Honestly speaking, I have never welcomed the idea of working for someone or for a company. Firstly, there are just too many restrictions as an employee. After speaking to many friends and relatives who are working, I realized that very few of them are happy with what they are doing. The reasons are often the same: “the job is too monotonous, there is too much politicking in office, the pay is too low.” Secondly, I detest the idea of making my boss richer at the expense of my contributions for the company.
I reasoned that perhaps starting my own business will be the best way out of this problem. Along the way, I have been inspired by two friends who are entrepreneurs. The first is a friend whom I know in church. At the peak of his career, he sold off his house and bought a piece of land in Bintan. That was more than twenty years ago and his friends were all laughing and saying that he was crazy. When he was young, he used to bum around on the beach but it was where his dreams all began. Today, he runs a resort in Indonesia and his plot of land in Bintan is currently being developed into a beach restaurant with water sports facilities like wind and kite surfing. I’ll always remember what he said to me: “Even a bummer like me is able to make it big. The most important thing in life is to persevere and work towards your goal.”
The second success story which I like to share is a good friend of mine who used to be a banker. Although the pay was high but he didn’t derive happiness from it. He felt like he was being caged and there was too much stress and pressure to meet targets. He quit his job and started a pet shop. Prior to opening his pet shop, he was already selling Holland lop rabbits when he was still a banker. As the rabbit belongs to a rare breed, demand exceeded supply due to its popularity. This eventually led to him going into the pets’ business.
Looking at my friends’ success stories, they have inspired me and strengthen my resolve to go into entrepreneurship as a career. I had my first hand experience on entrepreneurship several months ago in one of my school modules-technological entrepreneurship. It made me realized that it was not that simple when it comes to starting a business. A good idea is only an idea unless the person acts on it. I have come to learn that market research is a very important tool because it gives extra insight into a particular industry. And I must admit that the assumptions my partners and I made regarding the food industry were totally wrong. It has now given us a better focus on where our business should head. The business environment as well as the business model is always evolving and as a first time entrepreneur, I have learnt how to expect the unexpected.
I find myself very motivated when I am working for this new business startup. Amazingly, this is in stark contrast when I have to drag myself to work during internship. Indeed, I agree that passion is what sustains an entrepreneur through the bad times. It is always important to hold on to one’s dreams and never give up.
When I first stepped into my first Technological Entrepreneurship class, I was pretty much unsure of what to expect from the class and what I can contribute and I was surprised that after 1 hour into the class, we were asked to go and generate a business idea, which lead to the idea and formation of litbullpen.com, the first online literary website for aspiring writers. In addition, we intended to add the “Project Runway” element to it by planning to work with large publishing houses who are on the lookout of writers with potential who can be groomed to be future authors. In addition, it is a unique out of the box concept, which we expected to be something refreshing.
Subsequently in the next few weeks, I learnt mechanics of planning and building on the initial idea. I learnt how to register a company and why some companies are registered overseas. In addition, we were exposed to other mechanics of a company like having a corporate vision, and developing a marketing strategy.
Developing the concept however was a different ball game; I am fortunate to be working with a great group of individuals. Although most of us never worked together with each other all of us were proactive and strived to give constructive suggestions. Special thanks to Paul for being the driving force behind the concept and Jane for using her connections to get IT resources for us to get our website and other IT related things done.
In addition, to foster better working environment, I realized that team bonding is important to for each person to develop better working relationships. Hence, we made it a point sometimes to deviate from common corporate practices, for example, as CEO of the team, I organized occasional meetings at ice-cold beer instead of a group study room.
Another thing I learnt about being a team leader is that sometimes you have to be sporting and play along with the dynamics of the team. For example, I was kinda forced to play the bad person in the group video which I refused to, however, after much persuasion I relented and participated in the video and got it shot.
Overall, taking the class is a unique experience for me. I totally had fun during the sessions and learnt a lot in terms of business management. I find there is no better way of learning about a business than having the experience of starting one and running it yourself. As Mr. David Yim of Udders said when starting a business “Get a good partner”, in the experience of litbullpen.com I couldn’t have asked for a better team of partners to go through this journey.
Since I was a little kid I have always had the passion for business. Everything started when at the age of 13, I decided to invest my savings to buy a CD burner (it was quite expensive at that time in Italy). After few days I spotted a possible business idea and I start wondering if it was feasible or not. The idea was to let the buyer choose which kind of music s/he wanted in that CD, for instance you could decide to put into this cd 3 Michael Jackson’s songs, 2 Nirvana’s songs and so on. Then I decided to invest my very last savings to buy 5000 songs and I started selling costumed music CDs. (For the records, copying CD and Music CD was not illegal at that time). It was a successful business for a 13 years old kid but suddenly everything became illegal and I had to stop with it. Few years later I started with the gym and it soon became my real passion. As most of the people do I decided to buy supplements from my gym, starting from vitamins and moving on to protein and other products. When the monthly cost for buying supplements became quite noteworthy I decided to stop buying supplement from the gym and find a new place to buy from. Which is the biggest and easy market to reach nowadays? INTERNET of course! I started looking everywhere and comparing the prices of products and I suddenly become aware of the delivery costs drawback! Even with shipping costs though, it was more convenient than buy from the gym shop but it was really annoying. It was then when I first spotted my next business idea! Why don’t I place orders for me and my friends so that I can offset the shipping costs? I started with medium orders and I wasn’t charging any margin to the real price. Then I realized that if I buy bulk I could have bigger discounts and free shipping costs, thus I started earning a small percentage every orders. But it wasn’t enough! I decided to look outside Italy and I noticed that in other countries the prices were even lower (when the Pound Sterling was near the Euro I closed the best deals), I then decided to start ordering from other countries and especially Eastern Europe countries were the prices were really low (Free flow of goods in Europe is awesome! There are no customs whatsoever). The business was successful and the gym owner noticed a big drop in sales. I was offering the same products at 50% off and being able to markup 30% profit for me. After few months, the gym owner decided to kick me off the gym trying to save his business. I was so disappointed, I knew I was not doing the right thing to him but I had so many friends in that gym and especially so many clients! It didn’t take me long though to find a new gym and talk about my business to the owner and starting a joint business. Funny thing is that all the customers from the old gym were still buying from me. Helped by one friend I expanded my supplement business to other 3 gyms. And everything is going pretty well even if the competition is getting crazy! I think next step will be the opening of a website to offer the products to the mass. What I tried to tell you with this (maybe boring) story is that if you find something linked to your hobby or passion you will for sure succeed. I can tell you that if you like what you are doing is not difficult to work all day! You won’t even notice that you have spent 13 hours doing stuff! What I suggest to all of you is to find something who gets you really excited and define a business idea around it.
The saying goes - “The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake - you can't learn anything from being perfect.”
What I’ve learnt in this course is that perfection is simply not attainable and it shouldn’t be yearned for. In a hypothetical world whereby everyone is perfect and things turn out exactly the way we want, there would be no learning curve for anybody.
My revelation came when I had to work in a huge group with people of differing opinions and different working styles. Different expectations for the course further complicated things. Juxtapose these; it was a step of exploration into the unknown world of opportunities as well as trials.
Being young and inexperienced, the group had to find various ways to approach potential people we can work with. The daunting task started with tons of cold calling and talking to people, and this was no mean feat as we were unimportant to them. Leads usually run into dead ends with the hanging up of a phone call and we had difficulty sourcing for suppliers and investors. In addition, as a nobody, we had to beef our name with assurances of trustworthiness and promises of reliability in order to gain their confidence.
A learning point from this course would be the importance of networking and connecting with the right people. It would have been a more romantic journey as we would have been able to talk to people capable of making decisions instead of talking to receptionists and random assistants who promised to call back but didn’t.
Given another chance, I would choose to do everything all over again because I’ve learnt so much in a brief 13 weeks. I’ve learnt to set differences aside to get work done and focus on individual’s positive traits instead of poring over their minute flaws.
I really appreciate the opportunity to work with a fantastic bunch of people. In addition, Prof Pamela Lim had imbued knowledge that textbooks cannot teach and lessons we cannot learn in traditional classrooms. This inimitable journey is truly matchless, disparate from other modules that I’ve took.
In summary, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
The first thing that came into my mind when I saw the course "Technological Entrepreneurship" was: how does one learn entrepreneurship? Like most other students, I took the class anyway because I had to clear my modules.
Surprisingly, 13 weeks of school flew me by and I must admit, entrepreneurship has to be taught. If I had not taken this class, I would not have known about the harsh reality of setting up a business. Things like sourcing for clients, presenting a business plan to intimidating investors and working with strangers; these are not theories that are found in textbooks, they are lessons learnt by real businessmen. These are people who went against all odds to realize their dreams; people who fell along the way but picked themselves up; people who succeeded in the end but only because they persevered.
I am not going to write about how important it is to know how to write a business plan or how to give a wonderful sales pitch. Instead, I want to share about how Prof. and her lessons have helped me to discover what I really want to do in my life.
Last summer, I did my university internship at a particular company. They are huge and reputable and I went in with many high expectations. From the job description, it seemed like I was going to learn a lot more from this internship than the not-so-useful fundamental classes in school. Sad to say, I was proven wrong. My colleagues and my direct supervisor treated me like cheap labor, like having me clean their office cubicles and photocopying their documents.
Eventually, I received my first piece of real work which was to analyze the company's and its competitors' market share. Along the way, I found out that the way my colleagues did it was tedious and efficient. When I suggested making a few changes, my boss rebutted me and said, "There's no need to change anything, we have been using this method for years!? I was appalled at the kind of answer that she gave. Infuriated, I went ahead with my own way and showed her the results. While she was impressed, her ego was even more bruised. Since then, she stopped giving me work and I went back to being her "office boy".
In a nutshell, I discovered that I did not like working for other people. In a country like Singapore, most companies still employ conservative management styles and they are unreceptive of changes. I asked myself: Why climb the corporate ladders only to draw a measly pay and be restrained by the boss for most of my career when I can be pursuing my passions and doing things my own way?
The guest speaker sessions have been extremely inspiring. To quote Hong Zhuang: "There's no better time to embrace entrepreneurship than now, after all we can still fall back on our 8-to-5 office jobs if we fail". That was the turning point for me.
Like what Richard St. John says, "Do it for love, not for money. The interesting thing is, if you do it for love, the money comes anyway."
Some entrepreneurs I know started their entrepreneurial journey from as young as 10 years old. I was not one of them. Growing up, I never had to worry about food or money, or anything in my life. While some people had never traveled before, I was already globetrotting with my family at the age of 12 years old.
But my parents were careful to teach my three siblings and I the importance of money and ethics. Having grown up in less than favorable conditions, my parents did not take what they had achieved for granted, and wanted us to know the same. In my growing up years, my parents frequently impart the importance of justice, generosity and humility to the four of us.
Though business-people themselves, they had wanted me to have a professional occupation. So I did. When people asked me what I wanted to do, I told them that I wanted to be pediatrician. And I really do. So I studied very hard for my A levels, and with an additional bit of luck, I aced all my papers.
But it still was not good enough to grant me a place to study medicine in NUS. Sure, I had admission to study medicine overseas, but I wanted to be close to my family.
In the period of time while I was feeling depressed and lost that I had no chance of becoming a doctor, I met several people that eventually changed my life. Over lunch one day, this older friend of mine asked me why is it that I wanted to become a doctor. I answered as what another person might potentially answer. Good reputation, good money, and I love children. My answer did not satisfy him.
He probed again, why did I want to become a doctor. On the verge of crying then, I didn't understand what was it that he wanted me to answer. It took him several attempts to make me realize that it was not a doctor that I want to become. Underlying my choice to be a doctor, I realized that it was because I wanted to do something that would make my parents and family proud, and to satisfy my want to be involved in an occupation that contributes to society and children in general, and a pediatrician seemed like the most ideal choice.
Then he asked a simple question that changed my life and attitude towards life forever. "Is that the only way to achieve what you really want to do?"
In that conversation, I did not just understand, but was enlightened on the fact that you can have one goal, but hundred and thousands of ways to reach the goal you set out. It wasn't just "If you fail, try and try again," it was "If you fail, try and try other methods again". There were tons of ways to reach your goal.
I guess it was then that I decided that I will be happiest doing my own business, making it successful and in turn, pleasing myself, honoring my parents and having the capability to reach out and influence the many beneficiaries that I wanted.
But I also knew that it was not an easy task. My parents were upset (to say the least) that I wanted to quit my pursuit of double degree in Biomedical Science and Traditional Chinese Medicine in NTU (prestigious course, only about 75 people in per cohort), and my dad ignored me for 2 months. (But after a lot of talking and understanding, we became closer than before.)
Still, I applied to SMU and got into the 'general' degree - the degree that "people go into if they cannot go into any professional course"; the Bachelor of Business Management.
I gave up the pursuit of a professional degree for something 'general'. Frightful as I was, I bit my lip, clenched my fists and marched into my entrepreneurial journey at SMU.
Meeting Pamela in my first TWC class was the second turning point of my life. Other than my mother, I have never ever met another woman that I look up so greatly to. She first taught me that a class didn’t have to be boring. Then she taught me that what was learnt in class, can be applied to whatever business that I wanted to do. She taught me that I didn’t have to conform to societal academic norms to get myself a good grade. Finally, she taught me that women have a place in the business world too.
Somewhere along the way in my life, I was 'taught' consciously or unconsciously that being a businesswoman/entrepreneur would usually mean that you'll die a lonely old woman with nothing but money to your name. I'm exaggerating, but I'm sure you get my point.
While I believe that some sacrifices have to be made, but I also believe that a balance can be reached. And Pamela is the embodiment of all that. Five beautiful children, family, teaching job, mentoring, and investing all at the same time.
To say what I have learnt in Pamela's Technological Entrepreneurship class, a single journal would not even begin to describe the revelations I had, happiness and joy at finding like-minded, inspirational peers and invaluable experience that I had gain under Pamela's tutelage.
In my entrepreneurial journey, I meet new people everyday, new friends and get new inspirations. But I am still but a small fry relative to what I've set in my mind to achieve. Am I afraid? Of course I am. Almost everyday of my life. But I am also determined.
I may have just taken my very first baby step of my 'stairway' to success. I still do not know what lies ahead for me at the end of the road. But I do know that I still have a lot to learn and a lot to overcome. This is where I am grateful for Pamela's patient guidance and supervision. Thank you for giving me opportunities and trusting in me. More importantly, thank you for giving me confidence in my own capabilities to achieve my dreams.
To my teammates, friends, and people that I met along the way. You know who you are. Thank you for allowing me to make mistakes, be myself, believing in me and motivate me when I need it. :) I may not be the greatest leader or most successful businesswoman yet, but I will work my ass off to ensure that I reach there. And if you are still with me then, I'll be sure to bring you to the top with me too.
This journal is written to recap the journey I have gone through in my Technological Entrepreneurship class. It is by far the best course I have taken in my 4 years in SMU. It was not only the most practical, it is also very relevant. I am able to connect all the dots in the past few years and make sense of what my life has been till now. This class is like the culmination of what I have learnt in school.
In the past, I have been involved in a number of businesses including network marketing, internet marketing and financial advisory. The most successful business that I have was the financial advisory business. It was during this few years that I get to know about the foreign currency exchange market. I was intrigued by it so I decided to research on the market further. I soon realized that forex companies make a tremendous amount of money. The amount of transactions that occur every single day is gigantic. If I want to become rich, I believe this is my ticket. So I research further into the market and realize that there is a market need that is not fully serviced – Islamic forex market. There are currently few products or services that offer Islamic or ethical trading services. This led to the idea of a fully Islamic forex brokerage firm – Fursa FX.
It was challenging for me in the beginning for me. My idea was rejected by a number of Professors who do not understand the forex market. Plus it was also pretty hard to convince others about my business idea and to join in my team. The main reason was that not many people understands how the forex market works and their revenue model. Nevertheless, I decided not to give up and pursue my dreams. I am confident that I will find my team one day when the time is ripe.
It was during this class that I get to know my current team members. Firstly, Sang Un who is an exchange student decided to give it a try to join in my team. Yeah, I could tell it from his eyes that he absolutely taking a calculated gamble and he was hesitating whether to continue to remain in my team. I had 3 of my original team members to leave the team one by one. In the end, it was left with me and Sang Un. I asked the TA if it was possible to recruit other students out of the class to be part of the team. I was grateful that the classs was not inflexible on this matter. As such, I proceeded with asking two of my friends, Hafiz and Asyraf. Both of them have their own capabilities and skills and I am confident that they could add synergy to my team. I am glad that we have been a great team till today. Each of us complement on each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I learnt that it is all about team work and man management.
If there is one thing that I learnt most from this class apart from the valuable business knowledge imparted, is that it is important that we have passion and self-belief. It is not enough for us to only have dreams. You need passion and belief to make things happen. Your passion will rub off your shoulders while belief in yourself, your business idea and your team will give you the strength to persevere and succeed.
Hi, my name is Shawn and I would like to use this opportunity to offer my 2 cents worth of advice as well as my general reflections after taking this “Technological Entrepreneurship” course. Hopefully, people who come across this entry in future would find this useful.
My 2 Cents Worth of Advice
1) In the first stage of brainstorming for ideas, it is very important for each team member to write his or her individual ideas on a separate piece of paper. This thought process has to be done entirely on his or her own so that the ideas generated are not influenced by others. All the ideas can then be compiled and the leader of the team can then lead the discussion to shortlist the ideas. At this point, it is very important for the leader and the members to point out the “unique selling point” of the business, the likely constraints that the team will face in executing the business, as well as the specific target audience of this business. If the team members themselves cannot be convinced about the feasibility of the business, the idea should be dropped and they should proceed to evaluate the next idea.
2) My personal view is that any business should start small and have only about 2 to 3 people involved at the initial stages. I say this because having a smaller team would enable the team to be more focused in its discussions and more importantly, the team’s direction. After the business idea has been firmed up and initial plans are in place to execute it, it is then vital for the team to expand to include others with specific skills such as IT skills etc. Of course, for the purpose of this course, I fully understand the time and logistical constraints and how it would be difficult for the instructor to guide a large number of small teams.
3) It is very important to define each team member’s roles and responsibilities clearly so that there is no unnecessary duplication of works. More importantly, the team must be flexible enough to make adjustments to each member’s portfolio as the business will inevitably encounter some changes along the way.
4) It would be a bonus if the team members had a wide range of contacts with the people they are likely to work together with for the business. These could range from people within the university (i.e. fellow students, staff, faculty members) or external parties. More often than not, the progress of the business is slowed down when the team does not have the necessary expertise to executive a specific thing (e.g. IT expertise). As such, having the relevant contacts would increase the likelihood of finding the most suitable people/partners and this would greatly expedite the progress of the business.
5) It is important to secure more than one supplier so as to reduce business risks. Even if the second supplier is not as good as the first in terms of pricing and/or quality of service, it is important to at least know of an alternative supplier should the need arise to approach them for urgent assistance.
1) I was pleasantly surprised to find out about the vast number of support grants available to youths and aspiring entrepreneurs who wish to start up their own business here in Singapore. The Institute of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at SMU for instance offers a great deal of support for aspiring entrepreneurs. In addition, Spring Singapore also has a few schemes available for new start-ups. I am very pleased and heartened to learn that such support organizations exist to offer financial support and advice to young entrepreneurs who may not necessarily have any experience in this field. It is important though, in my opinion, for these organisations to increase their efforts in publicising these schemes to educational institutions as well as to the public. After speaking to quite a number of my classmates and friends, it appears that most of us were unaware of such support programmes prior to enrolling in this course.
2) I also developed a new found respect for entrepreneurs after taking this course. After listening to the course instructor and other entrepreneurs sharing their experiences, I gained a greater understanding of the numerous challenges that these people have overcome to make their business as successful as it is today. The passion that these entrepreneurs have for their business, their never-say-die attitude, as well as their perseverance in their ideas is something that all of us can learn a lot from.
Overall, I have no regrets taking this course as I feel it has certainly enabled me to gain a greater insight into the world of entrepreneurs. I highly recommend this course and its instructor Pamela Lim to anyone who might be considering enrolling in it.
When I first signed up for the module Technological Entrepreneurship I was told by my friend who had taken the class previously that it was an experience to behold. Truth be told, it was an arduous journey in setting up a business but I felt that I had developed better as an individual and learnt many ropes of the trade in the process. In writing this journal, I will be sharing my personal experiences with you.
It all began with a group of 8 strangers coming together to start a business. Along the journey we learnt how to tap on individual strengths and overcome differences to create a high performing cohesive unit. The people define the business and for the business to succeed there must be the presence of a strong management backbone. While it was relatively easier to identify the strengths of an individual through the observation of actions and tapping on it, overcoming differences were more of a challenge. I coped with this issue by adopting a macro perspective – trying to see how another team mate’s views and vision for the company will benefit the business in the long run.
‘Be appreciative of every opportunity that comes along your way and take every experience as a learning opportunity’. This is the mindset that I believe young entrepreneurs should adopt. As a budding young entrepreneur, I believe in doing everything on my own and learning the rope of the trade across the entire value chain. If there was one thing that would set a business running, that would have to be the hunger to succeed. I recall having being interviewed by Ms Anthonia Hui, a renowned private banker turned entrepreneur who worked her way up from a bank teller position to opening her own wealth management consulting firm where she shared with me her entrepreneurship story. It was a difficult interview having the CEO of a company staring straight in your face and bombarding you with questions that you have to handle with pace and wit. The formal interview only lasted 15 minutes but the next 30 minutes was spent having a stranger challenging me mentally and emotionally on lessons in an entrepreneur’s life. I did not get the job, but walked away having learnt important lessons in life:
1. Know yourself first before setting out to do anything. You may not see yourself clearly so be open to what other people say about you. The outsider can always provide a more objective view and that certain someone who is able to point it out to you is a true friend.
2. Know what you want in life and make sure you go all out for it. If you strive to be an entrepreneur then make sure you read up, interact and communicate extensively with successful entrepreneurs out there. If you cannot help yourself then do not expect other people to lend you a helping hand.
3. Determination alone will not get you anywhere, for that you may be putting your efforts in the wrong place. Hunger is what drives you and not to rest on your laurels. Hunger is what makes you want to make your enterprise grow larger and stay ahead of the rest.
In bringing these philosophies to the team and sharing it with my team members, we were able to get the business up and running. Having said this, I never had a chance to meet Ms Anthonia Hui and will like to take this opportunity to thank her once more.
This course has been an emotional one for me as well. While we learnt lessons on how to start a business and skills required for it, I personally felt that there was scarce mention of a failed business and the effect it has on others. While success is constantly in the limelight, we tend to forget that there are many entrepreneurs whose business did not take off as well. My family had endured the effects of a failed business where my childhood was spent scrimping and saving so as not to be an additional financial liability to my father who was struggling to maintain his shipping business. The end result was that my father was so emotionally attached to the business and perceived himself as having failed in life when the 1997 Asian financial crisis struck.
I cannot deny that I had a phobia when I knew I had to start a business in this course. However, the process of incorporating the company, dealing with rejections from clients and the mounting pressure to deliver profits made me better understand the ordeal my father had undergone in hope of creating a better life for the family. I came to better understand the ethical and social values of an entrepreneur and the personal costs involved as well, which I hope Prof will further look into in her future teaching material.
Entrepreneurship is all about taking charge of your life and making your dream a reality. To conclude this journal, I will like to end off with the quote ‘It is all about you’. It is about your dream, your state of mind, your passion and your hunger whether you want make a difference in your life today. Thank you Prof Pamela Lim.
Entreprenuership is a lonely journey until u found 'the one' for u...
by Tan Suat Ting Jane
Have u found the one-ur perfect biz partner?
I'm not referring to your bf/gf but lovers in partnering with you in the business. Mr Udders (Mr. David Yin) told me that finding that perfect business partner was as if searching for your soulmate. The partner has similar goals, passion and vision of the business as you do. He warned that we should never try to persuade someone to partner with you. Point taken.
On the other hand, we have got another point of view from our SMU Senior,Mr Farmer; he said that we convince them to work with us and based on our attractiveness (talents,charisma, etc) we can attract people to work with us. There are always different perspective in business. however, both emphasized that we should be very clear of our strengths and weaknesses so that we can look for those who can compliment our capabilities well.
The main differences amongst my other Entreprenuerial modules, T&E module inspires me enough to get me thinking about my business plan day and night. I was very motivated because doing an online business is so easy as well as getting funds from IIE. I was so enthusiastic that i started to pitch my business idea to whoever i met.Well, i am still looking for potential partners.
T&E examines the possibilities of a fast start up business online and the arena for like-minded individuals to collaborate and sharpen each others' skills and knowledge. I had a great team whom i addressed as 'LitBulls' and it was the first project team who could balance both work, play and studies. At the end of the project,I learnt about managing a team and the importance of keeping a passion fired up. Having said that, passion must be driven constantly and sustained within a good team. According to entrepreneurship specialist Don Hutson, "Passion may be the most important ingredient to sustaining and growing a successful business, but it needs to be matched by a leadership style that is attractive to talent." (Business Times,10 Nov 2009)
Lastly, i would conclude with my favourite quote, "none of your ideas is good until it is tested in the market." - Mr. Patrick Khor
Learning Journal of Entrepreneurial - Breaking through the conventional mindset
by Joel Boh Zewen
(Singapore SMU )
Entrepreneurship is an essential quality in every business venture. It is not the mere know how but it is a total mind set to lead people, assume risk and succeed in areas where few people have ventured into. Being an entrepreneur involves certain crucial steps, the first and foremost is to motivate people with a vision and an end goal.
How the business will look at the end is important, and having an exit strategy helps. The second step is to adopt a strategy. I have learnt the strategy for an entrepreneur does not need to be as high level as that of a large company. Yet, it must be easily translated into tactics.
Professor Pamela Lim guides you on how to execute a business idea and tells you the various considerations you have to factor in the process. It could range from funding to organising the management structure. Although her teaching employs few academic frameworks, but her mantra “Just do it.” is enough to help you overcome your own reservations and forces you to be focused and disciplined in setting up the business. Her emphasis lies in the execution of the idea, and this validates the concept of ‘stealing’ ideas from other people. While this is unconventional, it is very true. Value creation and invention is about building on an existing idea to make it better and not necessary starting from scratch.
Another aspect of entrepreneurship that impacted me is that business plans are never static, they are fluid and perpetually in motion. Professor Lim made it clear that each business plan would have to go through many versions before it could be presented as workable. Sometimes it might be a slight modification, other times the entire business idea could be overhauled. Through all this, I realized that an entrepreneur had to look past failure in order to succeed, no matter how severe the failure is; be it just revamping the business plan or driving yourself to the brink of bankruptcy.
The best take away from Professor Lim’s course was the realisation that I have a choice. I could be an employee, take home a fixed pay and be subject to corporate guidelines and rules. Or I could set up my own business, and take responsibility for my own financial needs. Attending Prof Lim’s class is probably one of the best incubators for entrepreneurship. It spurs you to heights you never dreamed or thought you could go.
When I was younger I always looked at people creating their own business and lived happy and free. Somehow they always seemed to be so relaxed and just enjoying life. I had friends talking about their parents doing all this stuff with their company and how they were good friends with everyone at work. This was special to me since my parents didn’t have that line of work. Both my parents were doctors which meant that they went to the hospital and came back in the evening. They didn’t have the same things with all the travels and didn’t have the big bonus coming around Christmas.
When you were younger you didn’t realize that everything has a backside. During my education I’ve manage to start up two companies on my own. Not any big companies but still companies that managed to survived until we decided to quit. As the years went by you learn more and more about how you build a company that has the power to survive even in the future. The things that you use to skip all that suddenly seems obvious, all the things that you usually thought was a waste of time seems right. Making a business plan and looking forward was the right thing to do.
From the start I was used to working by myself, it was easier to do everything on your own so you had the control. With the years passing by I learned that working in a group and helping each other can actually be something better. You start trusting people and realize that this can actually be something better than if I was doing it by myself. As I grew, I expanded my horizons and ventured to trust the new contacts that also came from all kinds of countries. I felt that I was changing and that with this I had the courage to do something different and take a chance even though a didn’t have all the control myself.
Technological Entrepreneurship: Reflections and Lessons Learnt
by Justin Choo
It was a matter of feeling both thrilled and skeptical when I stumbled upon a course entitled Technological Entrepreneurship during the course bidding period at SMU. I was excited as it meant an opportunity to tap on the knowledge of an experienced instructor, which would allow me to implement new ideas into the two little businesses (a home-based tuition center and an online sales site which sold self-help e-books) which I was running. While the course requirement promised a hands-on approach towards the business creation process, seniors had warned me before that entrepreneurship courses are often little more than creating businesses on paper and fluff fests with little practical value.
Looking back 13 weeks later, I am glad I made the right choice and made my bid for this course after all. The learning experience throughout this period was indeed the most satisfying amongst all the courses which I had taken throughout my years at SMU. This was a result of the hands-on and guiding approach to entrepreneurship which was adopted by Prof. Pamela Lim in her conduct of this course.
One of the prominent takeaway points for me would be the importance of partners and teamwork in creating an effective business. Taking on the role of finance and marketing director for my team’s business, The6thAvenue.com, I was able to have a clear focus on the tasks which were required of me, while my team mates took care of other essential features of the business. Working with partners on a business also meant that problems could be discussed, a larger pool of ideas, as well as a wider network of contacts. This was a contrast to my prior entrepreneurial ventures which were simply one-man-operation businesses, which resulted in me having to run around like a headless chicken to tend to all functions of the business and feeling lost in times of challenges. I came to realize the limitations of being a soloist when running a business and would definitely source for like-minded individuals as partners in my future business ventures.
Through this course, I was also able to learn of the numerous funding initiatives set up by the government to assist entrepreneurs in starting and expanding their business. Prior to this course, my take on the various government funding schemes such as those offered by Spring Singapore and the EDB was that these were only available to high technology start up businesses. For a long period of time, I thought that bootstrapping was the only funding available for a stuffy little tuition center and an online e-book sales site. Yet, this course has proven to me otherwise, that you do not need to invent a spacecraft or a cure for cancer in order to qualify for such funding. What is needed is simply a solid business idea that is feasible in order for funding to come your way. This revelation came about as a result of this course through Prof. Pamela and Mr. Inderjit Singh, who was one of the guest speakers invited to share with the class about his experience as an entrepreneur. Learning from seasoned entrepreneurs is simply one of the best experience as you would be able to learn how not to commit certain mistakes when running a business.
More than just soft skills and hard facts, the technological entrepreneurship experience has allowed me to come into contact with like-minded individuals who are passionate in starting and maintaining a business. It is indeed heartwarming to have your peers throw up many different viewpoints and solutions that address common problems in a business such as keeping the cost of overheads low and cash flow issues. I certainly did not know that so many business-minded individuals existed in SMU until this course. Of course, Prof. Pamela was always there to share her experience and provide us with practical advice with regards to these issues. Her hand-holding approach to entrepreneurship certainly makes this course stand out above all entrepreneurship courses and certainly made me learn more about business creation.
Above all, this course has inspired me to dare to dream and be different. All along, I have considered myself to be an extremely risk averse person who often hesitates taking on the unconventional path in life. Yet, this course as well as the sharing session by other seasoned entrepreneurs have convinced me that stepping out of one’s comfort zone and doing something that you truly have passion for as a living, would result in a greater payoff and sense of satisfaction at the end of the day. Pursuing one’s dreams seems to be the only way where one would be able to look back at one’s life in the future and have no regrets. As youths, time is certainly on our side especially where trial and error in setting up a business is concerned.
Rounding off my take for this course, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my team, The6thAvenue.com for the wonderful learning experience which I had enjoyed for the past 13 weeks. Nothing would have been possible without the dedication and commitment of the team. I have certainly learnt a lot from you guys and have had a really enjoyable time working together. To all aspiring entrepreneurs out there, take the plunge! Try this course! You would certainly enjoy a tremendous amount of returns for your time, effort and e-dollars!
My initial mentality of the course was a get-it-over-and-done-with; after all it is merely a requirement of my school syllabus. Like everyone else, all I wanted upon graduation was to work for one of the MNCs around and climb up the corporate ladder. If you ask me again now, I will tell you not anymore.
Throughout these 13 weeks in the semester, I have learnt so much more about entrepreneurship. It did not just consist of developing a business idea and writing business plans. There were so much more than just that, from refining the feasibility of business idea, understanding different business structures and financials to sources of funds, etc. It gave me a better understanding of what it takes to be an entrepreneur and motivation to be one.
It was my first time working with a team of eight. Frankly, I thought it was really not easy, accommodating to 8 different schedules, opinions and working styles. Yet, I thought it taught me how to better deal with team dynamics and the importance of teamwork. Through this, I also manage to find partners that share the same vision and drive for continuing the business as well. On top of that, I learnt more on how to manage and find the different resources I need in order to execute a business.
There are people around that would always say, “It’s not going to be that easy.” Or “are you so sure this is going to work?” Surely, nothing is ever going to be easy. Truth to be told, I wouldn’t know if it is going to work definitely but if there is not even an attempt of trying to make it work, I will never know. I don’t wish to have any regrets on this opportunity. I want to give it my best and tell these people, I made it - one day.
I’m thankful I made this choice to choose this course in my very last semester in SMU because it has drastically changed the way I define what career and job satisfaction for me.
My Journey - They will see us waving from such great heights; "come down now!", they'll say...
by Elvin Seah
Will you dare to walk this road?
~Extract from The Postal Service - Such Great Heights
They will see us waving from such great heights; "come down now!", they'll say.. but everything looks perfect from far away; "come down now!", but we'll stay
I come from a family where both my mom and dad each having their own small and cozy business, in food. It may sound weird but I’d always thought I had their genes in me – taking control in life and building something that’s worth believing in. Till a day recently I finally realize age has caught up with my parents; that after spending so much time in school it suddenly dawned upon me my mom has so much grey hair since the last time I really looked at her… it made me realize I actually need to take over their business one day maybe soon. It is a scary thought and it definitely is not something in my life that I had in control. Call me a spoilt brat all you want but I needed to break out and I needed to build something that belongs to me, of it all – I need to build something that I believe in.
For the past months many of my peers have been asking ‘Elvin is this your last term?’ ‘Found a job yet? Where will you be going?’ I could not give an answer at all. But as the weeks unfold, it seems a haze of directions is starting to materialize – not surprisingly this actually came from the course Technological Entrepreneurship Opportunity Identification by Professor Pamela Lim. I started this course being curious about how entrepreneurship and technology interact and help me in my work; it turns out to be a Pandora box opened and shone a path where I could carve, a path where I could believe in, and a path that belongs to me.
I went through a number of hardships and obstacles along the weeks, they discouraged me, made me feel incapable and incompetent. I nearly gave up – some of my peers actually told me to not waste my time, save my health and spend more time on my other courses that probably looked better on my transcript.
I am glad I stayed on, I wanted to prove everyone that they’re wrong; that when I attended week 1’s lesson I had made the right choice by staying, I am glad; Sharon if you are reading this, without your encouragement and support I would have given up completely, thank you. It made me learn one thing important in life, something that really humbled me; that just because people have other roles to play does not mean they are not leaders. They are, and you taught me that...
As I persevered on, I thought about the team’s business again and again, and as the team progressed, it somehow convinced me to believe that with the right elements in place it is really promising when it takes flight. I was convinced, and I started to believe it could actually work. It finally dawned onto me this is something that I believe in and something that I'd want to build.
All in all, I do not dare proclaim that ‘I already know what I want to do in life’, but I am really glad that this course Technological Entrepreneurship Opportunity Identification had something for me to take away, something so valuable it may not be found in the other courses – a new path, and such path probably is carved for me only.
The main reason why I took on technological entrepreneurship is because I want something more practical and out of the textbook, because ultimately when you step into the corporate world, its not the textbooks that count, it’s practicality and the experiences that you gain that matters most. When i first embarked on this course, i did not believe that a business could be set up in 13 weeks. To me that was just too ambitious, when i heard it at the first instance during the first session of the course. However, 13 weeks into setting up the business, i got a totally new perspective about starting up a business. Even though it is still not as easy as it seems, but its not that difficult afterall (depending on the nature of your business).
With prof's (Pamela Lim) guidance along the way, it has certainly made things much easier to figure out and head towards a clearer direction. Also, the experiences that prof and some of the other guest speakers that have shared with us has provided us with valuable insights and learning points that we can take along with us even after the end of the course. For example, things we should look out for, things we should bear in mind, and things that we have to be aware of etc.
Along the way throughout the 13 weeks, I realized how important teamwork is and how the team plays a big part in steering the direction of the business. Despites everyone in the team having different idea of which direction our business should head towards, we managed to come to consensus most of the time. Therefore, openness to others’ ideas is very important as every idea count, we’ll always be able to make something out of it. We can always build on one another’s idea, or one idea may spark off a few other new ideas as well. On the same note of teamwork, I think that the level of commitment to the business is very important too. As the saying goes, ‘No pain, no gain’. We need to put in a certain amount of effort and commitment if we want to see results. Don’t expect results if you did not put in any effort.
Last but not least, you need to believe in your business, believe that it will work, so that you will make it work. If in the first place you do not believe that it will work, then it probably would not work.
All in all, I took away the experience of starting up a business, without having to learn things the hard way for a start, and many valuable advices from the different guest speakers and prof herself.
I wasn't sure whether I wanted to be an entrepreneur or not, coming into this class. I still don't.
What I know is, I don't think I want to endure the mindless drudgery of work life, so I guess that puts me on the "I do" side of the fence.
Initially I joined the class with the "investor" mindset in mind, as there was some mention of it in previous TE classes. Had a surprise when Prof Pamela told me that she had pulled that section of the class and was focusing solely on entrepreneurship.
Well then, no choice right?
So here I am plunging headfirst into something that...I'm honestly not sure what I'm getting into.
Still, I've met some very amazing people in this class, people with huge drive and ideas...and it seems like that we may just make something happen, along with Prof's guidance. Something about them is clearly rubbing off onto me, because as much as I dreamt of being my own boss in the past, I never really knew what I wanted to do.
(And boy did I not know it would involve so much work)
These 13 weeks have equipped me with skills required to start up a business, as well as a lot of additional know-how that's greatly helpful along the way. Beyond this, it's all up to us (or me)!
I still remember it was week 2, thursday, 12noon. I met Prof Pamela Lim at CIT and we were chatting while waiting for our laptop to be fixed. As girls, we definitely start chatting (gossiping/complaining) to keep each other update. =P
I was complaining to her about my another TE module that I was taking then, and she recommended the course (Tech. Entrep)to me. From what I gathered, it seems to be a very 'fun' module as students really get to go through the process of setting up a new business. Since it's my last semster in SMU, I might as well enjoy myself in the process of setting up a new business rather taking some TE module that really bore me. I think it was a great switch as the work load is relatively reasonable and yet I get myself involved in the process of setting up a business.
I was in charge of the finances, and coming up the assumptions and variables for budgeting of a start-up company was never easy. We did alot of market research to ensure our budgeting is as accurate and realistic as possible. We also tried means and ways to bootstrap our operation costs so that we do not need to rely on any external financing. The entire process was tedious, but it was fun!
In my opinion, perseverance is the most important in any entrepreneurship. The process of coming up new business ideas, market research, budgeting etc may look simple & fun, the group gets to bond etc. But once the execution starts, group conflicts, personal time being scarify, and not able to see your "fruit" in time, can disappoint entrepreneur and wish to exit from the business. Most of the entrepreneur whom lack of patient might not seeing their business success in time. Wait! I'm not saying that those who do not have patient would definitely face failure in business as there are many factors that contributing to the success or failure of any business. However this problem can be solved if when his/her passion for the business grow & overcome his/her impatient in seeing the result.
Despite that my group decided not execute the business (which all of us think that its a pity), as most of us are graduating soon. We hope to gain working experience and financial stability before starting any business. Nonetheless, we were not very upset about it as Prof actually appreciates our business plan and offer to purchase it from us. This is the greatest achievement in any module that I have done in SMU - getting recognition! =D
When people talk about entrepreneurship, the things that often come to mind are the riches and fame that are associated with it. I guess I won’t deny that those were probably some of the reasons why I wanted to start a business. Furthermore, the lure of not having to be subjected to authority is also far too enticing for me to resist. Although these reasons were compelling enough for me to take the plunge into entrepreneurship, it was however another factor which triggered my interest and determination to make it as an entrepreneur. However, before I reveal the name of the game, please bear with me for a couple of paragraphs.
In today’s microwave culture, instant gratification is expected. For example, I would curse and swear if I do not receive an instant reply for a text message sent to my friend. (Hands up, I am pretty sure many of you are guilty of that as well.) Bringing this back to the point of entrepreneurship, I feel that this character trait has unfortunately cascaded down to our expectations of my business. Perhaps subconsciously, I nonetheless expect and demand my business to be booming overnight and that customers would be knocking non-stop at my door step. However, if the aforementioned scenario does not happen in double quick time, I would consider the business a failure.
Another unfortunate trait that is rather unique to the Singapore culture is the prevalent culture of spoon-feeding. Since young, we have been sheltered from the storm, protected from vices and hand held in every step of our life. Putting this into the context of an entrepreneur, this has certainly made us very reliant on governmental help as well as the help from the people around us.
Back to the main factor which triggered my interest in entrepreneurship. Challenge. It was the immense challenge that the path of entrepreneurship could afford me that convinced me to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. However, over time, the cultural factors mentioned above have made me both unrealistic and demanding. I needed success and I needed it quickly. In addition, I also expected everyone around me to be supportive of my endeavour, be it in terms of government funding or morale support.
Thankfully, what jolted me back to reality was when Mr Patrick Khor (in the talk) mentioned that an entrepreneur finds true joy not in the amount of money his business generates, but rather, in the fact that he has managed to overcome overwhelming obstacles to make his business a success. He added that governmental help is not an obligation but a bonus for entrepreneurs and that we should not be reliant on it. I am grateful for the awakening that Mr Khor has provided and I am determined to return to my first love, the love of challenge, which really is synonymous to entrepreneurship.
I would also like to take this opportunity to implore every aspiring entrepreneur to remain steadfast in their adventure of entrepreneurship. Always remember that only with the lowest of valleys that you will be able to climb to the highest of peaks.
Well, if entrepreneurship was so easy…I think I would not be interested in it. I think many of you would agree with me as well.
Time seemed to have crawled by during the first several weeks of the course, but after the midterm break, it simply whizzed by and the term is now drawing to a close. So here I am, now, reflecting upon the journey of this Technical Entrepreneurship course and the knowledge and skills that I have picked up along the way.
One of the first things that struck me about this course was my fellow classmates' display of entrepreneurialism! Throughout the course, I have seen and heard many great ideas, suggestions and comments, all of which are very interesting. Some of the business ideas and in-class breakout sessions really set me thinking about how powerful and valuable technological innovation is, and how we can leverage on technology to either help in our business, or generate new business ideas using technology or creating new technology. I found that I always had something to learn from my classmates every lesson.
The second observation I had was about how hands-on and practical this Technical Entrepreneurship course was. It was nothing like most other courses here at SMU which were more class-room based, but rather, this course required us to really execute an actual business. The execution of business is where I really learnt the most, ranging from technical aspects like setting up a website, and sourcing and negotiating with suppliers, to soft-skills such as teamwork and people management. Besides sourcing for suppliers, facing technical difficulties while launching our website and online platform, we also had to juggle the schedules of a large group of eight and our other commitments such as school work too. I suppose it really gave us a preview of what it is really like to be an entrepreneur - the amount of hard work required, and the sacrifices to be made in order to run a successful business.
Thirdly, it was the valuable insights gained throughout the term that also enriched me as a student and potential entrepreneur. By sharing her own insights and experiences as a successful technical entrepreneur, Professor Pamela Lim has allowed me (and my fellow classmates) to gain invaluable insights about entrepreneurship. Prof Pam Lim shared with us tips and practical advice regarding setting up a business and entrepreneurship in general, which would come in very valuable if we decide to embark on an entrepreneurial path. We also had the privilege of having a guest speaker session, where 4 successful entrepreneurs shared with us their experiences and advice, which were intangibles that can never be found in textbooks. A former student of Prof Pam Lim, Hong Zhuang, also came to class and shared his entrepreneurial experiences. I felt that we could relate well to him as he was only a recent graduate, and therefore, his insights and advice were also very useful.
Finally, I would like to wish all my classmates that are budding entrepreneurs success in their all their entrepreneurial endeavors! Before I end off, here?s an interesting quote about entrepreneurs that I?d like to share:
"Entrepreneurs need to search purposefully for the sources of innovation, the changes and their symptoms that indicate opportunities for successful innovation. And they need to know and to apply the principles of successful innovation."
- Peter F. Drucker, "The Father of Modern Management"
Looking back at my life, I had the first taste of being an entrepreneur when I was 9 years old. At that time in school a lot of child were collecting and exchanging cards (the one with the pictures of various football players), I thought that I could exchange all my cards as the other children or rather organize mine and sell them to earn something and maybe buy something I really wanted. I didn’t earn much money but at the end I was able to buy a toy that I wanted ( a Ferrari car).
After some years, when I was 18, I realized that there was a lack in the offer of New Year’s parties. The one offered were for young guys (up to 14-15 years old) and for older guys (from 20-21). Basically all the people of my age were having their private party at home because that was the only option. I spoke with one owner of a big recreational center, and I asked him how much would it cost to rent that place for the 31st of December night. I discovered that the place was going to be closed anyway and so the price was not so high. I rented the place with one friend of mine, marketed the event in the right places (high schools, bars, clubs) and the 31st night the place was so crowded that we even had to refuse some people. I made a good amount of money with that idea without putting in much effort.
Then university came and during this period, it’s like my entrepreneurial spirit fell a sleep. I have no idea why. Maybe it is because all the courses were centered on theoretical aspects and it was required just to study and memorize.
Luckily I decided to come to Singapore as exchange student during the fall semester of 2009. Here I had the opportunity to follow Pamela Lim’s course on Technological Entrepreneurship. During this course we had to come up with an idea for a business, refine it and implement it. Basically we had to do what in the other courses was not even imaginable: Get our hands dirty!!! We didn’t have to spend most of our time studying theoretical concepts on books, but rather we had to apply those concepts and tailor them around our business.
One of the basic concepts that I am glad I learnt during this course is to never be afraid of failure. People usually perceive failure as a bad thing that should be avoided. The truth is that even the most successful business people failed at least once in their life. For those successful people, failure is just one step closer to success. The crucial point is the reaction to failure and its interpretation. Thomas Alva Edison said: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." I would like to end this journal with two videos that explain the concept of failure and why we should not be discouraged by it but rather motivated.
In my final reflection, I would like to share my 3 key takeaways from this module: (F)ocus; be (U)understanding, (N)ever say die - the abbreviation of which speaks for itself!
1. (F)ocus! “Obstacles are the only things you see if you take your eyes off your goal”
It is always tempting to give up when obstacles come our way. That was how I felt when my group decided after much deliberation to change our entire business plan in midcourse. It was a difficult decision to make because all our efforts for the past weeks would amount to nothing and we have to start all over again. Also, there’s a lot of catching up to be done on our part because other groups are already writing their business plan and preparing their financials when we’re still firming up our business idea.
The obstacle always seems overwhelming when you focus on the problem and not the goal. It is important to refocus and concentrate on what we are achieving – to come up with a feasible business idea. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” – see yourself as an overcomer, and you will be one!
Fortunately, our transition from our old to new business idea was a relatively smooth one as we received help from Prof Pamela Lim and classmates. While we only decided to change our idea in Week 5, Prof was encouraging and gave us many useful suggestions (eg. points rebate system) on our business idea, linking us up with people who could help us with our website as we were facing technical difficulties. Our classmates also gave us valuable feedback on how we can improve our revenue model, such as having banner advertisements on our website as an alternative source of revenue. They also gave us support by being the first members to join our online community. All the support and encouragement from the class helped us to visualize success in our new business idea and motivated us to work harder towards our goal.
Success is bitter-sweet. There were ups and downs, and it was especially stressful throughout the transition phase. However, when I finally see our website up and in operation, the sense of satisfaction is immense and well worth it.
2. Be (U)nderstanding! “You can't learn anything from being perfect”
Throughout the execution of the business, there were times when I was frustrated because of my own inadequacies. Due to time constraint, our business had to be executed quickly but there were a lot of hiccups such as the problem with finding the right supplier, getting favourable prices, technical difficulties faced while doing our website, the list continues.
At the end of the day, I have learnt to be easy on myself and my group members. Most of the lessons I’ve learnt from this module is based on mistakes committed by ourselves, or weaknesses that were critical to our business. For example, we were all not technically competent enough to solve certain issues with our website and had to engage external help, resulting in more effort and time spent. That was frustrating as we had to meet a tight deadline.
It was hence a great blessing to have group members of complementary skills. Everyone came from different schools with different knowledge and we were able to contribute based on our individual expertise. For example, I have not taken Marketing and I never realized how important the USP is until hearing my group members emphasizing it repeatedly every week. We also took very long to come up with our business slogan because of its marketing and strategic implications, even though to me as an accounting student, it was something trivial. Working with a diverse group of people enabled us to use each others’ strengths to cover another’s weakness. We also get to understand the sources of disagreements from everyone’s perspective.
3. (N)ever Say Die! “I’ve failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed” – Michael Jordan
The greatest takeaway from this class is that of determination, a never-say-die attitude. Behind every entrepreneur’s success story is countless failures. The important thing is to not give up, but keep on keeping on. Our group is fortunate to start our business rather smoothly, but to continue with the business, there will definitely be setbacks and failures. When things don’t turn out well, it is normal to feel discouraged, but always be reminded of your passion and let it motivate you to press on. Your attitude determines your altitude!
To sum it up, I have had my share of F.U.N taking this module. It is my first time starting a business and getting my first taste of success:)
“The World is Your Campus.” This SMU advertisement tagline was proven right in Prof. Pamela Lim’s Technological Entrepreneurship course. Lessons on every Tuesday morning were to prepare students for the ultimate objective of setting up a business. Time spent outside these lessons with project mates – who are also business partners – was to exercise that objective. Reaching the end of the term, I realized how true it is that while I learnt a lot during class, the learning environment is much more far-reaching then the physical boundaries of the school compounds. I’ve benefitted tremendously, which really is not an overstatement, through interactions and experiences with external parties whom I’ve met throughout the 15 weeks of implementing the business idea.
Our brainchild, PrintMyDezign.com – a t-shirt design and voting website – requires us to meet suppliers and manufacturers. After listening to their insights, I gained a deeper understanding of the intricacies in the t-shirt industry. As for some wise words on making a business successful, there is a piece of advice from one of the suppliers that’s embedded in my mind: “What is the uniqueness about your business?” Several thoughts raced through my mind but none deemed suitable as an answer. After which, I could only mutter, “Price?” To which he retorted, “Price is NOT a uniqueness of a business. Anyone can set up a business then if they just charge lower prices.” That set me off thinking of ways to make our product special and appealing, not by virtue of its price.
Having said that, within the walls and the glass windows of the seminar room, it has been an enriching learning journey as well. It’s very helpful that Prof. Lim is a successful entrepreneur herself. All her work experiences and ideas that she shared openly in class were impactful and also applicable in the real world. In particular, I’m impressed with how she could come up with ways to help us develop our business idea and bring up to our attention other opportunities that we can explore into. Being able to present our ideas to the class also enabled us to test the reaction of the market, and gain feedback to improve on our exploits.
Not many students can boast that they have started a business in a university module. As a student there is simply nothing to lose. Whether the business carries on being profitable or not, I’m not expected to succeed in the first place – it’s just a learning process. However, when the next business opportunity or eureka moment arises, I’ll be in a better position to exploit it to the fullest. And, I’ll like to think that this course has been a refreshing hands-on experience where I’m taught ‘how to fish’.
Climbing the Mount Everest is a tough and an enduring journey. On the way you will face a lot of challenges and doubts about yourself, especially when you see what path lies still ahead of you. You will struggle and arrive to the close edge of just giving up. Having never climbed up the Mount Everest, at least this is what I imagine it to be.
Going through the process of building and developing my own start up company, I experienced similar things. From the very beginning, my team and I had a hard time, as we were very limited in man power. The initial complexity of our business idea was huge. To be frank, I had no prior knowledge in the domain of our business. But, this was only one part of the millions of challenges I faced and what our small team faced. So, while catching up the basic foundations and learning more about the subject itself, we had to take our initial idea and come up with a workable business. One way to do it is to strip down your business model and try to simplify it; get to the core, and really narrow it down. During this time, we continuously added new ideas, discard old ideas, changed elements and so on. We constantly modified and adapted our business model and I am sure we will continue to do so, as we evolve and grow. The key element here is that your idea has to be feasible and executable. There is nothing wrong with thinking big, but the question is whether it is achievable given your constraints i.e. financial resources, current capabilities etc. Maybe there are smarter ways to do it. So, what's important is to come up with creative ideas to overcome your constraints, forming joint ventures is one possible way. As a start up why not leveraging on established companies? Why not standing on the shoulder of giants?
Moreover, I experienced on my journey so far, that even though with all the challenges, the process of venturing a business can be fun and exciting. Everything what you learned in theory during your education comes into play and you can actually put it into practise. It makes perfect sense. You will recognise the key elements of your learned theory and what is just plain rubbish. In addition to that, I also learned that you should not limit yourself even when you don't have the initial knowledge or even expertise. The learning process actually helped me to identify my strength and weaknesses and further develop myself. Essentially, you will grow as your start up grows because of the constant flow of challenges. So summarizing my experience, it is really not about the issues of becoming rich, but furthering yourself; or as a Chinese proverb says: "The journey is the reward."
One slimming company advertises that a lady can ‘shape up to desirable curves’ in 2 weeks; one fitness club claims that one can ‘get a new self’ in 4 weeks while one event company promises that one can get into ‘the secret psychology of wealth’ and venture into the ‘millionaire’s mind’ in just 3 days!
But what can I achieve in 13 weeks? What do I hope to achieve in 13 weeks?
I started attending the Technological Entrepreneurship module with apprehension and was skeptical that one can start a business and gain online presence in just one term. I must admit that I am not entrepreneurial and have never thought of starting my own business before. However, I was bought into the notion that this is not a typical ‘read and practice past year questions’ module but a module that promotes a ‘hands-on’, ‘getting your hands dirty’ approach. Furthermore, the course instructor – Professor Pamela Lim has promised that she will be handholding all her students to our entrepreneurial success. I was convinced and hopeful!
After the first lesson, I read a few of the articles posted by the instructor. One of the articles ‘10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job’ by Steve Pavlina claimed a few laughs from me but it did get me into a reflective mood. I find myself nodding and agreeing to some of the points made by the author -- You only get paid when you work but don’t you think that it is better to be paid even when you are not? Is getting a job akin to enrolling in a human domestication program? Is getting a job the most secure way to generate an income or a more secure way to risk getting fired if something goes awry? These and other questions from Steve convinced me further that I should step out of my comfort zone and give entrepreneurship a chance. And I am not looking back since.
One of my motivations is because being an entrepreneur means I can be my own boss! I can do what I want, and when I want! I can ask my team to do things that I do not want to do! And to quote Pussycat Dolls, ‘I can see the world! And drive nice car!’ … Ok maybe NOT!!!(Sometimes its good to do wishful thinking.) Its possible in future, but not at this period as being an entrepreneur is not a bed of roses. Behind each successful entrepreneur, there are probably many others who tried and failed. Similarly, I faced several challenges in my debut venture but I was not dented and kept striving on. My spirit just has to keep going on and never can it waver! My teammates also made it so much easier. We constantly try, learn and create innovative solutions to issues we faced.
After 13 weeks, I am glad that I took the plunge and followed through the entire course. I get to learn the essentials of being an entrepreneur; gain insights from experienced entrepreneurs like Professor Pamela and MP Inderjit Singh; laugh at classmates’ ridiculous ideas and antics; bond and gel well with my teammates; learn more about Singapore’s food industry and the ‘ugly truth’ behind it; improve my Mandarin as this is main language used by the people in the manufactured food industry; not to be shy and ask everyone, anyone and leverage on contacts, and many other experiences that I am glad to have gone through.
This is just the beginning. The journey does not end in 13 weeks. In fact, it takes 13 weeks for the business to be fully incepted. I am looking forward to FoodEx gaining a foothold in the marketplace because I genuinely think it can succeed. However, there is so much to be done still. We need to finalize our software developer, secure more manufacturers to consistently supply goods on our website, improve our marketing efforts to inform and introduce this innovative product, resolve our delivery issues etc and the list goes on. But like what President Obama said in his victory speech ‘I have never been more hopeful’, I am equally hopeful for the future of FoodEx, as he is hopeful for the future of America.
To my team: The road will be long. The climb will be steep. We may not get there in six months or even in one year. But, I have never been more hopeful. Because, slowly but surely, FoodEx will get there!
Finally, I would like to thank God for His blessings, grace and wisdom, Professor Pamela for her sincere concerns, handholding, mentoring and advice; my classmates for their comments and suggestions and my teammates for making my debut venture so memorable and valuable. Thank you Marco, Andrea, David, Jasmine, Grace, Ben, Ck and Zaria!
FoodEx is my first entrepreneurial venture but definitely not my last. Let’s all be hopeful! Yes, we can!
I decided to take this course right after I got the letter of acceptance from SMU. I have a friend who attended this course last semester and she was very enthusiastic about it. And I have to say, I’m not disappointed. The course is very inspiring and Pam Lim is a very good lecturer and hearing her experiences through her career is very enriching.
As an exchange student I have learnt a lot of interesting and inspirational things about the Singaporean business environment and of course, about entrepreneurship. By working in groups with foreign people you don’t know before and try to start a business with them is also a very good experience. You need to adopt to different people styles and be considerate to all of your members. This is very interesting as a foreign student point of view. In the future, as the business world becomes more international, you have to have these skills – working with your own business or not. Another lesson is that a good communication platform is important when working in such a large group.
In this course, I might have been the more quiet one, but listening and learning from the local student is a good lesson itself. People here in Singapore are much more entrepreneurship driven, maybe because of the good business climate here, or maybe because of wanting to succeed by doing something on your own. Anyhow, I like the style and I whish my home country (Sweden) was more like this.
This course is also about actually do things, you’re not just writing a business plan and then call it a day. You will be taught several theoretical tools and then you have to try them out in a practical way. Learning by doing is, in my opinion a wonderful way of learning.
I also learned that change is very common and that change sometimes is the most important factor when developing a great business. You have to try, make mistakes and the get back on the horse again – this time with a new style.
I can happily recommend this course for anyone with just the slightest interest in entrepreneurship. It will give you the right guidance and the motivation for you to start trying to set up your own business.
The past 13-14 weeks have been very fruitful for me. I'll be going through my final semester in about 1.5 months time and I've always known that I would start my own business. This course has definitely increased my competency and knowledge of starting a business, managing it, and even how to exit properly if all else fails (hopefully not). It has been very interesting to see the ideas of many other would-be entrepreneurs and seeing how the perspective of others differ from my own.
What made the journey most memorable was the competent and supportive group-mates that I had the pleasure and honour of working with. I never fully understood the importance of having a competent team before this course, but it seems paramount if I intend to grow my business further. Throughout my 3.5 years, I've never had to work with such a big group (8 people including myself) and it was a challenge for each and every one of us to coordinate our timings amongst our busy schedules. Nonetheless, we managed to squeeze time out and put in extra effort for this project. Every one was tasked with the areas they were most competent with and thus maximizing our potential.
I don't think I'll go into the detailed concepts that were taught in class, but what I took away most, was the experiences shared by Prof, friends, and invited speakers. I believe that entrepreneurship is better taught through experience rather than theory and this course only made me believe it more so. While the course has come to an end, the network has already been built, a network that will prove to be valuable for everyone that continues to pursue their dreams, including myself. I was really impressed and motivated when Prof mentioned about giving up half a million annual salary to pursue her dream. With hardwork, I'm sure there'll come a day all of us will realize our dreams. When that day comes, I'm sure everyone will be proud to say "I know that person".
My plans for post graduation were initially a blurred path, but it seems clearer to me now that I've gained yet more knowledge and friends. In half a year's time, I would be embarking on a new journey in life, one I know will be filled with challenges, bitter experiences and sweet rewards. I wish everyone good luck in their journeys!
What I?ve learnt in Technological Entrepreneurship: Opportunity Identification class
by Zaria Sulaiman
When I bid for this class, my sole intention was to clear another module under technology & entrepreneurship. I came into the class with very little expectation and when prof Pamela mentioned that we are going to start a new business in 15 weeks, I remembered thinking skeptically that it was an impossible feat to achieve given the time frame. However, soon enough, our business started to take shape. I learnt that indeed, it is possible to start a business in 15 weeks. All it takes is a group of ordinary people coming together to start something extraordinary, faith and tenacity to succeed.
I was quite perplexed when prof once said during a lesson that we should never give out our business plan to anyone. I thought that it is a perfectly valid move to give out your business plan to every interested investors out there. However, prof told us of stories where the potential investors might screw you over and take your idea to a competitor. That is why you need them to sign the NDA : non disclosure agreement (I have to shamefully admit that I had never heard of it before this class). If I were to open a business without taking this class, I would most probably be conned.
Another lesson I learnt from this class "Connections, connections, connections!" All you need is one contact, and that may lead to someone who may enlighten you on your business, loopholes or might even help build your business. For example, one of my group mates, CK, contacted a girl from NUS as part of our market research and she in turn referred us to Nicole who is the head of FoodXervices, a leading food distributor in Singapore. It is from talking to her that our group found out that the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore has very lax regulations because one of our group?s concern was that we might get sued if we did not adhere to the AVA's rules and regulations.
Overall, I think the MGMT324 class is useful even for students who are not looking to pursue their own business in the near future as you learn practical information with regards to businesses so that if you plan to be an investor, you know what to look out for. In addition, prof sharing real life examples of her experiences makes it a less dry class.
Just thirteen weeks ago, the mere thought of me being involved in setting up a business seemed laughable. I had no clue what it takes to be an entrepreneur, what is a business plan or even the word “bootstrapping”! At the back of my head, I was also pondering if I had what it takes to be an entrepreneur…
Thirteen weeks later as I write my final journal entry for this class, I realized I have learnt so many things that I will take with me and these are the four main key takeaways that I would like to share.
First, to be an entrepreneur one needs to have a vision, be willing to take risk and the determination to crystallize one’s business plan into reality. These are the qualities I learnt that are essential to be a successful entrepreneur. It is not about the brains or the prestigious degree. It is about having the positive attitude, common sense, the drive and the passion. It was inspiring to hear successful stories of entrepreneurs who made it big like Mr David Lim, Ms Theresa Goh, Mr Inderjit Singh as well as Mr Patrick Koh who have created something out of nothing. In addition, I feel there are two kinds of entrepreneurs – those who build a business to make money and those who build a business from their passion. I aspire to be the latter one because when you do something you love and enjoy, it will motivate you to overcome obstacles.
Second, I learnt the importance of having a good efficient team. My teammates have made this journey enjoyable for me. Despite coming from different academic backgrounds specializing in marketing, finance, accounting etc, all of us had a common vision of turning our LitBullPen.com business into reality. Each of us knew how to have fun and at the same time get the work done just like the Google culture.
Finally, aim for success not perfectionism. A good business is not achieved by trying to aim for the “perfect business plan”. Striving for perfectionism can be a strong impediment to success for an entrepreneur because more often than not our business idea will evolve from the original idea. It will also cause an entrepreneur to constantly rethink decision, delay projects and spend lots of time on trivial details, thus delaying success. As what Nike says, “Just do it!”
Finally, looking back on the journey during the past thirteen weeks left me with a sweet after taste. There were the fun memories of making new friends and meeting a professor who was passionate about the topic and it was great to hear her share with us her past experiences. There was also the joy of seeing our business plan slowly forming from the ideas we had on paper into something real and comforting to know that our professor was always there to guide us through the ordeal. Back to the question on whether I have what it takes to be an entrepreneur? After going through this course, I feel that I am.
I remember when at the age of 7 or 8, my mum asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I replied, “I want to be rich so I can buy all the Barbie dolls and the Barbie doll house that daddy didn’t want to buy for me”. My mum rolled her eyes.
Today, when people asked me what do you want to do? My humble reply to them is, “Er.. Probably work in some marketing/ advertising firm”. HEY NO… THAT’S NOT WHAT I WANT TO DO. I hear an inner voice crying out loud. “I want to be able to do whatever I want and work wherever and whenever I want to, travel around the world, indulge in materialistic pursuits, the list goes on. The bottom line is I want to be rich and earn big bucks (okay, definitely not to buy Barbie dolls now though).
Being a young and shrewd entrepreneur at the age of 12, I made friendship bands, small ribbon rose bouquet and crystal beads ‘staples’ bracelets, and I sold them off to my friends. I sold the crystal beads ‘staple’ bracelets at 2 bucks (U.P. $3) to a guy friend. I told him, “If you buy this and give it to XXX, I am quite sure she will like it and be your girlfriend. I can help you with that” I even told him that he can come back to me if the bracelet spoils; I would fix it back for him for free. Since the age of 12, I knew how promotional marketing works, what good customer service is and how to expand my business. Soon, I conducted classes to teach my fellow friends to make these handi-crafts and sell them to other friends (I didn’t charge them though, OOPS!) I ‘employed’ my sister to be my salesperson, she would bring them to school to sell them, and of course there will be remuneration for her; 60 – 40, haha and yes 60 for myself. Luckily for me, I was never caught by the teachers. Today that I look back and think of the various ‘business ventures’ I had, I feel apologetic to all those who were ‘hurt’ during my young entrepreneurship experience, however, sadly to say goods sold are not refundable.
Things became different when I grew up. People resist change and fear rejection. And I am guilty of these too. However there’s one thing that I learnt, believed and held on to dearly is ‘the law of attraction’: your feelings and thoughts are the creators of your life. It is important for us to focus on what we really want and not, what you do not want. Our life is the manifestation of our thoughts. Just the other day, my friend asked why is it that I happen to have friends who are setting up their own business. I thought to myself, could it be that? Having positive thoughts allow us to attract positive people and positive events.
My ex-boyfriend together with a couple of his friends set up and registered an event company. At that time, I was experiencing the same things as what Hong Zhuang mentioned during class. From weekend movies, dining at restaurants to no movies at all and dining at home. We experienced the cynicism others had of us and of the business, we were afraid of failing and disappointing those who supported us. To the extent that, I was unwilling to meet up with my friends because I did not want them to ask me how the business is getting on because everything seems to be at our dismal. The only thing at that time to keep us going was, to prove those who don’t believe in us wrong. I helped him with the simplest stuff starting from thinking of the company’s name, designing the logo for the company, name cards, drafting and sending out of emails, generating ideas, vetting and preparing for business plan presentation for funding. Along the way, we had some good and bad experiences, and I couldn’t agree more with Professor Pamela Lim on how sometimes it is easier for female and young and entrepreneurs because people are willing to help us more. However, some would take advantage of our inexperience and ‘ripped’ us off. To help my boyfriend (at that time) was one of the main reasons for me to take this course, Technological Entrepreneurship: Opportunity and Identification. I was eager to learn the know-how and tangible aspects of setting up a business. All the things that we were required to do for the module seem so familiar to me and I wished I had taken this module earlier so we would have steer away from the avoidable and unwanted hassle. We broke up eventually and the business however keeps the friendship strong. It’s strange how some would rather say that business breaks relationship but in my case, the business is one which ‘maintains’ our relationship. Not before long, I was roped into another company that a friend had set up and with our expertise in different areas; I hope to grow the business further.
We have now come to the end of the term, accomplished the business plan and learnt the tangible aspects of a business (startup, funding, strategies and exiting). Others may probably think that they have just completed a compulsory TE module in SMU. For me, to be honest, I think this is just the beginning, and with the know-how, I am more confident of my entrepreneurship journey now. It’s never too late or too early for anyone to start a business. But if you start early, you have got lesser to risk (e.g. little/ no family financial burden) and more chances to fail and learn (you will learn through experiences). Never worry about having nothing, no money or no idea to begin with. I would say start with nothing and out of no way, a way will be made.
For me, it’s my first time to get the regular training of entrepreneurship from school. Before taking this course in Singapore, I took lots of Entrepreneurship competition in Taiwan and Mainland China. While I decided to take this module, I still wondered what could I gain from it because I thought I already had enough Business Plan writing experience. However, I am totally wrong. Without the module, I would never make up my mind to become an entrepreneur.
During this class, we were asked to brainstorm and really execute those ideas. Compared to my previous experience, the execution part is brand-new for me. The process is very challenging. 8 team members come from different background and use unequal perspective and have different expectation toward this module. During those times, we needed to argue and modify our business plan again and again and this kind of experience was what I did not have before. Then, the experience reminded me “in the process of entrepreneurship, the key point is not business idea but the whole team member”. Due to strong teamwork, we corrected our track and moved to the final destination step by step.
In addition to the take-away in cooperation, I think the mindset is another key point. Due to the inspiration of this module, I attended lots of Entrepreneurship speech. The most impressive sentence for me is “ those MNC come and go, why not start your own MNC.” In Taiwan, almost every top university student pursues the career path toward MNC leader. However, when facing the global trend, those MNC just leave Taiwan and go to Mainland China to set up new branches. For that, we already lose lots of job opportunities and fall into vicious competition. Then, how to start our blue ocean strategy and be different from other people does matter. The path of entrepreneurship is painkiller.
Finally, I appreciate the professor, Pamela Lim give us such a precious opportunity to let us be able to make mistake for learning without worry.
When i was first nudged to join the class with a few friends, i was quite apprehensive thinking that this class was one that would not be as cool as it sounded. In fact, i was thinking that it was going to be like our other modules in school, LTB and MPW where its all fluff and no substance*.
But everything changed after the first lesson. Action came hard and fast where we had to think of a business and start building a business plan. Roles were determined quickly and we needed to come up with milestones to ensure work towards our goal of creating the company was accomplished on a weekly basis.
At meetings, discussions were cut to the chase instead of your usual hearty banters with one another, as there was a real business on the line and inputs had to be productive. We all had a desire, a goal now. And that was to create the company and to make it successful. There was just no room for fluff.
I don't know whether our company will be created successfully, nor do i know if it will be a success. For this, time will tell. However, I do now know that I have been well exposed to the makings of an entrepreneur. I have been given the privilege of speaking and learning from those that have been there and done that, and understand the tools that are needed as well. (passion/techinicals/BPs)
I entered the class not knowing what I would learn. But upon leaving, I now have a business (work in progress) which i am determined to succeed in, and i leave knowing that anything can be achieved if you have the right attitude, heart and desire.
The tools to entrepreneurship have opened the doors to my life (career).
I stumbled into class at 8.15am. Early, but that’s how it should be on the first lesson of a new class. I took my seat, my regular spot - left side of the seminar room, last row. Professor Lim walked in, introduced herself, and by the end of that first lesson, Litbullpen was conceptualized.
By the second week, the Litbullpen league of extraordinary gentlemen and women was formed. I had my doubts - I’ve never met a few of them, let alone seen them in school, and I had never worked in such a big group (8 members) before. But indeed it was the start to an enjoyable and interesting journey, filled with laughs and unforgettable moments. The group consisted of two finance students, three accounting students, two marketing students and a hobo who turned out to be our CEO. Everyone brought something different to the table, and thankfully it worked wonders for us - everyone stuck to the game plan.
Litbullpen was never an easy business idea to grasp, and I am thankful and lucky that the people I worked with could visualize the initial idea. The next 10 weeks, we brought the idea from our minds to life, and now, it is a working website, with a great business model. We toiled week after week, learning how to work together, splitting the work according to specialization and tying it all back up again when it was necessary. Through this course I realized that team dynamics is key in moving forward. Being adaptable and catering and communication with 7 other individuals is never easy, but all of us in the group took the time to get to know how each other worked, and how we functioned, and catered to one another, and this made working together a far easier task. We managed to accomplish all tasks on time, with great results.
Technological Entrepreneurship allowed us to garner hands on experience in setting up Litbullpen one step at a time, and week after week I picked up new skills and competencies which helped me in my bid towards being a real entrepreneur. Unlike other classes, I finally was able to use what was taught in class on my own grounds. From working with people, to working for people, and learning how to set up and run a business is what I take away from Professor Lim. When it comes to her, textbooks in classrooms does translate to life in the real world.
I always told me myself that setting up my own business was always the alternative to my target of working in the Finance Industry (yes like every other student from SMU), but after this class, I feel like I have good fundamentals and confidence of moving ahead and growing something on my own.
P/S: Credit goes out to our CEO, hobo, fish dealer and LITBULLPEN mascot, Jeremy Michael Ching. In him, we had a leader, a follower and a joker. Utility personnel who are adaptable are extremely important.
In my 3rd year of college study in SMU, I was looking through the courses in my major of business management when I came across the module, Technological entrepreneurship. I read through the course outline and found out that SMU was providing a platform for students like me who are interested in creating a business. I always have an interest in entrepreneurship and decide to take this chance. I wanted to achieve something before my graduation.
I stepped into a class full of strangers, people of different backgrounds and in the back of my mind; I was thinking if I couldn’t find people of same ideology and dreams, I will drop the class. But l was bestowed with luck, I found 2 people, with the same passion and our ideas alike. We managed to pitch our ideas to the class and gained more support of 3 more members; establishing our team of 6.
The journey of a start-up was tough. 6 strangers, different ideas, different perceptions, different backgrounds, but one thing bonded us: Passion. Each of us threw in our areas of expertise and worked hand in hand. Though many times we faced setbacks, we supported one another and push everyone forward and towards our dream. This great team pushes me to strive even harder. The team was very motivated and always meet at least once a week despite everyone’s hectic schedules.
The team was so passionate about entrepreneurship and I was very fortunate to gain their support in the entrepreneur journey till now and I strongly believe that the team’s efforts will pay off soon as we see our business establish and grow in the near future.
I must admit that I didn’t expect to learn so much from my 14 weeks of Technological Entrepreneurship class. As a typical final year student, I thought I’ve seen and heard it all within the confines of a SMU seminar room. How very wrong I was!
Our Litbullpen business idea, which we succinctly describe as a ‘Facebook for literary artists’, brought eight individuals together on a journey I can only describe as epic. We had a CEO (Jeremy Michael Ching) who spent so much time smiling to himself as he typed away on his laptop that we all wondered if they were going to announce their engagement someday soon. We had two excellent accountants (Li Zhen and Jeanie) in our group that would put the ones at KPMG to shame.
We had marketing personnel (Krista and Myat) who were so good that I’m pretty sure they could see ice to Eskimos. We had Jane and Paul, our group enforcers who kept us in line and on course whenever making fun of our CEO got out of hand, although Paul was one of the main instigators of this activity, along with yours truly. We had so much fun trying to organize a common timeslot for eight extremely hardworking SMUggers to have a meeting that when we finally found one that worked, we wanted to have another gathering to celebrate this achievement.
As an accountancy student, I again must admit that I had very little knowledge hitherto of business mambo jumbo but it was nonetheless very exciting and meaningful to embark on my first serious business venture. Litbullpen was born out of the idea of filling the gap for budding local literary artists who have a dream of being the next Maya Angelou or J.K. Rowling. We thought it was the right time for such an opportunity as the government has been recently making big strides in transforming Singapore into a global arts hub.
In Prof. Pamela, we had someone in the business world who has been there, done it, and is still continuing to do it. I thought the way the classes were structured and gradually built up helped with the implementation of our business idea. It was extremely gratifying to see our website up and running. There was even a tear in my eye when our very first article went online, although the redness could have also been down to staring at the screen for too long, which is something we learnt from our esteemed CEO.
In conclusion, I had fun, I learnt a ton, the kid is not my son and now sadly, TE is all done.
My entrepreneurial journey only truly began when I reached university. Before that, I spent a good few years believing that walking around in a power suit on the 20th floor of a reputable MNC would be perfect for me. I carried this belief all the way to SMU where unsurprisingly, a hundred others shared the same dream. It was only after I got roped into running a student café that I had a change of heart.
Till today, I'm not entirely sure why I agreed to join the team of five students. With almost zero knowledge on running a business in the F&B industry, the five of us put together a hefty business plan, sourced for suppliers, got down on hands and knees to clean/wipe/mop/scour, and stayed over many a night trying to build a restaurant. Previous notions I carried of a restaurateur flitting around socializing with customers quickly disintegrated as I found myself night after night unclogging the sink with my bare hands and scraping curdled sauce off plates (bootstrapping meant the manager had to be dishwasher, cashier and cook all at once) . One important lesson I learned in the first week of operations: Being an entrepreneur is not glamorous.
Aside from the few friends I lost due to the new 'hawker centre' fragrance I fast developed, the Screme experience was the turning point for me. Everyday at the café was something different- new problems to solve, new customers to please. There is something extremely satisfying in watching what you've cultivated grow from strength to strength. Hence after reevaluating my life goals, I finally decided to drop my Marketing major and take up Entrepreneurship instead.
From then on, I sought to learn as much as I could before I left the safety net of the school. My first ever class in entrepreneurship, Technological Entrepreneurship, taught me two important lessons that I hope to share:
1) Expand your horizons
Prior to the module, I never considered venturing into anything other than a brick-and-mortar type business. I am admittedly not IT-savvy, and the thought of venturing into an Internet business is far out of my comfort zone. However, through the TE class, I learned that the Internet is an unstoppable force, and that once you learn to harness its ability, the world becomes your market. I learned that keeping within my zone of comfort will only limit my ideas and perspective, and that, I am sure, is not beneficial to any entrepreneur.
2) Ideas are everywhere. It's how you work it.
From a bunch of clueless kids bumming in class (apologies to the more experienced of us.. I don't mean to call you clueless), we sure did come up with some great businesses at the end! I found myself thinking "HEY THAT SOUNDS LIKE IT COULD BE GOOD" after each business idea presentation, which led me to my own personal revelation that every idea has potential; it's the development process that makes or breaks it. I learned that you should have faith in your idea, but be receptive to changes along the way. Who knows, it might end up a better version of it's original self.
Do I see myself as an entrepreneur now? No, not yet. I'm still too inexperienced, too shy and too afraid of risk. It is in the remaining years of my SMU life that I hope to develop the right characteristics for it, and the TE module is a stepping-stone towards that. To all budding entrepreneurs out there, good luck and don't stop trying!
First of all, I would like to say that I’m really thankful and privileged to be part of this entrepreneurship class. To be honest, my initial motivation to join the class was because my friends’ are in it. However, throughout the course, I have learnt much from the teachings and sharing from peers, especially my project mates.
My project team has taught me many valuable lessons, like working as a team, caring for not only for my own interests but also the interests of others, respecting one anothers’ views, learning to make most of the strengths, and concurrently, covering the weaknesses of others. It makes me realized that no single man is brilliant enough to do everything by himself. Thus, for a great work to happen, the whole team needs to take ownership of the work, and put their foot into it.
Entrepreneurship was never a route that I would consider taking, because it’s simply too tedious. However, this course has given me new light to this route – it’s more than just starting a business and earning profits, but it’s the pursuit of one’s own dreams; having faith and courage to venture into the unknown to realized one’s dreams.
To me, I would liken many of us to hidden coal that are buried deep in the ground. Within the coal are the hidden potential – the gifts, talents and dreams of each individual, and the thick earth represents the need for each of us to fulfill others’ expectations, to conform to societal’s standards, and to cope with the stress of life, which has accumulated over the years and totally covered these coal. Fortunately, these coals have finally been uncovered by a miner (Prof Pam Lim) with her powerful excavators (T&E module).However, such coal will still be useless unless it burns to give off light and heat to those who needs it. Likewise, the gifts and talents will become useful only when it’s ignited with the zeal and passion for the pursuit of dreams of the individual. Such passion is like wildfire; when one person is burned with passion, it spreads to the rest of the people. Being in the CondoSG team, I wasn’t the one who was already burning, but the one who caught the flame from my CEO.
All in all, this entrepreneurship journey has indeed been fruitful for me. I hope all of us would allow your dreams to surface once again. Know that it doesn’t matter whether it’s too small or too big, or whether you have succeeded in fulfilling your dream, but rather, it’s about whether you have lived to fight for your dream ever before.
While thinking of which courses to take for my final semester in SMU, I heard from my friends that Technological Entrepreneurship is a very practical, no fluff course that enables the students to start their business after or even, during the course, and that the professor is an award winning woman who have been doing business for many years, not some theoretical professor with no practical knowledge.
This is what I need! As I have been waiting for 2 years to start a condo related business. In 2007, I bought the domain condosg.com, hoping that one day it can become an condo authority site. However, due to the busyness of SMU life, I have put that dream aside, tyying many different things that did not bring much excitement and fulfillment.
This course reignited my dream. My group consists of the smartest and most hardworking people in SMU, like Vincent who has alot of initiative and work really long hours to prepare the business plan report and the financials. Joel, who has a really great business mind, contributes alot to the business development and presentation of the final business plan. Kok Boon, a really close friend of mine, is always there to provide emotional support and spiritual advice, keeping me with the right perspective in this course. Eric is a great helper who would do anything that is requested of him, he has the best servanthood attitude and I am really grateful for him. Ben is a good looking man, gentle with words, and is willing to do what others are not willing to do, like going to the bookshop to cut the flyers! Ming is a super intelligent Temasek Scholar from Taiwan, who came up with the solution for integrating exchange students into our internship program during the summer holidays, so they will stay longer with us. Johan, in my opinion, is the most reliable exchange student I have ever worked with in my 4 years in SMU. He is early for meetings, does his part of the work speedily, and provide alot of insights into how we should run our business. Aaron, who is not from this class, is the chief web designer and programmer of this project, though he has no part in the grades, he is still willing to help me with the technical part of the website, an indispensable friend indeed.
These are the people who took care of the project, while that allowed me the time to meet investors, visit properties and talk to other business partners.
Professor Pamela has really inspired me and I learned alot from her. She has taught me the importance of being different from others, thinking out of the box for solutions to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. One thing she said that has stuck with me since, “do not be a Me-Too website”. She also mentioned that it doesn’t matter whether we get funding or not, just do something, get the business running, be successful and do not depend on investors. That is so right! We should work hard and not feel that without the money from government we would fail.
I heavily recommend anyone who is really serious about making a difference in their lifetime, to be someone who wants to lead a life that is fulfilling, to be a leader that goes against the crowd, to create a destiny for themselves, to turn your dreams into reality.
Action - When you are Hungry and Thirsty Enough for it.
by Ong Han Ying
While many people like to define entrepreneurship, I always thought that entrepreneurship can only be defined by "action". When you embark on the journey, then you are defining what entrepreneurship is all about.
Entrepreneurship is definitely easier said than done. My team experienced it ourselves personally. It's always easy to plan it on the paper, for whatever you want it to happen, can happen on the piece of paper. However, they may not reflect the reality of life. Hence, I am glad that my team brings The 6th Avenue out from the paper; to make it happens in real life.
However, "action" is really easier said than done. It requires you to buy it, and see it as your need first. Hence, one must be hungry enough and thirsty enough to do it. It is only when you are hungry enough, then you bring out the inner-self - to embark on this journey.
In 13 weeks of the course, I really learnt that ideas are worthless. Business ideas are really worthless unless they are being executed in the real world. The 6th Avenue looks like an easy concept on the paper, however; it is never easy at all. On the paper, it seems that anyone can do it but then, in real life; it is really the team that can carry it out. In the real life, anything can happen. Things can go against on what've been planned too.
However, I am glad to embark on this journey with my team mates. We are from different walks of life and this make the team even stronger; as each has different talents and skill sets.
During this course, I also recognize many myths about entrepreneurship. Firstly, many said that they opted for entrepreneurship as they don't want to work for others, however; this should not be true. An entrepreneur has to be able to work with anyone, and work 24h a day. Our team has to work at anytime and anywhere, whenever it is important to do so. In a team, we have to work with different personalities and tapped on one another's strength.
Also, entrepreneurship can definitely be nurtured as entrepreneurship skill sets can be mastered. If one doesn't know how to manage the number, one can research online. Hence, it is the up to individual to choose, and the excuse of entrepreneurship be 'nature'; is not true at all. If the skill required is a technical skill, the entrepreneur will have to understand how the technical part works ? despite outsourcing it also. Hence, the entrepreneur doesn't have to be the master of everything, but he/she has to know some of everything.
In all, entrepreneurship is still about "action". Only when you do it, then you know the definition of entrepreneurship. I am glad to be able to learn about entrepreneurship, slowly and yet; steadily.
The main thing I learnt during my TE class was to have focus in what I’m doing. Being an entrepreneur is not just a hobby, it is a full time job that needs hard work and dedication to achieve success. As a role of the CEO of my team, I realize that there are many distractions to what I am to do in the company. This is on top of other commitments I have outside the team, responsibilities in school and in church.
Distractions from the team include a member who didn’t contribute much to the team and yet he was still in the team because of the project, there were also occasions where different team member’s view conflicted with one another and there needed to be conflict resolution in the team. Our business plan was also rewritten countless times due to changing expectations and inputs for our business idea. It was also difficult to focus on running the business as various team members have different expectations and commitment towards this business, to treat it as just a TE project or long term management beyond TE class.
Commitments in school and in church have also pulled my focus away from doing my role effectively in the team. Hectic projects and presentations from other modules were not just experienced by me but by my other team members as well. I am also very committed to my church activities and it was a real challenge to juggle all these commitments.
Focus is needed and it is the most important lesson I learnt from this whole semester, besides other useful things during the course. These distractions and commitments will not go away but I will need to focus on my business in the future and prioritize doing the right tasks at the right time.
13 weeks of TE have flown by really fast and I’m amazed at what our team has done. We could have done more but I feel we have done our best and that’s all we can do in one semester. We have finished our business plan, prepared ourselves to apply for funding in the future and have set up all the necessary tools to equip us to go full fledge into business even after this TE course ends. I’ve enjoyed the TE journey tremendously and I will highly recommend this module to any budding entrepreneur wannabe.
The journey has not ended here. I look forward to many more years of entrepreneurship and exciting challenges and learning lessons that will come my way. The key that I will bring with me to the next part of my journey: FOCUS!
This module is one of the most practical modules in SMU. I remember on the first day I entered into class, Professor Pamela Lim actually said that in other classes we actually wrote many business plans but none of it gets executed but this class is about executing the business. Me being the practical person, I am delighted to have taken this course as it allows us to learn the true difficulties that an entrepreneur faces when starting a business. It’s so different from the rosy description depicted from the business plan.
In this class, my team and I started with the idea of setting up a database for selling condominiums and along the way after seeing that the field is so saturated and that we can’t stand out, we changed our idea many times and eventually evolved into a rental management company. Through this experience, I learned that a business should be set up to solve an existing pain and ideas previously thought to be brilliant initially could prove to be mediocre or even unoriginal after being carefully thought of. Like they always say, “change is the only constant in life”. Our businesses should always evolve so that we can always stay competitive.
Another experience that benefited me greatly was the seminar session. It was a great privilege to have 4 distinguished speakers from 4 different fields to be gathered under one roof to share their experience with us. It was inspiring as I heard true entrepreneurs sharing their experience with us and motivating us to go out there to do likewise.
The CondoSG entrepreneurial experience is rather unique as this team is a diverse team of students from different countries, schools and interests. When we come together, we shoot off many ideas but I discovered that when we presented our ideas we would try to build on each other’s ideas and incorporate it into our business. This makes working with the CondoSG team a wonderful team to work in.
Everyone has a childhood dream and mine is to start my own business one day. Right now, I would like to be a social entrepreneur. I was inspired by the Professor Pamela‘s “can-do” spirit, as in her personified the characteristic that everything can be done. This course has further strengthened my cause to be a social entrepreneur as through the encouragement that I got and the experience I gained, I’m more inspired than before to help solve a part of the world’s problem. I would like to continue chasing my childhood dream. What about you?
I’ve taken a similar course, like MGMT 324, during polytechnic. So, when I decided to take Technological Entrepreneurship: Opportunity Identification during the summer term, I thought it would exactly be the same stuff as what I’ve did before – report writing, theory, case readings, etc. Before I’ve ever taken this module, I was a “biz-noob” (as known as a person who’s still new/inexperience in setting up a business). I’ve never set up or run a real-life business before. I think the closest I’ve got to setting up a business was just writing up a business proposal which didn’t materialize into the actual thing. It was all theory, but never practical.
So, when my first lesson started…Prof. Pamela Lim said that we’ll be doing real serious business in 5 weeks. Well, my first reaction was like “Whoa, real business? Did I hear right?” (O.o). It was something different and interesting, of course. I’ve never experience the practical aspect of entrepreneurship…and that’s where I decided to continue on throughout the term.
Setting up a business, like our Co-op, was tougher than it sounds in theory (especially when we have a big group of nine to start with). The excitement, the heated disagreements, the sleepless nights, and mistakes were all experienced throughout the five weeks. At times, we were receiving a lot of feedback and suggestions that we lose our way, and even our confidence, to continue because we were trying to included everything in our plan. But whatever awkwardness we’ve done, we must work our differences, dust ourselves off and keep moving forward. All the theories inside books can’t better explain the true value of setting up a business, only experiences and failures can.
Other than the module that enables us to get our hands “dirty”, I truly learn a lot from our guest speaker. I remembered he said that there are three golden words of an entrepreneur: Dreams, Reality and Sacrifices. Dare to dream high; reality will help you think things rationally; and sacrifices must be made in order to gain success of business. Sometimes, I don’t know if I would truly be able to do so…which is why I have high regards to those who do.
Finally, I’ve learned that managing and setting up a business is a totally different entity. Managing a team or group requires trust, respect and unity. Without either of them, the team can just topple and become disarray. As I’ve the opportunity to lead, I’ve learned that one must draw a line between a leader and a friend. At times, I must be serious and stand my ground in certain issues. On the other hand, I should trust that my members can complete the job without much intervention. One way to respect them is to understand and give them a listening ear to their ideas.
In conclusion, I feel that the most beneficial aspect in taking this module would be Prof’s Pamela Lim’s practical advice and tips as an experienced entrepreneur. Instances like making effective business plan presentations, finding sources of funds governments and external parties, and so on. She even recommended her own contacts to help in building our business. Such tips are rare and will never be found in textbooks; I’m happy that Prof. is willing to share her trade secrets with the class.
So, if anyone ask if MGMT324 is a good module, I would definitely say YES! ;)
Before I attended class for this module, I’ve tried several businesses before but none was really successful. Never had I tried writing a business plan, working out the financials and planning the marketing strategy before starting my businesses in the past which was pretty crucial to the success of a business.
I was pretty amazed by the way that the lesson for this module was conducted as we were expected to really come up with a business idea and to materialize it. It was no longer all words and no action. Through the execution of the business right from the conceptualization of idea to coming up with the business plan and starting business proper, I’ve had a very in depth understanding of the workings of a business which I feel was a very enriching experience.
There were also guest speakers who were invited to share with us their learning experience which I feel was priceless. The knowledge they impacted based on their past experience in terms of pitfalls to avoid in businesses and important factors to take note of when managing a business.
All in all, even though the work load was heavy for this module, the lessons and experiences that I brought away from this module was truly amazing. A class to be attended by one and all.