So You Want To Be An Entrepreneur

While the title can sound exciting, an entrepreneur is made through fire, trials, and tribulation—as Daphne Teo of NSG BioLabs can attest.

Photo: Straits Times

You might think that running the first-ever co-working space for biotech companies in Singapore would leave no time for other pursuits.

Yet Daphne Teo, the founder and CEO of NSG BioLabs located at Nucleos, sticks to a strict routine—filling her spare time with vigorous exercise, checking the stock markets, fostering street and abandoned cats, and starting her own organic vegetable garden. It seems like it takes a rare breed of people to become entrepreneurs; people who seem to be able to do it all, and more. But, as Daphne shares, most of the time it’s about adapting the right mindset.

So exactly what does it take to become a successful entrepreneur?

Daphne spills her secrets.

1. Success = ?

Before we even begin, it’s important to define what success means to you, as it can vary from person to person. Setting goals and milestones for yourself helps you to measure your journey along the way—and we’re not just talking about finances.

“I measure success by how happy a person is while making an impact in the world,” Daphne says.

"The impact can be big or small like doing charity work, being a mother, or running a company.

I consider myself successful because I wake up every morning, excited to go to work in an area that helps people.”

TL;DR — Daphne’s key traits to becoming a successful entrepreneur

- Setbacks are inevitable; be prepared to adapt to every situation
- Recognise an opportunity and take the path less taken
- Define what success means to you, personally
- Weigh the factors before committing to a business decision
- Put in the work and give your best effort even in small and menial tasks
- Be a good team player as great companies are not built by one person


Consider writing down your own definition of success, and the metrics you want to measure yourself against. In addition, making time to reflect on your growth can help you see if you’re still making progress, or have stagnated.

“As long as I am learning something new every day, I consider that growth in my role,” Daphne says. “Every year, I make sure that I am taking on something new personally and growing the company I have to greater heights.”

Noticing that your growth has plateaued doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the end—Daphne says looking back and thinking specifically about how not to let precious time and opportunities go to waste helps her to move forward.

Photo: NSG BioLabs

2. Keep An Open Mind

Great business ideas don’t just fall out of the sky.

What groundbreaking companies like Apple, Tesla, or Uber have in common was that they provided a solution to a problem we didn’t even realise we had. 

Perhaps it’s this ability to spot a gap in the market and create an opportunity that really sets entrepreneurs apart—a trait that Daphne seemed to have developed even in her earlier days, when she was a fresh graduate from Raffles Junior College. 

“During my eight-month break, while waiting for university to start, many of my classmates wanted to give tuition, and there were many parents who wanted to find a tuition teacher from a good school to teach their kids,” she shares.

“Instead of following in the footsteps of others, I paved my own way—I decided to help find matches by posting ads in newspapers and setting up my own “tuition agency”.”

Photo: NSG BioLabs

3. Do The Work

With every new endeavour comes risk, and impulsive decisions don’t often lead to long-term results. Daphne suggests weighing the many different factors involved before pursuing a business idea.

It took a great leap of faith for Daphne to start NSG BioLabs—the co-working space was the first of its kind in the market, and she didn’t know what to expect. But understanding what needs NSG BioLabs would serve, and how it would be different and better than the current offerings, gave Daphne the determination to push through.

“It’s also important to map out the execution requirements and plan, so the idea can actually be realised in a reasonable manner,” she says. “Of course, the financials are key as well.”

4. Give In, or Lean In?

We found two perspectives that Daphne shared to be extremely useful: firstly, accepting that things won’t always go your way; but secondly, refusing to give up when things don’t go as planned.

One example: Daphne had just started NSG BioLabs and was still trying to add occupancy when Covid-19 hit. She and her team adapted by empathising with the concerns and feelings of their residents and prospective residents, adding safety measures, and refining their product by investing even further in their facilities and equipment. 

Photo: NSG BioLabs

This has helped NSG BioLabs stand out even more as an attractive destination for biotech companies.

“Throughout my journey, I have met with countless setbacks and failures, but I haven’t accepted them, and instead turned them into successes by thinking fast, changing directions, learning quickly, and adapting to the situation,” Daphne says.

“Once we accept that things will always happen, and we stay on our toes, it makes the journey a little easier.”

Photo: Straits Times

5. Get Your Head In The Game

The many success stories of entrepreneurs all have one thing in common: they understand that it takes hard work, determination, persistence, and discipline.

The right values and a strong work ethic can come from the most surprising of life experiences—for Daphne, her time as a national-level swimmer taught her discipline, diligence, and how to work and perform under stress.

Of course, choosing to keep going when the going gets tough is made easier when you’re pursuing something you believe in.

“You should think about what value you can add to this business, and if it’s something you would be passionate about spending your precious time in,” Daphne says.

“I love every part of my work routine and take every step seriously, from operations, to admin, to customer service. Because of this, none of it ever feels very difficult or unenjoyable.”

Ambition often comes with fear, and we understand that embarking on your own business idea can seem both exhilarating and terrifying. If there’s one thing we took away from our interview with Daphne, it’s that the right mindset can make all the difference, and seeing a challenge as just another puzzle to be solved is how entrepreneurs thrive, and turn trial into triumph.

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