The first time Susannah Jaffer set foot in Singapore with her boyfriend, she was 21 with £500 (S$874) of savings, no roof over her head and a job offer that fell through due to Visa problems.
She had planned to stay in Singapore for a long time.
Whilst her then-boyfriend-now-husband had a stable job, Susannah had to look for one while staying in a dubious hotel for two weeks.
Even after all these experiences, the now 28-year-old Briton gave up her stable full-time job as Expat Living Publications’ Creative Director in 2017 to start her own business.
What gave her the courage to take the risk and fall into uncertainty’s abyss?
Having previously worked in the fashion industry, Susannah became very jaded with its impact. According to her, dark secrets lurk behind the glitz and glamour; it is one of the most polluting industries in the world with 80 billion pieces of clothing consumed globally each year. Furthermore, many garment workers are underpaid and work in unsanitary conditions.
“We’ve been trained and spoiled as consumers by a fashion industry that has deceived us into thinking that things can cost that cheap and it’s fine because of clever marketing; we only see the glamourous front,” says Susannah.
As the general public becomes increasingly aware of this pressing issue, Susannah is one of the few pioneers in Singapore to start a sustainability-focused company. Zerrin is a multi-brand online retailer and media platform inspiring women to live and consume more thoughtfully.
However, being a hero is not all that easy.
Juggling her previous full-time job commitments, Susannah had to teach herself photography, manage the editorial side, liaise with brands, customer service and so on.
“A career that I built essentially from nothing taught me to be very resourceful…I would always get imposter syndrome and doubt myself but I believed in the idea of Zerrin more than I believed in myself…You’ll figure out the rest along the way,” Susannah admits with a laugh.
She reminisces finally letting the cat out of the bag after keeping Zerrin largely to herself for nine months: “I started Zerrin on my kitchen table – I still remember that moment when I hit live – that was a really awesome moment in my life.”
Albeit difficulties, Susannah rose above her circumstances and carved out a new career path founded on her passions: “If I can do it, so can anyone else.”