Susannah Jaffer, Founder of Zerrin

Susannah is the founder of a multi-label online boutique. In her down time she enjoys exercise and making music.

What’s your story?
I’m originally from the United Kingdom but have called Singapore home since 2012. During my 4.5 years working as a magazine editor, I became jaded by the cyclical, trend led designs offered by many fast-fashion brands, as well as the industries global impact.

Through research, I discovered smaller, socially or environmentally conscious labels that were trying to make a positive social impact. After continually getting pulled aside and asked about the new designs I was wearing, I learnt that other women found it difficult to discover ethical labels and that brand owners themselves struggled with marketing.

That’s where the idea for ZERRIN came about: a curated platform where women can shop and discover uniquely designed and thoughtfully made brands that are also socially conscious. We also run events, like workshops and talks, to create experiences and connect our community offline.

What excites you most about your industry?
In Singapore there’s a growing focus — both on a government and public level — on living a more eco-friendly lifestyle, which is great progress. On an international scale, I’m pleased to see a growing trend of consumers who are holding brands accountable for their actions, like the open letter to Burberry that has gone viral on social media in response to revelation that they burnt an estimated £28 million pounds worth of surplus cosmetic and clothing stock or Ivanka Trump’s clothing brand crumbling after supply chain issues were revealed. If we stop buying rubbish, companies can’t continue to make rubbish.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I moved at 21 after finishing university to work as an English language teacher. Unfortunately, there were complications with the school getting my employment visa so the job offer fell through. These things happen! I ended up working in media, first training at a PR agency and then being offered a job at Expat Living Publications, where I stayed until October 2017. In terms of personal connections, my dad is Indian, born in Mumbai, while my husband is from Hong Kong. Culturally, I feel at home in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I love the buzz and diversity of Hong Kong. It’s a fantastic logistics hub and has a thriving creative community. Saying that I also love how friendly and collaborative the entrepreneurial community in Singapore has been.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Work hard, be patient and consistent.

Who inspires you?
I don’t have a specific public figure I look up to, but I’m continually inspired by everyday people putting in the work to make their dreams a reality. During my editorial career, I often wrote feature stories about female entrepreneurs in Singapore and I would always take something memorable away from each project.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The fact that Singapore has virtually no roundabouts! I just passed my driving test in the UK while on a trip home, so it hit me after thinking about the country’s road system. I can’t believe that took me seven years to notice! It’s pretty mind blowing for a British person, but it totally makes sense for the landscape/infrastructure here.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I had to choose one thing, it would be practising proper self-care earlier on in my career. Things like exercising and eating right, remembering to put yourself out there to nurture relationships and friendships, not just with networking in mind. It’s something I had to learn after leaving my full-time job, and it’s since helped my mood and mental focus, which has helped get me through the challenges that come with running your own gig.

How do you unwind?
By being active and getting outdoors. Starting most mornings with a gym session means I feel ready to face the day — it’s my ‘me’ time. Other than that, going for a long walk with my dog or playing the piano. Exercise and making music are the two things which really clear my head.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Holiday wise, give me sun, sea, sand and throw in a good book and I’m good to go. For that, I’ve had some lovely breaks in Krabi, Thailand. Perhaps I’ve gotten lucky, but the resort I return to has always been affordable and quiet.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why by Simon Sinek. It’s a book about discovering your ‘why’ and building a brand that inspires and attracts the right attention. I almost didn’t read it because everyone was raving about it to the point I was sick of hearing about it, but I found it actually did give me a fresh perspective on building my business in the lead up to ZERRIN’s launch. Recommended.

Shameless plug for your business:
ZERRIN is a multi-label online boutique curating inspiring, thoughtfully made fashion and beauty brands. On a mission to empower women to #shopmeaningfully, our labels respect people and the planet. From clothing crafted in natural fabrics to hand-made jewellery or organic skin care, the store speaks to the modern women on the go who values quality and sustainability yet doesn’t want to compromise on style. We also hold regular pop-ups and events with the aim of educating and bringing together our growing community of savvy, conscious women.

How can people connect with you?

Twitter/Instagram handle?

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
Download free copies of his books here:

About The EnterpriseZone Writing Team

Shining A Light on the Small Business World and highlighting Entrepreneurial Investing Opportunities.

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