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The Entrepreneur’s New Clothes

Xavier snagged the Young Entrepreneur Award 2015, and owes his success to his family and mentor, Ms Ming Yow. | Photo by Livia Lee
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Xavier snagged the Young Entrepreneur Award 2015, and owes his success to his family and mentor, Ms Ming Yow. | Photo by Livia Lee

First-year student Xavier Tan talks about his businesses and how he manages school and work

By Livia Lee

Xavier Tan, 19, is not just a star student; he also runs two successful businesses.

He owns Typographic Apparels, a T-shirt printing company, and Typoholic Apparels, which sells graphic T-shirts.

After obtaining 14 points at the O-levels and becoming one of his secondary school’s top graduates, he is now a first-year student at the School of Design & Environment at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

He set up the T-shirt printing business in 2015 after noticing his schoolmates printing T-shirts for their class or for clubs and societies. Unlike his previous idea, which was to run a food truck, Typographic Apparels was far more manageable for a student to handle. Being able to lighten his parents’ financial burden was a bonus.

Typoholic Apparels was started in January this year, in part because Xavier sought to provide a platform for his friends to showcase their designs and work.

As Xavier was still studying at Westwood Secondary School when Typographic Apparels was set up, the sudden load of extra work was almost too much for him to handle, but he eventually found a way to manage it all.

“Time management is very important. I started Typographic [Apparels] during my N-level year. At the start, it was really intense. I couldn’t focus on my studies at all,” says Mr Tan.

Then, a typical day was divided into three parts: school In the morning, homework and revision after that; and finally, business matters.

Xavier had to stay up till 3am, allowing him only one or two hours of sleep daily. Although it was tiring, he explains that it is an effective strategy that he still employs in polytechnic. To lighten his workload, he recently enlisted the help of two friends as managing partners of Typographic Apparels and Typoholic Apparels. “I get slightly more sleep now, about four to five hours,” he says.

Xavier believes that his course of study at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Product Design & Innovation, will benefit his business, as he gets to improve on his drawing and learn how to use Adobe Illustrator, a design software that can be useful for designing T-shirts.

What really set Mr Tan apart from other young entrepreneurs, however, are resilience and passion.

Ms Ming Yow, 43, his mentor at Halogen Foundation, an organisation that develops young budding entrepreneurs, shares that Mr Tan’s personality plays a big factor in his success.

“I think his personality will bring him a lot of positive energy. He’s very bubbly and warm, which enables him to build relationships with people on different levels. It makes him different when he interacts with people and pitches his ideas to them,” she says.

She adds that Mr Tan is not easily fazed by failure, which is an “important trait for an entrepreneur”.

Born in Malaysia, he came to Singapore at the age of 10 without knowing how to speak English. He struggled to communicate with his peers and teachers, and studying proved to be an arduous task as the syllabus was in English. As a result, he ended up doing badly for his year-end examinations.

Despite the setback, he was determined to master the English language. “I watched Youtube videos, read a lot of books and practised speaking in front of the mirror,” he says.

With many similar apparel businesses in the market, Mr Tan undoubtedly faces stiff competition. However, Mr Tan explains that both Typoholic Apparels and Typographic Apparels stand out in terms of the quality of material. The hot press and materials used for printing T-shirts are usually shipped from the United States and South Korea.

“We strictly use premium material,” he says, “because we know how bad it feels when you’re playing some form of sports, and the shirt clings onto you, which isn’t really comfortable.”

Even with the heavy load that comes with running two businesses, Mr Tan handles all transactions himself, as he is still in the process of training and sourcing for additional manpower.

He intends to invite his friends on board a few years later when the businesses are more stable.

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