Confessions of a parent-entrepreneur

An interview with Sophia Ng, Founder & Creative Director, SHU Design.

Working mothers often have to juggle their time and responsibilities between the workplace and home — for business owners and entrepreneurs, this becomes a balancing act of building their business and taking care of the needs of their families.

For Sophia Ng, Founder & Creative Director, SHU Design, the intangible rewards of being able to spend time with her four children while running her own design business, far outweighs what money can buy.

Although she was not formally trained in design, her passion for design was the impetus behind forming SHU design and as she elaborates in her interview, running a design business is not just about making things look good, it is also about having soft skills such as the ability to convince clients and explaining her perspectives.

Q: Tell us about how and why you started SHU Design. Were there any key incidents or people that encouraged you to start your own company offering creative design services?

A: To put it simply, SHU Design was inspired by my lovely children — Scarlett, Seraphina, Sheldon and Sasha. With the desire to have a constant presence through their growing years, this kick-started the need for me to have to manage my time more efficiently and effectively, allowing me to be able to achieve more things that I possibly can, than if I were to hold a typical 9–5 corporate full-time role.

Also, having honed a passion for design, there’s nothing better than to do something you love as work and actually own it.

Q: What were the early struggles and joys when you started SHU Design?

A: I think from a parent-entrepreneur point of view, there’s this constant dilemma of time allocation and resources. How are you going to network and build your client base, but at the same time ensure that your family needs are well taken care of? Often, one side has to give in to the other. Hence, I would say there is a constant need to have to juggle the intricacies of parenthood and the needs of building your business. It can get overwhelming without a good support system, as essentially a parent-entrepreneur is wearing a literal truckload of hats.

However, the rewards that come along are intangible. Usually not so much monetary, but the precious time that I get to spend time with the kids and be there for them; and that I can now manage my time between my professional life and family life so much more flexibly and not be constrained by a fixed time in a fixed space. These intangible joys are what money cannot buy.

Q: Looking back at the past seven years in running your business, what do you think were your proudest or most memorable moments?

A: I would say that defining moment would be the very first day I started work at my humble home office desk and being in full control of my time, it was a pretty unbeatable feeling. No more peak hour rides in the mornings and evenings, hustling with the lunchtime crowd, open working spaces setups…it was freedom personified.

The proudest moments are those that come along with the immense pride you get when completed projects get marks of acknowledgment and recognition from clients, forming great relationships with clients, these are definitely milestones to be celebrated for an independent creator. This, is job satisfaction personified.

Q: Who or what are your sources of inspiration for your work? How do you recharge when you feel uninspired or burnt out?

A: It could be anything, really. Nature inspires me, it is ever-changing, ever-evolving and magical. Being able to be flexible and not rigid, to be open to improve and update, are important aspects to a person’s growth and any business.

Whenever I need a recharge, I return to the very thing that inspires me, Nature. Meeting up with friends to catch-up does wonders too, as we are all too bogged down by our daily hectic lives, that we forgot how nice and carefree it was to just goof around and hang out with friends, just like back in our studying days. Otherwise, I will just turn to my favorite authors.

Q: What would say are the top three lessons you learnt in running your own design agency?


1. Stay humble
2. Never become stagnant
3. Create added-value for your clients

Q: What advice would you give to those who are looking to have a career in design-related fields?

A: Design can be a very tricky field to be in because the very essence of art, beauty and aesthetics is always subjective. What you think looks fantastic may just look blah in another’s eyes. To have a successful career in design is not as basic as making things look pretty, it takes more than design skills to succeed. You need to have soft skills in the art of persuasion, ability to convince and sell your perspective.

Nothing should, and can hold you back! Pay no attention to naysayers and be a can-do person, those who believed in you when you were a nobody mattered the most. A degree in computer science and initial zero-design experience did not hold me back, but a passion and love for design definitely helps.



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