Josephine Ng on workplace, women, and leadership


Dhanya interviewed Josephine Ng after seeing her on TV in a show about women CEOs in Singapore.

Josephine retired from running an ad agency, and now runs a social enterprise that provides development opportunities for women of any age. She and her husband run this business together. It’s a simple idea – they run expert-managed alteration houses in Orchard. The venue looks less like the regular alteration house we would have been to and  more like a classy fashion house.

You can read more about Alteration Initiative and Josephine Ng at

My favorite bits –

“Business concept wise, we felt there was a huge market gap for high quality alteration. If you look at Singapore, or even Asia – alteration has been very hole in the wall, very messy, they would start looking for your things everywhere. There would be threads all over the place.”

“As for the group of people we wanted to help, we sought to speak to social initiative experts. Single mothers were a group of people who came up. They would like flexible work hours, and ideally work from home even. So we put sewing and single mothers together. If they have the basic skill, we could help them improve/teach them and help them earn a decent living.”

“Currently our beneficiary group includes matured women. More than 50% of our staff includes women above 59 years of age, formerly employed women who for whatever the reason can’t go back to their employment.”

“When they first come in it’s a huge culture shock for them, with or without skill. Even with skill they find that we are very particular about our workmanship. Every little thing matters in our work – the thread colour, inseam finish, outside finish, straightness of line.”

“One of the things I am very proud of doing is this – of creating women who can think about what they are doing, and not do it blindly. They learn to put in the extra effort, to show care.”

“I remember this as our very first experience. When we redecorated our workspaces, we thought a lot about the customer’s view. Coming from an ad agency, that was very important to us, the ambiance. We spent money on doing up the decor and the especially the lights. When they went in, they asked why the lights were so dark, and why were the cabinets all black. To them the setup of the tailor’s work station was important. And we ended up realizing how our thought process went against what was really important.”

“It’s always about this one thing – whether we are doing enough to create value.”

Thanks Josephine for taking the time. Full transcript, as always, on