Naomi Vowels CPA puts finance skills to good use in Singapore start-up

Naomi Vowels with the debut book from Red Shoes stories.

Naomi Vowels CPA enjoyed a succesful career in finance, most recently as vice-president of a private bank. Now, after packing her bags and uprooting to Singapore, she is writing her own story.

Going from a senior role in corporate risk management to writing a children’s book has been a huge but very satisfying transition, says Naomi Vowels CPA, a member who has relocated to Singapore. The company established by Vowels and her sister Frances, Red Shoe Stories, is set for success, with an innovative approach and a lot of energy.

The company’s debut book is called Where Are My Shoes? and is aimed at the infant to six-year-old age group. It is about a favourite pair of shoes that has gone missing; the main character recalls what they did that day to try and remember where they left them.

A key part of the book is that it can be tailored to feature a particular child, starting with their name in the book title. It also allows for the choice of an “adventure buddy”, and customers can choose the pair of shoes the child wears in the story.

“We saw it as a way to connect with potential customers all over the world.” Naomi Vowels CPA, Red Shoe Stories

“Frances’ two children were the inspiration for the book,” Vowels explains. “They love hearing stories about themselves and their possessions. Frances had her third child in April – just 10 days after the birth of my first son.”

Vowels decided to make the change from the corporate sector to small business owner and author when she and her husband relocated to Singapore from Geneva in early 2017. She had held a number of private sector roles, and worked in the Australian diplomatic service, but her most recent position was vice-president at Lombard Odier, a private bank, working in strategy and risk.

“Frances and I enjoyed our former careers but they were never really our passion,” Vowels says. “We always knew there was something more ‘us’ that we could be doing. It just took a bit of time and courage to get there. We set up our business in Singapore because it is easy to register a business, support is given to start-up ventures by the government and the private sector, and it is where our key suppliers are based.

“My former colleagues were extremely supportive of my decision. In fact, many of them expressed some jealousy that I was taking the opportunity to step out of the corporate world and pursue something I feel passionate about.”

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Vowels believes the expertise she gained as a CPA has been invaluable – not only the technical skills, but the peers who provided support and advice.

The next step is to take the book to market. The sisters launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund a website, which is the platform through which customers can buy the book.

“The campaign was financially successful but we also saw it as a way to connect with potential customers all over the world,” Vowels says.

“On the website, customers are able to personalise their stories and see a flip book preview of their purchase. We also plan to exhibit at several book fairs in Asia, Australia and Europe, and continue to build our audience on social media.”

The pair has also partnered with the charity Room to Read, which promotes childhood literacy and girls’ education. One book is donated to the program for every book sold.

“We plan to make the book available in languages other than English, and we have started writing our next book,” Vowels reveals. “We will continue writing books for as long as they are enjoyed by children and parents.

“It has been hard work but I don’t think I have ever been more satisfied or happy than I am right now, writing and running our business.”

One piece of advice

“There is never the ‘right’ time to start, so just do it! Frances and I set up our company when we were pregnant and launched our Kickstarter campaign two weeks after we both gave birth. It definitely wasn’t the ‘right’ time, but when is?”

Read next: How looking back can help move your start-up forward

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September 2018
September 2018

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