Cover Petrina Goh (Photo: Khairul Imran/Tatler Malaysia)

Former investment banker and Nuren Group CEO Petrina Goh gets real about the lonesome realities of entrepreneurship and the blurred lines of work-life balance, having started a business inspired by her own parenting journey

Welcome to How I Work It, where women we admire share the time management routines, rituals and motivations getting them through the week

In 2013, Petrina Goh left a five-year career as an investment banker at CIMB to embark on a venture that reflected a milestone in her own life; as a young mother, she was quick to recognise the potential and value of starting an online platform that catered to the needs of women on the verge of life's most momentous milestones, from marriage to pregnancy and motherhood.

With her husband Kelvin Leow, she co-founded Nuren Group, the thriving tech startup behind high-traffic regional platforms like Motherhood.com.my, Kelabmama.com, Ibuencer.com, and Wedding.com.my. Seven years has since passed, and these platforms collectively boast over five million users across Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. While Motherhood.com.my is an English content hub and e-marketplace platform featuring over 5,000 brands, Nuren Group's Malay-language platform Kelabmama.com is the largest urban Malay site for parents in Malaysia. Then there's Ibuencer.com, touted to be Southeast Asia's largest community of 'mum influencers' and brands.

"During my first pregnancy, I was clueless about what to expect, and pretty overwhelmed by all that had to be done," Goh recalls. "When I was expecting my first child, I had very few female friends who were also pregnant or with kids at the same time. The only sources I turned to were parenting magazines, books or even Facebook. Frankly, I didn’t know how well I could trust the credibility of the information I found on social media. Being part of a community of like-minded mums who are going through similar challenges and experiences was and is so important for young parents today," she adds.

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While a chunk of Nuren Group's success is linked to Goh's solid leadership and consistent ability to secure funding from the likes of Gobi Partners, InnoVen Capital and 500 TukTuks, it's also indicative of the sheer volume of parents purchasing baby products and searching for family-related services and resources online. Business-wise, it helps that Goh herself is part of this demographic.

Recently named by TechNode Global as one of Southeast Asia's top 50 rising women in tech 2021, Goh reveals the biggest takeaways from her entrepreneurial journey, how she overcame postpartum depression and why it's vital for working mums to have a community of like-minded women behind them.                               

MY LIFE PHILOSOPHY 

I believe that every failure is a step closer to success. We’ve been in business for seven years. That's seven years with a lot of challenges and rollercoaster emotions. As a business, we pivoted so many times. We started as a wedding platform and expanded into parenting. We started an e-commerce platform and then launched parenting content in collaboration with doctors and psychologists; it was a really long journey. But I learned that overcoming the fear to fail was the only way to move out from my comfort zone and move one step closer to success. I firmly believe that adversity helps develop creativity, motivation and tenacity.

QUALITY DOWNTIME AND THE SPACE FOR NEW IDEAS

I feel most creative at night when I have one to two hours to myself, after the noise and work of the day are over. When I can wind down, read a book or watch some TV, I get new ideas. I try my best to have monthly or quarterly getaways where I have my own space to think and come up with ideas. I do this myself, or sometimes with the company, through quarterly team-building activities outside the office. Otherwise, the whole thing feels like an endless rat race, things become routine and we get in to our comfort zone. I've learnt that sometimes, we have to put ourselves outside of the usual business environment for the creativity and ideas to really flow. 

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FAVOURITE FAMILY RITUALS

Every night before my kids go to bed, I make it a point to read to them. I also try to keep weekends off for my family. Of course, when there’s something urgent I work on it, but usually on Sundays, we have family outings. Even during the pandemic, I'd take the kids to the park near our home for cycling or jogging. 

MAKING STARTUP LIFE MORE FAMILY-FRIENDLY

My husband and I manage Nuren Group together. We've tried to keep work and personal life separate, but after being at it for the last five to seven years, I’ve learnt some ways around it. If you can't achieve work-life balance, you’ll probably need to adapt your work to your personal life. As an entrepreneur, it’s better for me to keep my loved ones involved in my journey. Sometimes I tell them, “Mummy needs to work on this campaign for kids, can you help me?" So the kids get involved in the process. They find it fun and they learn alongside me too. In many ways, I'm lucky because my personal experiences enrich my career. 

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THE POWER OF COMMUNITY

During my second pregnancy, I experienced postpartum depression. I think I got through it by keeping myself around positive people. Having access to friends with similar experiences and a community where we could openly share experiences and encourage one other: that helped a lot. Seeking help from my husband and my family members really made a difference as well. I’m grateful to have very supportive family members around me. My parents and in-laws helped a lot with caring for the baby at that time so I could recoup. My advice to other female founders or CEOs facing the same experiences? First of all, know that the start-up journey is often a lonely one. It's not all fun and doesn't always afford a flexible lifestyle. Entrepreneurs need perseverance and persistence, but most importantly, they should join a community where they can seek advice from like-minded entrepreneurs as a support system. 

A GOOD BOOK AND A GLASS OF WINE

I’m still quite old fashioned (laughs). I have a Kindle, but I don’t like reading e-books. I like the feel of flipping pages, of being able to dog-ear bits I like or find useful. I have a mini library at home and I even collect old books that I think have value which I can apply to my life and career. At the end of a long day, I find that reading helps me unwind. Another way I relax is to watch a fun adventure movie over a glass of wine. 

More: 3 Brave Women On Building An Inclusive Future

3 of Petrina Goh's Favourite Things

1. My top recommended book is Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos. He was one of the top tech entrepreneurs in the early days, and his book recounts the idea that a successful company is one that has a good work culture.   

2. My go-to business resources would be The Economist and The Harvard Business Review, which I try to read on a weekly or monthly basis. Publications like these help give me ideas to bring the company to a global level. 

3. I love adventure movies, like Jurassic Park or The Mummy films. I could watch them five or six times. Whenever I need to unwind and I don’t feel like watching a new movie, I turn on one of these shows; I can just watch 15 minutes of my favourite scenes and that's good enough. 


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