Serial entrepreneur and the creative force behind Honeycombers, Chris Edwards has kicked off a new community platform for startups, Launchpad. Hive Life chatted with the founder for an insider perspective on her latest venture, entrepreneurial journey, and how she is fostering a thriving network of like-minded startup innovators.
Set on a mission to invigorate and empower the startup scene in Singapore and Hong Kong, Chris Edwards fused her passion for media and entrepreneurship to build her newest venture, Launchpad.
Chris first entered the entrepreneurial space with the launch of her media startup, Honeycombers, 14 years ago. The digital-first magazine started as a lifestyle guide for expats living in Singapore, Honeycombers has since pivoted to generate a wide range of content, from featuring the hottest bars and upcoming events in town, to spotlighting emerging talents and impact-driven businesses.
Over time, Chris demonstrated incredible grit for business coaching, and diverted her attention to build upon this, developing the newest digital networking platform that fosters the startup ecosystem in Hong Kong and Singapore.
Launchpad is a communal space for like-minded individuals to share their stories, build important connections, and stay informed, the network has since expanded offering various deliverables from regular masterclasses, networking opportunities, and small-business mentoring to business media features on Honeycombers.
Chris shares more on her newly-founded community platform, its role in empowering rising entrepreneurial forces, and the future of business networking.
How did you begin your entrepreneurial journey?
I started my career in marketing and went on to work in custom publishing. I had some friends who were setting up a startup in digital publishing, and they invited me to join their business and together we came up with the idea of Honeycombers.
I was 28 years old when we launched Honeycombers. It has been around for 14 years now, which makes me a bit of a dinosaur in the digital space. Within the first 12 months of having Honeycombers, my partners decided to leave the business, and I ended up with Honeycombers on my own.
It has been quite an incredible journey. I later expanded our network, including launching in Hong Kong, Jakarta and Bali and launching the parenting spin off HoneyKids. We just hit our biggest milestone, a million unique readers a month.
What has been your biggest driving force behind launching these businesses?
I have been really passionate about what we do at Honeycombers. The initial idea for Honeycombers came about as I was a young expat living in Singapore, and was mostly surrounded by others, who found they had nothing much to do.
Singapore has [plenty] to offer, we were just not tapping into the local culture and happenings.
I was thoroughly inspired by something I saw in America- a daily email. It not only [highlighted] what was happening, but also featured new pop-ups and upcoming events. That was the inspiration for Honeycombers, and HoneyKids came quite naturally in that. I had three kids during my first five years of operation, and it would get quite hectic.
I knew that mums needed content that was “for mums.” Many may not be interested in that, so it was clear that we would serve our Honeycombers readers better by creating a separate site.
Where do you find inspiration for these businesses?
Definitely talking to people, having a network of friends in business, [along with] a community inspires me. Hearing about what people think, and the challenges they face [gives us more scope]. I also use media and social media to get inspiration, to see what is happening, and the topics people are talking about.
Can you tell us more about your latest venture – Launchpad?
Launchpad is a business community, where we digitally meet one to three times a week. As for what we do, it is basically a cross between networking and educational platform. We have masterclasses every other week and arrange small group mentoring to help entrepreneurs when they get stuck on a problem or challenge that they cannot seem to solve.
The overall philosophy of Launchpad is to support entrepreneurs, and create supportive micro-communities. One beautiful thing about entrepreneurialism is that every other entrepreneur can relate to the struggle. Since it is a hard journey for most, entrepreneurs enjoy such opportunities to give back. That is Launchpad in a nutshell- giving and receiving some advice, so as an entrepreneur you don’t feel so lonely.
What is the vision behind Launchpad?
My biggest goal is to see and support people to make a change through innovative and forward-thinking businesses.
I want to see more startups making a real impact, not just [within] our societies, but also the environment. We [educate and inform startups on topics] around ethical and sustainable business practices. Right now, we need to see change. I believe the business community, such as ours, is in a powerful position to enable that change.
What unique value are you creating at Launchpad?
I wanted to create something that I wish I had early on.
With Honeycombers being a more mature business now, I was ready to take on a new challenge. I always felt great satisfaction from helping others and offered some one-on-one [consultations]. What I later discovered was that people enjoyed coaching, but they also need support from a wider community.
What are some of the biggest challenges you encountered developing a new business model recently?
Make sure you have a good product market fit. When the market wants your product, things become easier. The other big struggle is, “not knowing what you don’t know.” You have to learn so much, very quickly to be a successful entrepreneur.
I have noticed this at Launchpad- we often have people join our small peer group mentoring sessions, and some members would not have any questions but they come to just get value from the questions from other members. It is a great opportunity to be the fly on the wall, and gather valuable information.
Another big struggle is the mental health challenge, not letting the setbacks get to you, understanding to let go of what you cannot control, and having a process to make sure you do not burn out.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs on how they can overcome these challenges?
Finding like-minded people that you can catch up with and share with is valuable.
On the mental health front, the key thing is to understand that it is hard, and when working on your own coping mechanisms, for example, for me personally exercise plays a big role – it is an [essential] part of my week and it helps me get out of my headspace. Meditation and journaling are also both great tools – to get you out of your head or out of a rut.
How can entrepreneurs stand out to potential investors and stakeholders?
We are holding our first pitchfest in early 2023. We are going to be focusing on businesses that are making a positive impact on the world. I have seen the consumer market shifting in how they evaluate the market, and it is on a much more deep-level than what it used to be.
What advice do you have to share with aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses?
The first thing would be to test the market. It is much easier now to build a website and run some ads to test the market, and [compare] similar products to see how it would perform.
Tim Ferriss‘s recommends building a landing page, running some ads, and if people start buying it, then you have got yourself a product. It is [important] that you test the market before jumping into it.
If you are not from a marketing or commercial background, it is wise to focus on learning those skills and doing so quickly. Every small business owner has plenty to learn, and needs to understand marketing and sales.
What is the best part about running entrepreneurial, community-focused initiatives?
Meeting so many different entrepreneurs, learning about all these innovative and mindful new businesses, and being able to support them. I love how much impact I can have, helping people is deeply rewarding.
What is next for your personal and entrepreneurial journey?
I have a clear vision on getting Launchpad to a thousand members in the next 12 months – that is my big goal for the short term.
What can we expect to see from you in the coming year?
We will have our podcast launch in the first quarter of next year.
We are also hosting our pitch festival called “Business for Good” in Q1 2023. We want to focus on more in-person activities and events, as well as continue with our digital offerings.