Stories of Courage: Yvon Bock
Editor’s Note: There are many forms of courage, and this series seeks to convey them in a relatable manner. I met Yvon a few weeks back for coffee and we spent 4 and a half hours together. I’ve never met someone quite like her. Every word that she spoke came from the heart, and her openness forced my heart to open. Within her, she carried a deep aura of sincerity, and her humanity really touched me in ways I did not expect—it wasn’t so much about her recounting her story to me, but more about showing me who she was. We met—on an authentic level—and that encounter still strengthens me to this day.
I left the corporate banking industry when I first became a mother. The stay-at-home mother status sounded enticing, and at that point it felt like the best thing I could do for my newborn son.
After a few months, I started to get bored and unsettled, so my dad approached me and asked if I would be interested to work part-time for him. His business was at a juncture where he needed to decide whether to retire, or scale to the next level. Deep down, he knew the latter would be impossible without new blood. In an attempt to get me on board, he lured me in with a kind proposition by sponsoring a Fashion Design course at NAFA, and agreed to let me tap on his existing network if I wanted to start my own business venture.
In 2004, I joined Fitson as a management trainee with zero technical or mechanical skills. My main role was to create a corporate image, rebrand and set up ISO standards for the factory. My flexible twice a week half-day work arrangement became a 5-day work week, with my day starting at 10am and finishing at 10pm. Despite the long hours, I told myself that it really didn’t matter, since I made a commitment to my father.
What I thought was helping the organisation improve and change, caused a big turnover in the middle management team. Almost every one of them left. Somehow all my new initiatives and processes were disrupting their familiar routines—comfort zones included. I vividly remember highly recommending a staff for promotion because she was doing a fantastic job, and I thought she deserved to be recognised for all her efforts. Never did I expect that to backfire, resulting in her resignation the following day. Her reasons centred around not wanting more responsibility and the added stress that came with the new position. She was purely contented with her current job scope—and nothing more.
I got hit with a huge dose of reverse culture shock.
The first few years in the family business were trying and difficult. Whenever someone tendered, I had to take over their portfolio until we found or trained a suitable replacement. Despite having to, practically juggle every single role possible in the company, I experienced tremendous growth—that was the period where I actually learnt the fastest and most in my career.
In 2008, we successfully pitched and won a huge project for the company. Although it was a significant achievement for the entire team, the project required resources beyond what we were capable of. We had to scramble to meet orders, risking heavy penalties if we failed to meet the deadlines. Amidst all of this, I found out I was pregnant again. Being a mother of three boys at that time, I was complacent and assumed I could manage the pregnancy effortlessly while I pushed factory orders out. My job demanded more of me when I had to face confrontations, handle intense negotiations with buyers and suppliers, and cope with immense external pressures from customers.
Unfortunately, I lost that baby.
I was deeply saddened by the miscarriage and angry at the same time, which culminated in a moment of epiphany. I thought, “Since we were working so hard to produce other people’s products, shouldn’t we be able to create something we can truly call our own?” With our expertise, capabilities and many years of experience, I knew it was time to create our own brand.
3 years later, we took a bold step in a new direction—Hegen was formed and our design conceptualisation journey had begun. We drew inspiration from my personal breastfeeding experience combined with over 3 decades of manufacturing expertise and capabilities, to create a range of products that strived to enhance and extend the breastfeeding duration of new mothers.
The baby feeding bottle industry is highly saturated and competitive. As a manufacturer, we were clearly aware that the cost involved to bring a product to market takes years, millions of dollars, and the risk of potentially crippling our current OEM customer relationships.
Yet, I made a daring decision, against all odds to follow my dreams and vision of a new beginning. It took a hell lot of courage to leap into the unknown and march into the dark with a glimmer of an idea, I strongly believed in.
When I started Hegen, these questions constantly plagued my mind and I searched for answers:
1. Breastfeeding Advocate Groups: How can we possibly create a bottle that can support and enhance breastfeeding? I hoped to create an awareness that exclusive breastfeeding should not be misconceived as latching on 24/7. Not all mothers especially working mothers have the luxury, although they would very much love to. They shouldn’t be made to feel guilty because they have to pump and feed their babies through a bottle.
2. Can we find the safest plastic in the market?
3. How can we produce something that is environmentally friendly?
4. Baby health concerns: How can our bottles really help babies?
My journey has been filled with many peaks, valleys and roadblocks, but I’m glad that I had the courage to pursue my idea, resulting in successes. Presently, we’ve managed to revolutionise the current industry by creating a feeding system that complements the breastfeeding experience for mothers all over the world. And the affirmation and validation from parents on how our Hegen feeding system has helped in their parenting and baby feeding journey really drives us to continue to innovate and bring meaningful, honest, and thoughtful designs and products to our customers and fans.