Cover Photo: Orchard Clinic

Opening Orchard Clinic in the middle of a pandemic was certainly a test, but this lady boss took it all in her stride and today, she is preparing to open her third outlet. Here’s how she did it all

When you look at Cheryl Han today, the intelligent and poised co-founder of Orchard Clinic, you would never expect that this driven and passionate woman was once nearly kicked out of school because of how rebellious she was.

In fact, it took a teacher making a personal appeal on her behalf to keep her in the education system which eventually led to her becoming the woman she is today. 

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“I come from a humble background. For me, what matters more in terms of my education are the life lessons that I have gained,” Han shared. She added that she graduated from the National University of Singapore (NUS) with a degree in English Linguistics, but that she really did not think what you studied in school mattered much. Rather, it was what you did with the doors it opened for you. 

In fact, one of Han’s first jobs was far from the healthcare sector—she started her career as the senior director and head of marketing and communications at DHL. She worked in DHL for over five years and dealt with marketing, external communications and all branding matters for the company.

Though she loved her job, her plans took a drastic turn when she was suddenly retrenched in 2019. 

Noticing how many of her ex-colleagues had dedicated their lives to one single company and had little to no options when they too were retrenched, Han decided that it was a good time to branch out and find something else that she was passionate about, so that she could learn new skills and ensure that she was financially secure at the same time.

“It was a kick in the butt. I was retrenched from a very comfortable job, and on top of that, it happened just two weeks after my father passed away. It made me reflect on a lot of things. Firstly, that I need to always stay relevant. Secondly, I realise that I need to be responsible for my own future. Thirdly, that life is short and my time must be spent doing what I am passionate about,” Han said.  

At that time, Han was pursuing yoga as a way to destress and keep fit. As a certified yoga teacher, she was also teaching yoga classes when she could. 

“I’ve always been interested in yoga and therapy and the connection between body, mind and movement. My mother was a professional ballet teacher and choreographer so that really influenced my interest in movement,” Han said

However, her scope of interest was certainly not what you would typically expect. 

“I was particularly intrigued by the pelvic floor. In some cultures, it is a taboo subject and if you Google it, there are countless articles talking about how mysterious this muscle group is and how it’s been ignored and under-researched,” Han said. 

She continued by saying that as a yoga teacher, she had many women confide in her about pelvic floor struggles they experienced particularly after childbirth.

Seeing a need and a gap in the healthcare system, Han decided that perhaps this was what she could do in this new season of her life.

“I spoke to a friend, and together we decided that for the best results, we should combine physical exercises with medical-grade devices. And that’s what we have today with Orchard Clinic,” Han said. 

She continued, “It was still a tough decision to make. I had conversations with a few good friends till 3am the very night I made the decision. It was difficult because it was a decision between turning away job offers with comfortable salaries, for zero income in order to start Orchard Clinic. It’s a scary decision when you have bills to pay. But I believe that for a business to succeed, you must put everything in.”

Orchard Clinic finally came to fruition in January 2020. However, just shortly after, they were forced to close as a result of Covid-19 and the resulting Circuit Breaker. 

“It was definitely a test of resilience then. I had to keep morale up and stay positive. We did what was probably counterintuitive. We expanded by hiring and purchasing new machines. We used the time to build up our services, train our team, and refine our methods. Looking back now, it was a good decision as it helped us to be ready when operations could resume back to normal,” Han said. 

At that time, Han and her co-founder decided to start by offering pelvic floor therapy with the intention of simply helping regular women with these issues. However, she underestimated how little information the general public had about the pelvic floor which got her to reposition her angle with the clinic as time went on. 

“I realised that many people don’t understand it. Because the pelvic floor is largely impacted after pregnancy, we started positioning it as postpartum care. Then, people started to understand better and as a result, we’re able to help more people,” Han explained.

The clinic was then rebranded as a postpartum centre and they started targeting and broadening their services to include treatments for common postpartum conditions such as vaginal laxity, skin laxity and diastasis recti (a condition seen in women during and after pregnancy that results in the  separation of the muscles along the midline of the abdomen).

With Han’s hands-on approach and driven nature, Orchard Clinic soon opened its second branch, and now, they are now preparing to open the doors to their third outlet in 2022. 

While Han certainly has her hands full with her business and clients, she always makes time to give back and currently serves as the board director of Children’s Wishing Well, a non-profit organisation and registered charity in Singapore that helps low-income children and families. She also manages to make time for her husband, family and her sporty lifestyle. 

Below, Han shares how she does it all in her own words. 

What is a typical morning like for you?

Cheryl Han (CH): I wake up at 5am to practise yoga in the studio on alternate days. On days that I’m home in the mornings, my husband and I will catch up over breakfast together.

What do you usually have for breakfast?

CH: I have almost the same thing every day. A full glass of warm water with vitamins and supplements followed by a cup of coffee and a piece of toast. On days when I need more energy, I’ll have Weetbix with honey and oat milk.

What does a standard workday look like for you?

CH: I get to my office at 8.30am, have my second cup of coffee and write a task list for the day. The rest of the day is a whirlwind from there. We start off with a morning team huddle and then I’ll travel between our clinic branches and head office where our human resource, finance, and marketing and operations departments are based. 

Most of the time, I only get to settle down again at my desk when the clinics are closed. So I’ll take the evenings to do more ‘thinking’ work. Once a week, my business partner and I will meet to discuss issues, make strategic plans and recalibrate goals.

How would you describe your working style?

CH: Fast, decisive and nurturing. I’m extremely passionate and once I set my mind to something, I have to go all out. I enjoy developing people and somehow have an eye for spotting talent. I’m fortunate to have an ‘A’ team that pushes themselves to deliver their best every day. 

What do you usually have for lunch?

CH: Lunch is usually around 11am, and I’m currently doing a subscription meal plan to increase my protein intake. My meals are delivered daily and I eat whatever is on the menu. We also have team lunches when we hit certain milestones and that’s when we’ll give ourselves a nice treat.

Free time: Overrated or underrated? Why?

CH: Overrated for me in this phase of life now that I’m still in my late 30s, young and able. I think this is a time where I should focus on working, creating and building.

How do you achieve a work-life balance? How do you set boundaries?

CH: For me, I fuse both together and I believe in work-life integration. Every business owner would probably agree that when you own a business, it occupies your mind and time fully. Even if you’re not physically present at work, your mind is constantly thinking about work and how you can do better. And that’s our responsibility as we’re now responsible for the brand we’re building and the jobs of our employees.

That said, I schedule time to do things that I love to keep me sane. I cycle 40km every Sunday with my husband, practise yoga in the mornings, take piano lessons every fortnight and we head out for a nice meal when we find some time.

How do you chase your dreams?

CH: I dream hard and work hard.

Risks: should you take them? Why or why not?

CH: Fortune favours the bold, so if it’s a calculated risk, yes. A pure gamble, no.

What is the best piece of advice that you have ever gotten?

CH: A friend just recently said this to me. We always say you only live once, but you only die once and you live every day. 

What is an idea/thought that you heard recently, that you thought was interesting?

CH: It’s not new but in fact an old philosophy which is stoicism. I think living life with stoic principles allows you to be in control of your life decisions and to live with contentment.

How do you unplug?

CH: A glass of whisky or wine with good music.

How do you stay grounded?

CH: My husband keeps me grounded. I’m more idealistic and he’s very pragmatic so he often offers me a different perspective. 

How do you manage stress?

CH: Our human resource manager just told me the other day that she hasn’t seen me stressed out. I may not show it outwardly but there is definitely a good amount of stress. I just try to use it in a positive way to push myself to do better.

What is one item that has changed your life for the better?

CH: A routine. Because everything else can be unpredictable, I keep a routine for anything that can be constant. This helps me manage my time and headspace better.

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What would you still like to accomplish?

CH: Personally, I’m learning how to read music and I hope this will give me a nice hobby that I can grow old with. For the business, I’m looking forward to building a team that grows into leadership positions within the company.

What is the last thing you do before you go to bed?

CH: I put on night cream, face oil and a lavender-scented eye mask.

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