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In tackling the taboo of birth control in Singapore, Ethel Tan founded Zoey, providing digitalised female healthcare services

Written by Nicole Teo Published on 

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Ethel Tan founded Zoey, which aims to destigmatise women’s sexual health by making their messaging fun and lighthearted.

Ethel Tan co-founded Noah & Zoey, online digital healthcare service for men and women respectively, which aims to provide accessible and discreet healthcare to all. From an online medical evaluation, to free 4-hour delivery and ongoing care, all in one seamless experience.

We all know the importance of self care, but why do we find it so hard to practice it? There are many reasons for this. With busy schedules, it’s easy to neglect one’s personal health. From the infrequent medical checkups, to the lack of exercise (with our closest form of cardio being the walk to the bathroom), the list goes on. However, especially with the recent pandemic, the importance of health cannot be more heavily emphasised.

Noticing a gap in the telemedicine market in Singapore, alongside the boost in demand for these services due to the Circuit Breaker in 2020, Ethel, together with her co-founder Sean, started Noah, and later, Zoey – a platform which provides women easy access to healthcare services, including birth control, emergency contraception, acne, hair loss, and more. She has a clear vision for Zoey. “We aim to be an inclusive judgment-free platform and focus on all aspects of healthcare for every woman,” she affirms.

And they want to make it as seamless as possible. The patient will complete an online personalised evaluation covering their health, lifestyle, symptoms, and medical history. Afterwards, there will be an in-person consultation with a doctor at Zoey. Once the prescription is approved, the team ships out the medication within four hours.

Zoey’s website page on birth control. Photo courtesy of Zoey.

While services to treat acne and hair loss are more commonly recognised in the telemedicine field, birth control was something that quite took me by surprise. Many of us know little about the process in acquiring birth control pills. “Sex is unfortunately, still a big taboo in Singapore. And so, there’s a lot of shame and stigma that is associated with getting birth control,” she acknowledges.

Although we are slowly progressing towards the path of cultivating openness, there’s definitely more that needs to be done. Ethel noticed that being straightforward, but playing it off in a more light-hearted way in their messaging would be the most effective.

“Many healthcare products, like birth control, can seem intimidating. I really wanted to inject more personality into how women look at their health. We realised that by being more forward and suggestive when marketing our products, it makes it easier to start a conversation. By doing so, we hope to destigmatise these taboos, and encourage more women to seek treatment in a convenient way too.”

Zoey brand content. Photo courtesy of Zoey

For Ethel, the life of being an entrepreneur definitely has its perks. “Well for one, it’s great being able to become your own boss, and you also get to meet so many different people who are leaders in their field learn to see things from a different perspective.”

But working in such a fast-paced industry also presents many challenges. “At the start, our order volumes fluctuated quite a bit, and there were instances when our delivery vendors couldn’t meet the four-hour expectation. I woke up stressed everyday, as I was constantly worrying about making the four hour mark. There were moments where we had to personally deliver the prescriptions,” she laughs while thinking back to the earlier memories.

Being only 26, her social life was most definitely compromised. “I don’t have standard working hours. It’s Monday to Sunday from 9am to 3am all year round. Sometimes on Friday nights, I see my friends out enjoying themselves, while I’m back at home behind my computer screen. It does get a little hard,” she admits.

She adds, “One of the biggest challenges that we faced at the start would be the concept of legitimacy.” As the telemedicine industry is still rather foreign to many Singaporeans, they’ve had to center a lot of their focus into building themselves as a licensed digital clinic. There’s definitely a lot of thorough research that is put into this part.

With the high amount of pressure, why did she choose the healthcare industry? Also an indoor cycling instructor, Ethel has a rather interesting take on health.

Ethel is a spin intructor at Ground Zero. Photo courtesy of Ground Zero.

“Health has always been at the forefront of my career and life choices. When most people think of ‘healthy living’, usually, terms like exercise, diet and being active come to mind. But for me, it’s more than that. My health encapsulates overall well-being, physical to mental, at times sexual too.” Hence, she started to explore the holistic side to healthcare, as a means to help improve the lives of others.

Thankfully, she has an amazing support system, both at work and at home. “My team and I all strive towards a shared goal, which helps to alleviate the workload a lot.” Not only that, but she also gives a lot of credit to her family, who have shown their support throughout the journey. “They’ve been with me every step of the way. From staying up till 6am to help me with work, making deliveries, and even using the house as a warehouse space to store my packaging materials.”

The reward of seeing the positive feedback from the people Zoey has helped makes it all worth it too. She shared her personal mantra on her perspective on life. “I like to ask myself this question, ‘If I die today, what do I want to be known for?’ and this has really been a huge motivation for me to live a purpose driven life.”

By using her passion for health to start a telemedicine business to help so many women out there, Ethel serves as a huge inspiration to many of us. So, if there’s something you feel strongly for, create something that has purpose to you.

WRITTEN BY

Nicole Teo

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