The turn of the decade has brought about more than just a pandemic – in what might be more aptly deemed as a ‘family business endemic. It was reported that less than 10% of all family businesses in Singapore have a succession plan in place. Juxtapose that with Singaporeans’ collective distress and dismay whenever news of a cherished local family business closes down, and you have yourself a head-scratching scenario of next-gen entrepreneurs leaving the family business despite burgeoning demand.
Yet it’s hard to challenge these next-gen entrepreneurs for opting to step away – the allure of upholding a family legacy is often – and sometimes easily – outweighed by logistical reasons such as difficulties in embracing the digital dot com or an inflexibility towards change.
And while this couldn’t have been more true for Lam Huili, the once-corporate ladder hustler decided to go back to her roots and dropped her original career plans to take over her father’s humble 46-year-old shop as its lady boss and lead optometrist 2 years ago.
As with other new-gen entrepreneurs, this was never originally on the cards for her; Huili is an NTU Business School graduate, whose first foray into the corporate world involved performance marketing in the F&B sector. Meanwhile, her father ran Kwong Shin Optical, an optometrist shop he started in 1976 at a small booth along 642 North Beach Road.
Armed with a display case and a mere few frames, Kwong Shin Optical saw very humble beginnings. In 1980, the shop moved to Bras Basah Complex and has stayed there ever since – serving generations of families for over four decades as one of Singapore’s oldest optometrist shops. Yet as the years wore on, Huili’s father’s health declined, and soon she found herself enrolling into polytechnic to pursue a 3-year Diploma in Optometry in a bid to help him out.
Upon taking over the reins, Huili has successfully managed to reinvigorate and revitalise the family business through digitalisation and cutting-edge technology, all while ensuring that the stellar service and sincere passion with which the late Mr Lam served his clientele remains enshrined within the company values. As a second-generation business owner, Huili continues to be guided by her father’s legacy.
“I realised that if I were to run my own business, it might as well be my family’s.”
Kwong Shin Optical is now helmed by Huili and her mother, with the former serving as one of the shop’s two optometrists and leading the digital transformation effort. The family, along with 5 other staff, have been working at Kwong Shin for at least 10 years, and continue to serve customers with sincerity and passion. A key aspect of Kwong Shin services is the high level of attention and care given to each and every customer based on the individual’s age and eye health history. Priding themselves on stellar service and warm dispositions, Kwong Shin Optical is committed to treating all customers – long-term or new – like family.
Look out for an interview feature with this inspiring young businesswoman on The Vent Machine soon.