It is no secret that kids can have a huge impact in our lives. People say that everything changes after you have kids and they are right! It’s the same case for Faye Tan who worked for 13 years in the finance industry. After having her first child, balancing between her career and family was no easy feat.
What made it even more challenging, was not having a support system that she needed for a high-need child. At the time, she was the Group Financial Controller of a financial institution and had 30 people reporting to her, which meant - late nights, a demanding boss and a huge amount of workload.
“The babysitter even threatened to kick her out of the house.”
“My eldest daughter was a high-need child. She wasn’t very welcomed at the babysitter’s place because she cried a lot and was a slow and fussy eater. The babysitter even threatened to kick her out of the house if she misbehaved. I had no peace of mind and was worried about her security. I struggled with the guilt of leaving her there, everyday,” she said.
At the time, there were no other nurseries or preschools that accepted infants or toddlers in her vicinity. Pre-schools or kindergartens around the area were run-down and not well-kept. What made matters worse for Faye, was that most of them only opened at 8am and were closed by 6pm, which was impossible for someone with a high demanding job.
The Birth of Baby Atelier
Faye Tan is no stranger to the education field, with both her parents having been in the line, one would think that it would be only natural for her and her siblings to do the same- but it was, in fact, the opposite. Her father especially was the one who encouraged her to take up accounting.
But after being promoted, Faye’s job became more and more demanding. “The more I said yes to my boss, the more I had to say no to my family. So, finally I decided enough is enough, and I quit,” says Faye.
Opening Baby Atelier happened pretty quickly after quitting her job, all this while being pregnant with her second child too. Being a new mum, pregnant, while opening a new business is no easy feat, so we decided dig deeper into her journey of opening Baby Atelier following the outstanding six awards that the nursery and pre-school won at the recent Parents' Choice Awards 2019.
PARENTHOOD (PH): What was the journey of opening your own school like?
FAYE TAN (FT): Honestly, we didn’t consider a lot of things. We just did what we felt we needed to do – that is to have a proper nursery and preschool in Taman Desa. So if you ask me, there wasn’t a flashy business plan or high and mighty competitor analysis – but everything was done from our hearts, what we wanted for our children, we made Baby Atelier as such.
Opening the school was easy… but convincing the prospective parents was very, very difficult, especially in the first 6 months. I think more than a hundred people came to visit in the first 3 months, but only a handful signed up. Not forgetting I am an accountant who knew nothing about sales & marketing, what more selling childcare services!
My parents didn’t object… they sort of relented… more so because they felt that I need not have left my high-paying job with a spacious office in KL CBD to start all over in this industry, which is often a very risky and yet thank-less job.
“I was teaching, cooking, scrubbing toilets, mopping floors and handling inquiries. No parent would want to see their daughter in that situation.”
I was seven months pregnant when we opened the school, we couldn’t afford a cleaner at that time, so I was teaching, cooking, scrubbing toilets, mopping floors and handling inquiries. No parent would want to see their daughter in that situation. I knew it was tough on my parents, especially my dad. I told him, “Pa, give me one year. I will go back to Corporate if I fail.” But deep inside my heart, I knew that failure was not an option. I resolved that Baby Atelier will be the best in Taman Desa, if not Kuala Lumpur, and some say Malaysia. And today, I hope that my parents will be truly proud when they read this interview.
PH: How did you apply your experience as a mother into Baby Atelier?
FT: As a mother myself, I know the cares and concerns of another young mother.
Did it ever cross your mind that, besides the child, it is every mother that needs to be assured and pacify – because the feelings of worry and insecurity, especially when they need to separate with their baby to return to work.
So, of all the things that we do at Baby Atelier, we also put a great emphasis to assure every mum that passes her baby to us that her child is in good hands, and is getting the best education and care that he/she could possibly get.
Hygiene and infection control – I also learnt about hygiene best practices and preventive measures on controlling the spread of sickness and diseases. Of course, it’s no longer that straight forward when we need to implement in a school setting, especially with the babies around; but we continuously keep ourselves abreast of the latest technology in cleaning, sanitizing and sterilization. But, no matter how effective any product is, it must always be safe for our children.
And because my children are also in Baby Atelier, most of our parents know that I will never take any chances when it comes to the health and safety of our children.
My eldest girl’s immune system was rather weak when she was young, and she had allergies, so every time she got cough and flu, it will develop into something else like ear infection or bronchiolitis that will require her to take antibiotics. She was sick every other week and it was very difficult for me to see her suffering.
So, I started to learn about nutritional immunology – its about eating the right variety of fruits and vegetables to nourish our immune system because it is our body’s first line of defense. It is also about eating right before getting pregnant, so that your baby’s immune system will be nourished as well.
At Baby Atelier, we serve meat-free meals with lots of colorful fruits and vegetables because we strongly believe in eating fruits and vegetables from a rainbow of colors and each color represents different nutrients for your child’s growth.
Our source of protein comes from non-GMO soy products like soy milk and tofu, beans, legumes, yoghurt and eggs.
PH: What are some of the principles that you believe in (as a mother yourself) when it comes to bringing up children and their education?
FT: “Be cruel to be kind” - I am a tiger mum, I am very strict with my children. I don’t run to them the minute they fall down. When faced with difficulties, we often discuss about what to do, rather than me telling them what they should do.
Developing resilient and self-reliant children - Character building and instilling the right values are very important, and we need to get it right from the start.
Making popular decisions are easy. But popular decisions are not always good for them - As a parent, I sometimes have to make really tough choices, decisions that I know will be for the best for them, in the longer term.
PH: What drives you to keep going?
FT: The children, of course! I regard it as a great honour to be part of each child’s journey as they grow and learn about the world around them.
The first smile, the first step, the first word, we are there to witness all of it! Each child is a gift from God – and we consider it a great privilege to be given the opportunity by their parents to care from them in their early, growing years.
“We are one of the few schools that starts a child on a structured program from as young as 15 months old.”
I see so much potential in each and every child. Their capacity to learn is actually much beyond their years. That is why we are one of the few schools that starts a child on a structured program from as young as 15 months old.
And also the referrals we get from our existing parents. We have limited seats, so whenever a customer calls up and say they are referred, I will always find a way to accommodate them. Referrals and siblings/relatives are our main source of our student’s pipeline.
I really appreciate referrals, besides saving loads on marketing and advertising, what can be better or more credible than hearing it from those who have been here, right?
PH: What are your hopes for the future of Baby Atelier and your students?
FT: I wish for them to not only excel academically but will grow to become resilient, independent & socially responsible individuals.
Resilient – to never give up, no matter how difficult the circumstances
Self-Reliant – equipped with critical thinking and problem-solving skills, resolute and resolve when face with challenges
Socially Responsible – equipped with the right values, responsible for his/her own actions and towards the community around
I hope that in the years they were with me, I managed to ingrained in their hearts that it is always more important to be kind than to be right.