The Hoh Story

by hoh.gh
(Da West Side)


In my current state of affairs I don’t have much (work) experience to showcase, only for my NS days as a “do everything” clerk & a 7 month stint in DBS HR Dept as a team member of the performance appraisal review coordinating task force (which is just another fancy term for admin assistant), to count for.

I don’t possess street smarts & the likes or do I have a pool of quotes to tap on, & although I do try to develop them, though not much in a desired concerted effort fashion, yet also to a lack of grasping the certain fundamentals of it.

Critically, I have long been relying on my gut instinctive hunch to always decide situations unfamiliar to me, after assessing inputs of facts, reasons & logic.

Since young, for a lack of focused direction & mentorship in life (not that I’ve fallen), I could only etch out a walk among wild grass & dirt, looking for directions, finding an aim. Further as I walked along the path of life, the things I’ve seen of the politicking, class power-plays, the state of affairs of institutions, of the environment, sciences & regional situations, with my unavailability to render aid or change things grew a half-hearted desire to do something.

Living a perpetually contented life at a certain level with no worries, be happy, free-spending lifestyle & not contributing to society seems too much of a stagnation & a life of no real value & purpose to me.

Be a volunteer, or a social entrepreneur you might say? Not exactly my cup of tea. I prefer coffee anyway, brewed fresh from the bowels of a civet cat, with me drenched in rain, chilled by cold.
There is nothing more refreshing & sobering than the cold breath of nature stinging at your cheeks, reminding the fact that one is alive & well.
That said, there is also nothing more rewarding than getting the recognition for a job well done.


At this point of time I can only say I hope I realized the what’s & needs in my life.
The why’s I hope I hold the correct answers.
The how, when & where’s, that I need to find out, more & fast!

Hopefully with a clearer see-able goal(s), I can go on to achieve things with a more certain & focused series of steps.

Aside from providing financial security for the family, spreading & sharing the wealth around, & more than just participating in noble causes like social work, or eradicating hunger & illiteracy, etc, the kind of plans I have in mind I hope can allow me to engage in something that goes beyond than just improving & promoting conditions at the local & regional levels…… plans of grandiose it seems, yet more like plans of idealism I suspect, but as plans of naivety I hope not.

Hopefully, whatever I learn from the TEN programme can better aid me in the realization of those goals I aim for. The road ahead wouldn’t be any more easier, & sometimes I feel, if I were to embark on something so new & unfamiliar to me (foolish or not), that I might be the lone soul threading into grounds unknown. That of all, I fear a lot, because loneliness is such a terrible thing to have, & endure.
(Like-minded individuals are among the rare & the few.)

But I’ll do what I’ve been doing all-along: grind
my teeth, bear along, move ahead. Stubbornness, hallmark of a Taurus.

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Serendipity, Wave surfers and an Epitaph

by Anol
(Singapore)

Collage of a journey to find meaning

Collage of a journey to find meaning

I am Anol, running a company named GetIT for last 6+ years as a CEO, consulting hi-tech and telco clients (Cisco Systems Inc, IDC Asia Pacific, IBM, HP, Datacraft etc.), in the field of New Media Marketing, User Experience Design, E-Learning, Blogs & Virtual Communities, Learning Design & Knowledge Management.

Late 2007, I started another company, VantageLabs. VantageLabs is a Rich Internet Application (RIA) development company and the newest member of the GetIT family. We develop an arsenal of Rich Internet Applications that help individuals, and organizations of any industry and size, create sophisticated and visually engaging rich media content with ease and finesse.

At VantageLabs, I am working as CEO, product manager and strategist.

In my 'previous life', I worked as IBM AS/400 programmer and information architect for web media.

I am passionate about harnessing the power of internet as an enabler, connecting people and ideas and driving innovation. My ideas, likes and dislikes you can find at my blog www.soulsoup.net

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Once upon a time...
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I was born, educated and spend my bohemian teenage in Calcutta (now Kolkata), one of the large cities in India. Coming from a family of bankers, I never thought of running a business of my own. During student life, for me, study was secondary in order of priority. I was more busy and interested in 'enormously important' activities like acting (in proscenium group theater), publishing a little magazine and traveling around India by hitch-hiking. After graduation I joined a large IT firm named Pentafour, working as an AS/400 programmer. Got bored soon with the green text and black screen, and after 8 months, with self taught Java and JSP knowledge I joined the wild wild web bandwagon in 1999. But again, as a small cog of a large organization.

When I first came to Singapore (2000) I was working in R&D Teamworks (no longer exists), a moderate to large size company under contract arrangement. This is the time I came across GetIT, a 5 people company ran by a extraordinary person named Laina Greene. The culture, environment, agility and flexibility of GetIT was so mesmerizing, I jumped ship - without thinking much.

By this time, you must've guessed, I am not big on planning life and mostly act on basis of gut feel.

It was a real bad time (Déjà vu?) for the IT world, after the bubble burst. We struggled hard, stayed lean (we still are) and extremely frugal. Finally after couple of years we came out of the shadow of crisis. Got some steady clients, specially managed to get into couple of master service agreements, ensuring steady revenue for near future.

My boss and CEO of GetIT, Laina had to settle back in California and was looking for investors to buy out GetIT. Out of many, we found a suitable angel investor, who suggested that he is ready to invest only if management of GetIT take up a substantial share of the company, specially me, as a next in command and to-be CEO. As usual, without thinking much I agreed, so did most of the rest (4 others). We didn?t have to fork out the money at that time and taken it as a loan from the angel himself, which was paid from out performance bonus in consecutive 2/3 years.

We are still doing OK! I don't drive a Porsche (I never will, I don't like driving), but making a decent living. I wake up everyday looking forward to go to office. There are bad days, but the freedom and great comradely of my team compensate for that. We are still frugal, may be a carry over effect from the bad days we've all seen together.

Last year, we started the second company, VantageLabs, and we are working on 3 exciting new products. I don't like the concept of destiny. In fact, even destination is not the be-all-and-end-all for me. I am enjoying the journey with my whole heart.

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Retrospect
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As I didn't started with a plan, I never gave much thought about it. Why Entrepreneurship? Funny enough, I got the answer from an Epitaph! Few weeks back, I was reading a book on Thomas Jefferson and found out that he designed his own tombstone. It says -

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HERE WAS BURIED THOMAS JEFFERSON

AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE
AUTHOR OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA

BORN APRIL 2 1743 O.S.
DIED JULY 4 1826
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At first, I didn't get it. Why he didn't mention anything about being US president, that also twice! Later I realized the actual meaning of it. He didn't describe his job roles, he was documenting his legacy, what he left behind, in his tombstone.

As for me and millions other ordinary folks, we might never get a chance to leave behind a legacy. We might just be satisfied with a 'job role' and one day definitely come to end of life. And when a 'normal' person like me die, it seems like as if we never lived...nothing changes in a larger context.

At least, entrepreneurship, gave a meaning to my otherwise insignificant life. I at least got a chance to prove myself. I don't know if I will be able to leave a legacy or not, at least, I got a chance. Besides, what's the meaning of life, if there is no impossible dream to achieve?

Bad economic situation? Well, heck... I started my journey in similar situation. That's the best time to start a new venture. Like a good wave surfer, an entrepreneur should crawl to the mid sea and wait for the next wave to come, and not chase after a wave which is already on its high and soon going to crash. When you start in downturn, you will be at the top when the wave is formed. The economic situation right now is apparently so grim that some experts fear we may be in for a stretch as bad as the mid seventies.

When Microsoft and Apple were founded!

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The story of Chinese wife (Latest Edition)

by Ong
(Singapore)

Beijing Ba Da Chu October 2008

Beijing Ba Da Chu October 2008

My name is Serene Ong Tee Yuh, the meaning of Serene is “Peace”, a name given to me since my poly days when I was often physically unwell. I am married to a Chinese hubby and we have a pepper and salt miniature schnauzer coming to an age of three.

I work in a number of firms and corporate cultures - from mechanical industry, semi-conductor industry, IBM wholesales and latest food industry….exposing to multinational culture from American and Japanese firm, and latest Local Corporation. By coincidence or chance, all the positions I held were new in the company. Of all the places I have worked in, the current workplace, Prima Deli, is a place where the Chinese proverbs - “Sour, Sweet, Bitter and Spicy” is personified.

I joint Prima Deli as Operation Executive in year 1994, a new position to set-up planning system for their bakery plant. I was then transferred to Prima Limited R&D as Quality Engineering Executive, my core duties was to commission new line and process study.

In year 1999, Prima Limited management planned to expand their business horizon from Flour Based to Ready-to-eat paste business. Prima Limited R&D set-up new Plant named Food Technology Pilot Plant for this new entity. I was appointed to lead the team in commissioning of new process line and new plant set-up. In year 2002, Food Technology Pilot Plant successfully gives birth to Prima Taste and I remain as coordinator of the operations needs of Prima Taste.

I was then entrusted to manage R&D special Ingredients warehouse and micro-powder production plant. In year 2004, I was promoted to Pilot Plant Assistant Manager and I report direct to Group Prima Limited R&D manager cum Executive Director.

My other duties include coordinator of R&D buildings/facilities repair/maintenance and Prima Group internal plant auditor. My team comprises of two Assistant Operation Executives, one Administrative Assistant, one Technician, two store assistants and eight operators. My annual plant throughput is 200MT.

Rich industrial experiences? Despite that, I feel a void in my life, as if a puzzle is missing and I can’t fix up a complete picture. I keep searching and searching…... till I realized I am going through a mid-life crisis.

I could not feel the sense of completion or satisfaction in what I am doing now despite my apparent successes.

These "ill" feelings finally subsided when I pursue TEN programs from SIM University. Throughout the course, I look forward to every lesson, every exchange with lecturers and classmates. I am inspired by the Entrepreneurs in my class - Susan, Anol, Jason and Yong. They are full of confidence and passion. In them I began to understand the meaning of this profound SMS text from a friend of mine "if you love your job, you won’t need to work for the rest of your life. Do what you love and you will love what you do."

TEN programs is coming to an end in June 2009, but to me, it marks the beginning of my entrepreneur journey……I am discovering, I am exploring and very soon, I believe I will venture into a NEW experience, maybe with some TEN classmates???.....Who knows one day I will realize my latest business vision (renewable energy) ….or “Food” chain business or…….?

I am very encouraged by the many testimonies example “Emporium” in his 80s, still remain hopeful….Entrepreneur spirit is about staying positive, believe what you believe, hope what you hope…..always press on!!!

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“….let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven” Matt. 5:16

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Improving the standard of work - Yeong Wai Teck

by Yeong Wai Teck
(Singapore - West Coast)


I used to work for a German multinational supply quality building materials for repairs of buildings. I taught and trained repairs contractors to apply my materials in Singapore & Malaysia.

I was also given the opportunity to work with repairs contractors from United States & Europe. These contractors were very specialised. They also delivered quality work and took pride in whatever they would be doing as compared to our local contractors! I have tried to influence my contractors to improve their standards of work through training and the correct mentality but they were more interested in making quick money and compromising standards.

In 2002, I decided to start a contracting firm. Emphasis on quality and good standard of works has thus become the main objective of the company. My unique selling point is that the company will deliver high quality works consistently. This will also indirectly pressurise the competitive contractors to improve their standards so that they are able to keep up my company.

Though 2002 was a difficult year for the construction industries, my company however did reasonably well. I believe this was due to the number of customers, blue chip firms – Wyeth Nutritional, Pfizer Pharmaceutical and Norvatis which strongly believe in paying for quality of work.

My company grew from a 2-men operation team to the current headcount of 35. We have since attained ISO9001 in 2007. We are now preparing the frame work for ISO14001 & ISO18001, expected to be accredited by end July 2009.

In line with improving standards of work, I have sent the supervisors to courses to upgrade themselves. The company also encourages the management staff to take up part time upgrading course. Currently, the operation manager is in the 3rd and final year of University Of London (UOL) management program leading to a bachelor of science degree in business.

My belief in quality and standard of work have spurred me on to further my studies in the Spring sponsored “TEN” program leading to a master degree. This program has widen my view and influenced me greatly in how I can lead the company for the next 5 years. Let us hope ‘Quality and standards of work should always be maintained!’ no matter how less developed the industry is.

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A decade old journey

by Susan
(Singapore)


The first real venture started nearly a decade ago, I was 24 then. So you can imagine how much 'younger' am I now. That was the era of the dot com, one with lots of excitements as well as challenges and importantly, experiences that I will always cherish.
When the Internet boom started, with a few friends, an idea, we started our company from a home-office (the 'SOHO' now). That started my path towards entrepreneurship.

Armed with a business plan, we knock on doors of a stable of VCs, to name a few, Fortune Venture, ST Vertex Fund, Vivendi, Hutchison, EDBi, NSTB and many others. (As the saying, practice makes perfect) We were fortunate that within a short span of time, we find ourselves funded by Vertex, a subsidiary of Singapore Technologies; a string of VCs started to knock on our door to inject new funds which all shareholders of the company gladly rejected. We had a vision of building a digital music empire, an entertainment music portal of Asia.

The company size started to grow rapidly with our own in-house lawyer, a British CTO, our own Marcom department and an employee size of near 50 within the first year of our incorporation. We had our very own Internet Jockey, interviewing artistes like Coco Lee, Aqua, A1, Christine Wunderlick, Emil Chau, Stephanie Sun.

Beyond the music portal, the company started our own video productions team producing entertainment content for the media, create our own music station and a physical retail store in Orchard Cineleisure with a 'click and mortar' concept which was officially opened by the CEO of IDA back then. The opening of our physical store signify our notion 'Who says a dot com is only on the Internet?'.

We had the first music download kiosk which was recently been mentioned and compared in ST Digital Life, with the Sony Ericsson download kiosk. We were probably too ahead of our time then. The company was valued with a market capitalization of $80million with VC's plan to list and exit when the market cap reaches $150 million. That failed to materialized before the dot com crash, all funding dries up from the market almost immediately. The journey to look into M&A with traditional money making companies started, with the company eventually went into merger with a music division of a local listed entity.

That started the chain of integration issues, culture issues and most importantly a vast distance in the company's vision between the founders and the new corporate shareholder. In less than a year after the merger, we concluded the venture a failure.

Immediately, we embark to start another company, change the business model and the rest are history. We spin off one of our business division in 2003 with focus in new media industry; along the years, a few other new companies were incorporated, headed by passionate 'new entrepreneurs' that we are fortunate to have come across.

I'm blessed to be able to go through that exciting era and to share some of the experience gained. The lesson learned in the first venture has a long list which I will not be able to list in full context but I can share over coffee should anyone wish to hear more. {Pamela will have my contact *grin*}

A lot of management books have taught us how to start a business, how to manage a company, where to look for sources of funding, where is the blue ocean, own SWOT anaylsis etc. Those should not be ignored, but the real teacher is the market and the real VC for your business is the business itself.

All business can begin with little steps; what I feel important for every business owner to have are focus, passion and creativity. Don't underestimate your own potential and remember in every industry, we will need to create our own 'network effect'. {not trying to be academic here}

Should you have decided to embark in this journey, don't look back, just have fun and enjoy the path that you have chosen. There is never a wrong choice, you will always gain in experience.






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At the Crossroad

by Ong C S
(Singapore)


My first limited start-up experience happened in my final year of my varsity life when I setup a partnership together with 2 other friends to offer our services to develop software applications. We advertised in classified ads for 2 weeks before we finally got a project to develop a customer database and service booking application for a small utility service company. We are so thrilled to get this deal. Being young & inexperienced, scope creeps keep happening and we end up doing more than we first agreed with the client. Soon disagreement in approach surfaced, other priority in each of our youthful life popped up and after this one & only project we completed, one of my friend decided to pull out. So the partnership fizzled out.
Fast forward..
In early 2002, I was headhunted to join my current company (a US MNC selling mobile computing solution) to start-up their business in Asia. From virtually ground zero, the company has grown from a Representative Office in Singapore to being a fully subsidiary and the HQ for Asia Pacific and Middle-East region. I cover the Asia region spanning from India to Japan and Korea to Indonesia with the help of my team in Singapore, KL, Shanghai and Mumbai. Despite the success achieved, I sense that I can do much more and my potential is not fully realized. Being a US-centric company, the top priority for my parent company is not Asia. We are not in control of product development and have to sell whatever that is available. Marketing budget is always limited and you have to be creative to get the best out of it. It started to get frustrating as years goes by and it felt like I am guarding a remote outpost waiting for the main battalion that are supposed to come but never did.

So early 2008, I decided enough is enough; I need to step out of my comfort zone and start taking control of my career. I decided to go back to school to validate my working experience (there is no continuous training program in my company). I enrolled into the TEN programme as it interests me and I thought that my experience so far is nearer to a start-up enterprise than a MNC.

I really enjoy the TEN programme so far. Although I miss joining my son for his football session, bringing my daughter for her abacus lesson and quality time with my family, the TEN programme enriches my life differently. The class is cosy and dynamic. We have quality lecturers and each module provided us with different valuable insights in running your own business.

The idea to venture out on my own gets stronger each day but it is not easy for a happily married man with financial commitment, a loving wife and 3 wonderful children to take the plunge.

I am not an entrepreneur yet.
I am still at the crossroad, waiting for the signs.
Hopefully the signs will appear soon and led me to the right path.

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Never Give Up !


Since young, I am inspired by my dad. He is an entrepreneur, and he owns an air condition company.

At the age of 10, I started to pick up skill from my dad. Simple skills like fixing the light bulbs and water pipes (I was too young to learn about air-conditions skills). I realized I’m quite good at hands-on technical works and my interest in these areas grew. My dad often gave me simple task to do and I will always make sure that there are done well and prefect.

There were times when I failed but my dad is always there encouraging me, and since then, the phrase “Never give up” gets rooted in my mind.

During my school days, Design and Technical was my favourite subject. I like the challenge of having to invent and create new products, which require much patient and creativity.

As I grew older, after completing my National Service, I worked for both my dad, in his air-condition business and my uncle, in his construction company. I learnt every skill from the basic and I make sure my foundation is well built. The whole working experience is a fulfilling one as not only did I picked up many technical skills but I also learn to work with different group of people, which helps in my interpersonal skill.

One of the unforgettable experiences I had was working with a group of foreign domestic workers. Though it was a struggle at first, but soon later, I found myself learning about their culture and way of living, which can be very interesting.

Thus, another lesson I’ve learnt was to value and respect every worker without discrimination of any kind. We have a common goal for each project, and we work together as one to complete them.

After working for my dad and my uncle for a few months, I started to have interest in doing business. I wanted to learn more about it and thus I took up this course. In there, many of my classmates are already businessman and woman. I gain many insight and lesson from them and the course itself. Hearing about their experiences inspired me even more to set up my own business.

After graduating, I hope to put what I’ve learnt into practice. My first goal is to help in my dad’s business, to expand it and to have an annual revenue of 1million. My second goal is to set up my very own business, one that is of my own idea and invention.

Bearing in mind that there is always risk in doing business, but I will always remember what I’ve learnt since young, “Never give up, Vincent!”

Vincent.

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UniSim Technology Entrepreneurship Executive Masters

by Ong C S Gabriel
(Singapore)

This module which is about Managing Joint Ventures, Strategic Alliances and Technological Collaborations is one of the best module in the TEN program I have gone through so far. Pamela provided the class with many good tips and details that we need to pay attention to during joint venture and strategic alliance. The break-out sessions are as usual interesting and entertaining with everyone of us chipping in various points of view. As a business owner, the key to success is not just about running your operation well and getting the business in. Equally important is how do you protect yourself from future potential take overs, joint ventures and strategic alliance. The sessions have provided a lot of insights to entrepreneur on how to navigate through the pitfalls of joint-venture and strategic alliance. I am sure my classmates that are "towkay" and bosses will find the sessions very enriching for their business. Pamela was very engaging and always sharing her experience and ideas. She even imparted some very useful tips on IPO, character traits of VCs and setting up of companies which are all very interesting topics. When I brief shared with her my business ideas, she provided me with very good advice and a lot of food for thought.I came away with more confident on the subject matters and hopefully in times to come I will be able to put what I have learnt into good use. Despite some hiccups on the logistical arrangement for our tea-breaks and lunch during the last weekend, I thoroughly enjoy this module. Thank you Pamela.

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Be Brilliant not Astute

by Ng Lee Huat Jason
(Singapore)


Hi I am Jason Ng, a middle aged businessman running a small business firm in precision engineering. I accidentally fell into business over ten years ago. Fortunately, I survived. From 1998, I have gone through several economic down turns and financial crisis.

It is very exciting being an entrepreneur; you do what you want. You're filled with courage and passion and run the business with ambition and enthusiasm. When you are successful, you will be very happy: you own a fantastic career, famous, nice house and big car and so on...

However my explanation of entrepreneur means you have one leg into bankruptcy (failure of business) and another leg into riches (success of business).

Think twice, it is not scary but it happened many years ago when I was closed to failure; at the edge and would have gone bankrupt.

Sometimes failure in business may not be due to wrong business model or operation. It might be due to partnership failure, withdrawal of investment, WRIT of seizure and sales from creditors, and other lawsuits. These can disable you from running the business peacefully.

People who harm are usually close to you; they could be your investors, VC, partners! Anyway, what I want to share is that we must choose a right partner with similar vision, business direction and concepts. It is not easy to sniff those out!

What I mentioned above happened to me and I wanted to bring them out as a caution and sharing with you.

I was once caught in the middle of my career and did not know what to do for my future. I was confused and afraid of making the wrong move. Besides luck, the business world is like a psychological and mentality game.

Finally I made the choice to run my own business cause I believe I deserved the success if I managed it well.

Running a business is like ridding an escalator or roller coaster up and down.

I classify businessmen into three categories of entrepreneurship, i.e. beginner, mature and veteran entrepreneur.

1) Beginner
The biggest challenge of beginner is to have to worry about personal career, family matters, children issues etc..., while balancing business. My advice? Don't think too much; the more you consider and the more you worry, the more likely you'll end up with doing nothing. To borrow from NIKE's advertisement, "Just do it!".

It is always advisable to start ventures when you're young. Age is not the obstacle but a gentle warning: entrepreneurship is physically demanding and we need a tireless body to drive us further to fulfill our dream. Therefore the earlier we start the better it is.

2) Mature entrepreneur
After running a business for 3 to 5 years, we might get apprehensive or overly contented. Consequently, we lose focus as we stand at the crossroads again. At this stage it is common to be too busy handling daily work in a routine.

Nevertheless, we need to come out of our comfort zone and steer the company in the right direction again.

3) Veteran entrepreneur
I have yet reached this level. Veteran entrepreneurs know what he want. They know where and when to exit or cash out. They pass their businesses to the young entrepreneur to continue as family businesses.

I consider myself a mature businessman after done the quote of OTC in Phillip Securities in 2007. My next target is to improve my business skills. I decided go back to school to learn something new to strengthen my knowledge and to explore the securities market of financial world.

I had attended SMU business finance control course and enrolled SIM TEN programme. I am very happy to learn from our professors and entrepreneurs. I had insight into present and ex-entrepreneur experiences that is beyond the textbook.

I noticed that some professors just touch and go to full fill the course requirements due to limited time but some really spent time to share their rich experiences beyond the material from the book. Some lessons were about real combat in the business world, I love them!

Personally I like to attend courses like ENT403, 503, 505, 509 and 515. The courses equip us with the perspective, framework, concept, strategy, decision making, technique and fundamental principle.

Finally I want to encourage everyone here to start your own career path if there is an opportunity. I believe a successful entrepreneur should be capable to manage the business as well as taking a good care of family. I have nothing much to share but this: "Family is the invisible power and pillar to determine our career sustainability."

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Chapter 1: Design’preneurship

by CHARLES CHA
(Singapore)


This is the opening sentence of my business plan executive summary and it will be the aspiration and endeavour towards my entrepreneurship journey in Singapore.

"WERKSTATIONS™ is a strategic design management consultancy that facilitates businesses and organizations in exploiting industrial design to archive the desired sustainable competitive advantage through product innovation and design synthesis."


It all started in Kuala Lumpur back in 2003. Having spent 3 years of full-time employment after graduation, I’ve decided to leave my comfy office desk to start my own independent consultancy. During then, it didn’t take much consideration and contemplation to just leave everything and try to start-up something alongside my passion for product design. Freelancing is truly liberating and the rewards are undeniably gratifying. But what all designers will appreciate most in such an endeavour … is freedom.

3 years of freelancing have both its pros and cons. My knowledge in industrial design and the understanding of the product design industry in Malaysia has propelled my ambition towards a greater goal. My very own product design empire! (YES, I’m going to take over the world too! …LoL :-D. Jokes aside, it’s never about the money. Designers are no basement artist contentedly satisfied with just self-creation. My passion is to create profound impact and imprint realization for the greater good of design itself.

Indeed, we designers are weird individuals with that peculiar idiosyncrasy. Maybe that’s why we’re “creative”? ;-)

The disadvantage? I’ve realized that how destructive freelancers can be in our design industry. The product design market in Malaysia is so insignificant and sensitive to market disruption that I’ve been naively taking part in the slow slaughtering of the design consultancy trade. It became lucid that what’s preventing D Zign Synthesis (my company name then) from expanding towards a full fletch design house is me, myself (and other freelancing ‘i’ community).

I could continue on for another 3 years and still will not add additional economic value to the design industry as a whole.

I stopped D Zign Synthesis at end of 2005 and relocated to Singapore. No No … not for the greater good of design (I’m no saint...Hee Hee). I came here because of my wife (Yup... for love). I was new to the Singapore design scene and my network for freelancing work is practically non-existence.

It made sense during then to get a full-time employment for the sole reason of PR application ease. My strong design experience has made it easy for me to find jobs. Yet paradoxically, I was retrenched after one year due to the company financial hurdle. The whole R&D was closed down.

That happened 2 months before my wedding date. This is why till today I have never been a strong believer in the phrase “stable full-time job”. After all, we are responsible for our own destiny.

Retrenchment has always been a classic prelude to most start-up but alike my classmate in the UniSIM TEN programme, I’m also a happily married man with financial commitments and family obligations. In addition, I’m truly not prepared for sustainable entrepreneurship (coz retrenchment will never be in my HR handbook).

I might have wealth of design know-how but I lack business knowledge. Which is why I enrolled in the TEN programme to gain more understanding. The course will not solve all my predicaments but it’s truly enlightening (lecturers and classmates alike).

Since 2007, I’ve hop from an established local design consultancy to my current job as an industrial designer with a US MNC which I will continue to gain more design skills and experiences but the gentle calling from my entrepreneur spirit has yet to relinquish.

My goal for 2009, the formation of WERKSTATIONS™. I may have started wide of the mark and the economic outlook certainly looks grim but to me that’s irrelevant. My motivation has always been about the journey itself.

To boldly go where no man (or designers) has gone before :-P

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Start-up Stories

by Ng Lee Peng
(Singapore)

I shall share 2 short stories on 2 of my friends who started their businesses with zero or minimal start-up costs. To start a business, it is not a must to have a huge capital. Anyone can do it. It is the will and the move to step out.

Story 1
Fann (not real name) was a structural engineer with a small consultancy firm. After 10 years in employment, she applied for registration as Professional Engineer (PE) and was approved. A PE is not allowed to practice her profession in more than 1 company. Thus, if she wanted to start her own consultancy firm, she would have to resign from her employment. Her boss treated her well during the period of employment. However, there was no increment for the past 3 years as the industry was facing a downturn. There was no prospect if she continued to stay in the company. On the other hand, if she resigned and started her consultancy firm, she might not receive any income for next few months as she would need to build up her clientele from scratch. This would pose financial difficulties for the family as she is the sole bread-winner. How to start a business while still receiving a minimal fixed income for the family?

After a tough deliberation, she thought of an idea and decided to explain the situation to her boss. She then proposed to do freelance work for the company with a minimum of 8 days per month. To her employer, there was cost saving as she would be drawing 1/3 of her salary and contribution to CPF would not be required. But, there would be risks that she might steal his customers away. She assured him that she would not accept jobs from his clients. After much consideration, her boss agreed to her proposal based on trust.

With no worry of a minimal income for the family, she started her consultancy film. Start-up cost was almost zero as she used her house as home-office and the home computer doubled up as the office equipment. Business picked up very slowly and she continued to work hard in getting her clientele. She provided good service and this has helped her business grew. After 2 years in business, she could not afford 8 days of freelance work for her previous boss but she will be there on need basis. Currently, she is planning to expand her business by renting an office space and employing staff for the company.

Story 2
Julia (not real name) graduated from ITE and was an architectural draftswoman. She is a Permanent Resident of Singapore but all her family members remain in Malaysia. After 4 years of employment, she was retrenched. With a few hundred dollars of savings in the bank, she decided to be her own boss in providing drafting services. Minimal capital required as she used her rented residential as home-office and her existing personal computer for office use. To build up her clientele, she made cold-calls to potential clients for drafting work. Life was tough for the 1st few months as income dropped to $600 per month. After paying rental, there was not much left for transport and food. She did not give up but work harder. When business picked up, she enrolled herself to study interior design and expanded her scope of work. She is doing successfully now with annual turnover of more than $200, 000. She plans to expand her business into sub-contractor work.

Learning points:
• You need a huge capital to start a business is a myth;
• Maintain good relationship with your boss;
• Never give up.

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