Singapore-based Michelle Hon left her soup and salad bar business when she had her first child. The hours are long and hectic in the food industry, and she just wanted to be home with her family – or so she thought. A few weeks into being a stay-at-home mom, she realized that wasn’t the path for her. She craved the security of being financially independent and so began to think about how she could make money from home.
What Hon started as a mommy blog ten years ago has grown into a multiple six-figure online business today, dedicated to supporting moms in their birthing journey, family life, and building their own businesses from home.
In this interview, we learn about the challenges she faced starting, growing, and scaling her brand and the systems, people, and tools that have helped her along the way. Don’t forget to check out her Productivity Stack Quick Reference and recommended reading at the end of the article.
Table of Contents
- Scaling and Success
- Hindsight: What Hon would have done differently?
- Advice from Hon: Overcome the mean girl in your head
- Hon’s Reading List
- Wrap Up
- Hon’s Productivity Stack Quick Reference
- More About Michelle Hon
Challenge 1: Turning a commodity business into a profitable venture
Hon’s drive for financial independence was influenced by her own mother’s story. “My mom was a stay-at-home mom. She wasn’t in a very happy marriage, but she was stuck. She thought maybe she would just stay put for the next few years, wait until we were a little bit older, so she could finally go after her dreams. Unfortunately, that day didn’t come for her. She passed away when she was 35. I was 13.”
Hon worked from an early age and pursued her interests. Even before her soup and salad bar, she had careers in modeling and events management. So when she left her business and tried the full-time stay-at-home mom lifestyle after having her first child, she quickly grew restless. “I just don’t feel secure somehow, relying on my husband 100 % financially.” So, a few months after giving birth in early 2013, she set up a mommy blog she could run from home.
She signed up for free tools like Blogger.com and Mailchimp and just started publishing. She called her blog The Chill Mom, a platform to give advice and support to expecting and new moms who were overwhelmed with all the information about nutrition, baby care, and postpartum recovery. However it was an extremely competitive space, and she struggled to find brands who would hire her to write for them at a price that she was happy with.
“I realized that no brands were going to pay me more than S$100 per blog post. Every time I raised my price, they’re like, ‘Mmm, nah,’ and I never heard from them again. Because I was just another mommy blogger. I was in a commodity business.”
Solution: Instead of waiting for blogging gigs and brand partnerships, Hon decided to study how she could monetize her knowledge and experience. About one and a half years after starting The Chill Mom blog, she launched The Chill Mom Maternity Concierge, a premier baby planning business that provides tailored services to expecting parents ranging from shopping for baby needs to helping them find the best OB-GYN or postpartum nanny.
Helping expectant moms find trained and trustworthy postpartum nannies is a highly sought-after service in some parts of Asia like Singapore. A postpartum nanny stays in the home and provides care for both the mom and the newborn for about 28 days. The responsibilities range from cooking nutritious food and preparing traditional herbal baths that help the mother recover from childbirth to changing diapers and caring for the baby so the new parents can get enough sleep.
Because of her blog, Hon had a following that trusted her recommendations for pre and postnatal care, so the maternity concierge business took off. “I took what I knew, what I was blogging about for free anyway about pregnancy and early motherhood, into this business where I help moms directly. The funny thing is when I wasn’t relying on the brand deals anymore, suddenly, they were coming back to me saying, ‘Michelle, we want to work with you.’ Because I was no longer just another mommy blogger.”
Systems: Using free tools when starting out, finding a way to differentiate herself and monetize her knowledge in a less competitive segment of the mom and baby industry, leveraging an established blog as part of the sales funnel for a new venture
Challenge 2: Getting sick and finding out she was pregnant while working as a solopreneur
About three years into the blogging and maternity concierge business, Hon found herself working practically all the time. She was running everything from home and could spend time with her family, but she worked late into the night and every chance she got when her toddler didn’t need her. Even though she had a virtual assistant, she was still doing everything herself, thinking, “No one can do this better than me” or “I can save this much by doing it myself!”.
All that had to stop when she caught dengue fever and ended up in the hospital. During confinement, she found out she was pregnant with her second child too! She was bedridden for almost two months and took another four months to fully recover. How did she keep her business afloat during this time when she couldn’t push herself to the limit and work as many hours as she used to?
Solution: Because her illness constrained her time and energy, she had to learn to create assets that would help her generate sales even during her downtime.
“That means podcasts, YouTube videos, blog posts, things that you could have done one time, but a year down the road, two years, [still lead people] to your funnel. I’ve also created many lead magnets that people could come and subscribe [to]. And then, once they’re in there, they are also constantly being served [these automated] emails that I could have written years ago. They are constantly being served up to a point that they’re ready to purchase. That does a lot of the front-loading work for me.”
She also learned to filter out non-essential commitments that may be competing for her attention, and instead focus on things that would move the needle for her business. Before she takes on any task, she asks herself three questions: 1) Does this have to be done by me? Or can someone else do this? 2) Does this have to be done right now? And 3) Is this really important – Will it help generate more sales and grow the business or is it helping build my relationships, wealth, and health? It is only the tasks that pass these three criteria that make it to her to-do list.
It was also at this point that Hon started outsourcing more work to partners. One crucial hire was a nanny manager who would work with the other postpartum nannies in her maternity concierge business, freeing her from all the phone calls and coordination work. At the end of that year of her illness and second pregnancy, despite working fewer hours, Hon saw a healthy increase in revenue.
People: Hon, virtual assistant, postpartum nanny manager, and other subcontracted postpartum nannies
Systems: Automating her sales funnel, asking three questions to identify true priorities for the business, outsourcing
Challenge 3: Expanding to business coaching: Is this a gap I can fill?
As Hon continued blogging, her content evolved from that of a stay-at-home mom to also talking about her thriving baby planning business. Her followers started to ask, “I would like to start a business too, can you help me?” Even though she had done it herself, she wasn’t sure if she had the right framework that would help other aspiring mom-entrepreneurs.
Solution: Hon decided to try it out. She took a few one-on-one business consulting clients to test her ideas and build a framework. When she got fairly confident that she had a repeatable process to get someone from the idea stage to launching their own business, she decided to package this into an online course – MomBossGoal. This marked the start of her third business line under The Chill Mom brand – the MomBoss Academy.
People: Hon, virtual assistant, postpartum nanny manager and other subcontracted postpartum nannies, one-on-one business consulting clients
Systems: Listening to questions and needs of her market and crafting an offer to address it, beta testing a new online course through one-on-one coaching and consulting
Scaling & Success
Challenge 4: Pre-launching the first MomBoss Academy online courses
The online mentoring program was a completely different business that needed a new platform. Hon thought about using Teachable to host the course, ActiveCampaign as a CRM, and ClickFunnels to create funnels but realized it would cost quite a bit to subscribe to each tool and then cobble them together into a cohesive platform. She decided to go with Kajabi because it integrates all those functionalities and came out a bit less costly. But was it a wise move to invest in a Kajabi subscription when she was just starting MomBoss Academy?
Solution: Hon chose the pre-launch route to fund her subscription. She marketed her brand-new program, the beta-tested “MomBossGoal: Start Your Own Business in 90 Days” framework to her followers. She got nine sign-ups at S$2,000 each, and with that money, subscribed to Kajabi. Hon built the course as they went along, incorporating feedback and making adjustments as needed.
From that first small launch in 2018, MomBoss Academy has continuously grown. After MomBossGoal, Hon has launched IN-DEMAND, which is about developing your personal brand and setting up automated lead generation. Then came their Instagram Growth and Monetization Bootcamp, a sales mastery course, and then partnerships with some of their best students to offer more specialized courses like network marketing or building a fashion brand.
The courses combine on-demand virtual workshops with live support through scheduled Zoom sessions, or Facebook and WhatsApp groups. The content of the programs has evolved over the years, with Hon making sure to offer business advice relevant to today’s market.
People: Hon, virtual assistant, partner brands and former students of MomBoss Academy
Systems: Pre-launching course to raise funding for software, build-as-you-go approach to creating a course (based on a pre-tested general framework), adjusting courses based on student feedback and market developments
Challenge 5: Time management: Stepping into the CEO role
With three sub-businesses of her The Chill Mom brand up and running, Hon needed to get organized in delegating and managing her time to free herself up for strategic management of the businesses.
Solution: Hon focused on outsourcing effectively. She listed all the tasks related to her three businesses, and categorized them according to what she needs and loves to do, versus what she can have someone else do. Then she created departments and jobs for those tasks that she wanted to outsource. She hired a general manager to run the maternity concierge business independently and now relies on partner writers and bloggers to provide fresh content for The Chill Mom blog.
“I started subcontracting things out bit by bit in stages. Until eventually, other people could be running it for me and I’m just not really doing anything at all. My focus right now is on MomBoss Academy where I’m just focusing on the strategy, building out the assets as I mentioned like the lead magnet, the programs, [recording content], and showing up for the group coaching. But other than that, like scheduling, posting, editing – all of that is done by my team members.”
Hon and her team use a simple tech stack. They keep in touch using WhatsApp and share files on Google Drive. On a daily basis, she keeps a short to-do list – just three things that will move the needle for the business. With this basic setup, Hon can limit work to four or five-hour days, Monday to Thursday, and enjoy Fridays off with her kids.
People: Hon, virtual assistant, guest bloggers or writers submitting content for her blog, general manager for maternity concierge business, social media team
Systems: Outsourcing, focusing daily on just three things that would move the needle for the business
Hindsight: What Hon would have done differently?
Hon tells us she wouldn’t have changed the path she took to building her businesses, and specifically doesn’t regret taking her time to outsource or delegate. By doing everything herself for some time, she learned the nitty gritty of each task and she knows what to expect and demand from anyone she is outsourcing to.
And she makes it a point to always stay on top of what’s going on in her businesses, “I’m still always investing in myself because I don’t know what I don’t know. So that as I [continue] to grow the business and have more people helping me, I know exactly what is good work and what’s not good work.”
Advice from Hon: Overcome the mean girl in your head
Hon’s view is that any entrepreneur’s biggest challenge is their own mindset, the doubt and the fear.
“I questioned myself a lot in the early years. Especially as an entrepreneur, we are full of ideas, right? ‘Oh, I want to do this, I want to do that.’ And every time, there’s always this little voice at the back of my head going, ‘Who are you to do this?’
To me, it’s one of the biggest challenges. Because once I can get over my mind, my fear, that questioning, I can overcome anything. Even if we lose a bit of money in launches, those are little things that we can overcome as long as I can overcome this mean girl in my head.”
Hon’s Reading List
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It book by Michael E. Gerber. Hon learned from this book that she needed to evolve from being a technician to the manager of her businesses and to start thinking about how to systematize and create SOPs so she can delegate tasks.
The evolution of Hon’s The Chill Mom blog shows us how building a following and sharing your journey can open doors to new opportunities. Her readers watched in real time as she went through the different stages of motherhood (from being a new mom to now a mom of three!) while simultaneously launching and growing multiple businesses as a stay-at-home mom. This served as a uniquely effective way to not just build rapport but to earn that credibility to give advice about business and motherhood at the same time.
Hon was equally attentive to her followers. Listening to their questions and finding solutions to their needs led her to diversify from blogging, to maternity concierge services, and also business mentoring.
She was very frugal with her finances, making it a point to use only free tools when she was starting out, and even finding a way to pre-fund her subscription to Kajabi when MomBoss Academy was still in its early years. Her discipline with her finances is mirrored in her stringent standards when it comes to delegating tasks. She wants to understand what she outsources to be sure that she gets a quality job every time.
Taking her own mother’s story to heart, Hon’s vision is for all moms to have their own businesses so they can fulfill their own dreams as they raise their families. The flexibility of work-from-home arrangements and all the online tools have now made it easier for women to start something on the side while keeping their full-time jobs. The Chill Mom blog and MomBoss Academy are excellent resources to help the current generation of mothers find their way to becoming successful mom-entrepreneurs as well.
Hon’s Productivity Stack Quick Reference
Scaling and Success
More About Michelle Hon
Michelle Hon is a stay-at-home mom turned award-winning international speaker, author and business mentor for mom-entrepreneurs who want to boost their reach and increase their profits without sacrificing family time.
She has helped hundreds of mentees with her IN-DEMAND Framework scale their business to 6-figure and beyond.
She has been featured on Lifetime, Channel News Asia, Asian Money Guide and many more. Zine named her one of the Top 10 Mom Influencers in the World.
She is the recipient for the Mentorship Award at the 2022 World Women Organisation (WWO) Global Leadership Conference for the impact she has made.
Learn more and connect with Michelle through:
Instagram (@thechillmom): https://www.instagram.com/thechillmom
Instagram (@momboss.academy): https://www.instagram.com/momboss.academy