From Homelessness to Entrepreneurship

Liyana Dhamirah is the founder of Virtual Assistants Singapore (aka VA-SG), a productivity mentor, a volunteer at a charity organisation, chairwoman of her kids’ parents support group and author of her soon to be released autobiography Once homeless – The Journey of Liyana Dhamirah

Despite where she is now, her life journey was far from a bed of roses. It had thrown her curve ball after curve ball, yet today she stands strong.

She is the perfect inspirational individual to celebrate in our Quarter 1 of 2019!

Her story – in summary

I remember having mixed feelings when I first read Liyana Dhamirah’s story. A story of how a then pregnant mother with her third child became homeless. Forced by circumstances to live by the beach in a tent for shelter together with her family (Her then husband and two other young children). My feelings were a mix of disbelief, sadness, anger but at the end of it all, inspired. How did she not get help sooner? Where is the system put in place to help families such as hers? Nevertheless this write up is not meant to uncover the why’s but to be inspired by the how’s. (If you are interested to read up in more detail of her story, we recommend By Sheer Grit from peppercorn.sg or better still, register your interest for her book!)

How did Liyana Dhamirah turn it all around?

Attention seeking and love craved teenager

Liyana’s life challenges started at the tender age of 16. Troubled by her parents’ divorce, she found solace in school friends and sought attention by making rebellious decisions that led her through her rocky life journey. From being a young mother in a marriage filled with marital challenges, to being kicked out and homeless.

Pregnant, Homeless and feeling Hopeless

In 2009, Liyana and her family were literally living like nomads. They moved from one beach to another, escaping authorities. Braving the elements, cooking meals using charcoal stoves and sometimes surviving with only canned food and bread. Throughout this, Liyana was determined to provide proper shelter for her family. Unfortunately her efforts in seeking help from authorities often left her in despair, desperate and depressed.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure

In 2010, out of desperation to feed her young children and baby with barely any money to afford a meal, Liyanah was looking for any means to survive. She found one in the trash. Disposed, good condition craft materials that she later used to produce beautiful wearable art trinkets. A skill she learned with the guidance of an elderly contact from the home shelter she was staying at.

Success does not happen overnight

Liyana started selling her handmade trinkets from one flea market to another. She named her business MommaMiia Creations. A business that led her to building relationships with fellow entrepreneurs and dreaming big.

She opened up her world even more by resourcefully acquiring a laptop for approximately $100 and gaining access to the internet. An action triggered by a customer enquiry regarding MommaMiia Creations’ online presence. Realising what the internet had to offer, she started taking up free online courses, studying and self taught herself after putting her kids to bed, allowing her to pick up web development, coding and graphic designing skills.

Even with MommaMia Creations, it was challenging to make ends meet. Travelling cost from one flea market to another resulted in poor ROI (return of investments). She revisited the possibility of a 9-5 job but childcare arrangements and the lack of a support system living as a single parent made that choice hardly possible.

Grit, perseverance and patience

Liyana knew she wanted and needed something that would allow her to earn and be there for her children. Her entrepreneurial spirit of grit, perseverance and patience led her from one project to another.

VoilaVu

A one stop video review platform to assist small local businesses gain exposure and brand awareness as part of marketing efforts.

However,  progress to the project was halted as her business partners could not proceed due to other life commitments. This setback did not stop Liyana. The experienced strengthened her belief that opportunities online are vast and powerful.  It is something that she should leverage on to gain the much needed income. She soon moved on to another start up project.

TaskIsland

A marketplace that allow customers to advertise tasks or errands to be done by TaskIsland identified trusted individuals at a fee.

This idea gained interest from different parties such as media and big corporations. It was enough for them to garner initial funding and kick start the project. As promising as it was, it slowly became apparent that the idea is likely not sustainable in Singapore’s market. To only make things worse, their then outsourced developer who was based in the United States was un-contactable and had not deliver everything that was promised. The project soon after came to an end.

Despite it being a second start up failure for Liyana, she took the experience and discovered a niche opportunity. From the TaskIsland platform, she had helped an entrepreneur friend complete some tasks. Tasks requiring assistance to work on back end operation such as website management, data entry and administration. Through this experience, she found a demand for businesses and entrepreneurs requiring similar assistance. A business to business model (B2B) rather than a business to customer (B2C) model which Liyana thought was worth a shot.

This was when Virtual Assistance SG was born.

The One:Virtual Assistant Singapore

A Virtual Assistant service provider who assist businesses with administrative tasks such as bookkeeping, data entry, appointment settings, email, social media or website management.

Virtual Assistant Singapore started out in late 2013 into 2014. Since then, Virtual Assistant’s team and clientele had grown and reached a stable momentum. Liyana is now reaping the rewards of her hard work and perseverance. Let’s hear it directly from Liyana:

“My vision for VA is to help other single parents, or career-switching mothers, to be able to still have time to take care of the family, but at the same time to bring in some income for their households as well,” she says. “Because that was the struggle that I had back then, and I was looking for avenues to juggle the two, to raise my kids and to bring in some income so that we can put food on the table.”

With her vision as quoted from “By Sheer Grit” written on peppercorn.sg, Liyana had agreed to join us in sharing her thoughts on remote working opportunities. Here is a glimpse of her thoughts on remote working

Other tips from Liyana

  • Build genuine relationships, not just network (It is not just about exchanging cards!)
  • Work on your personal branding
  • SEO is important. Study keywords that would make you easily accessible from Google or any search engine

Interested to meet Liyana in person, gain more tips and be further inspired? Sign up for “Working Remotely, Is it for you?” here!  

See you there!

 

 

Published by rmn

An advocate for work life balance and play. Loves HGTV, chocolate, travelling and cute pretty things. When she's not busy juggling her three beautiful kids and young at heart husband or asleep. She feast her eyes on pinterest, read interesting articles on subjects she advocates and writes on her "The World and I" blog (aka twni.explores) and Womens' Life Work

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