Launching a startup while pregnant? Intrepid entrepreneur Rhonda Wong talks to MH about how — and why — she did it.
INTERVIEW LOW LAI CHOW
When Rhonda Wong found out she was pregnant, she knew it was time for her to achieve a monumental endeavour in her life, more so than ever.
As the savvy 31-year-old entrepreneur disclosed to Motherhood, “I wanted even more than before to do something that I would be proud of because now I’ve someone in my life that I sure hope would be really proud of me.”
This ‘something’ turned out to be Ohmyhome, a mobile app platform that takes the guesswork out of HDB transactions and allows homeowners and home-hunters to transact directly with ease and transparency without the need to pay agent fees.
Making a Difference
“Starting a tech business that is able to improve people’s lives is like a dream come true,” she said of Ohmyhome, which was launched in September last year. Three months after the launch, Rhonda gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Ashton Wong Bolger.
Never mind that it was the first time that she was making her foray into the tech world. With a diverse professional background that cuts across different industries from trading and retail to children’s education and real estate, Rhonda steered the project with gusto: “Industries and products may vary, but technical knowledge can be acquired or hired.”
It all took very careful planning on her part: when Rhonda learned she had to opt
for a caesarean, she chose to go with an earlier date before Christmas,
so as to be able to get enough uninterrupted rest and devote all her
energy to her child until the start of the new year.
“I have never been more focused than I am on Ohmyhome...when I decided to start Ohmyhome, I knew if I wanted it to become what we want it to become, it needed beyond my full attention.”
Bringing the app into reality is a way for the avid volunteer to do what she simply loves to do: empower people in need of help. “Very often, the ones who need the most help receive the worst help,” she observes. “I’d like to change that, a step at a time if I can.”
It’s Hard Work
Since delivery, she has been making a slow but sure transition back to the office, albeit with a lot of help. In her first month back at work, she worked mostly from home, selectively attended meetings, and went to office for just a few hours every day (“My hours were limited to the next feeding session and I was easily exhausted, so I would take a quick nap before I continue work at home”). While she is now fully back in the office, she confesses she is usually “dead tired” by the end of the day.
“I just keep on going because I owe it to my customers, my team, my investors and most importantly myself, to do my best every day.”
Growing up, Rhonda spent her first years with a nanny in Malaysia while her parents focused on making a living in Singapore. This is why she empathises with those who choose to give up precious family time for work. “It’s okay for parents to not have to be by their child’s side all the time. If you brought them up right, the absence in their early years does not make them love you less, but instead have an appreciation towards your hard work.”
Since eight, she has helped out in her parents’ business, from lending a hand here and there in their photo developing shops to packing goods in their warehouses. Unsurprisingly, she looks forward to the time when her son will also work in her office — and in turn, understand the value of money.
Rhonda credits her father for much of the know-how she went on
to apply in her successful career: “My dad always educated me on real estate investments and
entrepreneurship, so it became second nature.”
All for Love
For this new mum, time is of the essence. Besides waking up several times at night to breastfeed her baby, Rhonda’s daily routine comprises numerous rounds of transiting between work (“meetings, discussions and more work”) and rushing home to express milk and have some cuddle time with her baby. At night, she continues to work on her laptop till she is tired.
But it’s all worth it. Rhonda recounts with tenderness the time on the way home from the hospital after they were discharged. “I was carrying Ashton in my arms, in the car, on the way home. It suddenly dawned upon me that he’s mine...I came to the hospital as one person, and now I’m leaving as two.”
This realisation made her cry for the very first time.
Her personal love story is a funny one. Meeting through a mutual friend while she was in Las Vegas, her to-be husband got unceremoniously drunk that night and went on to declare his undying love for her: “I just thought, ‘What a crazy guy!’ But after the trip, he continued to fly to Singapore countless times until he moved here and eventually became my husband.”
Rhonda says she is truly fortunate to have him as a husband. “He understands and respects my commitment towards my work, because he too, is someone who is very driven in his work. Outside of work, he’s a wonderful father to our son and extremely hands on. I can count on him to take care of everything when it comes to Ashton. I just have to provide the milk!”
“It’s so important to have a partner who enjoys raising your child together, it makes it
all the more magical.”
While her boy still has a long way to go in terms of growing up, Rhonda says cultivating good values is of utmost importance. “I can forgo a lot of things such as taekwondo classes, painting, swimming and winning trophies. But I cannot overlook good values. I wouldn’t tolerate my son being rude to our helper or his teachers. I would be disappointed if he doesn’t have empathy.”
Already, she does not anticipate spoiling him with big birthday bashes and the like: “I hope I can raise him to appreciate the little things.”