Meet Lily and Lenard Chew, husband and wife who run the English enrichment Centre, Lil’ but Mighty. The inception of Lil’ But Mighty began at home in 2015 with a whiteboard and dining room table set up. Lily started with less than ten students, and a year later, they were able to open their first physical outlet. Fast forward to 2021, she has over 600 students and 25 employees. The company started off with the couple’s savings and is fully owned by them. Furthermore, they have recently opened a fifth tuition centre despite the pandemic. On this week’s Glitz Spotlight, we speak to Lily and Lenard Chew on the winning formula of mixing business with marriage.
Getting to know Lily and Lenard Chew
- Getting to know Lily and Lenard Chew
- Sticking through thick and thin
- 4. Lily and Lenard, how do you juggle business and marriage at the same time?
- 5. What are the things you’ve done to strengthen your marriage as you work together? How can other married couples learn from you?
- 6. We understand that you have three little boys as well, what’s the biggest challenge of being a working parent?
- 7. Lily and Lenard, what do you love most about being working parents?
- Moving forward
1. Hi Lily and Lenard, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Lenard and I first met in junior college. We had always been good friends and after graduation, we kept in touch but had always maintained the friendship. It was only later when we were both working and met up again that we decided to get to know each other a little more and we knew that we did not want to date anyone else. At 27, we got married and decided to build a family and a business together. Fun fact: We did Project Work together in JC and attained a C grade unfortunately. Thankfully, that did not stop us from trying to work together again and I’m glad that we are doing better this time round haha.
2. What do you love most about each other?
Lenard: That Lily loves me for who I am and I never felt that I needed to be someone else or change to be who she wants me to be. I’m glad that even though we work together every day, we are still very much in love and like hanging out with each other.
Lily: That Lenard is my best teammate. He is always gentle with me no matter how emotional I am. He always believes in me and assures me of what I am and what I can be even when I am unsure of myself. I also love how he is always fun and ready for an adventure which gives me the courage to do things that I probably will not do on my own. Hence, he balances and completes me.
Lil’ but Mighty is a boutique English education centre. We are all about bringing to students English that makes them happy. This means building the students’ confidence and love for the language by helping them to grow their strategies to tackle the examinations in fun and engaging ways.
I have always loved teaching and thinking of creative ways to help students understand what they are learning better. When we were dating, Lenard casually asked me if we wanted to do business together in the future. At that time, Lenard wanted to build a business so that we could have a legacy to leave behind to our future children. We also knew that we wanted to partner each other not only at home but also at work. After the arrival of our first child, we felt that it was time for us to take the leap of faith and pursue my passion while still having an arrangement that allows us to be present for our children.
Sticking through thick and thin
4. Lily and Lenard, how do you juggle business and marriage at the same time?
Running a business with my husband definitely has its challenges. As we began working together full time, the segregation between work and home seemed to have disappeared and the lines between co-worker and spouse were seemingly blurred. The fact that we work together also means that what happens at work continues when we go home because we are just together all the time. This initial misalignment in expectations strained our relationship and made us question whether doing a business together and growing it are really what we want.
We learnt to agree on times when we will not talk about work e.g., when we are putting the kids to bed or during family dinners. If one of us starts talking about work, the other person may give a reminder that we can continue the conversation later. Sometimes, it is me who begins talking about work haha and Lenard will give me the reminder or tell me that he doesn’t want to talk about work then but he just wishes to spend time with me (: It also helped that we made sure to find time for each other, whether it is going for a run and having coffee together. Having such intimacy helps us to work better together too.
We also recognise that we are teammates in all areas of life and that means stepping up for each other whenever there is a need to. Eventually, it is about clearly communicating our expectations with each other so that we are constantly aligning and being our best support for each other.
5. What are the things you’ve done to strengthen your marriage as you work together? How can other married couples learn from you?
One of the things we do is to make sure that we show appreciation for each other at work and at home. It may seem like a small gesture but it helps to affirm us of what we are doing for our family and for each other.
Another thing is to always try something new together. Whether it is a new gym or a new skincare routine, we are willing to give it a try.
I think that every couple has their own dynamics and what makes them click. It is important to remember what it is that had brought you together and to make time and effort to grow the relationship.
6. We understand that you have three little boys as well, what’s the biggest challenge of being a working parent?
I think time is always a struggle. Although I do have the flexibility of working from home or choosing to work when the children are asleep or in school, sometimes when deadlines are looming, I have to pull myself away from my 3 sons to make sure that I meet the deadline. There were also times when I overlooked school events which required the boys to be dressed for a theme. Those are the times when I definitely felt guilty that I had not been able to prepare my children well. However, I am thankful that whenever I feel the mum guilt, i can talk to Lenard about it and over the years, we have learnt to work as a team to do our best for the boys e.g when one of us is busy with deadlines, the other will try to be home more and check in with the boys.
We also make a deliberate effort to protect our time with the boys and bedtime is an example. We will always be home to read a bedtime story and put the boys to bed. We also enjoy our conversation and prayer together before sleep as it allows us to hear from the older boys about their day and they will know about ours. It helps them to understand what we do and also how even when we are busy, they are still very much in our minds. Also, putting our devices when we are with the boys is important too. We want to be present when we are with them and not be distracted.
7. Lily and Lenard, what do you love most about being working parents?
I guess it is the fact that it is a season in life and I would like to enjoy this season since I have the opportunity to. Perhaps it’s because Lenard and I work together and we enjoy being with each other, thus, we love that when we work, we are also having time with each other.
I also like that my children see how I work hard for them and for us. Just recently, my eldest son asked why I need to work so hard and I shared how we have different roles in life. For him, as a pupil he needs to work hard in school while for me, I need to work hard for our family. In that sense, I think it helps him to understand the value of working hard.
Lastly, being a working parent also means we are able to empathise with other working parents, especially our staff who are working parents themselves. So, I appreciate the challenges and needs better.
8. What is the future plan for Lil’ but Mighty?
Our vision is for Lil’ but Mighty to be present at every moment of an English learner’s life. Starting as a child and including the journey to adulthood, we hope to provide him or her with all that he/she needs in grasping and loving the language. Our goal is to eventually become that one-stop institution for the modern English learner that will serve all his/her educational needs.
9. What advice would you give married couples looking to start their own company together?
Your relationship is more important than the business. Always communicate to align your expectations and remember to respect each other for the different roles you are playing. You are a team and each other’s greatest cheerleader (:
Enjoy this journey together!