In our Dare to Dream series, we invite 12 inspiring individuals who have courageously stepped out of their comfort zones to dream about a future they can truly call their own.
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that running a local fashion business in Singapore is no easy feat – much less if batik womenswear happens to be your niche. It’s a challenge that 31-year-old Desleen Yeo happily takes on as the co-founder of homegrown batik label YeoMama Batik, whom she runs alongside her Indonesia-born mother (affectionately known by her moniker YeoMama).
The idea for YeoMama Batik came to Desleen in 2017, as a suggestion from YeoMama herself, shortly after she left her previous job in an agency due to burnout and boredom. Cut to various sourcing trips, branding brainstorms and design sketches later, the label was born in 2018, and right in time for a Chinese New Year brand launch.
Often seen as a garb reserved for festive or traditional occasions like Hari Raya or CNY, batik has seen a revival among the younger gen, no doubt thanks to the mother-daughter duo, who have had a hand in making batik wearable for every day. They’ve even creatively incorporating the textile in activewear (@ninjabyyeomama) and sneakers.
For Desleen, daring to dream is about taking a chance on herself and not procrastinating on her dreams. Below, we speak to the designer on her experience running a business with her mother, and what her dream future looks like.
Image credits: YeoMama Batik
What makes you feel ‘batikful’?
Whenever I don a YeoMama Batik piece!
How did you wind up running YeoMama Batik with your mama?
YeoMama Batik started accidentally. Something happened and I fractured and dislocated my ankle which needs immediate surgery. After surgery, I was immobile for a couple of months. It was during this recovery period that YeoMama (my mother) called me. She was in Yogyakarta on a vacation then. She casually brought up the idea of selling batik in Singapore and I just went ‘orh’. At that point it was just something I could kill time with while being stuck at home. So, I started thinking of the brand name, designs, figuring out how to set up a website and all, and we got up and running for Chinese New Year 2018. We’ve never looked back since then.
Most of my friends went, “What?!” or gave me a very questionable face when I told them. They were like, “Batik?! Why would you want to sell something so old-school? Got market for batik clothing meh?” But afterwards, when we showed them the clothing, they were wowed over.
Out of curiosity, is there a habit or belief that has positively impacted your life in recent years?
A personal quote that I live by: “The only thing between you and your dreams, is you.”
In retrospect, is there a failure or setback that you are now grateful for?
I would not be able to mention a particular failure or setback because the entire entrepreneurship journey is full of ups and downs. I’m grateful to have my family and loved ones by my side as I manoeuvre through this journey and all its challenges.
Also read: For wingsuit flyer Alex, #daringtodream means living life fully in the present
When did you first learn about money? How do you think that impacted your relationship with finances, both in your personal life and as an entrepreneur?
Since young, my parents have emphasised the importance of saving. I guess that was my first encounter about money. I’m not very financially savvy, but I do set money aside for my savings that I wouldn’t touch at all. I think growing up with prudent parents who taught us the importance of savings and working to earn what we want has impacted my life in general.
Image credits: YeoMama Batik
What’s the best thing – and conversely, the most challenging – about running a business with your mother?
Communication. It’s good to have her and my family’s support in helping with the business. At the same time, it can get challenging to put ourselves in each other’s shoes to see things from a different generation’s perspective.
What’s the best investment you’ve ever made in yourself?
Play time! I don’t spend a lot on material things, but I do spend more on experiences, whether that’s going for classes or workshops etc. Investing in spending time for myself is my best investment. We all need to rest and reset.
What little steps can our readers take to move towards their dream future?
Cut down on the time spent on procrastinating!
What does your dream future look like to you?
To grow YeoMama Batik and maybe start 1 or 2 more businesses? (laughs). I want to never stop learning and playing, to be able to live comfortably and being able to travel the world with my family and loved ones.
Follow Desleen’s #DaretoDream journey on our socials. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Enjoyed this article? Take your little step today – write your dream pledge card for 2022 here.