Written by: Charmaine Foo (Photo by: Beyond The Vines)
Interview with Daniel Chew and Rebecca Ting
When I met the co-founders of local fashion label, Beyond The Vines (BTV), I was struck by their humility and grace, and I felt so much hope and awe. Story after story, my heart could not contain its excitement as I listened to Daniel and Rebecca’s stream of testimonies, and learning how their personal lives, business, and ministry were all weaved by the ethos of John 15:5. I was enthralled by a Saviour who passionately pursues His people, clothes them in His righteousness, and embraces them into wholeness.
Daniel and Rebecca’s entrepreneurship journey is a story of how God is a Master Artist in their business. They are testament to how God uses our five loaves and two fishes beyond our wildest imagination to feed a multitude we never thought was possible.
How did the two of you meet?
Daniel: Becky (Rebecca) and I were good friends, having met each other at our church’s youth ministry at 14 years old. Over the different seasons of our teenage life, we broke contact for a couple of years, and coincidentally (but very divinely orchestrated by the Lord) bumped into each other at a super “ulu” (remote) Starbucks in the wee hours one morning. I had wanted to make a right turn in my path but somehow took a left instead, and this was when I bumped into her, after losing contact for seven years. This coincidence happened at an extraordinary season and time in our lives then. Little did I know, she would become my best friend, my soul mate, and the mother to my child.
God really knows best — He places the right people in our lives at the right time to reveal His goodness and grace. My eyes and heart started to open up to Becky after hearing her wise counsel. My life has completely turned around after meeting her — she’s such a wise woman! I’ve come to see how when your life partner and yourself choose to place Christ in the middle of the relationship, despite seeing the worst in you, he or she still finds grace to draw the best out of you and make wonders with what is little.
Prior to starting Beyond The Vines, could you share briefly about your marketplace journey?
Daniel: In 2012, we were both in the real estate industry and making a lot of money. Our lifestyles were very unhealthy, we were driven by money and trusted in our own abilities and efforts. We spent money in the craziest of ways, but there was absolutely no life while we were believers and still attending church.
After a decade into our wayward lifestyle, we were met with a sudden drought in our career. It felt like the doors were closed, no matter how hard we tried to open them on our own. Deals that were seemingly simple and within our reach turned out to be disastrous. Finally, after struggling to make things happen for ourselves, I decided to turn to God asking “why?”. I would never forget that still small yet assertive voice which said “Enough.” It was then that I knew we had to move on from the industry into something greater He has in store for us. How great is His goodness and mercy, while we were still sinners He sent His Son, His only Son, the Son that He so loved, to die for us!
How did Beyond The Vines come about?
Daniel: Our journey has been an unconventional one. Fashion isn’t something we are both skilled at, and we are not trained businessmen nor designers. Embarking on this journey, we knew that we were going to keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and walk on water. Grace flows to the lowest point, and lifts us up. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and weak in the presence of God, only then, He will make us stand strong before men. I would rather be a small stone in the hands of our King, like David in the Bible, than to be a huge sword in the hands of Goliath.
How did you decide on the name of your label?
Rebecca: We chose the name because “vines” is an informal word for clothing. We wanted to craft a brand that would go beyond just clothing in every detail.
From the day we thought of the name, Beyond The Vines, till the time where we launched the business, the name was one-dimensional to us. It was only till one morning, Daniel jolted me up from my sleep and was so excited to share with me what the Lord had showed Him during His quiet time – John 15:5. Bearing in mind that we launched our business on 15 May 2015, John 15:5 says “I am the true vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” It was the defining moment for us in this business when we realised that there was so much more to running a business than we thought. It also showed us why we were doing what we were doing — it added an eternal value to everything.
At every situation we face now in the business, a challenge or a victory, we are reminded, just as the Lord says in John 15:5, that He is the True Vine and we are merely the branches. We don’t produce our own fruits, that’s the responsibility of the Vine. We just receive the sap through the Vine to lead a life that produces the good fruit because without the vine, the branch is not of any good.
What were some of your struggles as an entrepreneur and how did you conquer them?
Daniel: In any entrepreneur’s business journey, there will be white noise and walking on water was never meant to be comfortable. It is always about coming back to a place to still our hearts to hear our Shepherd’s voice.
As an entrepreneur, I often find myself feeling the water of the Red Sea and the hordes of Pharaoh’s armies closing in from behind. The demands for decisions to be made and daily expectations can be overwhelming. Truth is, while Martha was seemingly the better sister in preparing for the Lord, it was Mary that received praise because she chose the one thing needful: sitting at His feet and receiving the love from our Saviour. Though at times while the day can be filled with meetings and demands, I make sure I place myself at the feet of Jesus either listening to praise and worship music or listening to the Word on how much I am loved by God! Only from the position of rest, can I do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
“Lord, let us hear your heartbeat, let us see what you see, let us get excited for what excites you.”
This is what we pray for all the time. There’s no other way to conquer your struggles except through full dependence on God and knowing His heart is of love for you. He is not just able, He is willing. If you want to start a business, in whatever that you do, Christ always has to be first and in the centre.
How has your faith impacted the way you manage your business today?
Daniel: I’ve learnt that the opposite of faith is actually certainty and fear. If you are certain of what to do, where then is the element of faith and where then is trusting God in that knowing? Quite similarly in fear, when God has commanded that we be strong and courageous for He is with us. The only “labour” left for us to “do” is to quieten down our hearts and spirit every morning to hear what God says.
I allocate 20 minutes in the morning for my staff to spend time with God to do their quiet time. They can choose to listen to worship songs, listen to sermons or spend time in the Word. If they are a non-believer, they don’t have to start work right away — they can do whatever they want to clear their mind and calm their heart for the day ahead. My rationale is: “One day in the house of the Lord is better than a thousand days of labor.”
The reason why BTV has gotten so far today is only by the grace of God, and no one in the team dares say that the success of BTV is because of any one of us. When you know the heart of the Father is for His children to prosper in all things, what takes the world ten years to accomplish in the natural, the Lord can cause it to be easily achieved in one year.
As leader in the marketplace, how do you lead your staff?
Daniel: As a leader in the company, I have to position myself as a bigger servant to my team, and to the people God places in my path. Just as Jesus led as a servant-leader. The slowest person in the team determines the rate of growth and movement of the company, and a good leader is someone who leads from the front, “we are moving in this direction” (to give direction and vision), and also as the last person to encourage the last person to press forward, “we are going there together” (to foster teamwork and unity).
As a leader, I have to simultaneously soar above. This enables you to see the big picture and to have a good view of what’s ahead and steer the direction. It is also equally vital for me to be on the ground with the team — to lead by example and to keep grounded as a leader. Constantly soaring above would make you lose touch of what’s happening on the ground yet being on the ground all the time prevents you from seeing what is ahead.
This is how we’ve been leading our team at BTV. Whatever we know, we’ve learnt from the wisdom of the Bible about leadership and stewardship. When we read the Bible and attain wisdom, revelation of the Father’s love, and what Jesus has done for His people and disciples, I feel like whatever we’re doing now cannot be compared to the greatness of our King. But we are who we are, and in every position God has placed us in, we steward it with a spirit of excellence and ultimately for His glory.
How has the team grown since 2014?
Rebecca: The BTV we see today was nothing like how we started. It has been a miracle journey from Day 1. At the start of the business, it was just Daniel and I. It was not in our ability to carefully craft a business for success — we knew nothing related to the fashion business that would naturally qualify us for success. We did not have a business plan nor any financial plans. We had neither resources nor connections that were essential to the fashion business. We had no idea who or what we needed. But God, who planted the desires in our hearts, abundantly supplied the people and the wisdom, and opened the doors every step of the way. We believe that everyone in our team today, and in the years to come, are specially handpicked by the Lord for a purpose larger than than what we know of.
We feel the Lord has really given us a ministry in BTV for the last, the lost, and the least (just like in the four gospels). And it represents the heart of the Father and the beauty of Grace. The last shall be first, the lost shall be found, and the least shall be the greatest. We have seen so many lives transformed and empowered since BTV started. It has gone far beyond just running a profitable business and sowing back financially into His kingdom; it has become a place where Jesus has drawn people closer to Him and lives are revolutionised by His grace.
At BTV, we are really in the business of people. It is more important what God wants to do in our staff’s life, beyond merely getting a job done or filling another position. Looking back now, seeing how the team has grown and transformed in their relationship with the Lord is truly the reason why we do what we do. What we do on the outside, as a business, is extremely dynamic and exciting, but what matters most are the lives.
What’s next for Beyond The Vines?
Daniel: We are very privileged that God has chosen us to start and steward BTV. We may not be drawing the same amount of money we used to when we were in the real estate industry, but in comparison, there’s just so much life and fun now. We know that Jesus is our good Shepherd and that we have no lack for any good thing. I believe that in the coming months and years, BTV is going to be bigger — not for the money but because we see it as a ministry, for the last, the lost, and the least. It has been, so far, a woman-centric business, especially for women who feel like they are the last to be considered, or that they’re not qualified enough or unloved. We hope that BTV will be a platform to give them worth — not of self-worth but of Christ-worth.
What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs today?
Daniel: In business, profit is the fruit. Many often forget about needing to first establishing the root. When the roots are established, deep and wide, the fruits will naturally appear in due time.
At BTV, high profit margins are not our utmost priority; instead, our focus is always on our customers — how we can add value and service to them. For example, we offer free express courier to our customers. Should my company be able to afford to provide free delivery, then why not?
These are three areas that I believe in:
- Christ in the midst of your business
Practically speaking, it just means to consult Him in all decisions before anyone else — to ask Him for wisdom and favour daily. I personally feel that it is the Lord who first gave us the desire to start that business, and He will be the One who knows best how to run our business — one that has high impact and of low maintenance — ultimately for His glory.
- A heart for the King
It is one thing to have a heart for the kingdom and another for the King. Having a heart for the King is to have the heart to bring honour and exalt Him. In what we do, we need to have an eternal purpose.
- Jesus is the CEO
When you realise Jesus takes the driver’s seat, you are in a restful state to know that the destination is the responsibility of the driver. How much more when Jesus is the driver of your business. Allow Him to take the centre place and by letting Him be boss, you will see provision and supernatural situations.