Technological entrepreneurship, what a mouthful! Truth be told, the very word 'technological' was a term already considered too technical for me. However, I bided into this class out of sheer desperation as I needed one more module. To my surprise, by the end of week one, this module was uncalled for and the only reason for my attendance was the fact that I gave Priscila my word. The attendance did not go to waste as the first lesson left a positive impression that convinced me to stay on. I recall uttering to Priscila, "It seems like we can really learn something useful from this class."
Even then, I still had some reservations. The class was filled with individuals who one way or another seemed to have experience with starting up their own businesses. I felt like a greenhorn and entrepreneurship was foreign to me. Chucking the self-consciousness aside, I was then motivated to be as experienced too. I stuck it through, formed my team and later, befriended entrepreneurship.
Pop Art Inc. was founded and its journey was quite a remarkable one for me with its literal ups and downs. Our team came together by pure coincidence; we were mostly lost and did not know which groups we were assigned to. We then stuck together throughout and made sketches of our business plan. The Vietnam trip though, was a leap of faith and changed everything. Personally, I am a pessimist and a risk adverse person who rarely dares to take the plunge unless I am confident of the outcome. This is perhaps the dilemma that many entrepreneurs like me are caught in. However, Prof's encouragement, the bursting optimism from the team and my goal to become an entrepreneur pushed me to take that very leap. I guess taking the first step for the first time is often the hardest and now that I have done it, I am definitely more confident of doing it again and again and again.
As mentioned in class, though it seemed like we did not fulfill the primary reason of going to Vietnam, I believe we obtained something more than that, something intangible, something deeper with more meaning. There, I was humbled. I always thought that I was rather street smart; however the trip showed that I was naïve instead. I thought that sourcing for a supplier was easy, but it was not especially when we are in a foreign land with language and culture as barriers. I thought that just as long as I had a brilliant plan, it would work out, but it did not as I found out a brilliant delivery is needed too. However, this trip proved to be fruitful rather than wasteful. Through the incident with our supplier, I have learnt the essence of not being beaten down by such occurrences and that I should take them in my stride and learn from it. I am proud to say I have.
Last but not least, what I love most about this class? The DYNAMICS! I am not sure how many of you will agree with me, but this is one of the least competitive classes I have had experienced in SMU. I honestly do go around boasting to others that this is a friendly class that sincerely wants to help your business and gives constructive, value-adding comments. (I am not bootlicking, but feel free to give me extra brownie points!) So yes, I truthfully thank each and every one for your awesome contribution and for making this a memorable class that I will miss.
TE-2010-S2: Vincent LAI – The Joy of Entrepreneurship
by VINCENT LAI
(Tel Aviv, Israel)
There is a joy in me when I see fellow entrepreneurs enjoying growing their baby. =) To me, entrepreneurship means Freedon. Many many years ago when I was 20 I had a discussion with a very good friend of mine talking about the typical life cycle, particularly in Singapore.
I break down the life cycle in Singapore into 3 sub-cycles: • 1st sub-cycles – Primary >> Secondary >> Tertiary education (you don’t really have to worry about money) • 2nd sub-cycles – Working for a better future >> Marriage/Buy Houses (need money) • 3rd sub-cycles – Having the next generation (need more money)
Ok let me explain, the 1st cycle is nothing much, basically your parents will take care of it. Your job is to just focus on studying and absorb as much knowledge from the world as you can, from school environment, university, friends and teachers.
The 2nd cycle is the interesting one, the moment your parents told you that you are on your own; no financials supports from them from now on, then things become really challenging in life. Basically you are on your own, you start to live differently. Did you already notice about the "trap" for working as an employee? Let me put it in the SMU student context. We all study and work hard; many of us are prepared to join the work force.
The way I look at it is this – we can start to work after graduate, earn and save some money, by the time we have some money, we want to get married. So all of our savings gone to our marriage, buying houses, you are trapped by the typical life cycle now. Agreed? Ok then we continue to work and save, by the time we have some money, oh we need to have a baby, now we are in 3rd sub-cycles and money comes into the picture again, need to do more planning for the future, for the next generation. 1st kid, 2nd kid or maybe more kids! More money it means! It means buying milk powder, it means having savings for their future education savings, insurance, it means letting them to exploring different things in life (trying out sports or arts), tertiary etc etc . All these need money!
On top of that, working as an employee doesn’t really have any job security (in my humble opinion), you might be fired anytime. So my point is this - if we work as an employee, where do we find FREEDOM in doing what our soul truly want to be/do? I have known few people like in my life that quit their very very comfortable job in the mid 40s and become an entrepreneur - Nicholas Koh who used to be Lieutenant Colonel in Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), now running big business in GCC middle-east; thank God he came into my life through Kirpal. Robert Kiyosaki who used to work for Apple as an evangelist. My former StandChart boss who wants to become an entrepreneur now! It is so funny when I bump into him that day and now that he wants to follow my foot step.
So, I think being an entrepreneur can break this typical life cycle. To find our truest self and do what we really want to in life, not being tied down by money, by the "default standard" that is meant for the mass. Of course, I am cognizant that a lot of hard work needs to be put in, but I believe if you continue to work in the correct direction and enjoying what you are doing, money will come and that is where FREEDOM comes into our life. When you are enjoying what you are doing, you are no longer working anymore, you are enjoying every moment in your life, that is where life feels really good.
Toon King said seized the opportunity, I have given few opportunities to start a business with awesome people around me, now this is my chance in life and I am making it a reality every day, one step at a time. My mind is just full of the picture of the future. I am really fortunate to meet a bunch of good friends in Singapore, US and Israel. I will be going to mid-east to explore business opportunity as well. Besides, many mentors/angels are willing to spend their time with me, to guide me in the path that is less travelled by. The government and SMU are supportive in some ways as well. I know I have chosen a path that is different, but like what you said Prof, it is not about the right decision; it is about righting the decision. This is something in my mind always.
Dr Ting gave me a very deep impression that a good team in business is very very important when I first met him. Now with a good team as foundation, it enables the team to soar; this is where clarity in business directions becomes very very important. I always think that clarity preceded mastering in something. Only if we are clear of where we are heading, then we can move on, like Steven Covey said, begins with the end in mind. We have mentor guiding us, I believe we can do it.
Many challenges ahead but having said that – light a candle instead of cursing the dark. Make this life a worth-living one. Once someone asked me, life is like a movie, is yours worth watching ? Now whatever I do, I am making this "movie" an exciting one ! Thank you so much, Prof. =)
TE-2010-S2: Much more than just a course requirement
Me in Beijing
I initially planned to take this course solely to clear my Technological and Entrepreneurial course requirements. However, this journey turned out to be entirely different from what I thought. It was the most practical and hands-on course one can get in a business school like SMU, and it allowed me to see things much more clearly. Ironically, this was the first time I had the chance to come out with financial statements myself from scratch, despite being an Accountancy and Finance student. It was also made realistic because we all had our specific roles rather than everyone working on a balance sheet together in other Finance modules. In addition, we were coming out with figures for a company my group set up ourselves. Despite everyone having their specific roles, it was an excellent learning opportunity because everyone can learn from others who are experts in their fields. I was able to learn technical skills, marketing skills, leadership skills and the like from my team members. The way Prof Pam conducted the class was also different from other modules, where she acted more as a facilitator rather than a Professor. She tried to be our friend rather than just a Professor and she made us set goals and targets for ourselves rather than provide a generic one. This is definitely better because everyone is different. As a facilitator, she shared with us many stories of her life and other entrepreneurs and why they failed, or why they succeeded. She shared with us important aspects of how to set a business, from choosing a management team to the eventual raising of funds, etc. The way the class was conducted allowed us to refine our business plan gradually, with not only Prof’s inputs but the comments and views of our friends and peers. I also learnt that so many of my peers are actually entrepreneurs and having their own business which does make me consider what should I do in the future. It also made me rethink that maybe it is not as impossible as I thought to start up a business. Most importantly, the talks by the CEOs taught me a lot of important lessons about entrepreneurship, setting up of a business and life in general. In essence, the course gets me thinking, and this might affect important decisions about my future career plans. Thank you Prof Pam, Andy, my awesome group and the wonderful class for this experience.
I chanced upon this course because I had to clear my T&E module. I had no idea what this course is about. All I heard from my friends who took this course before is that prof pam is a very nice prof, and hence I bidded for this course - without much expectation. Initially, I was quite worried because as the name "Technology Entrepreneurship" suggests, I supposed that a lot of IT skills would be involved and my IT skills are really really bad.
In contrast to the boring technology lecturing that I had expected, this course totally changed my learning experience! Firstly, it is very hands-on and really prepares us for the working life out there, unlike all the very theory based courses (esp when I am taking accounting courses). Honestly, the experiences Prof Pam provides us with are even better than doing an internship! Most importantly, (heaving a sigh of relief), this course does not touch a lot on technology (which is not of interests to me), instead it teaches me a lot of entrepreneurship skills!
I would very much want to set up a small business of my own in future and Prof Pam really exposed us to a lot of experiences about entrepreneurship. Other than leaving us to set up a business of our own from scratch, she talks about her real-life entrepreneurship experiences, gives us advices and tips on new startups so that we can be more "street-smart", inviting successful entrepreneurs to speak to us so that we can hear about their real-life experiences and learn from them and get inspired. I found all these very useful and on top of adding more depth to the course, it makes the course enjoyable!
Although I have to say that this course is more time-consuming that I have expected, I guess it is a reflection of how tough starting and running a new startup is. In fact, I believe that starting and running a new venture (esp without guidance) will be even tougher than this. I believe that we are now under a very sheltered environment, with the prof and the TA and fellow classmates giving us a lot of help and guidance, and as prof pam mentioned, we are working with fellow university friends who do not have an agenda working with us. I believe that in the outside world, setting up a business would be much more difficult and we would face much more difficulties.
I enjoyed working with my group mates (aka business partners). Everyone is very accomodating towards each other and we had a lot of fun working together. TV production had been one of my interests and although it is abit embarrassing and weird seeing myself on the screen, I always feel a sense of achievement and satisfaction after each of our productions. Because there is a lot a lot of hard work behind every production - camera angle, NGS, cooperation and collaboration between actors, timing etc. The final production you see on the screen is actually after a lot of hard work! Also, this is the first time I tried editing videos. Have never done it in my life before. Initially I was quite clumsy and felt quite frustrated because I was not familiar with the program and there was just so much to edit and hearing your voices over and over again was kind of irriatating after a while (haha). But when I looked at the end product, I really felt a sense of accomplishment and felt that all the time and effort was worth it.
All in all, I did not regret working with my "business partners" as well as the "business idea" we have come out with. I believe that HeyChinaTV! has a lot of potential! Not forgetting all the guidances and advices given by Prof Pam, our TA Andy, and our classmates, our business would not have come thus far without all your contributions! =)
How time flies. It seemed like just yesterday I enrolled in this entrepreneurship class with little expectation. Now 13 weeks later, it has surpassed all aspects I thought it would be and then some! I just wished I had taken it earlier, and not in my final year at SMU.
What makes this course great? Simple. It is hands-on, structured only as much as it needs to be, but gives you freedom as far as your mind can take you. Most significantly, it is Professor Pamela's personal sharing that has been invaluable in helping us navigate the pitfalls, dangers and challenges as we embark on our entrepreneurial journey.
Personally, I was surprised at how little theory we had to memorize in this course. I could not help but resonate with Professor Pamela's thoughts when she commented that "in the real world, you don't have to memorize all that. If you need to, just go look it up." Touché!
It reminds me of a famous story involving renowned physicist Albert Einstein. When a colleague asked him for his phone number once, Einstein started looking up a telephone directory for it. Shocked, the colleague asked him,"Don?t you recall your own phone number?? Einstein replied, "No, why should I memorize something I can so easily get from a book??"
Entrepreneurs of today do not need to know everything in detail. All they need is just to know where, who and how to get the expertise he or she seeks. It amazes me that almost every other course in university still emphasizes memorization. I believe they have not caught up with the times. In an age where even the most remote information can be retrieved in under 1 second with our modern search engines, shouldn't the emphasis be on the speed and ability to find locate accurate information? (Of course, the ability to apply that knowledge needs no discussion). I guess that's the difference between academics and business people. Such resourcefulness also extends to talent spotting potential experts and partners.
Thus I like this course because of its relevance to the real world and for the rare firsthand insights from seasoned business people.
Takeaway 1: Can entrepreneurship be taught?
I once believed that you could not teach entrepreneurship anymore than you could teach creativity. However, I realized that much of this debate came down to the nature versus nurture argument. This course has helped me realize that given the right conditions, with the right group of like-minded individuals, the entrepreneurial spirit can be honed! It may be been a mere 3.5 months but I can already feel such a big difference compared to my risk-taking efforts of before. I had never worked on an idea so consistently and progressively before.
Takeaway 2: An idea is only as good as the team behind it I soon realized that the quality and composition of my team-mates made the biggest difference. Each of us had different areas of specialization and could carry the weight of the team in those areas of law, marketing, etc. It made the workload manageable and I never felt that I had to redo their work. Finding quality partners was also an ongoing process for people often come and go.
Takeaway 3: Am I suitable to be an entrepreneur? Thirdly, I wanted to know if I was suitable to be an entrepreneur. Did I have what it took? I had a revelation after the guest lecture when Mr. Wong Toon King talked about how he needed a partner strong in finance to balance his exuberance. That's when I realized that I was perhaps more suitable supporting a front man from behind the scenes. In fact, many a successful business is not a one-man or one-woman show. Bill Gates has Paul Allen. Google has Lawrence and Sergey. And let's not forget about the Facebook quad of Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin.
I should find a partner who could be the face of the business, or I could train myself to be that lead man. Either way, at least I now know what I need to do in future!
The newspapers only publish entrepreneurs who have succeeded in life. But for each successful entrepreneur, there are probably ten or more other entrepreneurs who failed. Well that is what my parents always tell me. So when I told them about my team’s business ideas for HeyChinaTV!, they asked me why I was taking this course that did not fit into what I’m supposed to be studying. Initially in the first few weeks, my reply was simply “It is compulsory.” But I realised that as the weeks went by, I spent more time trying to justify to them why my business idea will work. On hindsight, I guess that is when I actually started to become more serious and passionate about what I was doing with my team.
The truth is that before this class I too felt that I could never become an entrepreneur. Ok honestly, I’m a person with no big visions and no big dreams, and I always felt that these were crucial elements in becoming an entrepreneur. Yet over the past few weeks, I learnt from the many CEO talks that what truly matters in becoming an entrepreneur is to be passionate about what you are doing, no matter whether it is big or small.
It is perhaps ironic, but after we came up with HeyChinaTV!, I actually started to work harder in my other subjects. During my accounting courses, I took the initiative to discuss with my other more well-read friends about the valuation of start-ups. I started analysing the strategies mentioned in my strategy classes to see how they could relate to our business model. And even today, when I opened the newspapers and saw the report on stricter enforcements by RIPs (Recording industry Performance Singapore) to make users pay for copyrighted music work ($2,000/year) or use royalty-free music ($80/song), I wondered if that will add extra costs to our video production, if we were to have music in our videos to make them more attractive.
Since we are on the subject of videos, I want to share a major takeaway I had during filming.
Me: Hey, go watch my HeyChinaTV! Video, it’s on YouTube! Friend: Why? I don’t even see you in the video?! Me: Ya, I’m not in there, but I’m part of it too you know!
When this happens, I always feel a bit sad. I guess even when watching major films, the audience generally focus their attention on the actors and actresses, but they have little idea how hard the crew work behind the scenes too. I learnt to be more appreciative of the work that goes on behind the cameras. Of course it is difficult to be an actor too! But with all the limelight placed on them, the people who work backstage taking the videos and photos, editing the films and preparing the props seem to become somewhat invisible. As I worked on HeyChinaTV!, I become more aware and grateful of those people behind the scenes, who may not receive accolades, but put in a lot of effort as well into creating the success of the final product, which I previously took for granted.
Lastly, I just want to say that I really appreciate my friends. I think it doesn’t really matter whether HeyChinaTV! turns out to be a success or failure. If it’s a success, GREAT! If not, then we will learn from our failure and start something else, maybe HeyDubaiTV! But in these 13 weeks, I have made many wonderful friends during the course, people who share the same passion as me; the love for Chinese culture, and the passion for filming, acting and simply trying new things. Thanks Marilyn, for always being the energiser bunny of the team. Thanks Jolene for sharing all your funny videos like Clicktv. Thanks Zhihao for being the neverending flow of creativity and thanks Steve for extending your knowledge in your current work to our project. And also throughout the course, to the classmates and Prof Pam who really inspired me, I’m very grateful for all of that. =)
SO HERE'S TO MORE HEYCHINATV! PRODUCTIONS! CHEERS!
I enjoyed very much from this course; Technological Entrepreneurship. Because I got three big elements for doing business by myself.
First, I learned a practical business plan. I am a year three student and I have learned marketing and strategy before. Hence, I supposed to know some tools for making business plan. However, when we are thinking about our company's real business plan, any ideas did not come up with my head. It was because I was just reading and remembering some theories only for exam and I already forgot it.But in this course, I had to make business plan in a real market, so I searched practical information a lot and did a productive meeting. Then finally, I learned how to make a business plan using the theory what I have learned before.
Second, I learned a big thing. It is a secret of entrepreneurs. I found that they do not think, just do it. In my group meeting, we did not think, we talked and planed that's it. we planed in a most productive way and did not have time to worry. It is a secret of successful business person.
Third, I got a courage from this course. To tell the truth, when i came to this course for the first time, I was thinking about whether should I drop this course or not. Because I am an exchange student from Japan and this course supposed to only for matured business students in SMU. Therefore to continue this course was one of the challenges for me. But actually in this course, I found so many companions who wants to do business by themselves and further more, not only students but also I could meet real entrepreneurs such as Dr.Ting. He gave us a word that"In process, you might feel lonely, but you are not alone in this world." From this world, I felt that there are so many entrepreneurs in the world who wants to change the society, the world,even though they do it only by himself. This courage is very respectable because it means entrepreneurs are challenging for themselves as well as business. I like this kind of independent people.They have a real courage. Fortunately, in this course I could get a courage by my companion and of course from the prof.
At the same time,I found my objectives. I am lacking of the knowledge of finance, the speed of searching info,technology and experiences.
I will bring whole of my experiences to Japan, study 2 more years and I will manage a company.
It is hard to believe that 12 weeks of this module has come and gone. It really seems like yesterday when the team’s first idea on leveraging frequent flyers to avoid alcohol levies was first floated. The Minister for Law even helped that idea along by changing the tax rules to allow an extra bottle of wine to be brought home in lieu of a bottle of liqueur. Also, the amount of work that the team has put in has been nothing short of astounding. In this time, we have: • Drafted a business plan • Made multiple pitches for our business concept • Presented our business concept at an Entrepreneur’s Forum • Met up with our business mentor • Produced several versions of our product • Continued to explore new marketing and sales channels
The best thing about all this work is that, in the midst of doing it, it did not really feel like work, at least for me. It has been one of the most pleasant “work” experiences I have ever had. There is a certain excitement and energy for the project that I usually only experience when participating in a competition. There is a certain drive to make the project work out, to give it my best shot.
It also helps a lot to have a wonderful team to work with. Each team member brings a unique skill-set to the table, and each is willing not only to do his fair share, but to cover for other members when they experience difficult times. I am very grateful to my team for covering for me in week 12 while I was away on competition, even as Si Wei and I bunkered down to write the business plan in Week 9 when the other team members had various mid-terms. To my mind, any success we achieve is a team effort.
I find the learning experience in this course a unique one for several reasons.
First of all, as was highlighted during one of our group discussions, the course is particularly hands-on in requiring students to actually go through the process of starting a business. Talking and reading about starting a business is one thing, but actually going through the steps of starting one is an entirely different learning experience. I have had the opportunity to experience the adrenalin rush when things are going well, and the agony when things go wrong, or the process is held up by external factors, like external programmers going MIA.
Secondly, starting a new business is a unique avenue for creativity, since nothing pushes out-of-the-box ideas quite like limitations and desperation. I remember in one meeting we were discussing how to increase market awareness of laptop theft concerns. Traditionally, a large company would run a advertisement campaign, but we were a few million dollars short of being able to do that. It was really out of nowhere that I suggested a tie-up with a LTB group, since there was a school community interest involved in the message. We all laughed about the idea, since it was really far out. After following up on it, it turned out to be infeasible because of certain course constraints in the LTB programme, but the extent to which we were willing to try something almost absurd has remained with us.
Thirdly, it feels like a summary of everything I have ever learnt in business school, which makes sense, since business school is supposed to prepare me to run a business of some kind. All the different modules on business processes, marketing, finance, and strategy, all sort of came together as a coherent whole as the team drafted the business plan. Almost for the first time, I began to realize why certain concepts were emphasized almost ad nauseum by the instructor 2+ years ago, and how important they really were to a business. I also began to experience how all the different components form part of a coordinated whole. In a way, this module is like the glue that puts the different pieces of the business school puzzle together.
This course has also inspired me , or perhaps re-inspired me, to give further thought to starting a business of my own (that does not involve my own legal practice). When I first started law school, I really thought of my law degree as a backup plan of sorts. In my head, the plan was to go into practice if I couldn’t start a business, or it failed. As the years went by, I put so much effort into my law studies that I began to think it would be a waste if I did not practice law. So the plan shifted to practicing for a while first, then starting a business if I didn’t like practice that much. After all, capital would be a lot easier to raise if I practice for some time. Lawyers get paid pretty well.
As the course went by, I began to reassess my priorities again. In a sense, I was wondering why I had abandoned my “first passion”, so to speak. The course was a time of some self-reflection about what I really wanted in life, and not just what was easy or convenient. I can’t say I’ve reached a definite conclusion about the first few years of my life after graduation, but at least starting a business is definitely on the cards again. I may even start a business and practice all at the same time. After all, if Prof can be a mother and run a business at the same time, being a lawyer and owning a business is almost easy in comparison.
TE-2010-S2: Pop Art Inc. could be the next big thing!
by Priscila Lin
New York, the land of Pop Art!
"Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art. " - Andy Warhol
Honestly speaking, I bidded for this module out of necessity, and because of the fact that Technological Entrepreneurship is a non-examinable module. Even on the first class, I had my reservations- there were already so many entrepreneurs in the class. Plus, the name of this module was enough to put me off, as I could not resonate with both words. I personally didn't feel that I'm cut out to be an entrepreneur, as I always thought that working for a big MNC would be the way to go. However, things changed for the better when I realized that the group I was being assigned had a very refreshing idea- Pop Art Business! That got me intrigued and I decided to take that first step of faith and see where this module would bring me.
Prof said it's easy to start a business, but takes a hell load of effort to sustain it. And this module allowed me to experience the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. Compared to other teams in the class, I have to admit Pop Art Inc. had it easy. We didn't have much technological stuff to work on, except the website. We didn't have to come up with a software for our product. Having said that, Pop Art Inc. also had a roller-coaster start. Why so? That's because, unlike other groups, our business model is highly reliant on our suppliers. And to make the matter worse, our suppliers are located overseas. We initially didn't think much of this project, as we thought it was just a module. But, as time passed, we realized that this whole Pop Art business could be the next big thing! Hence, instead of just wanting to get this module over and done with, my team mates and I decided to take the plunge and booked tickets to Vietnam. Is this what bootstrapping is called? I think so, cause we definitely felt the pinch! Haha.
So, the very first take-away I got from this module is that in business, you need to find like-minded friends to do business with. I feel that it is very important for business partners to be on the same page, particularly so if you see your business to be a long-term investment. And, instead of sweeping things under the carpet, it'd be healthy if there's open communication. That said, I am glad that the founders of Pop Art Inc. are a bunch of crazy people who work hard and play hard together at the same time.
The Vietnam trip was indeed the trigger for Pop Art Inc. It has really been an eye-opener. We survived 4 days without killing each other. I must say this is one of the most interesting group mates I've got in my entire SMU life. Through this trip, we found out more about each other's working styles and came to better appreciate each other's forte. Although the Vietnam trip didn't turned out the way we expect it to be, we all took away some valuable lessons nonetheless.
1. In business, one should always take chances! Just like what Mr. Wong Toon King said, "Seize the moment!". 2. Always have Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. It's good to have a best case scenario and worst case scenario when doing your business, not just the financials. 3. Hiccups are aplenty, but an entrepreneur should never lose hope.
And my personal favorite: 4. When life throws you lemons, make lemonade! Instead of wallowing in self-pity when something didn't go your way (when things didn't work out between us and the suppliers), think of other options, think out of the box! Or, just simply make the best out of your situation.
So, the module's almost over. And I can't believe we've accomplished this much as a team. Thinking back, the lessons in class by Prof Pam, the many pitchings by different groups, the numerous feedback from the ever so helpful classmates, the learning of how to do a business plan, the application of using social media to better market to our customers, the birth of our website etc... Each and every single thing matters and counts towards being a better entrepreneur. And, I'm so glad I decided to give this module a try. Even though we did not manage to sell any art pieces (and recoup our losses) or get our business started, I believe with all my heart that we are successful in other different ways. At least now when friends see Pop Art, they will think of Pop Art Inc. instead of Andy Warhol. Hahaha.
So, A BIG THANK YOU to Prof for your rich store of anecdotes about entrepreneurship. I daresay that it's been one of the most useful and hands-on module I've ever encountered in SMU. And, kudos to the helpful classmates who also have their valuable experiences to share with the class!
4th Year, Last term, unrelated module to my course of study. Sounds like a great recipe for slacking and be a disaster to the rest of my group mates, no?
Coming into the module, I started with minimal expectations, except to relax through it, do as little work as possible, pick up some lessons on how not to get my money cheated if I ever wanted to invest in a business... and hopefully come off with a decent grade. As a political scientist, entrepreneurship was hardly my thing, much less a TECHNOLOGICAL one.
Eventually you do realise that slacking off in a group is never truly possible in SMU, much less in a group of friends. The big advantage,however, of working with a group of good friends is that there is no need to get over any initial awkwardness and there are few, if any communication barriers at all. The other advantage was that the group comprised of fellow athletes who loved to cycle and we hoped to be able to have some form of involvement of our passion into the business.
The first idea was to start up a business along all the MRT stations where cyclists would be able to park their bikes safely and shower before taking the train to work. Then we realised that maybe the plan was a wee bit too ambitious and eventually scrapped it. Using our discussions of Singapore's sometimes questionable public transport policies as a launchpad, further discussions brought up the idea of a setting up a carpool system which allowed real-time updates and serve as a more efficient alternative.
To cut a long story short, we pushed through with the idea and while I can't consider it to be a full success yet, I think I can claim a few small victories and learning lessons along the way.
1. The fact that I now know the existence of business mentors and incubators, the difference between a balance sheet and income statement, etc. I probably sound completely ignorant, but I think there's no shame in that fact, and the good news is that I'm probably a little less ignorant now! =)
2. Our business idea seems to truly have potential, and I'm quite happy that our hard work might really see the light of some profits at the end of the day. But as Prof mentioned, starting the business is the easy part, the next step is sustaining, and growing it. Sounds a bit like love doesn't it?
3. You NEED a good team. This may not be possible in situations out of school, but it is probably important to retain a certain familiarity and backbone to a working crew. I've worked with the rest of my team under different situation previously and we are very comfortable with each others' working styles. Importantly, there was trust already built up, and this aided greatly in the dynamics and there was very little time wasted.
I initially found the class to be fiercely intimidating, with all the entrepreneurs and other business students sprouting terms which might as well have been Arabic to me. I guess that's the one great strength of SMU as well, to put students in truly uncomfortable positions so that there is learning value-add in preparation for the real world. Over time though, the class turned out to be a gold mine of information, with people more than willing to share their experiences and leveling out the learning curve for the rest of us.
This course has offered a truly different perspective on issues and opened up new options for me. I will not claim that I have become inspired to head out and choose entrepreneurship as my life's work; but as we have been taught often in class, it is all about doing the hard work, being realistic and taking the opportunity when it comes. If anything, apart from learning how to start up a business from the class, the greatest takeaway is the fact that we always have options- we just have to be aware of the options and if necessary, be ready to pounce on them.
by Marilyn Ong
(Singapore Management University, Singapore)
My name is Marilyn Ong, a third year undergraduate from the Singapore Management University (SMU). I started the business HeyChinaTV! through the course, "Technological Entrepreneurship and Opportunity Identification". This course provides students the opportunity to start a business of their own and to equipped them with the foundation and skills they need for their startup business.
At Week 1, I came in the class not knowing what to expect and what group mates or friends I would meet. The only person I know is Prof Pamela. To my surprise, Andy is the TA. It was pretty a sign of relief as at least I know there's someone around in the class whom I know of. That pretty much started my first class at TE. I formed a group with a few members in the class. At first, I thought it would be a better idea forming a bigger group so I emailed those people who did not sign up in any groups. Fortunately, I found one! A team of 5, sounds not so bad! At that point of time, I didn't know what this would bring me. I just thought it would be another project team that I have to work with, and a project to fulfill at the end of the course. Little did I know that it would bring me to a whole new journey for me to explore, for me to achieve.
I always have in mind that I want to work for myself, I want to be an entrepreneur. However, like many others, I feel constraint because of the limited resources I have, the knowledge and the lack of courage to start. I do not have the power of speech like many others do. I can't speak perfect English. And because of that, I think I don't score well in school. I do not earn Asssss or A+++ like many others do. So my hopes on getting good grades for this module have somehow, vanished. So I thought, it would be pretty difficult for me to start a business like this. Another reason why I fear of starting one, is for fear that I might not be able to return the money to my parents or my close ones that I owe. Cause those, are their hard earned money. I do not have a good background like many others, and parents who are very supportive of their children being an entrepreneur. Neither do I have parents who can support me with a lot of capital to start my own company, or to do whatever I want. The only thing I know, is that, at the very end of the day, I want to be one. I want to be the one to tell everyone out there, that yes, I've finally started.
Being an entrepreneur is never easy. The learning curve is steep when you do not have the knowledge required for the business. Being in this film business, I do not have the required skills for it. I do not know about filming, neither do I have the knowledge about China culture. Besides, being a young looking lady here, there isn't much credibility to talk about to others. I find it really hard to talk to others, even within the team. My team faced problems at Zhou Kitchen. We booked their private dining room for filming of yusheng but was rejected by the Manager. Even though we explained to him and tried to negotiate with him, he simply refused to let us take out our camera. To me, it shouldn't be any problem as our intention is to film us eating the yusheng. Isn't that what customers do too? You dine in a restaurant and you take videos of your friends. I couldn't understand it at that time. It took me awhile to realize that the Manager probably had difficulty trusting us as a young start up when they see us as students.
So, I would really say it's really important to have network. We managed to film our videos at a nice dining setting. Having known a few contacts out there, I managed to gain approval to use the places and props from them. It is really needed because as young entrepreneurs like us, we have limited resources and we need a lot of help and advices from others. So remember, do a lot of networking especially in your university years. You will never know that the friend beside you now might be your saviour in the future :)
I feel, that the most takeaway I get from this course should be guts. Guts that yes, I can do it, why not? Without this, I think I will still be another SMU Student strolling to class everyday praying that my projects would end soon. I swear I am really glad that I took this journey together with Prof and everyone out there! I really like the structure, I like the people, the comments, the style, the prof and the TA!
Thank you for these wonderful opportunities. Thanks Clement, who is always willing to provide me and my team the insights to adwords etc. Thanks Vincent for shouting my brand name HeyChinaTV! whenever you see me. Thanks Andy for being so supportive of us, and giving us the BRIGHT IDEA of working with Mr Neo. I will definitely want to seize this opportunity! Thanks Prof Pamela, for teaching and guiding Marilyn for the two semesters!
You can ignore or read through briefly the above, but remember this:
IF YOU HAVE THE PASSION, JUST DO IT. (Okay, I know you have heard this 100000 times but it's true)
Sometimes, I really think I am crazy enough to start this film business. Starting a business sounds easy peasy (yes of course it's not!) I think I can educate many many people out there. And they enjoy my films! I think I can spread it all over the world and attract people to watch my film every day. Crazy idea, aint it?
The first decision we want to take will always be the heart decision. At times, we always tend to think twice, think and think and think whether it will work out or not, or what will happen if you do it. However, if you keep thinking, you will never be able to start. There are also many others out there who would shoot down your idea and give you negative feedback. Yes, they are important too. But it will only make you fear of doing. Ideas are crazy, they are not rational. Just do it!! Like what Einstein said, "If I had relied solely upon my rational mind, I would never have made the discoveries for which I am famous. If at first an idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it."
We are the ones that are crazy enough to do it. I like one of Steve Job's quote, especially this "Because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."
When I was very much younger, my Mum used to say that I will be the only one in the family who is not cut out to start his own business. Those words stuck to me from a tender age and I always believed that I was destined to work for someone else.
When I entered SMU and engaged in various community projects, including a four-year stint as a volunteer and trainer with AIESEC Singapore, I became inspired to want to start a consultancy helping non-profits in Singapore, seeing how dismal the non-profit sector in Singapore is. However, I was also highly discouraged by the perceived difficulty of doing so, and I questioned whether I was really destined to be an entrepreneur, with my Mum's words ringing in my ears.
I took this course partially to clear my compulsory TE requirement, but also heeded the advice of some of my friends who took this course previously. I was still pretty skeptical in the first few weeks of the course, until the team actually started working on product development and planning for sales and marketing.
Putting asides the theories and all the detailed plans, it was a gradual realisation for me that all the while through the course, I was actually putting entrepreneurship into action, and seeing my ideas coming into fruition. It's about setting goals for the business and myself, meeting them slowly one by one with the help of a like-minded team, encountering the various hurdles, and gathering the courage and motivation to overcome them.
Above all, it was about proving myself wrong: closing a lid on all those fears and personal inhibitions about being an entrepreneur.
This course has made me realise that anyone can become an entrepreneur if they commit themselves to the goals they set, and overcome the psychological barrier of being one. It doesn't matter if one lacks knowledge in financial planning, product development, or marketing. More importantly, one has to be true to oneself: If you have a business idea that you are passionate about, run with it with all of your heart and soul. You are doing yourself a great disservice if you hold back based on unfounded fears and the need to stay in your comfort zone.
Above all, I am even more committed to starting my own consultancy for non-profits after working in the civil serviced and private sector following graduation. Life is simply too short to hold back our dreams.
There are a few other business tips that I would like to share during the course of my entrepreneurship journey:
(1) Fexibility trumps all the planning in the world! You can do all the detailed SWOT analysis, financial projections and marketing plans, but along the way, there will be many surprises to derail those plans. While it's good to have plans, it's more important to stay flexible and plan for multiple options in case one fails. This is based on my experience as the CTO with LapLock when we banked our product development schedule on just a few programmers who failed to deliver their products on time, thus leading to the delay in our product launch.
(2) You are only what you think you are! When we encounter hurdles, it is very tempting to give in to emotions, or jump to conclusions about ourselves and others. Similarly, the way we relate to others is defined by how we perceive others. Hence, it's very important to know how to "let things go", be calm, rational and objective when we encounter hurdles, and remember this when we deal with all kinds of people - team members, programmers, potential partners, business mentors, and above all, OURSELVES!
(3) Say more "Yes" and less "No"! There is a natural human compulsion to say "No" to things that we are unfamiliar with or are uncomfortable with. Why not go against this by saying more "Yes"? Before I knew it, I was attending entrepreneurship talks beyond the classroom, and meeting my group's business mentor for lunch to get some ideas, among other activities that I never knew I would do. As an entrepreneur, it is important to get out of our comfort zone. Whenever we get too comfortable, perhaps it's time to start moving out!
TE-2010-S2: “With this, you will never have to work again!”
by Edmund Tan
I first heard about this course from friends who took it last semester. As this course did not fulfil any credits for me, it was a huge leap of faith for me to invest the extra time and effort. Looking back, it was definitely worth it as I learnt more than I expected.
KILLER LESSON 1: You don’t have to know everything. You just need to know people who know something. Networking is underrated.
In the last few years, I had constantly been wondering where my competitive advantage edge as a finance and accounting student was. Venturing into technological businesses was tough because I felt that I lacked the engineering background. Starting a website company was tricky as I was not computing trained. Alas, looking back, these seem like psychological obstacles which I had conveniently laid down for myself. An entrepreneur is someone who is able to convince people smarter and better than him to work for him. You just have to be the one who puts the team together and guide them towards a common goal. That has given me more encouragement in starting a business, but like many people who never started businesses I was caught up with analysing and researching.
KILLER LESSON 2: Over Analysis would lead to paralysis. Just do it.
Common excuses like lacking the expertise to do so, lacking the capital should be thrown aside. It seems like bootstrapping is the key that would jumpstart you in the business. If you are lucky enough to get funding, that’s great. If not, quit whining and source from all possible avenues. The problem with many of us who are in university right now is that we have a backup option. The fear of failure has driven many of us to take up the safe option of drawing a regular salary. In a sense, there’s more to lose for us then someone who has a lower educational level. On the flip side, if you think about it, university can be an enriching experience. Technically, it should better prepare you to succeed in setting up a business because you have acquired more knowledge. I had once harboured the thought if not going to university at all. My argument was that I could start a business with or without a university education, why waste the money. Looking back, I am glad I went to university because there I learnt so many useful things that I could apply when setting up a business.
KILLER LESSON 3: You don’t have to chase money. With a great idea, the money will chase you.
I still have my reservations on this because it sounds good, but hasn’t happened to me just yet. But I can see the logic behind this as I realized that investors are constantly looking for the next big thing. There is actually a lot of money floating around, just an absence of great ideas moving around. A great website which I often look to for inspiration is www.springwise.com. It is mind blowing to see the variety of ideas people can dream about and a showcase of how money will chase great ideas. This course has helped me put on the thinking cap as nowadays, I am constantly on the lookout for business ideas. It is amazing how one can see the numerous possibilities when they actually make the conscious effort to look out for it.
KILLER LESSON 4: Pursue your interests. This way, you wouldn’t have to work for the rest of your life.
This saying has been around for years, but I was always sceptical about it. After this course, it has given me more confidence to try and do something on my own. The truth is, for average people to truly be rich, you have to be a business owner. How many Warren Buffett or Tiger Woods are there? Park Ji Sung is a one off, or so I think. By pursing something that you like, you would enjoy each moment. Your interest itself would be your key motivational driver, which would lead you to bigger things. Personally, I enjoy drinking coffee a lot, a habit which I cultivated since young despite huge resistances from my parents. “You are too young to drink coffee. Too much coffee is bad for kids because of the caffeine.” There simply wasn’t anything that could stop my love for coffee. During this course, it made me contemplate about pursuing this interest. The mere thought of it makes me excited. Oh well, who knows?
TE-2010-S2: Can I Pop Art You ? - Bevan Tan Jun Ming
by Tan Jun Ming, Bevan
Life Quote: I-M-POSSIBLE
Writing this journal was a lot harder than I thought it was. Squeezing what I have learn for 12 weeks into a few paragraphs is not really easy. I gave it a lot of thought and reflect about it and hope that my journal is still readable. Being a year 2 SIS student, I often look at my seniors in class and respect their experiences they have gathered and shared in class. Looking back at my Journey in Technological Entrepreneurship and Opportunity Identification, the only word I have is 'Satisfaction'. In addition, I thought I start off with 10 Satisfaction I have for this course.
1. Satisfied with starting and creating my first commercial site at Pop Art Inc (www.iwantpopart.com).
2. Satisfied with my Professor Pamela Lim for her constant guidance and sharing of her experience.
3. Satisfied with myself dropping my Business Process course (opps :x) just to attend this course.
4. Satisfied with my team mates who were unique and awesome in their own ways.
5. Satisfied with my fellow classmates who gave us constant feedback and sharing of experiences that taught me the way of an entrepreneurship.
6. Satisfied that learn a more realistic side of what it is like to be an entrepreneur and this course is not just another 'entrepreneurship' course.
7. Satisfied that I met some random stranger and gave my team and I great experience at Vietnam (Proved to me, the world is still filled with Kindness)
8. Satisfied that choose what I like to do by making the first step.
9. Satisfied with my weekly lessons that motivated and brightens up my week after having a long week in school.
10. Satisfied with being able to list 10 items of Satisfaction from T&E.
Thinking back of my journey, what is most wonderful is that a class of us undergo the same course. The amazing thing is that we all walk out with experiences crafted to our own walk with T&E. I feel this platform of experience that Professor Pamela Lim has built for us is indeed the best platform any course has to offer. In my experiences with so many entrepreneurship classes from poly until now, I indeed give my almost respect for what this course can make us accomplish over the 12 weeks. Then again, it is not just the professor but also like-minded friends who might be entrepreneurs or even soon-to-be. I have never expected to rely on my class for feedback, but just for this course, I CAN! I can go back and ask for feedback and voice freely without worrying that I am competing for class participation or even fear of backlash from others. This experience is unique.
From the 13 weeks, I'm really inspired with entrepreneurship, apart from the things we learn from taking the first step or even finding right friends. I saw another aspect of it that many people fail to remind you of, this is especially shown from some existing entrepreneurs and also mention by Mr Wong Toon King (T.K.), Love what you do and Do what you love. This very instant of why entrepreneurs are created is not because they want to just be their own boss; it is in fact a way of life or a belief they have. I strongly believe it is this that makes them think different, see life different and have a passion for what they do. From this course, I can see this strongly portrayed in individuals like Vincent, Andy, Professor Pamela Lim, my 'CEO' Leonard, Dr Wong Toon King and many more. I am glad that this course taught me about not some 101 steps about being an entrepreneur. Rather, what really an entrepreneur is about. I really love the challenges being thrown at Business plans, Business ideas, the business trips and really us being entrepreneurs. Until now, I still live in shock thinking that my team actually went to Vietnam during our school breaks. It was a double wow and really like to thank Prof for initiating this idea. It was awesome and I never believed we could have taken this idea so far. Seeing the business evolve was the other realistic expect, from just 13 weeks, I saw how the business undergone from just simply pop art, to DIY Pop Art to then Customized paintings.
I guess that at the end of day, I do believe 'We only live life once'. To those graduating or even still studying, find your purpose in life. If you end up as an entrepreneur one day or an employer, I guess at the end of day, you must truly tell yourself. You have done your best and live your life without any regrets. As much it sounds cliche to say 'Live Each day as it was your Last'. I will say that, "live each day as tomorrow will be uncertain". We never really know what going to happen but just as long for today. We make full use of it doing what we love.
I really had an awesome time in T&E. It was indeed fruitful to hear comments from my peers and fellow seniors. I like to thank you my team Pop Art Inc, Professor Pamela Lim, Andy and all classmates. I hope you all well on your future endeavours. Till we meet again :P Perhaps any chance for a 20XX gathering for Professor Pamela Lim T&E class or a Facebook group :x
Unlike most people in Singapore, I was brought up to think that being a businessman is the way to go. However, I always felt that I was not cut out to be one and was contented with just getting a stable job with a decent income. Still there was a niggling feeling, I mean who does not like the idea of doing something where you have control of, potentially good money and the best part, it would not be a job- but something you enjoy and believe in. Sounds good, but I feel that not many people, including me, are willing to give up that sense of security and take a step into the unknown.
Call it fate or what, I did not know about this course until my friend told me about it. He said that I would actually have the chance to start my own business and that it was a fun and interactive course. Immediately, I was interested. This course would provide me the opportunity to 'try out' and see if starting a business is for me. Being a typical SMU student, I naturally tried to map this course with one of my courses but there was none hence I was faced with a dilemma as to whether I should take up the course, which will inevitably give me more workload and of course run the risk of not doing well in the course. Still, I decided to take up the course and I am lying when I say that this course is relaxing. Because IT'S NOT! There is quite a bit of work to be done, but interestingly, I never felt that the workload weighed me down. Sure there are times I do complain, but before I knew it, the weeks flew by and here I am, wishing that the course would be longer. Looking back, despite the heavy workload and the fact that I do not need to do this course, I would still have chosen to do it.
Starting a business is not as difficult as I thought it was, but succeeding in the business is challenging. When I was working on the business with my group, there were many takeaways which I cannot get in other courses. For example, commitment. Commitment has taken on a new definition altogether. In all my other courses, commitment just meant doing your part of the project, putting in ample effort. But, when it comes to business, doing your part is NOT enough. There are many things which I had to do, like knowing more about engineering. I could always leave it to the IT guy-Zhen Rong to go find out more. Seriously, GPRS? RFID? As long as the product works, I never once bothered about it. However, now that it is my business (I mean literally), I feel the need to understand everything, including the technologies and so I did, though it was not part of my job scope. I may not be a subject expert, but I definitely can tell people more about locating technologies now.
Also, in the course, I learnt a lot about the different funding offered by the government. The government has offered funding to promote entrepreneurship and this has created excitement among students like me. I have been talking to my other friends who are thinking of starting their business and it is interesting to note that there are more and more people out there who has thought of a business plan and are planning to apply for these funds. What is disappointing is, however, these people are not willing to still start their business in the event they do not get funding. I feel that this totally kills the entrepreneur spirit of taking risks. Are they really entrepreneurs? Back in the days of our parents, they did not have such incentives, yet they risked it all, and many of them failed, terribly- went bankrupt and all. But, they never gave up, they went around ?begging? for money, selling their assets, all because they wanted to try again. And some of them were successful after they failed. Isn't this being a true entrepreneur?
Well, after taking this course, I have a clear vision of what I want to do in future and I have chosen a job with a pay cut, but a job which gives me time for myself, so that I am able to work on a business in future.
Could this be the final journal that I write for Prof Lim? After 4 battle-hardened years and 13 journal entries under my belt, I should be considered a seasoned veteran. And as I write this journal, I cant help but feel a tinge of sentiment and the nostalgia naturally follows.
What have I enjoyed most about Prof Lim’s classes? Well I could rattle on about stuff like NDAs, IPOs, avenues for funding, poison pills and golden parachutes but I feel that these things, while interesting, are merely side dishes to a larger and more important main course. Learning from others by means of teaching, consulting, researching and group activity is the fuel that runs the Technological Entrepreneurship engine.
I have enjoyed some of the knowledge dispensed and funny quips from our very competent TA, Andy. He said, ‘Prof Lim was quite upset with one particular student last semester who wrote that he was more willing to be EMPLOYED rather than reigning in the challenges of entrepreneurship.’ I find this quite riveting as most students just want to graduate, get a decent job and run the cycle of life. What this means is that Prof Lim is fighting an uphill battle.
‘Entrepreneuship can be learnt, and also can’t be learnt.’ - Prof Pamela Lim
If that statement baffled you, well you’re not alone but if you give it some thought, it actually does make sense. I believe that entrepreneurship is partly innate, but those who don’t the acumen can learn it if they are willing to learn it. From a personal stand point, I’m not as gifted in this area as some of my very ambitious classmates but I feel that by continuing to learn about entrepreneurship through the course of my life, I will eventually get to where I want to be (on an entrepreneurial level). So for now, I will contemplate employment and maybe later on ill become my own boss. I hope I haven’t caused Prof further disappointment.
Andy also shared his personal story of how his idea got stolen by someone who was purportedly legitimate. (If you need a recap please email: firstname.lastname@example.org, I’m sure he’d be more than thrilled to tell you again) This teaches us an important lesson – Never trust anyone and always cover your a**. There are many ways to avoid such incidents, from patents to NDAs, all you need to do is research and find out what’s available. This is applicable to all facets of entrepreneurship.
Lastly, Prof says that I am not as vocal as I used to be (Yes, Andy told me). What’s disturbing is that she is right. From the youthful exuberance of a freshman to a very tired senior, the flames of entrepreneurship seemed to have been doused by the calling from the finance machine that seems to be consuming many graduates. It made me realize that this class was more of a personal journey more than anything else. Prof Lim helped me to reopen my eyes to the greener pastures of ‘not being employed’ (different from unemployed). I am more willing now to seek interesting project opportunities and developing mere ideas into prospective businesses.
So for that, I am truly grateful. I wish you the best of luck in trying to change the mindset of the youth in Singapore.
Pop Art Inc was something I bore a passion for when I first moved house back in November 2009. I had noticed a lack of affordable but attractive paintings that I wanted to beautify my room walls with. My quest bore to fruitlessness as I was unable to find nice paintings other than the mounted canvas prints in Ikea.
Then I heard about Ho Chi Minh City. A friend informed me that there were countless street side art galleries that sold what I wanted at a very affordable price. I was tempted to go over and get a few however I felt that merely flying all the way to Ho Chi Minh just to purchase one painting was not a useful utilization of resources. So I wondered to myself,
“If I am looking for paintings like these, surely there would be others like me?”
After asking around a little, I found my assumptions to be true and it was then I made up my mind that I would create a mini-business out of this. Not only would it benefit me, but it would benefit other low-level connoisseurs like me who want affordable but attractive paintings.
A little known fact about me was that I was already intending to do this before the advent of this course. The only thing holding me back was the hesitation I faced to take six months off to pursue something like this, and the certain fact that I would be doing this alone. This course however, was my dream factory. It gave me the opportunity and validation I needed to find an excuse to people around me to go up to Vietnam, and do what I wanted to do this term. It also introduced me to the right people whom I could count on to be passionate for this cause as I was. And finally, this cause brought me the discipline and structure I needed to transform this into a functioning business. Yes, this isn’t the first time I’ve tried my hand at entrepreneurship. I’ve set up a business before, most notably one that organizes Tactical Team sports like Laser Tag and Paintball for events, birthdays and corporate alike. The challenges the team and myself faced were not new to me. However, what this course did was to crystallize what I had learnt before and made me see that the science of business and entrepreneurship was just as important as the art and intuition behind it.
My first attempt at it was a haphazard, grope-in-the-dark experience that bore more brickbats than bouquets at first. This one received immense amounts of support from both the class and my peers. My take was that this was because this business was set up in a non-discriminatory environment and people don’t tend to judge you in the same way as you would when you are pitching to outsiders asking ‘what’s in it for me?’
This second attempt was structured, organized and less a journey of improvisation as before. And unlike my first experience, this course has also provided me avenues I can turn to for help should I need entrepreneurship assistance. If anything, that is probably the main reason why I would recommend this course as compulsory for any aspiring entrepreneur.
Recipe for Starting a Devilishly Chocolate-y Business
2 cups PERSEVERANCE 1 1/2 tablespoons *THICK SKIN 6 tablespoons *GUTS 2 1/2 teaspoons OPTIMISM 3/4 cup SELF-BELIEF 1 tablespoon **EVILNESS/CYNICAL ATTITUDE 4 cups CREATIVITY 3 tablespoons of ADAPTABILITY/OPENNESS TO NEW IDEAS As much PASSION as you want As much CHOCOLATE as you want
An incubator for baking the cake (fan-assisted much preferred).
*Please refrain from using the actual items. End product may be affected. ** Use sparingly.
Pre-heat incubator to 175 degrees Celsius.
1. Combine the dry items together (guts, self-belief and creativity). Mix well. Sieve in a small amount of passion. 2. Add thick skin to perseverance. Mix well until thick skin disappears. Add in evilness slowly, bit by bit. Sieve in a small amount of passion. 3. Combine both 1 and 2. Do not overmix. Sieve in a small amount of passion. 4. Stir in optimism. Sieve in a small amount of passion. 5. Add the chocolate and the rest of passion. 6. Pour into a square (9 x 9 inch) pan. 7. Pop into oven for 20-25 mins or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean. 8. Enjoy the fruits of your labour!
Yup, that's me doing what I love to do best: cycling, running, swimming, multi-sports. I don't really belong to the conventional stereotypical category of SMU students as well: get a business/accounting degree, get a job in a bank, earn my millions by the time I'm 35. On the contrary, I'm a Psychology major, I love studying the behaviour of people around me, and I absolutely have no reservations or fear towards the possibility of trying to attain a PhD in future. That said, I'm glad the "holistic" curriculum of SMU and the lack of choices Social Science students have for their Technology & Entrepreneurship module requirement, conspired to make sure I landed up in Professor Pamela Lim's class. It has been eye-opening to say the least, and definitely shown me an alternative career path (if you could call it that), at a time when my peers are all fretting over whether they have already secured a job before graduation. It has surprisingly given me a sense of calm and peace with regards to the whole job search mania and even gotten me excited about the prospects of my group's business.
Going into this class blind probably helped as well. With no preconceived notions about what skill sets one needed in setting up a business, what it took to be an entrepreneur,I was not limited and handicapped by any norms. I felt that was a plus point in ensuring that my ideas as well as my approach were constantly fresh and different. I was fortunate also to have friends in my team: not just simple friends, but dependable friends. Our group meetings felt more like a catch-up session, and conflicts that arise are always swiftly and amicably dealt with so that we move ahead constructively. With such a team, it made going through the long journey of constantly refining our business model so much more bearable, fun even. Through this meticulous process of going through and poking holes at our own business, I've learnt the value of humility, of not assuming that the business idea is going to work simply because we feel it's a good one. Being on the continuous lookout for improvements strengthens our business and also contributes to overall character building, one of the ways I feel this course has changed me.
To cut a long story short, perseverance and rising up to challenges was the order of the day throughout the 15 weeks of this class. Coming out of it stronger has given me a slightly different perspective in life: I now see it as very possible that we as the younger generation coming of age, have the ability to change the world. Change the world, these are 3 very strong words that often get dismissed by us as a mere ideal or dream, something so impossible that if we didn't achieve it in our life time, well, it's not our fault if something is so out of our reach right? However, I realized that through something as simple as making a business out of an idea you feel passionate about can have a life-changing impact on all the world, if only you are willing to take it to greater heights.
1) The informal learning atmosphere where inputs from everyone are relative spontaneous and are mostly drawn from real experiences as opposed to pure theoretical propositions 2) The project allowed us to take full ownership of ideas and the process of developing that idea into reality. 3) The challenges that spring up in an environment where unforeseen problems and solutions spring up randomly right from the conceptualization to the execution of the project. Life would have been rather boring otherwise. Adding to the challenges of an uncertain environment is the fact that there was always room for improvement in the project. There was always something to build on and to make better for our future users. 4) Being fortunate enough to be part of a team that complements each other. 5) Learning the basic theoretical framework in entrepreneurship and starting a business (For eg the types of grants and funding options; the composition of a management team; laying the foundations correctly by adopting the right mission and vision etc ) 6) Having the opportunity to interact and learn from successful entrepreneurs and to hear their criticisms on our own project.
When I enrolled for this course, my objectives were that I would be able to learn something new and impactful and to be able to experience a module that was radically different from the usual academic module. Somewhere in between, the objectives evolved. Very abruptly, the sole objective was to build a successful start up Fink. I am personally not so sure what exactly changed in between. Maybe it was the lure of the projected numbers if it all worked out or maybe it was more. All I can be certain of at this moment is that we have a team that is very committed to see that Fink is launched within the next 6 months.
This leads me to one of the biggest takeaways for this course. Objectives constantly evolve with circumstances and time. More than any course in school and cliché as it may sound; change has been the only constant in this course. The last 13 weeks have reaffirmed my belief that learning how to accept that and to adapt with constant change is one of the most important skills to have. Being able to stay committed to a plan and being ready to make fundamental changes whenever it is necessary at the same time requires a substantial amount of patience and hunger and this is an area that I am still working on improving. The second most important takeaway is the importance of competent and reliable team mates. There were moments where members of the team had other more urgent commitments and almost instantly, the remaining members stepped in to help with no questions asked. This mutual understanding within the team has allowed for a frictionless experience. Unlike many others who say that if you do not have conflict, you do not learn. Well, the course has proven that saying wrong with all of us learning substantially. You can have the best ideas in the world but absent a competent team, the road will definitely be more challenging. This holds very true with technology-centric start-ups where ideas and human capital are what you work with most of the time. Last but far from the least, the course has taught me that in entrepreneurship, staying hungry and never giving up in the face of closing doors and failures are vital. As long as one continues fighting, the chances of success will be higher with every lesson learnt.
I have always wanted to graduate, get a good job with decent pay, and live a good life climbing the corporate ladder. Though I knew the advantages of having my own business, I have never wanted to go in the direction. It is probably because of my upbringing that made me feel most comfortable in the tried and tested ways of the world. And this module was just another one I took to get me along the path.
However, the first few weeks of class really surprised me. When I saw the presentations regarding the ideas some groups had, I was so inspired because these people are not here to do a project, but some had real vision. I see the passion in them and know I am among people who are going to do great things in the future. In the past, I always thought of businesses as opportunities and tapping on them, I seldom thought of businesses as a vision!
Then as we progress in the weeks, I realize any great idea needs to be tried and tested. We grill and scrutinize constructively each others' ideas for weeks. During this time, there were difficulties that were not easy to deal with. Sometimes it felt like we are on a dead end, and changes had to be made to our original plan. It was difficult but a lesson was learned - starting a business is not just about the idea, but a people willing to refine and withstand.
If you ask me now, whether I would give up my job and start my own business, I will probably still say no. But I can proudly say my attitude has changed. Saying no is no longer because I feel that working in MNC is superior, but simply because I have not found that right idea that I can run after. Maybe one day I will. This module changed my whole worldview regarding my future, and I am really thankful I took it on my last semester here in SMU.
Entrepreneurship has been some thing very close to my heart for a long time. It started out with a simple biography of Richard Branson. This book inspired me so much that it has been deeply engrained into my soul.
Looking back then, I was full of energy, all ready and did not know what awaits me. I read about it in a book, but never had any first hand experience. My enthusiasm was killed by my initial experience when I joined an MLM company. I threw a big chunk of my every penny from the allowance I saved in the army into it. I was sold on the dream on how easy it will be to earn a very lucrative income. Eventually, I left and through the experience, it taught me many things. Firstly, this experience provided me with a yardstick of what to expect and changed my view of a business. I learnt that there is never an easy way to be successful. I recalled that I frequently have to remind myself of what Einstein said, “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”. Of course, I learnt that there would never be free lunch in life. But more importantly, it set the ground for the correct frame of thought for the future.
After plenty of learning and contemplating, I thought to myself that the most suitable business for me at that time is to get into IT (since I have the background) and market that skill. It also has to be low risk. I also gave myself some time to learn the design and IT skills that are relevant to this business myself. This is the first time I am starting a business and frankly I am afraid of the uncertainty. My thoughts were then “what happens if my clients sue me”, “What happens if I fail”, “Am I going to do it all by myself”. I had to overcome this sense of uncertainty with a leap of faith. I have to trust myself. Further more, I have little to lose. Therefore, I started a web design and solution business. Certainly it wouldn’t earn me plenty of money, but I did earn good enough which made me satisfied as a part-time business. I thought to myself that the sole purpose of entering into a business school is so that I get the knowledge and foundation to start a business, and I did!
The lessons that were taught by Prof Pamela were the lessons that left the greatest impression. One that left me most inspired was that no matter what the world gives you, one should never give up, but instead, fight back and show the world that I don’t fall so easily. It is easier said than done. But by constantly reminding myself of these words, I have carved it into my mind and made myself much stronger with each set back. I see myself growing. Through experiences, I made myself larger than the problem so that I am able to better handle it compared to the past. I am able to solve a level 3 problem with a level 4 experience. So I have to constantly learn from my experience and upgrade it. This is my way of measuring myself.
Also through this process, I started to learn about myself. I start to understand more about why do I want so much for myself, what are my strengths and weaknesses, how do I deal with situations and many others as well. I am still on this road to self-discovery and I am not sure if I will ever find a definite answer. Nevertheless, my resolution would be to understand more about myself bit by bit everyday. I have set my dreams up high and hopefully to be a successful entrepreneur. I do not want to look back because I know that failure happens only when I admit defeat.
I’m quite disappointed with myself... I didn’t work on my own business idea for the project (which is why I admire Eric’s bold decision to venture out on his own). I didn’t really enjoy the course because I felt tired every Friday morning (it’s my only morning class for the term!). I didn’t participate much in class and I skipped classes twice! And just yesterday, I didn’t do well for the test. There are so many things I didn’t do, didn’t do well, or didn’t enjoy in the course, yet I have learned a lot.
From the TE project experience, I realized the importance of having a team of members with complementing expertise (finance, marketing, accounting, etc) and how badly I lack them in my own business currently. Unlike my TE team, my partners and I are all IS students. While we have strong IT background, we are not as bright when it comes to preparing cash flow statement, writing business plan and doing sales pitch. So if any of you reading my journal now is interested in my business (www.baboonza.com) and you think you are the person we currently lack, please contact me at email@example.com.
In looking at this TE team, I can also see the harmony that keeps the team working together and moving forward. I think this is very important for any start-up because there are only a few founders and if there is no harmony and the founders fall out, the business is as good as dead.
Even though I got funding for my business, I got an initial blow to my confidence from the lukewarm response to my business’s closed beta launch. I even started to wonder if what we are building is that great or different from others. Same for this TE team, I believe there will be times when we as entrepreneurs will wonder if it is really worth working for. However, we can get encouragement, especially if we get them from our visionaries/early adopters. Your initial offering may not be great, but if you are great, your product/service will be great in the future. I have never doubted my ability. If I want and I spend the time, nothing is impossible.
TE-2010-S2:Have conviction; Do what you believe in and believe in what you do
by Sudeshna Dutt
I must say that this module has by far been one of the most interesting modules I have ever taken in SMU in terms of getting a hands-on experience as well as facing several significant ups and downs in just over 13 weeks.
I’m one of those who never really saw entrepreneurship as a viable path since I knew myself best. I was one who could work well under orders, guidelines and occasionally lead as well. To me, I always saw an entrepreneur as someone who was in charge of having to plant the seeds all the way to maintaining the plant in tip top condition. This meant that the entrepreneur himself had to work with whatever he had, creating frameworks, guidelines and processes in which he could develop the business in. However I was not comfortable with this as it meant too much uncertainty and risk but this class, while didn’t prove my perception wrong, rather taught me how to deal and appreciate it. It was a pretty rocky journey at the start and it seemed like the only good thing happening was that I was going to be starting a business with 3 very close friends of mine. It was definitely tough thinking of a fantastic business in the 2/3 weeks that we were given. There were very good ideas going around but good ideas are simply not sufficient for a good business. One needs to think if it’s viable in the long run in terms of demand prospects. Hence my team eventually settled for an idea, blogshopping solutions; an idea which I initially did not believe very strongly in and hence not very enthusiastic about.
This is then where I learnt something important about doing a business. Conviction. It was very important to be doing something you believed in and subsequently believing in your actions. I felt unenthusiastic about the idea as without having blogshopped before. I did not believe or have passion in the business idea which made the whole project seem like any other project in SMU, thus preventing me from experiencing the true entrepreneurial spirit. However having decided to make the conscious effort to experience blogshoping problem identified by my partner, I suddenly felt something switch on inside of me. The strong passion and keen interest in your business idea which stems from the fact that you believe in it (in this case, I believed in it only after experiencing the problem) allows one to actually face all uncertainties and risks with a bold front.
However, acting on an idea which you believed in was necessary but not sufficient to develop a business. I also discovered that it was crucial to believe in all the subsequent processes and steps that came after having a brilliant idea. It was like a circle. You act upon an idea which you are passionate about. You then proceed on to developing the idea. However you don’t take random steps or measures just because you have to. You believe in those actions and as a result, your passion and tenacity to endure failure grows, making you an even better businessman. For example, my team’s main product was a website and we debated for a while whether to hire a professional to create it, but at a significant cost. However, we decided to take on the task ourselves and because we believed that we could create a fantastic website, it only made us strive even harder to achieve so.
The beauty of this class is that it teaches us little lessons like these, implicitly, through having a project where students are given the opportunities to become entrepreneurs. It is also a right step towards aiming to change the traditional mindset and beliefs about entrepreneurship. While people may say that Singapore is a fantastic place to start a business, entrepreneurship will never quite take off if people have the initial mindset that I did.
All in all, I must thank Professor Pamela Lim for introducing such a course and structuring it in such a way where we each get to experience our own unique entrepreneurship journey. What a way to end my time here in SMU!
TE-2010-S2: Legacy or Currency? We began this course with great expectations, expectations to learn the ropes and walk this treacherous path of entrepreneurship. Technological Entrepreneurship has become more than a module for me. It has allowed me to begin this journey as an inspired entrepreneur. Why do we try? Are we sadists trying to torment ourselves in the quest to stroke our egos? If so, this journey has certainly been a humbling one for me. Do we simply “love” this experience of being a salesman trying to convince the world to believe in your “baby”? I am sure there are easier paths to walk in life. I want to touch upon the most valuable nugget of wisdom that I have gathered during these 13 weeks; and that is if given a choice, would I choose a legacy or currency?
The rigidity of the education system which all of us find ourselves in has “programmed” us as future employees of the corporate world, soldier ants who will hopefully generate lots of revenue for the organizations that we join. Cooped up in our respective cubicles, we are expected to work tirelessly in exchange for remuneration which we will always complain to be insufficient. I’m sure one day, as we are promoted to more senior levels of the corporate ladder, the money and stability will indeed make us comfortable, too comfortable to set out on our own in bid to venture into entrepreneurship. I term this choice currency.
What I really want to drive home (forgive the pun with respect to our project) to the readers today is this… what will your legacy look like? How will you be remembered? Please don’t get me wrong, I believe there are many avenues in which you can pass down life’s lessons and everyone should be given the right to chart his/ her own course in life. Starting your own business and being an entrepreneur will not be easy. It will take up your life and you will definitely have to make sacrifices, some of which you may regret in the future. It will consume your every waking moment as you brain-storm for ideas over all aspects of business from new product development to trying to cut costs and you will be vexed, tired and short of friends even. In exchange, I strongly believe that your efforts will not be in vain; you will be forming a legacy, your very own legacy. Billy Graham shared that “The legacy in which we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives.” This couldn’t be more true. I firmly believe that there should be no excuses that we are not doing what we love in this time and age. If you love what you do, you will not be working a day of your life, something which many of us deem as an ideal but unattainable. Do we not try just because it is difficult?
Let me end this last journal with an encouragement to all my peers and friends whom I have had the privilege to share these 13 weeks with. Let’s choose legacy over currency. It will never be as cushy as what an MNC can give you but, it promises to be one hell of a ride. It is not the numbers of years in your life that is important but the life in your years that really make the difference. Lastly, I’d like to thank all of you for teaching me so much this semester, from Prof Lim to every single one of you. I have indeed benefitted much.
Winning my age-group at the Singapore Ironman 70.3 2010
The story my journey into this course began in 2008. As part of post-Technology and World Change course evaluation, Pamela had mentioned about an entrepreneurship follow-up module. Not knowing what to expect, I indicated my interest anyway. Fast forward to 2010 – I finally enrolled in this course. Truth be told, I had bidded for this primarily because I needed to clear a technology module. I never saw myself as someone with entrepreneurship blood, and had always envisioned the safe and stable career path for the future. I remained open-minded towards the process though – even if I ended up with a failed business, I was sure there would be excellent takeaways. The most important thing was to try.
And try I did – picking up valuable insight, skills, memories, and experience along the way. This would be one ride I would never regret.
On day one, I found some very familiar faces to form a group with – Aquathlon team mates Eric, Xihao, Dennis, and Riccardo. I was also somewhat familiar with the “odd-one-out” Adriel. The six of us went down to work straight away – discussing possible business ideas. Ideas were thrown out. It helped that we got along well with each other since we could share anything, no matter how ridiculous. We presented two ideas that day – one about being a consultant to failing business, the other about setting up shower and storage facilities for cyclists all over Singapore. I personally identified with the second idea. However, the other members realized this infrastructure was not feasible within a short span of time, especially with the shortage of space in the city (not to mention the high costs too). They knew there was a problem in general with transportation in general but the idea needed to be re-evaluated. Two lessons emerged this point:
- Having people you can work (and share rubbish) with is crucial in a start-up business. Disagreements would still occur but if all the members’ values were aligned, the end product has a higher potential to be magical. - Get real. Yes, I want to change Singapore with cycling storage facilities but that would be a mammoth task for us as students. The cycling culture was not mature enough for us to implement this. This was a wake-up call to be practical, for this is a real business I was undertaking.
Within the first two weeks, something else dawned upon me – the majority of this class seemed like they aspired to be entrepreneurs! I was pleased to know that many were already entrepreneurs in their own right. Juggling school and their businesses must have been tough, but I was encouraged. I had always thought entrepreneurs were a scarcity in Singapore but perhaps I was wrong. Herein lays another takeaway:
- Dare to be different. With the passion, commitment, the know-how, and if the opportunity was there, why not consider being an entrepreneur! By the end of this course, I could proudly say that I attempted being one.
By the third week, our business model had evolved. We had an intense meeting with about what direction we should take. We tentatively settled on an online car-pooling system and called it FiNK – not meant to spell anything but just meant to sound catchy. At this juncture, one team member parted ways with us to form his own company. It was not because we bullied him or anything, but he earnestly had the passion for something else. We respected his decision and admired him – talk about taking the unchartered path! I would not have had the courage to do that on my own.
By the end of the course, FiNK had become mostly operational. The website and most of the major features of our intended online car-pool system were running. We met one day to discuss whether we wanted to carry on FiNK, or just leave it as that. I emphatically agreed. To take ownership in such a new venture was exciting! I bidded for the course initially in the hope of clearing a technology module, but now I was going to be an entrepreneur. It was a blessed story in my eyes, from almost nothing to something. There were many kinks we had to fix before we would roll-out our service. However, to quote Mr Wong Toon King, “seize the moment”. If your passion is there, as well as the opportunity, trust in yourself to maximize what you have and go for it.
If there was only one successful outcome of this course, it would be that it confused my perceptions of a career. Like I mentioned, I always saw myself on the safe career path. Now with the introduction of FiNK, I am not so sure. Call it co-incidental but at the same time we decided to continue FiNK-ing, I received my first individual sponsorship as a triathlete. More questions arose, like whether I should attempt being a professional athlete as a career despite the odds. I can only draw parallels of my life with my takeaways from the course. It is not often I can say that a module has really opened my eyes.
In closing, I would like to thank Pamela for this course, for it changed my life perspectives. I also thank my fellow team members, especially for their dedication to FiNK, and the encouragement they gave me when a family tragedy struck. I look forward to a FiNK-ing good time… and I hope you can be part of it too!
TE-2010-S2: Mariyam Shaguftha Shareef - Journey to look back with a smile
by Mariyam Shaguftha Shareef
With a carefree attitude and smile on my face, I embarked on this journey of Technological entrepreneurship thinking that it would be like any other management course in SMU where you would have to come up with a good idea and a business plan. Only after 3 lessons, the smile was gone and the need to keep up with the fast pace the project was going was evident. Being my self a person who takes time to adjust to groups, especially when there are no previous friends in it, I found it challenging. However, since this was a journey I should see through till the end. I am grateful to the fellow teammates who helped me to make this journey easy and a fruitful one for me. Apart from learning the importance of having a dynamic group, I learned that group relation and commitments towards the same goal was also an importance factor. Throughout the journey, I learned a lot from other fellow classmates – most hopefully future entrepreneurs –, from the advices from the TA and most importantly from the lessons by Prof Pamela lim. From this course, I learned about how an actual business could be set up, what things should be considered such as NDA, and that there are amazingly number of avenues for seeking funds. It was only at the start of this semester that I had stopped from creating an own business, because of lack of funds and being an international student I wasn’t aware of the fund opportunities that I could reach out to. Thus, I was amazed to know that there are so many ways to finance my entrepreneurial ventures, and hopefully I will start that business in sometime soon. In this way, this Addition to this, from the sharing of experiences by Prof Pamela, and the experience I myself had in this course in starting the business, the course served as an eye opener to the actual challenges that would be faced when starting a business. Now when I am at the end of this journey, looking back I am grateful that I have taken this course. I could without a doubt say that this is one course that has actually made a huge impact in my life. It has given me chance to make my own mistake, guidance, hope and most importantly a network of entrepreneurs. In fact, I would recommend the people who have interest in entrepreneurship and who want to experience the journey without risking much, to take this course. In the end of this adventurous journey, though now less care free and more enthusiastic, the smile is still on my face.
Key takeaway 1: Sharing as a bliss As I see, this course was all about sharing. Sharing of ideas in the brainstorming sessions, sharing of the project progresses after the breakout sessions, sharing through feedbacks and most importantly sharing by Prof Pamela Lim from her own experience. I learned that sharing is an important tool in-order to bounce off ideas. If it weren’t for all the sharing our project would have taken entirely a different approach.
Key takeaway 2: Change, change, change…change your business along the way It was fascinating how our small idea has changed over the course of 12 weeks. In fact, the original idea is now only a one part of our project now. I still can remember that we was discussing our idea even in Week 8, when business plan was due on few weeks time. Every meeting we were incorporating the class feedbacks, our own thoughts to the new information that we have gathered and changing the idea along the way. Thus, our idea evolved through out the course and it was from this experience that I learned that business plan is only a part of the process. That it all depends on the idea, the goal that we want to attain, which is constantly changing.
Key takeaway 3: Do things that are close to your heart, rather than close to your pocket.
In this materialistic world, we have been brought to think of the importance of money. Everyone would have encountered at least once in their lifetime a situation in which they had thought ‘only if they had money’. Before coming to this course, whenever I thought of starting a new business, I would think of the monetary gain that it would make me achieve in the future. Have never even crossed my mind whether I would enjoy the venture that I would embark on. This aspect was only made aware to me by the sharing of experiences by prof Pamela and the guest speakers. Now, being in the midst of a part of starting a family business, I constantly wonder if I would enjoy my part in it.
I have always had interest in Singing, though I am personally a terrible singer. And I am a person who love to do community service. So, seeing the increasing number of beggar who play music and sing, why not open a club where they can do this more professionally and efficiently. Well, just an idea.
Key takeaway 4: Hope Above all of this, the course has instilled me with hope. Hope that I could also start my own business. I was always afraid that I lacked the necessary skills of a leader. However, through this course I realized that, need not know or have everything that the business wants. You can always find people with necessary skills and always try to know part of everything. Thus, with new hope, I intend to start my new journey of my own entrepreneurship.
To be honest, I took this module up after finding out that it does not consist of a final exam. I was expecting to float and dream my way through 13 weeks, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. With the endless presentations and deadlines, TE has got to be one of the most challenging modules I have ever undertaken in my entire SMU life but it also happens to be the most fulfilling.
I really enjoyed the classes as they were highly practical, unlike textbook-based classes. It was interesting to hear of real-life examples not only from Prof Pamela Lim, but also from my fellow classmates. It was great that Prof Lim was so open to having students “teach” a big part of her classes as it made everything more personal. Situations just seem more real and relatable when the people who experienced them are just students, like me. Of course, this wouldn’t have been possible without wonderful spontaneous classmates who are always so eager to share and help one another out!
In addition, Prof Lim also made all the content must easier to muster by putting everything in layman terms, instead of throwing incomprehensible jargons at us mere mortals :) The TA, Andy, was also the most involved and helpful TA I have ever met in SMU. His concern for each group and the effort he put into ensuring each group is keep their heads above the water is very admirable. With so many teams in class needing the professor’s attention, having him around was a great help.
Although I absolutely dislike presenting (and there was SO MUCH of that), I felt it was actually a really good way of motivating us to keep pushing on in our businesses. With presentations almost every week, I felt a constant pressure to do something about the business to show the class that my team has progressed. Soon, this pressure just became something pretty natural. The project stopped appearing as a mere dreary project, but just something that was always at the back of my mind. Seeing how the other groups progressed with each week also gave my team the motivation to keep working on our business.
There was much to learn in class; however, I felt that I learned the most out of class when running Shopaholic Remedy. Being a seasoned shopper and having had a jewellery blogshop before, I expected it to be chicken feet. However, I forgot that the market has changed drastically from the time I was a blogshop owner and expectations are much higher now. I had experience in setting up blogs, but a website... zero. Being a semi-tech-idiot, I had to read through various forums and work into the wee hours of the night just to learn how to set up a website. Being anal about appearance, I also wanted to ensure that the website looked good and spent hours working on the nitty-gritty details. The absolute horror happened when I screwed our website up the night before submission, made the website disappear completely and had to build it up from scratch! Even the operational aspects were tedious, we had to create invoices for every possible situation and it ended up as an eleven page long word document. Way more effort required than I expected.
Unfortunately, the business didn’t take off as magnificently as I had hoped for and it was slightly demoralizing. However, I believe that it could have done much better if the business model was tweaked a little. Sadly, Shopaholic Remedy will not be continued, but I feel my team’s efforts have not been wasted. In consolation, from running Shopaholic Remedy, I have learned more about myself and have even found out that I actually enjoy writing articles on fashion, beauty and lifestyle and have plans to venture into that for leisure :)
I have definitely learned so much from this experience that I would not have given up for a better letter grade from any other course. So for this, thank you Prof Lim, Andy and my lovely classmates! :)
1) Meet awesome people to connect with 2) To nurture the vigor and inspiration of my business
This class is very different from ALL the other modules I have taken in SMU. Not to disparage the other modules, but this module attracts great people who are open and giving. Unlike other modules, the rules of this module is to fail more, try more, experience more.
This is something that really resonated with me on a very deep level. I have been seeking a environment that is different and allow innovation and trial-and-error to flourish. This module was awesome because it has.
The way Pam has taught it is totally different from other profs, but then again, she is a practitioner. She gives realistic and very relevant insights that cannot be bought for money. This insight and wisdom is something I have learnt that I would treasure and leave with me.
Let's not forget the talk. Initially, I did not have high expectations in the talks because my other modules had talk too. But I was blown away by the speaker friends she brought on. I thought Pam had given huge insights already and was blown away by all the speakers even further.
After her course, I am excited to share that I am stopping a term to really focus on the business. I am shortlisted for innovation awards because of Pam's class. There are so many great points of the module. I truly believe that this is one of the best course and applicable module ever.
Finally, this is one helluva great course. We should make learning like this. Not like other modules. I have so much to say about this modules, but I would prefer that you experience this by going through it!
I first attended the class and formed a group with a few members in the class. When I was briefed about the course requirement on the first lesson, I was excited as a friend of mine from the corporate world have been talking about this business plan about grooming and cultivating local artist. We want Singapore to truly have artist that are really artist who works as an artist, do things that artists do, and be truly known as an artist and not just a passionate artist who has to hold a full time job as doing something related to his work and carry out his artworks only during his/her free time. So we have this dream, we have this mission in mind before beginning on our business plan.
I realized one characteristic on an entrepreneur, that is they almost always started out alone or with another partner. When a business first start, it is usually 1 or 2 person running and coming up with the whole business planning.
So when i was not able to convince my group members to use my idea, I gathered all my courage and decided to embark on this project alone. Because i believe that all businesses as much as possible, should not only be just profitable, it should be meaningful as well.
#1 Make every business a meaningful business.
Now when I looked back, I admired my guts. It was week 3 when I decided to embark on my business idea "OurArtWorkZ". I was left with barely 10 weeks to complete, not only a detailed business plan, as much as possible execute the business plan, to build a website and many other miscelleanous academic requirement for this course. But I told myself, Entrepreneurship is about risk taking, because you can never predict the outcome. Doing it alone will also test my own limits, and to let myself know my threshold in handling something so big on my own. We have heard so many entrepreneurs' stories, when they first started, they all started on their own and having themselves or at most 1 or 2 partners to work together. And many times, great Entrepreneurs started their business on their own. When they first started, they have that limited sources of funds, and most of the time from their own pocket. To save cost, they do everything on their own. And this is exactly what I wanted to experience. I wanted to have the first hand experience of how an entrepreneur feel when starting up, when facing problems, when winning small victories. Hence given the background of what truly is an entrepreneur, I decided to take this up on my own.
#2 When cash is tight, you have to take up multi-tasks and multi-roles. How prepared are you?
I had a great learning experience having taken this project up alone. I have learn to present almost anytime anywhere to potential investors, convincing them to invest in you. weekly presentations to the class and feedbacks enable you to find the weakness or blind spots that you have missed. Be open to accepting comments and critique and to take them seriously. If nobody says nothings, nobody is thinking anything great or bad about it. So always think of 2 sides of the coin.
#3 Rejoice when a negative critique
Be flexible with yourself and business plan but be firm on your mission statement. Plans can change, operations can change, but never stray from your very main motivation and mission of having the business. The most credible people are people who knows how act accordingly and adjust to changing situations without changing his or her principles that rule their lives.
#4 Never sacrifice your principles for the sake of profits
I faced many problems while doing this course, that is of course due to the heavy workload. However, every time when I feel tired, I would tell myself if I cannot do it now, how will i succeed to become an entrepreneur in the future. So my determination drove me. And my Passion for the mission behind my business gave me the strength to carry on. It was tough for someone who has a D7 for General Paper, no background on building websites, and who had just failed financial accounting a term earlier. My point in saying this is not to gain any sympathy, but it is to tell the message that if you are determined, you can achieved what you want. If you fail, never give up hope, continue and try harder. I should have stay with a group and let other group members do different sections that i am not good at, however if i have done that, i would have never learn anything new.
#5 Always Never Never Never say die
For future students taking the course Make mistakes when you can now. Academic results is indeed important. However the learning processes and experience is the most precious things that cannot be taught. Take big steps. Take risks now when you can afford to. Test you own limits. Get to know yourself as much as you can. Truly understand your strengths and weakness now. Every failure must make you stronger and make you smarter.
I never regretted doing this course alone. My business model and plan may not be the best in the class, but I know that I gained the most experience than anyone else. So what if i were to be graded a c because my business plan was not excellent, but i have scored an A*** in my personal growth. And the next time, I am more prepared to be an entrepreneur and I would remind myself the wrongs steps i have taken and remind myself never to take the wrong steps again.
I am confident of my own creativity. And to make end this course with a more relaxing mood. I rewrote the song of telephone by Lady Gaga and sang it and made it into a video.
Entrepreneurship is like a dream sometimes. Sometimes it depends on luck, sometimes it depends on whether you are willing to work hard. And many times it is a battle between yourself and the devil in you. If you believe, you can convinced others, If you cannot even believe yourself, others will never be convinced.