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Changing Career Paths: Pharmacist Turned Entrepreneur

Vivien Chong from Pink N’ Proper. Photo By Vivien Chong

Vivien Chong, the founder of Pink N’ Proper, graduated with a Master of Pharmacy from the University of Nottingham back in 2011. She has worked as a pre-registered pharmacist at Stamford Bridge Pharmacy for five years before pursuing her childhood aspiration of starting a business and her long-lasting passion for fashion.

In order to stand out from the crowd, she chose to venture into swimwear fashion which was not a widely favoured business in her home country. I had the opportunity of interviewing Vivien Chong to learn about her experience shifting career paths.

What brought you to change your career path and start your own business?

Vivien Chong: As I was raised by traditionally-minded parents, I was constantly urged to plan and execute a stringent, stable career path which was in pharmacy, but it just wasn’t in the stars for me. I remember the day I gathered the courage to tell my parents I wasn’t going to continue pursuing the path they wanted me to follow. This came as a huge blow to them and they disagreed with my wish. Luckily I had my partner, Alan who has supported me since day one. He has helped me to pursue my dream fearlessly. Turns out I am very passionate about helping people explore their style through affordable yet stylish swimwear.

What risks did you face when you first started to fully commit to Pink N’ Proper?

Vivien Chong: In 2018, I was faced with the hardest yet most important decision of my career which was whether to leave my full-time pharmacist job. Pink N’ Proper was initially an online blogshop in 2011. It was a part-time job that I juggled with school back when I was studying in the UK. Before I decided to make Pink N’ Proper official in 2018, I was still working as a full-time pharmacist while running Pink N’ Proper part-time. I went through all the ups and downs, trying to minimise the risks and losses if I were to go all-in with my business. In case this particular business didn’t work, I still had my full-time pharmacist job as a backup.

I organised my schedule by having 9.30 a.m. - 7.00 p.m. dedicated to my full-time job at the pharmacy. Pink N’ Proper was based online so I just needed to work behind the scenes, I didn’t need to be at the front of my business. So when I got back from work, I would sort out the Pink N’ Proper orders from 9.30 p.m. - 3.00 a.m.

Abandoning my full-time job and a stable income to start my own business was a massive leap into the unknown, and I was wondering for months afterwards whether I had made the right choice. It was the tipping point of my entire career that made me realise my identity and what I really wanted to do for myself. This shaped me into who I am today, a stronger person and therefore a stronger businesswoman.

Did you receive help or funding from others? Did you have a support system to help you with your decision?

Vivien Chong: With my full-time job as a pharmacist, Pink N Proper was fully funded by my partner and myself. The funds came from our full-time jobs.

What mistakes or challenges did you face while running your business and what have you learned from them?

Vivien Chong: Back when I first started Pink N’ Proper, running an online business was not as accessible as it is now. I have always wanted Pink N’ Proper to run fully online, so guiding customers while making sure the business was sustainable was one of my concerns. I rarely have such thoughts about mistakes made because things are usually well-planned so I don't look back and have regrets.

I think hiring the right people is very important. I graduated with a Master of Pharmacy with zero experience in the field of business. It was a challenge for me to start because I had no clue where to begin! Brand-building and marketing was not my forte, so finding the right people from the beginning is very crucial.

When you first started your business, what was your marketing strategy like?

Vivien Chong: Via word of mouth! It is still the most powerful recommendation tool and social media has changed everything with that because, with one click of a button, any of us can share our opinions and experiences with loads and loads of people. They might then share with even more people, creating more buzz around your business.

What is your proudest achievement to date?

Vivien Chong: My biggest accomplishment is having my own boutique, a physical shop where customers are able to walk in to try out the swimwear and have a great shopping experience.

How has the current COVID-19 pandemic affected your business and what measures have you taken to brave through this storm?

Vivien Chong: As Pink N’ Proper is related to the travel industry, the pandemic definitely hit us hard. Due to the travel restrictions and lack of demand, our sales have admittedly been sliding down. Currently, we are focusing on brand awareness so that in the future when the pandemic has ended, our customers will still recall our brand. Our main focuses currently are brand awareness, as well as engaging and interacting directly with our audience. I think that during times like these it’s especially important because involving our followers and customers in the process has given them something to look forward to and participate in that is out of the norm of their typical day-to-day.

What advice can you give to the youth about changing career paths?

Vivien Chong: It depends on how drastic your situation is and how much you want it. You have to think and plan properly and sort out your finances. In reality, when you change your career path, you are generally going to start from the bottom with lower pay or maybe even no pay, especially when you are starting your own business. Going out there and making sure of your finances in order to make the transition less painful is really important.

If you are not ready to make a full jump right at this moment, then learn to start a side hustle, which can be anything from volunteering with an organization that is in the field you’re interested in, to starting your business part-time on the weekends. It is a free way to get a taste to see if you really love something. Also make sure you have a support system, because it is going to be a tough mental challenge.

By Megan Yeow


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