The Summer of Surgeries and SingCore

Running a family manufacturing business is hard.

Especially when the owners are aging immigrants who both require surgeries and don’t have an exit plan.

That’s where I came in.

My parents are the founders of a mom and pop manufacturing business called SingCore. This is a recap of my summer assisting them in business and in life.

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We all get older

My Father Peter began experiencing severe nerve pains earlier this year, which he soon learned would require three of his vertebrate to be removed by way of cutting into the front and back of his neck. Pleasant, I know. 

Peter has been a serial entrepreneur and inventor his whole life. Since 1990, he invented and sold his own log home, survived the Great Recession, and now manufactures a patented lightweight panel that’s utilized for oversized doors and museum walls. It’s a phenomenal product that has been utilized by NASA, The Center for Architecture and Design, and SFMOMA (they’re also installed in Airbnb’s headquarters). 

As Paul Graham would call it, Peter is a gritty cockroach who knows how to survive.

But he’s never grown past the garage startup phase. Building a team and management aren’t his strong suits, so when he reached out to me to try finally get his business to grow while he would be recovering, I had to stop and consider his request.

It was May, and I was in the middle of interviews with companies in San Francisco (I had just returned from a backpacking adventure in South America). I decided instead to step away from tech and fulfill my Dad’s wish to have me help out with his company.

Throughout my whole life, I’ve intentionally stayed away from the family business to establish myself independently. I attended university out of state, worked in Australia for two years, and have spent my my recent years working in San Francisco as a Growth Marketer. Growing up in the family business, I experienced the struggles and saw firsthand the stress involved in running your own factory and company. Especially as a first generation husband and wife team.

But if there was ever a time for me to help, it was now. My Mother’s hand was hurting too, which required surgery in August as well.

So I put my own self interests and professional pursuits on hold to work and live at a sawmill in Washington for the summer to see if I could kickstart this unique manufacturing business.

 

Streamlining a pencil and paper workplace

Everything was done the old fashioned way. Leads were manually forwarded to our Sales Manager, which my Dad managed with his sweet CRM called “gmail stars”. I took aim at modernizing and organizing the company.

It started with redesigning the entire website, then establishing a CRM (Pipedrive) to manage not only sales leads, but our entire factory production flow. Instead of walking hand-written orders, we were digitalizing the entire funnel all the way to the end shipment. It was a laborious process that the entrepreneurial side in me enjoyed.

My biggest task was to build a small team so my parents would not have to be at the mill day to day. We hired a talented young jack-of-all-trades named Forrest, and an experienced Sales Manager named Nick. They’ve stepped in and have made tremendous improvements in SingCore.

I helped close sales. I tracked finances. And as a marketer, I revamped his entire online presence. It was a great learning experience to touch all aspects of a small manufacturing business. Our Factory Manager was extremely supportive as we tag teamed on various process improvements. 

 

Family time or career time?

Just as importantly, spending my summer in Washington allowed me to visit my Father on the weekends as he recovered. Once he was in shape to return home, I’d do what I could to help out with daily tasks that have become more difficult for him.

It’s tough to take time off from a competitive career such as online marketing. There were times I felt this decision would hurt me professionally, but at the end of the day, I’ve still gained new skills. Just as importantly, have been able to provide assistance to my parents during this time.

I think it’s tough for millennials to sacrifice their interests for their parents at times. We’re self-absorbed in our own pursuits and futures, but can at times, forget those that have help mold us into the people we are.

Spending time with my parents has deepened our relationship, which is something I’m quite grateful for.

It’s October now, and I’m now back in the Bay Area still helping out by working remotely. I’m most pleased with the team we’ve been able to hire and nurture, which has alleviated a lot of stress for my parents not having to be at the mill every day. The business is something my Father would like me to take over, but not something I’m comfortable with.

My life is here in the Bay Area. Working remotely is going well, but returning to the startup world at the right company is something that I’ll be entertaining as well. A big thanks go out to my sister Annie, David Gibson, our Factory Manager, the entire SingCore team, and of course, my mom and dad for allowing me to help out and make a few updates to the business.

It’s been an eventful Summer, but I’m glad to be back in California and am excited to begin exploring my next move.