If you are new to Bryan and Maryann or missed our first interview here, here’s a brief introduction to them.
The siblings are the co-founders of Calibrate, an online platform for users to find and book wellness experts including chiropractors, physiotherapists, and sports massage therapists for pain relief solutions.
Bryan was a former Analyst at Accenture while Maryann is a final-year marketing undergraduate at SMU.
Tun Yong: What were some challenges faced when starting Calibrate and how did you overcome them?
Bryan: The learning curve for founders is steep. There were many pillars within the company to take care of which we were all trying to figure out and learn. We had to discover new tools to keep things organised, find product-market fit, apply for grants, among other tasks to do. These contributed to our growth as first-time founders.
I was a consultant at Accenture back then and Maryann was going through her summer full-time internship. Every night after our day jobs, we would take part in online classes to grasp the basics of entrepreneurship.
We learnt how to continuously refine our business strategy, understand best practices from successful tech startups and ways to test our Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
It was overwhelming at the start, especially when we were already exhausted from our day jobs. But we continued pushing on and asked many questions during our online course, learning from other start-up founders as well.
We built our MVP quickly and started applying for pitch competitions. We were accepted into SMU BIG’s incubator in August 2020. In early 2021, we obtained the SG Founder Grants and decided to go full time on the business.
We are more focused and now, have more time to bring the business to greater heights.
Tun Yong: Having started Calibrate 7 months ago, what were the key takeaways from the journey so far?
Maryann: The first takeaway is to never lose sight of the bigger picture. In a start-up environment, it is easy to be distracted by comments from others but we have always learnt to take it positively and know our end vision for Calibrate. However, it is also of course essential to remain open-minded and take in feedback for areas of improvement.
The second takeaway is to never stop talking to your customers and iterate fast. We have gained so many insights by talking to customers, understanding their pain points and areas of improvements. Bryan and I are trying something new – which is to talk to at least 1 customer every day. It can just be a casual conversation with a friend that is experiencing body pains.
The main point is to constantly take in new information and we may just have new ‘AHA’ moments. A day where we stop talking to our customers is one day delayed to build a good product for our customers.
The final takeaway is that it takes time. We learnt that new business teams would take time and money to grow. There are some teams that grow faster or slower, but Calibrate has its own time frame.
We push ourselves aggressively internally within our project timeline yet setting reasonable deadlines to analyse, re-strategise and pivot. The learning curve as a founder is steep for sure. To me, that is the beauty of a start-up – learn and fail fast.
Tun Yong: Any advice for aspiring student entrepreneurs? (with regards to balancing studies with running a business, reaching out to mentors, approaching clients etc.)
Bryan: Go for it! Did you know that only 7 per cent of Singaporeans take part in entrepreneurial activities? Seize the opportunity when you are young where you have lesser major financial commitments than in the future. I get so excited when I know more people who are interested in the startup scene. Start networking, talking to people.
Everyone can provide valuable insight if you ask the right questions at the right time. Be open-minded and understand your own resource before you kick start your journey as a student entrepreneur. Be persistent and don’t be afraid of failure. Failure is the best indicator that you are making progress towards your goal and streamlining your efforts onto your weaknesses.
Find mentors who can guide you and find friends who support you. Resources are everywhere and at your disposal to create your dream.
Tun Yong: What is one piece of advice that you wish you had known when you first started out?
Maryann: Connect, connect and connect. Be it with strangers, friends or other founders. Ask experienced startup owners to be your mentor. Ask other founders about their lessons learnt in their entrepreneurship journey. Initially, I was very focused on getting our product up and ready as soon as possible.
At times, when I hit certain roadblocks I would take quite a bit of time to research into it to ultimately solve it on my own. However, I realised that speaking to other founders or friends gave me insights into their perspectives. I got on to calls with several founders and even strangers via Telegram to share our experiences with one another.
Tun Yong: What is one important trait in entrepreneurship that goes unnoticed?
Bryan: Creativity. This isn’t just like any other environment where there is only a single way of achieving results. The startup industry is the only environment for entrepreneurs to nurture their imaginations and fuse them with a dash of insanity to change the world. We are not handed a specific problem to solve but rather, a blank canvas for us to paint anything that we like.
Creativity is the most essential trait for successful entrepreneurs to possess and nurture. It is the driving force behind innovation and changes the way we approach and solve problems.
Interested in learning about Calibrate and the work they do? Check them out here.
This interview is part of our “Founders X EDGE” series where we seek to hear the insights of youth entrepreneurs to demystify the scene and empower youths to turn their ideas into reality. Do reach out to us if you are interested in being featured alongside other great young minds!
Tun Yong Yap
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