When I was given the opportunity to interview Edwin and Li Ling, founders of local labels The Commandment Co. and wheniwasfour  respectively, I couldn’t wait.

I’ve always been a fan of their quirky and uniquely local products — like wheniwasfour’s sling bag modelled after our iconic takeaway kopi plastic bag!

Now, after years of shopping from their webstores, I finally got to hear from the creators themselves on their beginnings and what inspires their work.

Image source: wheniwasfour

Li Ling shared that it all began in 2009 with paint brushes and some pairs of shoes, when a common love for nostalgic mementos brought 23-year-old Li Ling and two university friends together to create wheniwasfour.

A believer of enjoying life’s simplest moments, Li Ling explained: “Technology is advancing so fast, and the pace of life is so fast.

“We hope to bring back childhood memories to remind people to slow down, look back and find simple happiness in the little moments.”

That is why “Simple Happiness” is the brand’s motto. 

As a child, Li Ling loved drawing. This artistic passion continued burning brightly as she pursued a degree in visual communication.

Since it had always been her dream to open her own store for her own artistic creations, she continued pursuing wheniwasfour as a project while working at her first job.

A year later, she met Edwin at work who, just like her, loved drawing as a child and went on to pursue a degree in visual communication.

As someone with a keen interest in business, Edwin supported wheniwasfour by providing business insights and encouraging a move into mass production.

He would also accompany the trio to flea markets and help pack products. 

Recounting the early days, Edwin reminisced: “We would pull our luggage and rush to the MRT because we had to catch the last train back. We would pack our supplies until 2am or 3am. Then at 9am, we would have to go out to the flea market again.

“You would never know how much you could sell, but the passion was there so it was also quite fun!” 

The teams behind The Commandment Co. and wheniwasfour. Photo courtesy of Edwin and Li Ling.

After three years, Li Ling’s two friends left the start-up to pursue careers in the marketplace. Li Ling chose to carry on with Edwin, who soon had it in mind to start his own brand. 

But it was not until 2014 that this dream would come to life, when Edwin left his job to work at a small design firm.

During this time, Edwin had been searching for encouraging gifts for Christian friends. The more he searched, the more he saw how limited the designs of faith-based gifts in the market were. 

While he believed these gifts were meaningful for older believers, he couldn’t appreciate them.

As a young person himself, he believed the next generation needed something new.

“I felt I could do designs that would speak better to myself and younger people.” 

As always, God’s timing was perfect: Edwin’s new job gave him sufficient personal time and energy to invest in his own project.

He began by designing and printing postcards that often featured Bible verses for friends. One postcard led to another, and Edwin’s crafts soon grew to include tote bags and jewellery.

That was how The Commandment Co. was started in 2014. 

Working together, Edwin and Li Ling then set up a shared office and retail space — and eventually fell in love after years of striving together towards their dreams!

In 2019, the pair tied the knot. And today they are a dynamic duo who support each other as they develop their two brands with one heartbeat: to encourage and inspire people.

Their retail store at Bras Basah Complex carries products from both The Commandment Co. and wheniwasfour. Photo courtesy of Edwin and Li Ling.


As I walked through the store during our interview, I was greeted with a myriad of heart-warming and imaginative gifts.

The inspiration behind them? “Our inspiration comes from everything around us in daily life,” answered Edwin simply.

Sometimes their best ideas are born from casual conversations with friends. Customers’ inputs for ideas are taken seriously too!

An essential part of the creative process is ideating how to create designs unique to the brands onto everyday objects. 

“It should not only be creative but something that we ourselves will use,” emphasised Li Ling.

While Edwin and Li Ling contribute ideas and support to each other’s brands, each brand has its own distinct team.

Totebags, notebooks and postcards from wheniwasfour. Courtesy of Edwin and Li Ling.

From the time an idea is birthed to the time it is produced and sits on the shelves in the store, the entire process takes about two to three months. 

As part of their brainstorming at The Commandment Co., the team adds images to a shared Pinterest board. Ideas and styles on the digital board are refined through multiple discussions.

From there, the team moves to a cutting board to distill their designs. Then comes creating the samples. 

This is a crucial step, Edwin shared, to ensure the idea is translated well onto a physical design.

“Sometimes the colour doesn’t come out well, or it doesn’t look like what we wanted,” he elaborated. In such cases, they take the sample back and improve on the design. 

Only when the sample captures the idea perfectly is it time for production. Then the product is placed on shelves, ready to be gifted to individuals in need of inspiration and encouragement.

Edwin and Li Ling shared that behind each creation lies a desire to add value to the lives of others — both aesthetically and spiritually. 

A simple verse on a gift may not seem significant from the outset, but Edwin believes Scripture will speak to people in God’s timing.

“Every little thing that you do is just a seed that might lead to something else that you do not foresee,” he continued. “What you need is to just love others as He has loved you, through action and truth.

“The gifts that you gift to a friend might be a small gesture, but you will never know if they needed that verse at that very moment, or how that small gesture might manifest into greater things.” 

Encouragement cards from The Commandment Co. (left) and an assortment of products from wheniwasfour (right). Photos courtesy of Edwin and Li Ling.

One way they lived this unique business mentality out was during the circuit breaker in 2020.

When the pandemic first hit and people everywhere were confined to their homes, Li Ling saw the need to shift the focus of wheniwasfour from designing local nostalgic collections to creating gifts of encouragement.

This led to products like the Dream Chaser collection which sought to strengthen spirits and assuage anxiety in a time when the world is often headed into uncharted waters.

Li Ling also began illustrating the LOVE SUPERMARKET series for The Commandment Co., transplanting verses and biblical principles onto everyday objects like bags of chips and even Tiger Balm.

“This is something I’ve always liked to do, putting God’s word in a different medium,” she explained.


As I sat opposite these creative minds, I suddenly felt burdened to find out what they thought of “creativity”.

As a second-generation Christian who has grown up in church, I have yet to hear a sermon preached on creativity, so it has always seemed abstract to me, something perhaps reserved for an elite group in God’s kingdom.

But Edwin and Li Ling’s response forced me to rethink that: “Creativity is the very creation of God. He created everything. And we are created to create.” 

“I’m creative in design. But you can be creative in anything,” Edwin elaborated. “Whether it’s writing, music or in hospitality with people — you can be creative.”

As he explained his view, my idea of creativity was challenged. Edwin’s point was clear to me: Don’t limit “creatives” or “creativity” to design and art.

Personally, “creative” wouldn’t normally be the first word I use to describe God.

But He is the Creator. And He is the source of all creativity. As mankind is made in His image, creativity flows within us, and we mustn’t forget that. 

“Don’t be afraid to try, it’s okay to fail. Just create things you like!”

Having seen first-hand the influential power a simple idea can wield, Li Ling had a word of encouragement to the next generation: “Don’t be afraid to try, it’s okay to fail. Just create things you like!”

Edwin affirmed this “just do it” attitude.

“Get it started. Too much thinking will only make you procrastinate more and end up with more roadblocks even before you get it started.”

As our meeting came to a close, Edwin shared with me a dream he had in the early years of the business. 

“I was in a very dark place with lots of other people,” he said. “As I looked to the other side, there was light. I pointed at the other side of the road where it was bright, saying, ‘Why don’t we go there?’” 

“I don’t like dark places,” he said candidly. “I walked towards the sunny bright road, not really thinking about others, but they followed behind me.” 

Holding this dream close to his heart, Edwin sees it as confirmation from God to continue heading The Commandment Co., where his creative talent is a vessel for God’s light.

They concluded with a piece of encouragement and insight.

“If you have the intention to use your talent to do His works for His glory, and to share His love with others, you will continue to be filled with the passion and determination to carry on.” 

As I walked away that day from our meeting, I couldn’t help but reflect on our exchange and what I had learned.

Observing. Ideating. Just doing it. Perhaps, creativity wasn’t all that abstract or out of reach.

When we harness our God-given creativity for His glory, we may just lead many others into His kingdom without even realising. 

It all begins with a small idea, a passionate heart and a pair of ready hands.

If you’re looking for gift ideas for Christmas, feel free to pop by The Commandment Co. and wheniwasfour to see what they have on offer!

  1. What do you understand by “creativity”? Do you think of yourself as creative? In what ways?
  2. How have you seen God as creative in the Bible or in your own life?
  3. What is one practical way you can harness your creativity to glorify God and bless others?