Why mum-preneur and CANVAS founder Nadia Chan is every mother's best cheerleader

Nadia Chan is the founder of CANVAS. (PHOTO: Nadia Chan)

By: Susanah Cheok

SINGAPORE — If you’re a multi-tasking, high-achieving, fiercely devoted career mum like Nadia Chan, and have days when mummy meltdowns get too real, take a leaf out of her well-practised philosophy. She advocates that you “take a moment, sit back, and marvel at how far you’ve come with your little one. Even on days when everything seems to be falling apart, you are amazing and you have done a good job.”


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At 29, sage mum-preneur, Nadia Chan holds 3 jobs: she is co-founder of Maiko Pte Ltd, the Singapore distributor for Australian beauty brand, CANVAS, General Manager of PR Communications Pte Ltd, and mother to her four-year-old son, Callum. All that and she still finds time for herself.

Born in Hong Kong, raised in Singapore, and educated in Queensland, Australia, Nadia enjoyed her first taste in entrepreneurship at the age of 21, when she ran two small restaurants after graduating from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management.

Nadia’s deep belief and passion in conscious and natural skincare values are also what drew her to the Melbourne-based, preservatives-free, aromatherapy-based CANVAS brand of beauty.

(PHOTO: Nadia Chan)

At Maiko for CANVAS, Nadia partners her sister, Sophia, in planning and executing marketing and communication strategies across all platforms and channels to ensure CANVAS is on-brand in terms of ideas, activities and its education and outreach to its customers.

Nadia wears a second corporate hat as GM for PR Comm, which she takes in her stride, having been immersed in it even before she was old enough to work. Her parents, Eric Chan and Fatoma Alladin are respected veterans, who have cornered the luxury PR market in Asia for decades. “With my parents in PR, I’ve been exposed to it from a very young age. I’ve always heard them discuss work. My father, who has been in the industry for over 30 years now, has also mentored me well.”

Even so, Nadia makes working hard and strategically seem so easy. For her, “The most exciting thing about managing CANVAS and PRComm would be the journey itself, from building a plan, to seeing it all come together, and knowing that our customers and clients are satisfied with our efforts.”

Rose Otto Facial Hydro Gel Mask and Cucumber Soothe Calming Mist. (PHOTO: CANVAS)

Contrary to common perception, Nadia says she does not have it all, and she’s fine with that. “We all have our wishes and sometimes I wish I could spend all my time with Callum. That said, I’m grateful for what I have, the support system that I have when I can’t be with Callum because of work.”

To ensure everything goes like clockwork, Nadia has had to fit the moveable parts of her days, work aspects that are under her control, into the fixed portions, like Callum’s school and extra-curricular activities.

She may not have it all, but she does juggle a lot, which means one thing: that getting her schedules down pat is non-negotiable.

“It all boils down to planning! Callum is my priority, so everything is planned around this. On school days, I plan meetings and discussions for CANVAS or PRComm around his school drop-offs and pick-ups. I also make it a point to pick him up and drop him off at school, so that I can spend that extra bit of time with him. He is usually in school by 8.20am, so I am in the office just before 9am, which gives me a nice couple of hours before I pick him up at 3pm. I return to the office after dropping him home. On the other hand, I also make sure Thursday and Friday evenings are dedicated to either spending time with my friends, or doing something self-pampering – either a visit to the nail spa, gym, or a massage.”

(PHOTO: Nadia Chan)

Even for this passionately dedicated mum, mother’s guilt is ubiquitous. All the intricate planning that mothers do to be happy mums, so as to have happy children, can sometimes also end up being self-sabotaging.

“So, as much as possible, spend time with yourself too. Many might disagree, but don’t make your child your whole life. Instead, introduce him or her into yours. When we do stock taking for CANVAS, I get Callum involved and he is happy to help me count bottles,” says the youthful yet astute Nadia.

That’s why it’s important to celebrate Mother’s Day, “to honour our mothers and express our gratitude to them for the important role they play in our lives. It is also a time for mothers like me to reflect on how we’ve been doing as parents and know that trying our best is good enough!”

Nadia will be the first to admit that motherhood is like a roller-coaster ride, “filled with lots of joy yet also ups and downs. It is not easy, not perfect, but it teaches us that we are much stronger, more patient, courageous and resilient than we realise.”

She also describes motherhood as double-edged. “The most challenging thing about motherhood is that the worry never ends. Even when all is good and Callum is well and fine, I will worry! But I try not to be a helicopter parent as ultimately, my aim is to prepare him for the ‘real world’, where sometimes falling is part of the success.”

(PHOTO: Nadia Chan)

Nadia’s mum has inevitably also shaped her own mothering methods. “My mother was pretty laid-back. She would give us the freedom to explore our interests and do things that we loved. Like her, I encourage Callum to pursue his interests – whether it’s music, art or dancing.”

And Nadia joins in too. “The 3 things that we find ourselves doing together the most are singing in the car, painting and baking. He is a fan of colours and really does love a good song and dance.”

Although Nadia says she was “never one of those women who anticipated that moment of becoming a mother, the instant I held Callum in my arms, I knew then it was my duty to do all I can to protect him.”

But motherhood for Nadia is still evolving and the best is yet to be. “The most fulfilling thing would be watching Callum grow up and seeing that sense of awe and wonder in his eyes whenever he discovers something new, and his smile when he accomplishes something, no matter how big or small it is. I hope Callum will always live each day to the fullest, practise kindness and compassion by reaching out to those in need, not be afraid of taking risks or failure, and that he would never stop chasing his dreams. I also hope that he will continue to be comfortable in his own skin, while pursuing his own passion, instead of conforming to societal norms.”