There’s a saying to never mix work and pleasure. But for Instagram travel influencers Heman and Cheryl, it’s the winning ingredient behind their successful business.
Scroll through their Instagram feed and you’ll see row upon row of picture-perfect snapshots – flawlessly edited, expertly curated, and meticulously captioned.
But Cheryl Chua, 24, and Hemandra Tanapalan, 25, the duo behind popular travel Instagram account @TodayWeExplore, are more than just your usual travel influencers – they both work and live together, literally 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Their digital agency, C+RGroup Pte Ltd, leverages their collective expertise in digital and social media marketing, and funnels their passion for content creation and travel (if you’re curious, C+R stands for “content + reach”). However, it’s their Instagram account which has won them a steady army of followers and clients.
Set up 3 years ago, the Instagram account now has over 110,000 followers, and the two entrepreneurs have leveraged that reach to create lucrative, branded content for heavyweight names such as DBS, Samsung, Uber, Canon, and Givenchy. Their strong work ethic and keen knowledge of what content resonates best with their audience has also won them numerous new travel clients in the last year.
With plans to expand their digital media agency in 2019, the couple is busier than ever. “I’m working till 9pm,” is Heman’s response to the question of whether they had any special plans for 14 February. “Probably just Netflix and chill after that. Maybe some McDonald’s. Honestly, that’s the best gift we can give each other – some quiet time.”
Love in plain sight
Cheryl and Heman have been a couple for two years, and it is clearly evident how much they enjoy being in each other’s company.
“I actually met Cheryl when she interviewed for a role at my social media agency,” Heman shares. “I knew within 5 minutes that this girl would have an impact on my life. I just had no idea how significant.”
It took him a while to win her affections – he paid for the first date, by the way. But what really sealed the deal was when, 6 months into dating, Heman was looking to start a new company, and he realised there was no one he trusted more by his side than Cheryl. That kickstarted serious conversations about their relationship goals, as well as the “dreaded conversation” about managing money as a couple and as business partners.
So the big question is: How do they make it work and, more specifically, how do they draw the line between personal and professional finances?
Leveraging each other’s strengths
For Cheryl and Heman, the key to managing their money is through playing to each other’s strengths. While Heman takes care of the business-related finances, Cheryl takes charge of travel-related budgets and logistics. The couple also recently decided to open a joint account – to Heman, it was a natural step forward, seeing as how they already eat, work, and live together.
“I’m honestly a very impatient guy, I like to focus on things that are fast. So all the tedious travel research and planning, Cheryl usually does that,” says Heman.
How does that make Cheryl feel? “Stressed,” she says with a laugh, but it helps that she is a mindful spender. “I’ll try to go for the cheapest options first, and I’ll try to cut costs as much as possible. Generally, Heman doesn’t really mind anything as long as it makes good content, because we depend on it.”
“[On the business side] a lot of things we do together, but I usually plan and she executes. If there is a plan she’s handling, I don’t intervene, because if you’re overlooking everything you ask the other person to do, you’ll be wasting a lot of time,” Heman adds.
Trust is a must
Naturally, a key component to making this work is trust – something the two have managed to develop early on in their relationship. After his parent’s business hit a bit of a rough patch, and Heman had to contribute to the family while running his own business at the same time, Cheryl stepped in to extend him a loan.
“She lent me quite a substantial amount. A five-figure amount,” Heman shares. “That’s a lot for someone you’ve only known for two years. Her rationale is that she believes I can grow money, so she saw the loan as an investment into our lives [together].”
Learning from the past
A self-confessed serial entrepreneur, Heman has been starting and running his own businesses for over 5 years – and he’s only 25. But he’s also had his fair share of hard lessons, especially about money.
“Money is always safest with yourself. Do not trust anyone with your money, not family, not friends,” he advises. “I’m lucky I have Cheryl now, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had partners take money and disappear.”
Early experiences watching his parents interact with each other also taught Heman valuable lessons about the importance of sharing and having open conversations with your partner. “My parents are terrible, emotionally. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great parents – but emotionally they don’t really share so much,” Heman shares, candidly. “So for me, when I met Cheryl and I knew she was the one, I decided that I had to make sure to share more.”
As for how they prevent work stuff from affecting their love life, Heman draws a line at going to bed unhappy or in disagreement.
“For me, it’s very clear, because I’ve been doing this for 5 years. I know that in business, you get emotional very fast, which is why you can’t bring it back to your personal [life] or you’re going to be miserable all the time,” says Heman. “What we try to do every day is that before we go to sleep, we make sure we resolve our issues, whether it’s business or personal.”
Paying it forward
When asked what advice they would give other couples looking to manage their financial lives together, Cheryl says, “Just be very honest with each other.”
Heman adds, “I think for us being open is very important. Having no boundaries when it comes to talking about things sometimes helps; having too many boundaries can make things complicated.”
The couple is well aware, however, that their method of mixing work and play may not be for everyone. “For now, what we’re doing seems to be working for us,” says Cheryl.
In many ways, Cheryl and Heman are a classic example of how couples can find success mixing work with love. Absolute trust through open and honest conversation has helped Cheryl and Heman develop a winning money management strategy that works for them.
And as they’ve learnt, they’re simply better together.
“Let’s Talk Money, Honey” was a candid panel discussion on the importance of finance in relationships. Watch the highlights of Chery and Heman of TodayWeExplore here.
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By Melissa Chua
Melissa never thought she’d end up writing for a living, but is glad that she did. She is an avid consumer of content, coffee, and TV, and wonders what life would be like as a dancing milk carton in a Blur MTV. She loves the Oxford comma and abhors dangling modifiers.