The Moneymaker: Viola Tan of Love, Bonito

Is there such a thing as being too close for comfort when you’re working alongside family and friends? Love, Bonito co-founder Viola Tan has some answers.

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The Moneymaker: Viola Tan, 31, co-founder of online fast fashion retailer Love, Bonito (

Home is: A condo in the East, where the swinging bachelorette lives alone.

Her ride: A one-year-old Mercedes-Benz C180 Coupe.

What she earns: “On a scale of one to 10, I’m a 7. A little discontent spurs me to work harder, especially as an entrepreneur with a long way to go. I was a teacher before, and if I were still doing that, I think I might be a 5.5, in terms of salary.”

8 DAYS: You set up Love, Bonito with your sister Velda and good friend, Rachel. What are the biggest lessons you learned about working with friends and family?
VIOLA TAN: Velda is still a silent partner in the company — she’s a shareholder but isn’t an active director. We parted ways amicably early last year. As the company evolved, she realised that she had her own vision. Now, she’s helping her husband with [lobster roll restaurant] Pince & Pints. It can definitely be tricky [working with friends and family] and we’ve had our fair share of quarrels, tears, disagreements and friction. But the bond we had from the start is what kept us together. At the end of the day, we know that whatever we say in a meeting — good or bad — is for the good of the company, and not personal attacks. Outside of work, we’re ultimately sisters and friends.

What are some money lessons your parents taught you?
My parents brought us up to be very prudent. They wouldn’t give us money just like that — if we wanted something, we had to earn it. I stopped taking an allowance in junior college. I gave tuition and piano lessons and earned about $700 a month. We weren’t born with a silver spoon in our mouths, contrary to what some people believe.  My dad is 60 and is a taxi driver and my mum is 58 and is a bank officer. They are still working, but it’s just to keep themselves occupied as we’re already supporting them. [My sisters and I] wanted them to keep their work lives as stress-free as possible.

What was the last thing you bought your parents?
They’re very practical, so I usually give them ang pows. Even then, I don’t mean physical ang pows — I transfer the money to them via iBanking! If they go on holiday, I’ll usually sponsor the trip or give them some spending money too.

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