Stay-at-home mother turns entrepreneur through passion and prayer.
Though this may be the last industry she imagined herself working in, Lilian Ong has come a long way in building up the company, Class, which specializes in custom-made sofas and chairs, curtains and blinds, as well as upholstery.
As the director of Class, her role is to grow the business and further its development. Surprisingly, Lilian has no prior background in design or home décor, so this business was a huge step of faith.
Her journey began in October 2007 when, after being a stay-home mom for seven years, she was encouraged by her husband and the marketplace mandate she learned about in City Harvest Church, to re-enter the workforce. She decided to take her interest in soft furnishings further, and together with her husband, jointly started this business with two other partners. Ong’s learning curve was extremely steep and she faced many challenges, given her lack of experience in the industry.
However, through hard work and persistence, Ong and her partners have seen Class flourish over the years. Class specializes in providing high-quality products that meet customers’ needs, lifestyles and desires, but at a less-than-extravagant price.
Class’ strength lies in customizing furniture to meet clients’ specific needs, such as incorporating a laptop stand into a chaise lounge for someone who works from his living room.
Since the opening of its showroom in 2008, the company has been able to double the size of their Siglap showroom. Their clientele has also grown—Class enjoys the patronage of quality customers who reside in premium properties such as the Four Seasons Park Condo, St. Regis and The Sail. In addition, Class handles upholstery for some big corporate clients: Coffee Bean Singapore, ION, Somerset 313, Orchard Central, Changi Airport, Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands. The company is also one of the few appointed dealers for HunterDouglas products, a global brand in window fashions.
|CN PHOTO: Michael chan|
Despite Class’ rapid growth, Ong recognizes that the company is still young and she has much to learn, grow and improve. She attributes the business’ success to a dedicated team of partners with different gifts, talents and experiences, and the values and unity that keep this team strong. “What sets us apart from other soft furnishings companies is our passion to excel in what we do, which encompasses always listening to and understanding the needs of customers and devising innovative solutions for them. This is captured in our company vision, ‘Understanding needs, providing solutions.’ ”
Ong shares that the team at Class is reliant on God for inspiration and guidance in the running of the business. In situations where she did not have the knowledge or experience to overcome obstacles, it has been God’s wisdom which has enabled her to make the right decisions and lead the company effectively. She says that God led them to the right manufacturing partners and presented them with many good business opportunities. Furthermore, she has always enjoyed the support of her church community through their prayers and encouragement.
Though Ong is a busy mother of two, who juggles work, family and ministry life, she considers her job a ministry as well. This year, in addition to meeting the needs of customers, Ong will launch a program called Platform@Class in the second half of 2010.
Says Ong, “At Class, we believe the sky is the limit when it comes to creativity. These talented students have great ideas but may lack the experience or knowledge as to whether their designs are ergonomically safe or commercially viable so we aim to help them.”
Students will submit their designs to Class, and Ong and her team will fabricate selected designs and display them in Class’ showroom, or on their website or Facebook page. In addition, students will earn a fee for their designs that are successfully sold to customers. Through this program, Class hopes to help provide a holistic learning experience for students, helping them better understand and succeed in this industry.
For more details on Platform@Class, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.class.com.sg