If you ask an entrepreneur about starting a business, they will probably tell you to search for the right business, check market trends, and make sure that you optimise the flow of the market. However, when Sherrie Han decided to venture into the business of producing exquisite timepieces for women, things couldn’t have been harsher. You see, the timekeeper of Singapore wasn’t just planning to start her own venture but was doing so against market odds.
“There’s no market for mechanical watches for women,” Sherrie was told. But that didn’t stop her from creating Eliana Timekeepers. An exclusive watch microbrand for women that has been making waves amidst the pandemic. If you think that’s tough, Sherrie Han did all of this while holding her full-time job as a senior lawyer while also being pregnant with her second child.
In a way, Sherrie has had three babies growing up in the past year and conquering new milestones.
In the past year, The Eliana Timekeeper has turned out to be extremely successful, quashing one preset norm after the other. The company sources from the same suppliers as the luxury watch companies but prices are far more accessible in comparison. You could say the 29-year-old mum’s new business is running like seamless clockwork!
theAsianparent recently sat down with Sherrie Han, Founder, The Eliana Timekeeper, for an exclusive chat, to know more about the venture’s origins, her challenges as a new mum and a mumpreneur, and how she makes time for everything in her life right now.
Here is an excerpt from the interview.
Building A Business Against All Odds
TAP: How and why did you start your your venture?
Sherrie Han: This foray into mechanical watch designing started out as a passion project and became a defiant desire to prove that women can appreciate mechanical watches.
TAP: Who was your inspiration behind starting this venture?
Sherrie: There were two people who encouraged me to start, though they may not know it. First, Alexander Low, from Arcturus watches, is a personal friend and he has one of the best design eyes I know. Speaking with him and gleaning his insights helped me to launch this.
Second, Uncle Vincent who taught me how to service mechanical and automatic watches introduced me to the beauty of mechanical watches and taught me how to take apart mechanical watches. He’s an inspiration because he was actually a corporate person before he retired and first taught himself how to repair watches out of sheer interest.
Initially, dreaming about creating my own watch brand was a creative outlet; then after researching and talking to people, I realised it was entirely possible to do so. With some encouragement and a lot of foolhardy, I decided to take the plunge and start the business.
TAP: How did your childhood and past experiences mould you to be the female entrepreneur you are today?
Sherrie: As a child, I loved figuring out how things work and making things with my hands. I even chose ‘scotchtape1411’ as my primary school email address as I used scotch tape so much in my everyday play. My parents gave me the space to explore my interests and I think that fostered my intellectual curiosity and confidence to embark on new, uncommon ventures.
TAP: What are the five factors of building a business in an industry that was new to you?
Sherrie: We launched our first watch collection on Kickstarter in Jan 2020, when the world was dealing with Covid-19 and I was heavily pregnant (I gave birth to my second child one month later).
It has been a crash course in everything from manufacturing and logistics to branding and marketing. I’ve learnt a lot along the way.
To budding entrepreneurs: Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. Being resourceful and having a thick skin to knock on doors count for more than having all the answers.
Competing With Luxury Brands Without The Premium Prices
TAP: What makes your product different from others in the market?
Sherrie: Each watch is individually numbered and produced in limited quantities with premium materials. For example, we use sapphire crystal and 316L stainless steel for our watches, which is similar to what Rolex uses for their watches.
Unlike other fashion watch brands, our watches are made to last and contains no batteries. In other words, they are more sustainable! Also, we are the only local watch brand dedicated to making mechanical watches for women, by women.
TAP: How do you come up with the designs? Please share the process of creating these timeless pieces.
Sherrie: I take reference from vintage jewellery pieces. My fondness for classic, elegant designs is a major influence on The Eliana Timekeeper’s design philosophy.
When I design, the first thing that I do is to contemplate various textures, lines and colours and imagine how they might come together. Thereafter, these various snippets collate into a ‘mood board.’ Next, comes old-school sketching of the watch designs, prototyping the watch and making refinements until we are satisfied.
Balancing Work Commitments And Mummy Duties
TAP: How do you balance work and life?
Sherrie Han: I am awaken every morning by my toddler’s cry for milk. Thereafter, we have breakfast as a family before the older child goes to nursery and the younger child to my parents. I head off to the law firm or to lecture unless it’s WFH for that day and deal with business-related tasks and emails throughout the day.
After work, my parents come over with the kids and I cook dinner for everyone and we eat together. My husband and I have a bedtime routine where we spend time with the kids. After they sleep, I attend to other emails, miscellaneous chores and other administrative matters.
TAP: How has your parenting journey been this far?
Sherrie: I was shocked at how my life was completely taken over when my first child was born. Waking up every three hours to feed etc. It was the hardest realisation that our lives are not our own anyway.
However, the fulfilment and joy at seeing the children grow is more amazing than I imagined. My parenting style is more laissez-faire, I think children need security and space to grow into well-adjusted adults.
To mums in Singapore: Enjoy the different seasons. Every stage of the child’s growth has different joys and challenges, and they don’t last so take heart if you’re struggling or cherish the time if you’re enjoying it.
TAP: What keeps you motivated to work?
Sherrie Han: We want to be a forerunner in growing a community of women who appreciate the beauty of mechanical watches and that vision keeps us busy designing and making beautiful timepieces.
Parenting Style And Being A Successful Mum First
TAP: What is your parenting style?
Sherrie Han: Yes, I’ve named my watch company after my firstborn, Eliana. I think I was more uptight with my firstborn than I am with my second. I’m more laissez-faire in my parenting style and try to spend as much time as I can with her.
TAP: What’s your advice to mums trying to balance work-life?
Sherrie: Don’t be too hard on yourself! A lot of working moms struggle with “mom-guilt” because we feel that we “don’t do enough” but it’s good to remember that who we are probably influencing them more than what we do.
TAP: What’s your advice on being a successful mum as well as a successful businesswoman?
Sherrie: Take time to take care of yourself.