Richard Sng channels his rebellious streak into a fast-growing tanning and beauty business.
| PHOTO COURTESY OF FABULOUS TAN|
Being rebellious has its advantages as well, or so Richard Sng, director of Fabulous Group, feels. Since single-handedly setting up the business in September 2006, Fabulous Group has grown to become the largest chain of indoor tanning boutiques in Singapore with 15 solariums in total. The company has since expanded into other services such as detoxification, Brazilian waxing, teeth whitening and eyelash extensions, among others.
The inspiration behind Sng’s choice of business were negative personal experiences he had with tanning salons in the past, motivating him to set up a tanning salon offering good service at affordable prices. Later on he decided to expand into other services, fulfilling his vision of providing a one-stop solution for beauty needs.
Coming from a background in the telecommunications industry, the indoor tanning industry was completely foreign to Sng and starting the business was a leap of faith. “Even on the day when I opened my doors for the first time, I wasn’t sure whether any customers would come!”
However, by taking one step at a time and planning for the short term as well as the long term, Sng has come a long way. He asserts that even with detailed planning, there can be surprises along the way.
According to him, the biggest challenge of the business is maintaining balance. As such, ensuring that various areas of the business are functioning well and growing healthily are what keep Sng the busiest, and form the most challenging aspect of the job. However, it is a challenge he has overcome well and his success is seen from Fabulous Group’s growth. He has since expanded to three local branches and one franchise outlet in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Today, they have also expanded into health services through another arm, Fabulous Health.
When asked what he attributes his success to, Sng surprisingly credits it to his rebellious spirit. As a defiant adolescent, he intentionally did the opposite of whatever his parents asked him to do, but now, he channels his rebelliousness in a different way, explaining that one needs it in the face of opposition when pursuing goals. “Same spirit but different direction,” he says. “Guts are also a muscle,” says Sng. “When I was young I was unwittingly training my ‘gut muscles’ by rebelling all the time. Now that I’m older, this ‘training’ has paid off as my rebellion is redirected to positive avenues, such as my business.”
His positive attitude toward failure is another strength that has contributed to his success thus far. He expresses that he has made many mistakes, but his mentality toward these mistakes is that when one does not win, it does not mean he is a loser. It simply means that they have gained a lesson and that they will win eventually.
When questioned on the need for indoor tanning services in sunny Singapore, Sng quips, “People come for indoor tanning to buy time, not to buy the sun.” He says that when people want to obtain a tan, there is no guarantee that the sun will be out, or that after tanning for a few hours, they will get the desired results.
However, at the cost of approximately S$30 for a 15-minute session, one can have the tan they desire. Furthermore, due to the nature of the solarium, the amount and effect of harmful UV rays are limited, while the effect of the positive UV rays are still present, so in this sense, indoor tanning is actually a safer alternative than tanning in the sun for six hours in a row, for instance.
Fabulous Group’s loyal client base includes an impressive number of local celebrities, such as Belinda Lee, Christopher Lee and Michelle Chia. In terms of marketing efforts, Fabulous Group offers many sponsorships especially in contests such as pageants and body-building competitions.
With regards to future plans, Sng aims to create a system to support and run the entire business so that he will eventually not be indispensable to the company. His aim is simple: to make the business successful without the need for him to be at the helm of the business, managing all its operations. After devising this system, he then plans to share it with other businesses.
Although this mentality is ironically the opposite of many business-owners’ mindsets, Sng is more than happy to advocate it. “I believe in abundance,” he says, “good things ought to be shared. Why be selfish? When many people are successful, it enables others to become successful as well.” Above all, Sng believes in a simple yet effective mantra for the success of his business, “Do whatever it takes to achieve your goal—with integrity. And sometimes we shouldn’t think so much. Just do it!”
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