Looking for a lively storytelling session and an opportunity for your child to immerse himself in books and play? PlayDate Singapore has exactly what you need.
For some Mumpreneurs, the leap into business takes time and hours of meticulous planning. For others, the move might be a little more serendipitous. The ladies featured in this first article have proven that a small step can lead to greater things if you have the courage to move forward.
The first two Featured Mumpreneurs is Norashikin Haslir (Nora), the Founder, and Noorfaezan Haslir (Ezan), the Right-Hand [wo]man of PlayDate Singapore, a company which conducts various programmes designed to instill the love of books and reading in your young child. PlayDate Singapore also runs PlayDate Books, a bookstore in Katong V Mall, which specializes in books for children, from babies up to the age of 12.
Join us as the two sisters share with us how their workshops, which they first conducted in an attempt to get they own children interested in books and reading, has since developed into a thriving business. They give us details on they got started, how to make a family-run business work despite the sisters clearly contrasting personalities, and why, like them, you should follow your heart into building something you are passionate about.
|Company / Business Name||PlayDate Singapore|
|Address||30 East Coast Road #03-21, Katong V Mall, Singapore 428751|
|Products / Services||• Retail Bookstore with books for babies – 12 year old.
• Outdoor Workshops (Storytelling, Speech & Drama etc)
• Literacy Programmes
• School Drama Programmes
• PlayDate Parties.
|Contact details||+65 66356332 / 92393192|
Zubz: Thanks for agreeing to meet up with Startmymummybusiness.com! Perhaps the both of you can introduce yourself and your roles in the business?
Nora: I am the Founder of PlayDate Singapore. I make the main decisions in the business but of course in consultation with the key players in the business i.e. my husband and my sisters. I also ensure how PlayDate’s image and identity is portrayed to the public. At present we have 4 full and part –time staff as well as another team of adhoc staff, all of whom I take charge of.
Ezan: I am basically Nora’s right hand man; which means I am the creative manager, manage the marketing collaterals, assist with business development, client relationships, training the trainers etc. But because I also conduct classes, I am often known as the face of PlayDate or as they call me, ‘ the Mickey Mouse of PlayDate’.
Nora: We also have 2 other sisters, Nurhaslindar Haslir (Linda) who handles the marketing aspect of the business and Nursyafiqah Dinah Haslir (Syafiqah) who mostly prepares the props and artwork because she’s really good in art.
Ezan: It’s really a family business and it works really well because all 4 of us have different strengths and we complement each other.
Nora: Of course, all of this is also a result of the support from our husbands, (Nora’s Husband Khairullah, Ezan’s husband is Muhd Muddatsier (Dat) ) who not only gives valuable advice from time to time, but who has also made sacrifices by supporting us while we do this on a full-time basis. It’s really not a small sacrifice, given the high cost of living in Singapore, especially since both of us were working professionals, and earned a good stable income.
Zubz : What were the both of you were working as before PlayDate was set up? Was PlayDate something that you planned doing and what made you decided to leap into it?
Nora: I am what you call an accidental entrepreneur. I may have had dreams of owing a bookstore, but I’m sure everyone who has watched “You’ve Got Mail” felt the same way!
But in all honesty, I have never planned on having my own business because all my life I’ve done everything by the book. In fact I was an auditor with AGO (Auditor – General Office) for 11 years, before I decided I needed a change and decided to go into teaching. I was offered a position as a secondary school teacher but I decided not to go for it because I really wanted to teach in a primary school. Ironically I ended up teaching teenagers in ITE (Institute of Technical Education) for about 3 years after that.
After I had my first daughter I took up various certifications related to childhood development – I went for courses on how to teach phonics, speech and drama etc. from centers like Julia Gabriel, the British Council and Trinity College. My original intention was to use this knowledge to teach my daughter but eventually I realized that I could develop it further to teach other children as well.
The idea for PlayDate outdoor workshops came to me after I had my second child, a boy.
My firstborn, a daughter, was what some would call an “easy child”; one whom I found very easy to read to and to teach. By the age of 2 and ½, she was already able to read independently.
But my next child, a son, was the total opposite. He was very active and refused to sit down and was easily distracted. And that’s when I decided to structure the learning differently so as to fit his style of learning. And that’s how the first PlayDate outdoor workshop came about.
It was held at the Botanical Gardens on the 27th of Jan 2013, for mostly friends and family. It garnered good reviews and our friends and family started requesting for more sessions. I saw how the children benefitted and that’s when I decided to leave the corporate world to pursue PlayDate full-time.
Ezan: I was a secondary school educator for a few years but when we opened our physical store at Katong V Mall, I was in the corporate world where I was handling events for campus and youth. The job took up most of my time and I ended up going to work before my kids were awake and reaching home only after they were asleep. I knew something had to change before I missed their entire childhood.
At that point in time, PlayDate had already held a number of outdoor sessions, which I helped to conduct and really enjoyed. I love kids and I fully embrace the characters in the books when I’m doing storytelling. I’ll be in character for hours!
It was seeing how happy I was conducting the workshops that my husband suggested that I quit my job and devote my time and attention to help push PlayDate to the next level.
Nora: Yes, when she is in character, don’t expect her to snap out of it!
As for PlayDate Books, we never had the intention of having a physical space so it was something that was unplanned and a little serendipitous. I was at Katong V Mall with my sister Linda, and saw that they had vacant units. Just out of curiosity, Linda made a few calls to the agent, negotiated for a good rental price, which was within my budget, so I decided to take it.
Books are a natural progression for PlayDate as our workshops were already centered around the love of reading. I wanted to encourage a revival of the love of physical books because I feel that with so much exposure to electronic devices, children are starting to lose that love.
Zubz: How has the PlayDate journey been? Has it been what the both of you expected?
Ezan: It has been extremely satisfying. I don’t even consider it a job, its like going to a playground everyday. I love it that the kids look forward to going back to PlayDate, and the feedback from parents regarding the progress of their kids has been really positive.
Nora: We treat the parents as our friends and their kids as our own. We have clients and children of all nationalities attending our classes and workshops and even when they go back home, they still update us on their child’s progress. Just a few days a go, a German Mommy sent me a pic of her little girl, an ex-PlayDater, who started off disliking books but after attending our classes and workshops, loves them so much that she brings one with her everywhere she goes. And the mother is not even in Singapore anymore!
Ezan: It’s not just the love of reading but also the increase in self-confidence that we love seeing in the kids. Some kids started off really scared and would cling to their parents but as the sessions go by, they would be the ones taking the lead in classes.
Zubz: The workshops sound like they are so much fun! Could you tell us more about the other classes or ‘products’ that PlayDate conducts?
Ezan: Apart from PlayDate workshops, and PlayDate Books (our physical bookstore), we also conduct.
- PlayDate Literacy Programmes: Regular classes to encourage the love of reading and writing through multiple sensory activities. There are 4 different classes, My Reading Baby (12mths to 23 mths), My Reading Toddler (2 to 3 years), My Reading Child (4 to 5 years) and My lil Reader & Writer (6 years). Although the classes are divided by age, we will recommend a higher level based on the child’s capabilities and learning speed.
- PlayDate Goes To School: We conduct workshops and perform Assembly items upon school’s requests
- PlayDate Parties: Various party packages where children learn while having a blast.
Nora: For our literacy classes, we adopt a multi-sensory approach in teaching children how to read. Getting the kids to enjoy the learning process is extremely important to us. As such we take great pride in ensuring that the lesson plans we develop is of high quality.
Zubz: Do you have any advice or tips for mothers who want to teach their kids to read?
Nora: Get them to love reading first and don’t make it a chore. Reading aloud is very important. Never give up no matter how disinterested the kids may seem. They may be playing or jumping around but they are actually actively listening; absorbing everything you say.
Ezan: One tactic for capturing their attention is to be more dramatic. If they wander, just increase the drama! Make silly voices, use facial expressions, use your body to be more dramatic. If you make it fun, the kids will think of reading and stories as play rather than something they are forced to do.
Zubz: Its fascinating how as sisters, you work so well with each other. Do you experience occasional tension or moments where you feel like ripping each other’s head off?
Nora: At the very beginning my husband did warn me that there is an additional danger to setting up a business with family. If it doesn’t work out, the wound that may be formed, may be very difficult to heal.
As such he advised me to ensure that the roles and responsibilities of the respective parties in the business be made clear from the start. There has to be a leader and this leader would eventually make the final decision, of course after having consultations with the followers. Once there is a decision, the followers need to accept it. So far we’ve been very professional with each other, so I think they have gotten it easy from me!
Ezan: Norashikin is my elder sister and despite the arguments we have at home, when it comes to PlayDate, its clear that she is my boss. This rule applies to all my other sisters as well. *Laughs*She’s a kind and accommodating boss, with the only exception being in the mornings when she hasn’t had her cup of coffee. No one should ever bother her then!
Nora: In fact, PlayDate has made us closer. I started seeing my younger siblings as responsible adults, and they surprise me with how capable they are. In fact it wasn’t always like this. While growing up, I never approved of the things and really couldn’t understand the rebellious things my younger sisters did.
Ezan: As the firstborn, she was the perfect child! I always thought of her as a nerd because she nagged at me more than my mum did! But in PlayDate, I finally saw her as someone who is a good listener, gives great advice and is street smart. Before this, I thought of her as someone who was just book smart!
As sisters, of course we still have our moments and sometimes they end up in ‘almost’ explosive arguments but luckily, because there are four of us, there’s always one of us who is the objective, neutral party and would mediate between the two who are arguing.
Zubz: What was the greatest challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?
Nora: My greatest challenge is one I am facing everyday, I just don’t have enough time! There’s so many things I want to do with Playdate to take it to the next level. At the same time, I know that I am still a mother with roles and responsibilities, so I have to devote time to my kids as well.
Ezan: For me, I think it’s a challenge to juggle family relations with my sisters and still run it as a business. But I keep telling myself that I shouldn’t take things personally.
Zubz: All mums face mummy guilt! Share with other mothers how you balance motherhood and your business.
Nora: People say that spending a lot of time with the child is essential but I think that the quality of time spent is more important. Reading aloud with my children is one of the ways I spend quality time with them. Apart from that, I also go on individual dates with each of my 4 children.
Ezan: When I am with my 2 kids, I will make sure that I will play with them. Even if it’s for 10 or 30 minutes, playtime is very important. We will roleplay and I will pretend to be a kid and assume a character in the scene they are imagining. My husband will also join us when he is free and we’ll be acting out stories for the kids.
Zubz: You may not realize it, but you are an inspiration to other mothers. Do you have any words of advice to those who want to start a business but are holding back?
Nora: I never regretted this journey. However in embarking on the journey, one must ensure that you take calculated risks. Passion is of course necessary. However, passion alone is not enough. If you have a great dream to do something right now, think it through. Weigh your options. But don’t think too much lest the overthinking cripples you. Sometimes, after all that has been said and done, and thought of, you have to take that plunge. Because the longer you wait to take the plunge, the later you would find out how beautiful the ocean is. And you’d surprise yourself also at how capable you actually are.
For me the first leap was the most important. Even though it was small, it made me prove to myself that I was capable. Once you start jumping and you realize how high you can go, you just want to keep jumping higher and higher. – Nora, PlayDate Singapore. “
Ezan: I think that mothers should really focus on doing something they love, and not just go into something that is profitable. If you choose a job that you love, you’ll never feel like you’re working a day in your life.
Zubz: Is there anyone that you credit as your inspiration in starting this business?
Ezan: Apart from our husbands we credit our success to our beloved mentor and ultimate anchor our Mum, Munifah Hussein. She was the one who instilled the love of reading in all of us from a very young age by constantly reading to us, dramatizing characters, basically making learning extremely fun. Of course, credits go to our dad as well, Haslir Ibrahim who has been our ultimate supporter from day one.
Zubz: What are PlayDate’s plans for the future?
Nora: We definitely want PlayDate to be a well known brand, just so that we can instill the love of reading to more children.
Thank you Mummies for sharing your journey with us! We wish you all the best for the future. We will be giving away 2 tickets for the Workshop Below. Watch our Facebook Page for the details!