What comes hand in hand with that is understanding what your heart beats for.
In 2017, Elisa started Will & Well alone, shortly after graduating from her fashion design course at LASALLE College of the Arts. The start of her fashion journey, however, came with challenges. Although Will & Well designs clothes for people with disabilities, their modern and easy-to-wear designs have attracted other shoppers looking for functional fashion
1) What do you think shaped you to who you are today?
My parents, my dad is a pastor and he joined the church 2 -3 years ago. My mum worked in the social arm of the church (NPO). My second sister is a disability support worker in brisbane and my youngest sister is a psychology student in education who has taken interest in special needs education. So, how did I, with a fashion degree, come along and do these things at Will & Well? I was influenced by their decisions while growing up, I understood their space and community which also helped in influencing the things I do in Will & Well. My parents spent a lot of time in the community that they were in, like supporting elderly, nurturing and mentoring less fortunate youths in a wholesome manner. They spent so much energy that they were tired when they were home, I had always thought it was unfair that there was none left for me and my siblings. Growing out of that I finally understood where it came from. They had done a good job in exemplifying that kind of love and commitment to the community that they were in. It was very telling of where I had come from.
2) What does thriving mean to you?
The dictionary definition is success and health and being purposeful. If you're doing what you like to do, seeing meaning and purpose and managing it well in terms of your personal health, then you definitely are thriving
3) The journey to get her through Will & Well wasn't easy, what made you pull through?
I am really thankful that I have many pillars of support, whenever I am at a cross junction or facing a hurdle, I always can dial in and call someone for their advice or support and they are always there. Plus the team that I have (4 people) Dave, Cheryl, Su Yi, and Aunty Kim Hua. They are the people who make it possible, keep me going every week and make me feel like I am not in this alone. I am really thankful for each of them. They are the reason Will & Well can pull through and is still trying. Also the clients who have approached us for solutions. Their beliefs and their hope in us to produce a solution. Whenever someone reaches out, it affirms us that we are not idealistic and it is legitimate and there is really a need, which is why we work so hard.
4) Why did you choose to go beyond and focus on those with disabilities?
I am not just stopping there, for the elderly for mothers with children I want to provide solutions for the minority. Even if you’re plus sized and your uniform does not fit you, we want to make it comfortable for you. Research began with people with disabilities, because they had the most apparent dressing challenges. We want to acknowledge that there are other people with other challenges and we want to give them solutions too.
I suppose I can take this question as why I chose to go beyond myself. I am one person, but I have been fortunate enough to do so much. It will be quite boring if I were to just focus on the styles or designs that I like, I don't think i have much to offer in that directions there are so many styles in the industry, I just don’t think with the way that i have been nurtured, I don't think i have much to offer in that directions
5) How has starting on this business changed you?
It goes back to when I was 18, I decided that I would never do business because I thought it required too many values of integrity in one person to do well and I just never thought I had that in me to do it that way, so I decided that I would not. Now that i have a business, it really refines and emphasises on values, company values and values as a leader that really trickles down to the rest of the team, the suppliers and our clients. With this kind of responsibility, it really requires you to hold your ground on things that you know cannot waver just because they are fundamental values such as integrity and transparency and communication manner.
You can do it to any scale and i am not interested in anything other than transparency. If you do anything that is not in conscience, it is going to come back to you, I don't want to get beaten that way. It has definitely moulded and is still moulding me in terms of personal values. The parallels in the way you manage business and the way you manage other things.
Like the values that you see in building a team, is very parallel to other aspects of life. I am still looking for a partner, so i was at this leadership conference and the speaker was talking about not being caught up with the talent of a person but has to share the same values as you and the company and that makes the team a strong one. If one does not understand the value that it is very hard to align with the business needs, suddenly i thought this is exactly how i should look for a partner. That interestingly stuck with me.
6) What would you say to your peers to inspire them and to motivate them to make a difference?
I like to say this a lot, the way that I first started was because I had found a craft that I wanted to pursue and that was making clothes. The love for your craft is very important and you should love it for the work. What comes hand in hand with that is understanding what your heart beats for. Where is the output and where is the impact, it can be for anything, for elderly or caregivers or for the love of society or the environment. It doesn't necessarily have to be self-sacrificial. When you match these two it could end nicely.
7) If you could change anything in Singapore or change the lives of people here what would you do?
I think what we do at will and well is answering this question. We take little steps in creating and providing design solutions for people with dressing challenges.