When my husband and I started building a family, we made a commitment to be hands-on parents, despite our full schedules, by being present in our kids’ daily lives. We wanted to bathe them ourselves, feed them ourselves, be physically present to give them hugs and kisses as much as we can (and kiss their ouchies away). We want to see their milestones firsthand, watch them grow, and directly teach them the values we live by. We made it a conscious decision to be present, as much as we could; not only to our kids’ lives, but also to each other’s.
TIME and being “present” is incredibly important in forming good relationships—may it be with friends or family—it always pays to focus your attention on the people you’re with. As working parents, we’re doing our best to disconnect and pour our energies to the kids as often as possible. “Disconnect to connect.” With the nature of our work, we need to be online 24/7, therefore, in order to achieve this, we bring our kids to work. We work whenever and wherever we can, and we make sure that our work does not compromise our time for our kids.
In Cloud Forest, snapped by our trusty Yaya Rissa
Our priorities are simple: Family always comes first—we try to live our lives the simplest and most uncomplicated way possible. Business/livelihood/making-money comes second, and then, traveling. And then helping people. We believe in sowing as much kindness as we can so we can bank on positive karma for our kids. We stay away from as much negativity as possible. Be it people, energies, situations, drama, whatever it is – if it’s not positive – we keep our distance.
I also believe that experience is the best teacher; you can only learn so much from schools. I’ve learned that going out into the real world, in order to further and deepen your understanding of it, remains unparalleled. In traveling, no amount of words can really capture a place, a certain dish, an experience. You must go and see for yourself. You must taste for yourself. You must experience for yourself. I learned that the same goes in business, you need to muster the courage to go and do it yourself in order to really KNOW. And it is the same in parenting. You just need to be there to KNOW.
Our lifestyle don’t splurge on expensive items like luxury cars, signature bags, and signature clothes. What matters to us, really, isn’t the brand but the function. Instead of shopping for things, we like and prefer spending on moments – staycations, road trips, overseas vacations, pampering, wellness, fitness, and good food. We try our best to maintain our gadgets and equipment to prolong their lives. We watch our movies at home since we have two kids. These are just little ways on how we manage our time and expenses as a family.
Taken in Taronga Zoo in Australia on Maximus’ first birthday
Entrepreneurship-wise, it’s all about the high value of service we provide our clients. The way we are very hands-on and nurturing with our children, is also the way we are when it comes to businesses and our clients. We grew our business through taking care of our clients—this results to very high client retention that led to more loyalty from our existing ones…and more referrals. Currently, we are growing our business through referrals from existing clients and friends—but this doesn’t mean that we say “yes” to everything. We decline projects that are not aligned with our core values, and projects that compromise our time and presence for our kids. We believe that by investing in our family first, we are raising individuals who will be able to give valuable contributions to the community and to the world in the future. Our clients know that once we commit, we make our words good, and we are true to our words. Call us old fashioned, but we believe in palabra de honor, and speed of trust.
Snap in Flower Dome in Singapore
My husband and I work together in our company, Game Changer. I founded this company shortly after I gave birth to our first child, Izzy. My husband left his corporate job almost a year ago to join me in this adventure. Prior to this, my husband and I worked together in Africa. He was the Operations Director and I was the HR Director in a pioneering BPO company owned by an American company.
Hubby and his wine
After I gave birth, I was offered several job offers. However, finding a reliable and capable person who could take care of my daughter was a challenge. I tried training several helpers to be yayas, but it didn’t work out. My mom was leaving for Australia that time. I think, deep inside I also believed that no one else will be able to take care of my children the way I’ll do as their mother; it will always be different. I was also not ready to go back to the corporate world for the sake of career and money (it works for many families, but not for me), and compromise my child’s safety along the way. It might be a different story altogether if I have a reliable care system for my children. I wanted to be my child’s point person, and this is why I decided to just build my own company.
My experience of over ten years as an expat traveling all over the Asia Pacific region gave me very unique and highly developed skill sets. I worked around various work challenges such as finding solutions, starting from scratch, bringing ideas to life, and making things happen. I told myself that if I was able to do those things for my previous employer and for my clients, I should also be able to do it for myself! It was (and still is!) always just a matter of time, perseverance, and persistence. And so, I chose my child and family over the corporate life. And have a drastic lifestyle change.
But before we got to where we are, here’s a backstory of how things got together. My husband and I founded The SOUQ Organics – together with another couple who are both our mentors and partners. This is our first venture together after Africa. We imported organic beauty products from off the beaten paths from various countries. Distributed them to retailers such as Landmark department stores, Mercury Drug, several specialty boutiques, and premiere branches of PCX. We also retailed in as many bazaars as we could find.
Maximus on his first birthday in Hunter Valley in Australia
Then, we got married and had babies! We wanted to have a business where we could both be present as parents. We both agreed that it didn’t make sense to make babies and have other people take care of them. Each family has a different dynamic. Each set of parents has different core values. While this works for many families, we know that it is not for us. Time and presence matter to us.
We had many apprehensions at the start. There were many discussions, sleepless nights, lots of insecurities, lots of what-ifs. We talked about our possible worst-case-scenarios and made plans on how to solve it. There was a point when my husband took on a full-time corporate job to give the family security, while I stayed home to take care of our children, at the same time, incubating, establishing, launching and getting our business off the ground. It wasn’t an overnight success, for sure. But as soon as it became stable, I asked him to join me so that we can grow it together as a family. We reasoned out that if other people can get clients, we can get clients also with our skill sets and unique core competencies. Both of us are “people-persons.” And if others can do it, we should be able to do it, too.
Today, we are both working our best as both entrepreneurs and parents. As entrepreneurs, we make sure that our skills are maximized in order to give our clients the best services. And as parents, we see every small and big step taken by our kids—and we feel that this is always the most rewarding part of our day. To be able to witness our children growing right in front of us, experience their highs and lows together.
There are some things you must see and experience on your own—and by yourself!—to fully comprehend them in your own personal way. My happiness is seeing my family grow together by witnessing each milestone, and seeing our company grow successfully. These are my constant inspirations that keep me going each day — building something and having something you can call your own.