When Winnie Pua was retrenched, she turned her crisis into an opportunity by starting her own integrated marketing company.
Contributed By Billy Ong
During the world-shaking financial crisis of 2008, Winnie Pua found herself out of a job when the Dubai market crashed.
While most people in her position would have awarded themselves a few months of wallowing, Pua, now 35, leaped at the chance to start up her own business, something she had always wanted to do.
Pua, who graduated from the National University of Singapore with a degree in political studies, began work in the marketing communications department of Creative Technology. She went on to join Starhub, launching the brand in 2001, before she joined advertising agency O2, and dealt with over 17 markets in her portfolio. Pua’s last job was with the Singapore Tourism Board and Dubai World before she started Antics@Play.
In this fast-moving industry, the boundaries between advertising, marketing, branding, media-buying and social media often merge. Pua positioned Antics@Play to provide integrated marketing solutions to multi-national companies.
Incorporated in April 2009, her company has gained a strong reputation in two short years. Among Antics@Play’s many clients is Johnson & Johnson, which engaged Antics@Play to run several successful campaigns that targeted youths for its Acuvue contact lens products. Whether it is online or offline marketing, Antics@Play offers clients large doses of creativity in their marketing campaigns.
With over 14 years of experience, from consumer technology, entertainment to hospitality, Pua’s experience played a big role in the success of her start-up. Hers being a people-centered industry, she has also built a large network of contacts in the business, and that has helped accelerate the building of her company’s portfolio. When news that she had started Antics@Play went viral in her network, clients quickly came knocking on her door.
Recently, Antics@Play won Marketing Magazine’s award for “Brand Consultancy Of The Year.” To Pua, awards like these motivate her and her team to reach new heights in the competitive field of marketing, though they are a small outfit.
While Pua makes success look easy, truth is that running Antics@Play comes with its own set of challenges. “Finding the right staff, attracting them to join a new start-up, and having the right skills and mix of skills in people—all that remains a challenge,” she says. “With the growth of business, our needs and requirements change constantly.”
There have been times she has struggled not to give up. “In fact, that happens every month!” she admits. “Running a business is rewarding but it requires working on multiple areas of business; whereas as a marketing professional, we can simply focus on honing our marketing skills and knowledge. Having to ensure that all bills are paid and cashflow is properly managed is fairly stressful.”
In such times of stress, Pua is grateful for the support she gets from her church mates. The City Harvest Church member shares that “Pastor Yock Kiang and my cell group members have been a pillar of support to my faith, and guidance to key decisions I make.” As a believer, Pua constantly looks to God for guidance and answers, and draws strength from her church friends who share with her their experiences, particularly on managing people and business.
It is common to hear that business owners struggle to have a personal life beyond working long hours. But Pua believes in striking a balance between the two. She spends time with her friends and family and even attends dance lessons for leisure. At church, she serves in the Marketplace ministry, which provides a platform for business owners and professionals to network. “I am also busy planning for my wedding in November this year,” she reveals.
Today, Antics@Play has a trendy office in Chinatown and Pua is supported by six full-time staff and a part-timer. This boss declares that she loves the supportive and conducive environment that exists in the office. One of her secrets to building a successful marketing company is to focus on nurturing her employees. “Our people and our work represent the company; only when we put our best forward, will we shine.” In the area of hiring, Pua also believes in hiring the right people with passion and the willingness to learn.
The company’s five-year plan involves exponential growth through working with more multi-national companies. Pua also has a vision to bring her brand into the overseas market. “With the right partners, we may even open boutique agencies overseas!” she says.