In this special column called the “TLC x Fempreneurs Series”, we will be featuring inspiring Female Entrepreneurs (Fempreneurs) in short. You will be able to have a sneak peek at their mindsets and their daily habits.
Believe in the power of community. On some days when you feel big goals are impossible, or when you feel like giving up, you need to lean on your like-minded community. You can even “borrow” motivation, and in turn “return” with your own inspiring stories to pay it forward.
Meet Violet Lim (Lunch Actually)
Tell us a little about yourself. What is your business/brand about?
Like most people out there, my childhood dream is NOT to be a matchmaker. Far from it really. Like most Asian children, I was groomed by my parents to study hard, get a good job and go to a good university which was what I did being the obedient daughter. 🙂 I read Law at University of Manchester and subsequently, I did my Masters in Personnel Management at the London School of Economics. However, during my summer attachments at a law firm, I discovered that as much as I love law, it was not my calling.
Lunch Actually is South East Asia’s first and largest lunch dating company. Lunch Actually to-date has a presence in 6 countries and has 100+ full-time associates. We have a well-tested and well-proven matching algorithm that has created many happy unions and our service has a high satisfaction rate among our tens of thousands of clients. Other than just being a platform for singles to meet, we also provide date coaching and image coaching services to help our clients increase their success rate.
What got you started on your business?
I started Lunch Actually in 2004. At that time, I was working in a bank and I observed that many of my colleagues were single and not dating. That was rather puzzling for me as they were attractive and eligible people. I soon realized that it is because they were working really long hours, they were virtually married to the bank.
When I came across the concept of lunch dating, I was immediately attracted to the idea because I felt that lunch was ‘short, sweet and simple’ – it is long enough for you to get to know someone, yet it was not too long that it would become awkward. Having always been passionate about helping people, I decided to quit my job at the bank and start a new career as a modern-day matchmaker, where the business is not just about making money, but helping to make a difference in people’s lives by helping them find their life-long happiness.
Before you started on your business, what did you do on a full-time basis?
I was a Management Associate at Citibank.
What were some difficulties you faced in your life and how did you overcome them?
2020 has been a tough year for many businesses across many industries, including for Lunch Actually and I. Lockdowns and social restrictions are enforced in several countries, including all the countries where Lunch Actually operates in, such as Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Thailand. Before Covid, we were basically a brick-and-mortar business where we met up with clients face to face, and our clients went on one-to-one dates.
Due to these measures that were imposed, we have been forced to pivot as a company. It has always been my personal belief that even in the darkest of times, there are always silver linings. During these times, we have successfully moved all our services to virtual. Our team is working from home, serving our singles virtually through virtual consultations, coaching, and arranging virtual dates and virtual speed dating events. We also managed to launch our series of weekly webinars where we brought in different speakers (external and internal) to share about various self-improvements and dating topics with more than 700 participants!
It was not easy initially, as it took time for our team to get used to virtual consultations. It also took some convincing to get our clients to go on virtual dates. The idea of having a virtual consultation, or virtual date may seem awkward at first, however internally we did regular training for our consultants. Our matchmakers also encourage and educate our singles that virtual dates do not mean just staring at each other through the computer. But it can be fun with various themed dates or even activities!
From there, the response to virtual dates has been positive, and more singles are definitely getting more open and receptive to the idea. In fact, because Singaporeans are staying home, they actually have more time to invest in their personal development, whether it’s to try new recipes, exercise more, learn new skills, and in dating, also meeting more people through virtual dates. It’s a new and fun experience for them, and at the same time, they’re still making progress in their love life to achieve their goals.
In terms of numbers, our revenue in Singapore actually was seriously impacted in April 2020 when Circuit Breaker was implemented. We saw close to a 50% drop as our clients and our consultants were just starting to adapt to the new way of doing things. However, from May onwards, we have picked right back up to the same numbers as before Covid-19, and even hit an all-time high in the last quarter of 2020.
At the end of the day, we cannot control how and when this pandemic will develop and end. But we have taken this opportunity to adapt and transform and learn to turn challenges into opportunities and reinvent ourselves.
What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me about this particular industry is knowing that not only is it a good business, it is a business that can do good, a business that can actually make a difference in people’s lives. Of course, like any other entrepreneur running a business, there are days when I feel down, but when I look at the photos of our happily married couples and their babies, I am immediately reminded of what I love most about my job – to help people find happiness and to make a difference in their lives.
What is your vision / personal motto?
When Jamie and I started our business 18 years ago, one of the first things we did was to create our company vision and mission statement. If you think about it, it is quite comical, two people leading a company of… two, sitting down and crafting these ‘lofty’ statements. The reason why we did it was that we wanted to put down on paper the reasons we started the company in the first place. Our big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) is to create one million happy marriages. And when the going got tough, I remembered always revisiting our vision and mission statement, and that kept me going, knowing that there is a purpose in what I am doing, purpose in what I am creating. If you have not already done it, find out Why. Why are you doing what you are doing? And let that be your focus.
At the end of the day, it is not realistic to expect leaders to be upbeat, positive, and extremely motivated all the time. It is important to acknowledge that there will be “up” days, and there will be “down” days. More importantly, as leaders, we have to limit the down days to the minimum, use those times to reflect and sharpen the saw and come back stronger and better.
Do you have any words of advice for other ladies who are starting their business/ starting to pursue their dream?
As female entrepreneurs, we need to use our strengths to our advantage. For example, rather than taking on a more masculine persona to blend in with the guys, we can leverage on our fluid communication and interpersonal skills to achieve our objectives e.g. persuading the person to our point of view.
As females, I believe that generally, we are also more adaptable. Hence, we can use this to our advantage to make the best out of the market or industry conditions. And don’t be afraid to ask for advice. There are many entrepreneurs who have gone through what we are going through and they are more than happy to share their best practices so that we do not make the same mistakes.
What have you learnt recently that you hope the other ladies can take back?
One of the things that I would hope my 20-year-old self would know is that – it is ok to not be liked by everybody. I think when I was younger, I had a constant need to be loved and acknowledged by all. But as I grew older, I realized that just as you would have your supporters, you would have your haters. And it is ok. It is not possible for everybody to love you or even like you. Have clarity and confidence in what you are doing and have the courage to walk your path despite the haters.
How do you think you can help ladies to feel confident and empowered?
I would encourage women entrepreneurs to open up and share with one another. The number one thing young female entrepreneurs or any business leaders need to know is: don’t be too shy to ask. A lot of people, when they go into business, would feel like they need to do everything on their own. But the truth is that there are a lot of people who have walked the same paths and gone through the same trials and errors, and if you would just ask for advice, help, or guidance, you’d be surprised that a lot of them are actually more than willing to share their experiences. So you don’t have to go through what they have gone through and make the mistakes they have made.
What is one thing you are grateful for?
In terms of business, I’m grateful for my decision 18 years ago to resign from my job as MA. I would not have left my job for just any business. However, this business appealed to me because this is not just all about making money; it is about helping people find their lifelong happiness as well. I have always been active in community service work, and I loved the idea of being able to combine my passion for helping others with the prospect of building a business. And here we are now, we will be celebrating our 19th year in business in April this year!
Personally, I’m grateful to be a mother. Growing up, I never was someone who really enjoyed playing with kids, etc., but when my first child came along, everything changed! Being a mother has been an extremely fulfilling experience for me – watching them grow, seeing them achieve every life milestone, nurturing them, and imbuing them with strong and Godly values – I would not exchange this experience for anything in the world.
What do you do in your free time as self-care? How do you unwind?
Read, write, work out, and spend time with my family – my hubby, my two teenagers Corum and Cara, and my furkid Kasper. My most recent hobby of dog agility has kept me busy and healthy.
Let us know more about what you do!
Single, eligible, and looking for love? Meet with our professional dating consultant who will help you find a compatible match. Forget the endless swiping on dating apps. We do all the legwork of vetting, curating, and arranging. All you have to do is turn up and enjoy your date!
You may find us featured in more than 4,000 media including CNA, Bloomberg, BBC, and CNBC. I am also a TED speaker.
Connect with Lunch Actually!
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𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐭𝐨 𝐏𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐢𝐩𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐈𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐦 𝐆𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐚𝐰𝐚𝐲:
1. Like this post.
2. Follow @lunchactually and @theladiescue on Instagram.
3. Tag 1 friend who you know who is single and fill up the form stated above!
Best of luck
Are you a Fempreneur too?
Connect with us – we’d love to feature you! Say hi to us at [email protected] or reach out to us via our social media.
Read TLC x Fempreneur Series:
- Margaret Wu, For Beloved One (Singapore)
- Nerissa Low, Liht Organics (Singapore)
- Maddy Barber, Madly Gems (Singapore)
- Dr. Menka Gupta, Nutra Nourish (Singapore)
- Lily Kew, Kew Organics (Singapore)
- Vikki Tear, SoyCraft (Singapore)
- Ezza Yusof, 2morrow Official (Malaysia)
- Julie Yim, Lilin+Co (Malaysia)
- Zairin Azman, UMMA (Malaysia)
- Liza Morales, Ecotecture Design Studio (Philippines)