How former actress Jacelyn Tay found her true calling in life as a health coach
In the month of May, CNA Lifestyle speaks to successful working mothers who make it look all too easy. This week, we speak to the 45-year-old former actress who has come into her own as a wellness entrepreneur.
Terms like holistic wellness and eating clean are all the rage these days. But back in 2006, when actress-turned-health coach Jacelyn Tay launched her business Body Inc, barely anyone even knew what to make of these concepts.
“When I started Body Inc, we were one of the very first integrated wellness centres that offered chiropractic services as well as dieticians, osteopaths, nutritionists and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners,” she recalled, noting that some people then still thought of TCM as “quackery”.
But Tay knew she was on to something. After all, during her acting days, she had successfully battled a series of health issues such as headaches, fainting spells and eczema caused by chronic fatigue syndrome (an autoimmune disease), with techniques like eating whole foods and adopting alternative therapies.
Convinced that others would also benefit from these techniques to adopt healthier lifestyles, she soldiered on.
Fifteen years on, she has more than proven Body Inc’s staying power. These days, she is not only a wellness guru who generously dispenses healthy living tips to anyone who strikes up a conversation with her, but her business is widely regarded as one of the OG go-tos for holistic health junkies.
Her clientele, she reckoned, are in the “thousands”, many of whom have been loyal long-term customers who swear by the business’ coaching and advice on diet and holistic wellness.
It was a steep learning curve to gain the knowledge and experience. But even though it was initially difficult, I did not see the business as a failure unless I gave up, so I just continued.
“It was a steep learning curve to gain the knowledge and experience. But even though it was initially difficult, I did not see the business as a failure unless I gave up, so I just continued,” said Tay, 45.
Spoken like a seasoned entrepreneur indeed, which, in some ways, is exactly what she has been all her life.
It had always been her dream to become a businesswoman. As a student, she enrolled in the National University of Singapore with the aim of getting a degree and then striking it out on her own. Then in 1995, she won talent competition Star Search, so she decided to give acting a go.
To her, showbiz was literally just that – a business. “All along, I’ve had this spirit of entrepreneurship. When I was in the industry, I saw myself as a product. So I didn’t think of myself as an artiste or celebrity but as a business,” recalled Tay.
“My manager used to say I was so easy to manage because they just needed to tell me what to do from a business perspective and I would understand it. So in that way, I did not have an artiste’s ‘emotions’.”
Like her successes, this tenacity is also hard-earned. One of her lowest points in life, she shared readily, was when she was declared bankrupt at the age of 24 after getting her fingers burnt in the stock market. “Until now, I have never touched shares again,” she said wryly.
Business is not just an idea, it is about how you manage it. You must know your P&L (profit and loss), budget… all the way down to how you are going to reinvest every single cent.
She also considered this experience a trial by fire. “It was a very good learning experience for me and gave me a lot more courage. You know why? Because I survived it and came back again. It made me who I am today and if I did not do that, I may not have dared embark on this business,” she mused. “It has also made me very decisive and more daring in investing in my business because when you have a lot of fear, you cannot be an entrepreneur.”
Practically, it taught her to take charge of her own finances, she said. In fact, managing one’s accounts is an essential skill that she advocates every budding entrepreneur to master. “Business is not just an idea, it is about how you manage it. You must know your P&L (profit and loss), budget… all the way down to how you are going to reinvest every single cent,” she said.
As for those who are seeking to break into the wellness and holistic health industry, she said it is essential for the individual to gain hands-on experience and knowledge in their field of interest. “Wellness is a business that is based on personal knowledge. If you build the business based on another practitioner’s expertise and knowledge, should the employee leave, they will bring their clients along with them. It is similar to a hair salon,” said Tay.
She is so involved with the nitty gritty of the business that she personally trains her staff and even knows the massage routine that Body Inc offers.
Always place your family first because if your entire being is only striving for money and success, then your life will be imbalanced.
While the work can be challenging, Tay said she is lucky that her business is her “passion, hobby and rice bowl” all in one. “I don’t do much other stuff because my entire interest is in reading up on bacteria, viruses and diseases,” she said, with a laugh.
To achieve balance, she makes it a point to prioritise her 10-year-old son. “Always place your family first because if your entire being is only striving for money and success, then your life will be imbalanced,” she said.
This is one of the reasons why she does not accept too many projects save for the “important ones”. This is how she manages to devote plenty of time to her child, whose current favourite activities include cycling, she said.
“My favourite is watching television with him because he teaches me a lot about technology. He has actually changed me from someone who feared technology and was afraid to just touch a button to now, a person who can set up my own gadget,” she said.
“It is like a renewal. I am learning again from my young son.”