Christel Goh Quit Her Full-time Job To Focus On A Card Game

This CLEO Change Maker helps prevent dementia among the elderly through her card game.

CLEO Change Maker Christel Goh

At CLEO, we’re constantly on the lookout for game-changers who are dedicated to making a positive change in the world. Every year, we seek out young female professionals who are not only great at what they do, but also inspire others. This year, we found 10.

Christel Goh, 27, Founder of Play Huahee

When her grandmother first started having short-term memory loss and mood changes  – both early signs of dementia – two years ago, CLEO Change Maker Christel knew she had to do something. Her late grandfather had dementia, and she saw how difficult it was on him and his caregivers. Through some online research done by her mother, Christel learnt that early intervention with puzzle games and activities can help, so she started playing these games with her grandma to delay the progression of dementia.

However, she found that the games available on the market were either “too Western or very kiddy”. With the intention of creating something that her Hokkien grandma would be more familiar with, Christel downloaded an illustration app on her iPad and started sketching away.

From there, Hua Hee was born. The card game is available in two sets – the match pack and the snap pack – and the cards bear whimsical drawings of items that every Singaporean would recognise (think kueh tutu and Axe brand medicated oil).

“People don’t usually think about what they can do until the condition aggravates, so I hope to bring more awareness to how early intervention can help,” says Christel.

“Personally, for my family, we’ve seen a lot of improvement in my grandma’s behaviour and mood. I feel that if my family didn’t start on the early intervention, she wouldn’t be how she is today.”

The 27-year-old started an Indiegogo campaign last May, but only managed to raise 61 percent of her target.

“I questioned myself; whether this is bearing fruit and where this is going,” Christel admits. “At that point in time, Hua Hee was gaining traction. There were people who were asking about it, the media covered it, so people were interested.”

“The point where I felt like giving up was after the launch, after the hype has died down. The challenge lies in sustaining the business and riding through the mundane parts when you don’t see success – like when the initial hype has died down and you don’t see people buying.”

It was then that she took an unexpected step back. Rather than defining the measure of success for her brand or thinking about where she wants to be in the long run, Christel realised that she should be thinking about what she wants to do at this point in her life. And more importantly, what she should be doing for Hua Hee right now.

Work week almost over! Few more hours to #tgifridays #tgif

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Earlier this year, she took a calculated risk and quit her full-time job in public relations and content marketing to concentrate on developing Hua Hee further.

“I wanted to devote more time to this project, because I really believe in early intervention after what happened with my grandma. I want to work on what I really believe in,” she says.

That said, Christel emphasises on the importance of being rooted in reality when it comes to making a big decision like this.

“My parents and bosses thought I was mad at first!” Christel laughs. Nonetheless, her boss offered her a part-time position instead, which she accepted.

“It’s important to be realistic,” she says. “You should always have a plan B… and you need to accept that because you took a break to start something, you may not be at the same point as your professional peers when you re-join the workforce. You need to be OK with that.”

Since then, Hua Hee has expanded its inventory to include puzzles, as well as sketching and colouring exercises. It also counts several healthcare providers as its clients, including National University Hospital, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, and Dover Park Hospice. Christel wants to create more localised content under Hua Hee for the different cultures in Singapore, and hopes to grow regionally eventually.

“It helps if such early intervention activities are adapted for the Asian audience here, because the elderly recognise things that they know and grew up with better,” she explains.

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