all this. How can I? The only solution I had in mind was to end my life.

I looked at my children, and tears kept flowing down. I did not know what to do, but I plucked up my courage and called the SOS hotline.

To date, I am very thankful to the lady who was on the line. She had made sure that I no longer had any thoughts of suicide before letting me off the line. But most importantly, she gave me hope – that there were other possible solutions out there for me to live on and to seek help.

When I met my mentor Benjamin Tan, in my later years, he too had given me the hope of how I can make this e-commerce venture possible and successful. Today, it is my personal mission to inspire and give hope to others through my experiences.

Love Yourself Before Sharing Love With Others

SH Ling
SH Ling

Your life changes only when you decide to take charge. You make your own fate

TAP: What’s your advice for moms balancing home and career?

SH Ling: First and foremost, love and take good care of yourself. Be brave enough to take responsibility for your own life. We are stronger than we think. When we start to love, forgive, and commit to ourselves, we have a strong reason to change our lives.

TAP: What do you hope to change for mothers and women in general?

SH Ling: My hope for change for mothers and women is to have more self-care. Following which, will be the need for approval. The approval of how others see and view us because the only approval we need is from ourselves.

TAP: What kind of future do you envision for your kids?

SH Ling: Healthy, happy, and wealthy! What I want for them might not be what they want for their future. But I have this formula for them – H2W – that represents Health, Happiness, and Wealth.

As long as they have these three, I’m happy for any choices they’ve made in life. Besides H2W, I would love to know that they are united and close to each other until old age. I will be more than happy.

Getting To Know SH Ling, The Mumpreneur

Image courtesy: SH Ling

TAP: What inspired you to build a career of your own?

SH Ling: I had been working as administrative support with over 24 years of experience, ranging from very junior to senior positions. Throughout my journey, I was retrenched three times, and thanks to that, I decided to build a career of my own in order to secure my own income.

This led me to start my e-commerce journey at the age of 45. This year marks four years in my e-commerce journey, which I started part-time while doing contract jobs to sustain income. However, I am now a full-time Amazon seller and an external Amazon coach at LeapVista.

TAP: What was your motivation behind taking the leap in life?

SH Ling: The motivation was desperation. Being a single mother with three children, the only things that were on my mind after being retrenched were how to pay off monthly bills, housing loans and most importantly, how to bring food to the table.

Plus, my age is catching up and this has made it difficult to find a job that can address these concerns. Additionally, my health was not doing well, and pre-cancer cells were found during one of my health checks. Plus, I constantly have rashes, and gastric that could be due to stress.

I wanted a change very badly. However, when I first embarked on my e-commerce journey, I realised that I did not have the know-how or the capital to do so. At the initial stages, I was not sure where and who I can learn from for my first step into e-commerce and building a business on Amazon.

Establishing a business on Amazon without a mentor was like walking in the jungle without a guide or a compass. Who should I trust to learn this high-income skill from and where can I find the capital to do so?

Desperation Can Be The Biggest Motivator

All my retrenchment benefits went to the lawyer who represented my divorce case in court and my savings were exhausted when I was out of work.

I did not want to give up and was motivated to succeed in this new venture in e-commerce. This is when I was very blessed to have met Benjamin Tan, Chief Trainer of LeapVista, who became a very good mentor and supporting pillar; and later on, an investor (who is now my business partner) to start my new venture.

Even after having the knowledge, guidance, and resources to start the business, I still had some form of self-doubt and did not have the courage to take the leap forward.

Having experienced past failures, I did not believe that I could achieve what I had set out to achieve. Even today, people around me still do not believe that pursuing a venture in e-commerce is possible as a full-time job.

Transforming Lives As An Entrepreneur

TAP: What do you wish to change with your work?

SH Ling: I look forward to securing not just my own future, but also my children’s future and providing a better life for my parents. When I can secure stability for myself, I will have the ability to give back to society.

One more important change that I hope this venture will achieve is to help me become a better version of myself. I want to see myself improve each time as I overcome challenges and become the person I want to be.

TAP: What has been the most significant barrier you’ve faced as an entrepreneur?

SH Ling: The ability to stay positive. When things do not happen as per plan or it turns out as a surprise that seems impossible to resolve, I need to hold back my fear and tears to face it as I cannot flee.

During one of my past counselling sessions, my counsellor mentioned that there are two reactions – to face or to flee whenever we face danger.

Being an entrepreneur, fleeing is no longer an option for me. I have learnt to face whatever challenges and obstacles with a positive mindset. The barrier to overcome these were not the issue or problem itself, but myself.

The Art Of Choosing The Right Battles

SH Ling
SH Ling

Separating from her husband wasn’t easy but necessary

TAP: How do you balance being a mum and a mumpreneur?

SH Ling: Accepting myself that I need not be perfect both at home and at work. I have learned to let go of the need to follow the definitions of a good mother as defined by others. I have developed a willingness to accept and seek help as I cannot do everything myself.

When I delegate, I cannot expect others to meet my personal standard too. It’s better to get the work done on time than waiting for it to be done perfectly.

Getting children to do their own chores like doing their own laundry and ironing their own uniforms eases some of the housework off my shoulder.

TAP: Any advice to the next generation of entrepreneurs, young women, and mothers?

SH Ling: Love, forgive, and commit to yourself. We, women, are in a time where we have equal rights and opportunities as men. In an Asian context, you expect women to play a bigger role in the household. We need to break that chain.

Loving oneself enables us to have the courage to go after what we want and be who we really want to be. Loving oneself can be easy, but I find forgiving myself possesses some challenges.

When I faced the mirror and said – Ling, I forgive you. I could not do it with ease as I felt that somehow I failed myself. It takes time for me to overcome that self-blame within me, but I can move on when I no longer take that guilt.

We made many commitments to our work, our children, our loved ones, but we tend to forget the commitment for ourselves. Let us commit to our personal growth as an individual.

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