Brien Chua, 40, is the founder and CEO of the e-commerce homeware brand Houze in Singapore. To some, his entrepreneurial experiences may read like a Singaporean cautionary tale against chasing lofty dreams.
By the time he was 29, he had already launched and closed four businesses and was about $200,000 in debt with a newborn on the way. This did little, however, to quell his burning desire to build something of his own.
“Just like how I had a baby to feed, my business ventures were also almost like my children, too. I couldn’t fail,” he says. The secret to being able to roll with the punches while staying focused, he adds, is to “believe in your cause when no one else does, but remain open to criticism”.
He continues, “It’s necessary that you continuously reflect on your choices and mistakes, and that you consistently ask yourself if you would still make that same decision today. That’s the only way to grow as an entrepreneur.”
With a clear vision, a willingness to do the dirty work is the next critical step to ensuring that a dream has longevity. When he started Houze in 2012, Chua insisted on being on the front line, packing orders, driving lorries and negotiating with manufacturers – something that he says “hammered a sense of humility into [him]”.
Today, Houze is one of the top homeware brands at Shopee and Lazada, with an annual revenue of almost $6 million. It is on track to double that by the end of the year. The company is also now developing multi-commerce software to streamline and automate operations to support its plans to scale. Still, like any true-blue entrepreneur, Chua is far from satisfied.
“Our upcoming goal is to reduce our carbon footprint wherever possible. We have switched to using recyclable packing boxes and are looking into expanding ecoHouze, a line of homeware made from eco-friendly materials. While we’ve had our recent successes with brand awareness and revenue growth, we need to do more.”