In our Faces of Co-operators series, we speak to young co-operators who share their passion for promoting the well-being of the communities where we live and work.
While most 21-year olds are still studying full time in university, Winny is already into her second year of working at POLWEL Co-operative Society Limited (POLWEL). After work, Winny attends part-time classes at Murdoch University where she majors in Marketing and Web Communication.
Working tirelessly from morning till night is no easy feat. Let’s look into the life of this young lady to see how POLWEL, a co-operative formed to support members of the Singapore Police Force (SPF), has impacted her life.
Tell me more about yourself?
I started working at a young age. I enjoyed the exposure, financial freedom and had already held several part-time jobs before I landed my first full-time role with POLWEL.
I initially joined the financial services department and it gave me the chance to explore a new industry. After a year, I was offered the opportunity to switch to the retail department (POLWEL had been appointed by the SPF to manage the Police Heritage Centre Souvenir Centre and produce a new range of police gifts and souvenirs). As I had studied marketing in Temasek Polytechnic, I thought it would be a better fit to my educational background. I was also spurred on knowing I would be contributing to the growth of a department.
(In her free time, Winny enjoys travelling and bowling!)
What do you know about co-operatives?
Co-operatives are businesses with a social mission. In our case, we support the SPF and enhance the quality of life of our members through the provision of relevant services and contributions to the Police Central Welfare Fund (PCWF) to extend more benefits.
What attracted you to join POLWEL?
POLWEL gave me the opportunity to join the workforce on a full-time basis. I enjoy working with my colleagues. Our office environment is young, lively, and we share good times in and out of the office. It also helps that the nature of my job complements and is also aligned to my field of studies and interests!
How have you grown as an individual?
Since joining POLWEL, I have gained more exposure and new skill sets. For example, I work with many different people through the processes of procuring, producing, marketing and selling the retail items. It helps to hone my negotiation and customer service skills with all walks of life. In addition, my designing skills have also improved with the numerous artwork I have had to produce. I have also learnt the usefulness of using statistics to keep track of sales as they show what’s popular among customers. This also helps me in my planning of new products.
Winny serving a customer in POLWEL
What specific skills are needed to execute your role?
Good listening skill is imperative. Being skilled in Photoshop and Illustrator also helps as sometimes we need to design our own packaging and artwork. I have not mastered the programs yet and am still learning on-the-go. POLWEL’s management encourages staff to attend training to further develop themselves and progress in their careers. This has helped me a lot.
Keychain packaging designed by Winny
Share with us a day in your job!
The mechanics of the retail department is quite complex. Each item could be at a different stage of development and would require different attention, (e.g. price comparison with various vendors, quality control on the production of products, logistics and inventory to ensure the various outlets are stocked, and organising the delivery of items sold on our e-commerce platform). We have a variety of items which means each has to be marketed differently in our regular promotions. These promotions are also broadcasted on our social media platforms. There are also monthly roadshows to organise and take part in.
Multitasking is part of the daily routine
What are some challenges you face in your job?
There are different types of challenges. Deadlines need to be met and we need to be fluid in handling both administrative and manual tasks. We sometimes get bulk purchases that are on a tight schedule and/or tight budget so we have to explore alternatives to offer products that suit the customer’s requirements. We also deal with foreign vendors and exchanges can get lost in translation. We take pride in the little details but that also means it can be quite tedious. As we are required to multi-task, adaptability and speed are critical.
Where does your design inspiration come from?
I often start off with the product first. To create an electronic direct mailer (EDM), I would think of things that complement the product. For example, when it comes to our children’s products, I will create a childlike design or something that is more fun, joyous and colourful. When I am out, I look at the more successful brands, their social media platforms and the artwork that they have created to get a better understanding of the message they are putting across.
An EDM that was created for a photo contest in 2018
Are there any POLWEL items that you have conceptualised?
Looking through a catalogue book to get product and packaging ideas
I was involved with the production of the polo T-shirt adapting to the Community Policing Unit (CPU) design for children.
Following the popularity of our baby onesie, we sought management’s support to expand the collection and produced polo T-shirts for children. It is encouraging that management supports our ideas.
I was also recently given the opportunity to go to Hong Kong to attend the HKTDC Hong Kong International Gifts and Premium Fair to learn more about sourcing. I met many suppliers and viewed many different types of products. It was a really good exposure which gave me ideas on the types of products to add to our range of merchandise.
Any challenges when designing these products, especially for babies?
We try to work with reliable suppliers to ensure the quality of our products. When it comes to packaging, safety precautions are necessary especially when it comes to children. We have to include warning labels if the product is not suitable for children of a certain age.
Winny showing us some of the merchandise for children
What was your proudest moment in POLWEL?
When I first joined the retail department, we only had about eight to nine products. I started to learn the process of procuring items and to date, we have launched more than forty-five items. Our social media presence has also improved, and our e-commerce orders have also increased.
The impressive collection of SPF vehicle diecasts by POLWEL
How do you juggle all of the work here with your studies?
- Time management.
- Work hours are fixed, so it is easier to plan my classes which are held bi-weekly in the evenings.
- Good organisational skills are also essential as time needs to be set aside for family, schoolwork and travelling.
I enjoy working as it is more hands-on than learning from a textbook. It also helps that POLWEL’s staff benefits include study leave.
What can the younger generation contribute to the co-operative movement?
The younger generation has a fresh perspective on life so they can contribute with their ideas. Also, because of their dare-to-try spirit, they are more willing to push beyond their boundaries. I think that it is a very good mindset.
What advice would you like to give to someone who wants to join the co-op movement?
Be brave. Embrace uncertainties and move forward.
Lastly, if there is one sentence to describe POLWEL, what would it be?
POLWEL is like a second home. People here are really helpful and nice. I have heard stories from my friends working in MNCs and the impression I get is that their environment doesn’t seem conducive and it is every person for themselves there. Here in POLWEL, we still hang out and spend time together after work, and we are given ample opportunities to bond and grow.
|POLWEL’s roots can be traced back to 1980 when a Police Welfare shop known as ‘Kinloss Retail Shop’ was set up at Kinloss House. The retail shop offered essential household products and appliances available on credit at low interest rates. The Kinloss Co-operative Society was renamed as POLWEL Co-operative Society Limited in 1995. Today, POLWEL provides a multitude of services – financial services, business services, retail and more. For more information about POLWEL, please visit https://polwel.org.sg/.|
This article was written by Ee Kaye Lin Tanya, a first-year Business student from the National University of Singapore. Tanya is currently a Campus & Youth intern at SNCF, passionate about creating new ideas and innovation. She enjoys adventures and spending time with her dogs.