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IDENTITY - AN ENTREPRENEUR MOM'S JOURNEY

LONGING FOR HOME SERIES X ADRIANA

on July 04, 2020

In the Longing for Home series, NOST sits down to chat with women who inspire us to live fully and more consciously. Adriana Lim Escano is a self-confessed recovering over-achiever – a capable fashion entrepreneur who has too many pots on the boil for us to keep track of, including a jewellery distribution business, Abry, Mimento, concept store Xin Jia Po (with the chinese character 家 for home), co-founder of Mums for Life and most recently, the sole distributor of Shang Xia in Singapore, a luxury fashion and home ware label owned by Hermès. A humble straight-talker, Adriana skirts over her achievements and tells us the story of how her biggest break so far almost broke her. Clinching Shang Xia despite being a ‘small fry’ in the market was a dream opportunity, but her plans were almost derailed from the start.


"It was a Friday afternoon three days before the opening, and we still hadn’t received approval to start construction. I had to build a shop in three days. What kind of stress level is that?"

Having taken the plunge, Adriana prepared to launch Shang Xia in a prime mall along Orchard Road, and found herself in the deep end from the onset. An impossibly tight deadline coupled with a host of regulatory issues and permit delays led to a nightmare situation where her team stood in an empty shop that was due to open in three days. The contractor could not start work without the approvals, and the approvals had to be sought beyond Singapore’s shores from foreign directors.

One of the directors happened to be in Singapore on that Friday evening. Adriana remembered racing against time, driving down to literally beg for his help in expediting approvals. Then there was the daunting task of finishing the build by Monday morning. She contacted three contractors to split the load between them.

You try to reaffirm your identity and remind yourself that it’ll be okay. I don’t need to fear what others say. But the pressure was real.

“It was really, really scary. On Sunday night, our contractor told us to be mentally prepared that the space would not be ready on launch day. He said it was not physically possible to finish everything in 8 hours overnight.” On top of that, the Shang Xia brand representatives had flown into Singapore for the launch, and were riled at the condition of the site.

“I remember sitting in my car at 11pm, on the verge of breakdown. I could feel the pressure, the weight. How am I going to answer everybody? You try to reaffirm your identity and remind yourself that it’ll be okay. I don’t need to fear what others say. But the pressure was real. There was too much cost, trust and reputation at stake yet at that point, there was nothing else I could do.”

“I prayed. Alone in my car, I just cried out. In that moment, I could feel God’s presence, and felt these words said to me: I was born for a time like this. This was my moment and I just need to walk out of the car into the moment God has prepared, and He would establish everything else. My hair stood and I thought, okay I’ll just believe even though I don’t see anything physically.”

“I walked out of the car with a supernatural courage that I didn’t have before. We were going to do this.”


Shang Xia Store in Singapore - these standing walls are a testimony of how her team made it through the ordeal together. 

When Adriana reached the construction site, everyone there was upset and frantic, and understandably so. She gathered her team, sat down amidst the hubbub and said, “let’s pray.” There was nothing else they could do, but she hung on to her courage and calm.

What happened next was nothing short of a miracle to the entire team. “By 5am everything was done. By 6am the workers had gone home, and my team started cleaning up. By 9am we were ready for inspection and for the launch. It was unbelievable!” Adriana exclaimed.

Now, when her staff are stressed out by the high monthly sales targets required in order to qualify for a permanent shop front, Adriana reminds them to look at the standing walls of the shop and remember how they went through it together.

“Shang Xia was my biggest leap of faith in 10 years - in terms of capital set up, renovation and cost of goods. Everyone around me told me not to go ahead,” she shared. Entering the luxury market was new to Adriana, and saying yes meant putting everything on the line, including the business she built over 11 years. However, Adriana knew herself. Even if the venture failed and she had to rebuild her income and business from scratch, she was willing to take that risk. What she could not live with was the nagging “what if”. What if the opportunity could have worked out, and I didn’t give it a shot?

“Only entrepreneurs will understand the kind of pressure in situations like that. As a boss, you feel the weight of making decisions and wonder if this is going to break the company or make us?”

Thankfully, that decision and the ongoing journey since have only served to strengthen the company and the depths of camaraderie within her team.

Adriana relates anecdotes of how she deeply values reconciliation, no gossip and transparency in communication in her team culture. “Something I often tell my team is, “kill the comparison. Don’t judge one another because that kills relationships. It doesn’t matter whether you're upfront at the counter or counting stock behind the scenes, it’s all important.”

Every new staff goes through an 8-week program where they identify their individual strengths and build deeper relationships with each other. It’s a powerful process where they share their life stories, because it helps them appreciate their unique worth and the experiences that shaped their colleagues and themselves.

When we can have true authentic relationships, it creates a family culture of honour and respect, which I believe is the basic way we’re all called to live.

Through Abry, Adriana believes in mentoring and empowering her staff beyond business fundamentals. Her team members come from a variety of backgrounds, including women from Daughters of Tomorrow, a registered charity that empowers underprivileged women to achieve financial independence. Flexible work arrangements are offered to stay-at-home mothers from low income families who need the flexibility for childcare.

“When we can have true authentic relationships, it creates a family culture of honour and respect, which I believe is the basic way we’re all called to live.”

How does this translate into the home setting, for a busy mother of three? 
“A few years ago, I participated in a seminar for mothers and had a very personal revelation – I realized that I was a mother on overdrive. As someone who lives to achieve and be number one in everything I do, I realized it gave my family a lot of pressure. I didn’t even know how to be nurturing as a mother to my kids. Striving for perfection in my family was something I really had to surrender, and that was a huge turning point in my journey of motherhood.”

“I think I’m still catching up on what it means to be a mother- giving them warmth and love, as that is a light that brightens the house. That’s the kind of home I want them to grow up in.”

How have things changed at home since?
“I learnt that what my kids really needed was emotional nurturing, not just a mother who ticked all the right boxes. I had to learn how to affirm my children and their identity, identifying their unique strengths so that they have the courage to walk into their destiny. I had to learn how to build an intimate relationship with them, to let them know that Mummy is here for them, teaching them what is right and wrong, how to love in spite of conflict and inspire them in the everyday.”

“I think I’m still catching up on what it means to be a mother- giving them warmth and love, as that is a light that brightens the house. That’s the kind of home I want them to grow up in.”

Through Adriana's journey at home and the workplace, she's shown us that when we humbly reflect on who we are and how we uplift others - that's when we truly feel at home with ourselves and those we call family.

Find out more:
https://mumsforlife.sg/
https://www.straitstimes.com/business/growing-an-ecosystem-of-good


Photography by: @hannah.piranha

 

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