While You Were Sleeping

26 May
While You Were Sleeping

If you can recall the 2013 haze outbreak in Singapore, it was one of the most serious haze episodes in the past sixteen years – the first time PSI levels reached a hazardous range with the highest PSI reading of 401 recorded on 21 June 2013.

It was during this time when I chanced upon a video Josiah created called WHILE IT WAS HAZY.

The message Josiah shared resonated with me and I was deeply moved. While others were busy profiteering from the spike in demand of N95 masks or grumbling about inconveniences the haze has caused, it was comforting to know there were still people out there who cared for others.

After watching the video, I immediately connected with Josiah on social media to stay in touch. Fast forward four years to today, I finally have the opportunity to ask him about this initiative in detail and how it all started.

1) Hey Josiah, thanks for taking this interview! Share with us who you are and what is it that you do for a living?

Thank YOU for having me.

My name is Josiah Ng and I’m a content consultant at an advertising agency. I run a team of content creators who believe in using their work to impact our world in a positive way, working with brands to help them see how their businesses can be used for good.

2) Tell us more about your social initiative, While You Were Sleeping

While You Were Sleeping was a knee-jerk reaction to something I was constantly told while studying at university. People were telling me students in Singapore were a selfish lot who only cared about their grades and careers.

I chose to believe otherwise and wanted to prove we were a bunch who could also be gracious and kind. That’s how WYWS was born. I also wanted to use this initiative to encourage others to do the same; be kind to others in times of need.

What we did for the initiative was simple. In Singapore, it’s not unusual for many students to burn the midnight oil and study overnight in order to do the best in their studies. But this made many students tired. I was also hearing stories of how students were stressed to the point of breaking down. So we thought WYWS was a good way to help in this issue.

What we did was to go around schools to drop items such as snacks, drinks and encouragement cards to students who were sleeping at their desks, most probably because they had a long night of studying for their exams. We wanted to tell them that during the stressful exam period, there are still people who understand and care for them.

I was personally very encouraged when people started to reciprocate what we were doing. They too, started to do their own mini “WYWS” campaigns at their own schools and classes.

3) I find this name very interesting and meaningful. How did it come about?

It stemmed from a very simple statement that came to my mind when I asked myself “what should I tell these students who were tired?”

Well, they were asleep so… it became very easy, “While You Were Sleeping, someone cared for you.”

The name While You Were Sleeping just got stuck since then.

4) When did you first start? What was your first project and how was the response?

Wow, I think it was five years ago.

We decided to head to NTU at that time because one of my friends was studying there. People were giving us stares when we carried out the initiative and I was so nervous. Despite the nerves, we hung around to see the responses and when we saw smiles, we were encouraged.

After that, we decided to release a video about this to try and achieve some kind of a “multiplier effect” because there were only a few of us, which meant there was only so much we could do.

The video was released online and to our surprise, word went out and I got numerous emails with queries on how they could participate in this initiative as well.

This proved that my initial scepticism about Singaporeans being apathetic and unkind was right. From the positive response, it only shows we are a people that want to do good too; because we have good hearts.

Sometimes, it’s just that we just don’t know what the right avenues are.

5) What were some of the challenges faced while promoting this social initiative and how did you manage to overcome them?

I think the main challenge was to find time to do more.

I started as an independent guy trying to do something based on my own convictions but as more people came to know about this initiative, I was bombarded with emails and calls about sponsorship, getting on board and interview requests.

To be honest, I was a little overwhelmed at that time. To overcome this, I had to ask myself why I was doing it in the first place.

The answer I found brought peace and renewed motivation to surpass my own fears and tiredness to continue exploring how this social initiative could be expanded.

6) How can each of us play our part to encourage the culture of kindness in our society?

It doesn’t take a lot of effort or a lot of time. I’d like to borrow Mother Theresa’s quote, “not all of us can do great things but we can all do small things with great love.”

So that’s just it – Great Love.

Many of us started this because we love our fellow countrymen, we love the people whom we call neighbours and we love our country.

I usually also like to challenge others with the following:

Try replacing the word “Sleeping” from the name of our social initiative “While You Were Sleeping”, with another verb. It can be any verb as long as it’s something you’re engaged in or witness on a daily basis.

For example, some have come up with “While You Were Driving (the bus)”, “While You Were Working (in the Haze)”, “While You Were Eating”… and in observing and coming up with these new names, one will start to realise there are needs everywhere.

7) Share with us what does it mean to be a charity advocate?

Oh, it’s just something people have decided to call me.

However, I do believe all of us have a responsibility to give back, in some way or another. Giving back can be through financial means but it doesn’t always have to be so. One can give his or her time as well.

There are also other ways to explore another dimension of charity too, such as investing one’s talent for charitable purposes.

If you’re a great illustrator, volunteer your illustrations and expertise to a charity organisation.

If you’re an awesome chef, cook for those who are hungry.

If you’re a writer, write for those who have no voice…

I’ve personally realised and learned that if you invest your talents, two things happen:

#1: You find purpose and meaning in the gifts you’ve been blessed with (Pssst… this makes life much more exciting!)

#2: Doing charity work won’t be as intimidating as it used to be

8) What’s the main goal you intend to achieve for this social initiative in 2017?

I’ve actually empowered others to help run the initiative and many are doing this in their own schools on an ad-hoc basis.

I’m currently focusing on teaching and mentoring youths to do their own initiatives in whatever way they can. This comes in the form of giving workshops, talks, and doing interviews like this.

I’ve grown to learn there’s only so much I can do… but when others are encouraged and given the right advice, they can do great things for society too.

The needs of every individual community are unique. I’m definitely not able to address all these needs in person but when someone in that community gets empowered, he or she will be able to do so and make an impact in a meaningful way.

This is not to say I’ve all the answers, I don’t.

That’s why it’s important for me to reach out to more people, educate and empower them so they can eventually take ownership to pay it forward in their own communities.

9) In your own words, what does it mean to “Love the Life You Live and Live the Life You Love”?

Life, is a sum of many parts – the good, the bad, the ugly… and we just have to realise that it’s all worth it… all of it… the good, the bad, the ugly.

They all have a purpose and they all have value.

With this realisation, we will also learn to appreciate that this amalgamation of it all (which we call “life”) is beautiful. We should love it.

So love life, regardless. So chin up, live the life you love, regardless.

Greatest Takeaway

“Not all of us can do great things but we can all do small things with great love.” – Mother Theresa

In other words, The Ripple Effect; a spreading, pervasive, and usually unintentional effect or influence. A situation in which one event causes a series of other events to happen.

Everything we do will have an impact in this world and in the lives of others, be it big or small, directly or indirectly, intentional or unintentional.

The Ripple Effect of You, an article written by Dennis Merritt Jones on the Huffington Post shares what you “really do matter. Everything you do has an impact on someone, somewhere, even if you don’t know them… the question we must ask ourselves isn’t will I make a difference in the world? The real question is, what kind of difference will it be?”

The choice is yours to make. Make a conscious decision every time and choose to use your force for good.

Thanks Josiah for taking this interview and bringing our attention to the good that all of us inherently possess.

Through this social initiative, I’m sure more people will learn how they too, can give back to society in their own way.


Josiah Ng,
Founder of Social Initiative, While You Were Sleeping

Josiah Ng Profile PictureJosiah’s passion and drive in telling poignant stories landed him in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, School of Film & Media Studies, where he was awarded with the prestigious Ngee Ann Kongsi Gold Medal in 2008. He also graduated film school with the Lien Ying Chow scholarship, Liu Ying Soon scholarship, Shaw Foundation Gold Medal, MDA Film Prize, and Cathay Film Prize. After running a boutique media company for the next few subsequent years, he went on to pursue academic excellence during his time at Chapman University, where he graduated as the Valedictorian with a B.F.A in Creative Producing.

He has also since been regarded for his keen visual sensibilities and has been commissioned by organisations such as The Institute of Mental Health, National Geographic Xplorer Magazines, Pangdemonium Productions, Touch Community Services, Health Promotion Board, The Ministry of Communications and Informtion, MCCY, and Habitat for Humanity to create thought-provoking content.

Josiah believes in using his talent in film and media for the benefit of others. His independent Social Initiative, While You Were Sleeping, is a project dedicated to encourage a culture of kindness amongst the University students in Singapore. The introduction video of this social initiative went viral on various social media platforms in a matter of hours and has since been adopted in five countries, spanning across three continents.

Beyond managing the social initiative, Josiah has also given talks at TEDx Singapore, various Secondary and Tertiary Institutions and has been featured on local media outlets including The Straits Times, MyPaper, KISS 92FM, Capital 95.8FM as a social capital enthusiast and a creative problem-solver.

Website: https://www.josiahcreations.comWhile You Were Sleeping Logo

WYWS was developed around the idea of simply doing something nice for a person while he / she snoozes (out of exam lethargy and stress!) at a desk!

Many have said that the Singapore culture is one that is selfish and results-driven. However, the insomniacs of this independent effort (YES, WE ARE COMPLETELY ALONE!) are seeking to challenge this notion and bring about a positive and refreshing perspective through dropping a

  1. Personalised Note
  2. Gift (Coffee / Sweet)

at a person’s desk WHILE HE / SHE IS SLEEPING.

JOIN US TODAY IN THIS WONDERFUL EXPERIMENT – Help us prove that we all care!

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/wywsleeping/

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Creating a Travel Lifestyle

12 May

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

Managed to get hold of a friend of mine who’s a lifestyle entrepreneur and an avid traveller. He’ll share with us what it takes to create a lifestyle he has an the various challenges it encompasses. Just found out he was featured on TODAY papers about his travel adventures as well!

Singaporean Visits All 7 Wonders of the World in 16 Days

1) Hey Lucaz! Share with us who you are and what is it that you do for a living?

Hey Ranford! My background is about five years ago, I was a student who embarked on my entrepreneurial journey at twenty-four and became financially free at twenty-six when I graduated from University. I began to travel the world and live full-time.

Currently, I’m still expanding my business in a travel and lifestyle network marketing company.

2) Let’s call the pink elephant out of the room. You’re representing a MLM/Network Marketing Company. How did you get over the stigma of this business model and continue to do what you do?

Well, it wasn’t easy at first. A lot of people, especially my friends, advised me to get out of it. Some made fun of me, laughed at me and ridiculed me. I wanted to prove them wrong even though I didn’t really understand much about the industry back then.

After some time, I finally understood the concept of Multi-Level Marketing (MLM)/Network Marketing and it’s brilliant! This is one of the most misunderstood industries in the world because we only hear negative stories and most of us were never educated about it.

It also took me awhile to finally embrace the fact that this industry is not for everyone. The reason is because everything we were taught in school for the first twenty years of our life since young; from primary school all the way to university, is the complete opposite of the education taught in Network Marketing.

I didn’t want the false façade of a beautiful life that was traditionally taught in school.

“Finish school, get your degree, get a good job, have a nice house, nice car, live happily ever after…”

Except most people miss out one thing; the fact that it’s a trap. You’ll have to keep working every month to pay the bills and mortgage, sacrificing your time and freedom to keep up with this façade of a “beautiful life”.

I continue to be passionate about Network Marketing because it educates us to pursue something that we all want, something we cannot put a price tag on – Freedom.

In order to achieve it, we are forced to help one another and pull each other up. This culture is different from the corporate world where politics and backstabbing is prevalent as one needs to move up the ladder.

This industry also forces us to grow as a person to pursue personal development. The journey towards becoming a better person, better leader, and better communicator is the ultimate reward in Network Marketing.

3) What are some of the obstacles you’ve faced when you first started and how did you manage to overcome them?

It was definitely rejections.

Being a student with no experience, credibility, a network, guidance and business knowledge was tough in the beginning.

However, I believe this shortfall served me well because I find myself listening more and was more willing to learn.

A lot of people come into this industry thinking they know how it should be done and talk more than they actually do. Having this disadvantage turned out to be an advantage for me in the end as I became a better listener and a keen learner.

4) What does it take to be a successful Network Marketer?

Most people come into this industry having the mindset of trying to sell or “convert people”. That’s why most of them fail.

The key to success in Network Marketing is focusing your time and effort to finding motivated individuals rather than to motivate or sell to people who are uninterested.

Another aspect is definitely leadership. Like what John C Maxwell said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership”. A leader is someone who inspires others through their action instead of their words.

Development of personal and team leadership is very important as well.

5) Tell us more about your travel lifestyle!

Lucaz at Fiji Islands

I travel about ten times a year! Some highlights of my trips include travelling to the exotic Fiji islands, fulfilling my mother’s dream of going to the Niagara Falls and an adventure I never thought I would, hiking scenic Norway!

A peak life experience for me was to take my parents on a one hour helicopter ride, flying across a majestic natural wonder and land right into the middle of the Grand Canyon!

Lucaz and Parents

I use to have this fear of solo travel as I’m terrible with directions and tend to lose my stuff easily. Last year September, I decided to conquer it in the most drastic way possible, embarking on a remarkable travel journey, visiting the Seven Wonders of the World in one single trip!

Lucaz Lee and 7 Wonders of the World

6) You’re living the life many can only dream about. Share with us more on what it takes to create such a lifestyle?

You have to first prioritise on finding the right vehicle that has leverage, something that makes you money even while you are on vacation. I learned a long time ago that working hard will not make you successful. Working hard four hours every day digging holes and working hard four hours every day building a business is still the same four hours of hard work.

But the rewards we get from working hard digging holes is a backache. You have to work hard and work smart; spending your time, energy and effort to become good at something worth getting good at.

7) How do you handle naysayers and people who put you down?

If people were to discourage you or talk bad about you, there are only two things you can do. Prove them wrong, or prove they were right. How I’ll handle naysayers is that I’ll shine so bright that it’ll outshine all their negativity.

8) For aspiring travel and lifestyle entrepreneurs out there, what advice do you have for them?

Who you associate with is the most important tip people usually overlook. One of your top priorities should be to get rid of negative people in your life and work your way into hanging out with people who have the same goals as you. Work towards that and encourage one another.

Second, focus on things you can control such as personal growth. Business will go up and down. A lot of things are beyond your control. Keep your personal development progressive.

Lastly, keep in mind that the ultimate reward is the journey, not the destination.

Embrace all the ups and downs, struggles and the victories, the good and bad people you meet etc… Once you’ve reached your destination and achieved your goal, you’ll have your whole life to enjoy it. However, you can only enjoy the journey once. Love it, embrace it and have fun!

9) What are some of your travel plans for 2017 and what’s the main goal you intend to achieve this year?

I’m cutting down on travelling as I intend to put more time and focus more on helping people and my team achieve their goals of financial freedom so that we can have more friends join us when we travel! I’m also putting in more effort to build my social media presence. So less travel and more work this year!

10) In your own words, what does it mean to “Love the Life You Live and Live the Life You Love”?

Be grateful, be humble and live your life extraordinarily. Ignore the expectations people and society has on you.

Greatest Takeaway

Rejections. All of us face them. From this interview, Lucaz shared it’s how you manage it that matters.

Multi-level Marketing/Network Marketing is a very controversial business model. At the end of the day, you have to be clear on what some of the life goals you intend to achieve and work hard to attain them, disregarding what others have to say.

Jim Rohn said “we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with”. Keep a close inner circle and progressive personal development path. I think this is what it takes to be successful in life.

Thanks Lucaz for sharing your knowledge and experience with us today. I wish you and your team success and I sure look forward to the day I can travel as extensively as you do 😀

You can follow Lucaz on his Instagram @lucazlee to check out his latest adventures.

All the best and have fun! 😀


Lucaz Lee
Founder of Revo Group
Lifestyle Entrepreneur, Regional Marketing Director, and Regional Trainer

Lucaz Lee Profile PictureLucaz is a determined and driven individual who believes in the constant pursuit of personal progress. He enjoys teaching and sharing his entrepreneurial journey; his experiences, mistakes, challenges and the lessons learned along the way to inspire and help others achieve success.

He’s also the founder of Revo Group, an organisation of entrepreneurs working together, helping people to travel more, live more and become more.

His mission is to inspire people to retire young, boldly pursue their inner greatness and live an extraordinary life.

Website: http://www.lucazlee.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lucazleejh/
Instagram: @lucazlee

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Connecting Businesses, Inspiring People

5 May
Connecting Businesses, Inspiring People

Entrepreneurship has been a topic I’ve always been passionate about and I still am till this very day. Had the opportunity to meet Cehan through a networking event about a year ago and his passion and drive reminded me of how I was like when I first started out.

He’s the founder and CEO of Alp Group and I’m extremely honoured to be appointed as the director of Alp Biz, spearheading the entrepreneurial department for the company.

Today, we have the President of Alp Group Lujian to share with us their journey of starting up.

Lujian and I have also been on 938LIVE together before to share our story but for this interview, let’s hear from him on their progress so far since then and the ups and downs of starting a business.

1) Hey Lujian, the both of us are no strangers but for the benefit of our readers, share with us who you are and what business are you currently doing right now?

I’m a twenty-three-year-old student currently studying in Temasek Polytechnic. Currently, I’m serving as the President of Alp Group.

Alp Group has two main areas of focus, Alp Biz and Alp Investment.

Alp Biz – We aim to become the first-choice destination for Asian businesses to use Alp Biz as a springboard to connect with other Asian countries. We have identified four essential pillars to a successful business; Funding, Mentoring, Supplies and Market and we aim provide solutions for these areas.

Alp Investment“Buy a wonderful company at a fair price”. Just like our tagline, Alp Investment’s main focus is on investing in the stock market. We aim to revolutionise the way people learn about investing and we cater to everyone with different information and courses, depending on how well each individual understands investments.

2) Tell us more about Alp Group! How did all of this begin?

Alp Group was founded by Cehan back in 2014, my secondary school classmate but back then, it wasn’t called Alp. Cehan called in a few other friends who were interested in investing and formed a community called bro’s investment club (we were all boys in the beginning) where we focused on learning about investing. We grew quickly and after about a year later, we had over a hundred members in our community!

Under the leadership of Cehan, we came up with our own unique way of analysing the stock market and 2015 was the year we invested our first ever stocks in SGX.

After we found success in the stock market, we realised there were many young people like us who were interested in investing but don’t have a clue on where to begin. This inspired us to spread our knowledge and experience to others.

We wanted to change the conventional way of teaching investing which were mostly through expensive courses and seminars with no follow up with the students after.

During this time, we also grew a community of business owners and start-ups where many of them were facing difficulties during the economic down turn. With all of this, we decided to go through a series of restructuring our organisation to address and tackle these issues, forming the current Alp Group you see today.

3) That’s interesting… Share with us more on the organisational structure of the company.

As mentioned earlier on, Alp Group has two areas of focus. In addition, we also have a department on marketing and publishing. We have four members in our upper management from each department and each team is led by an individual director.

Each department is able to run on its own but they work closely together as well, especially during certain events where collaborations between all departments are required.

4) What were some of the challenges faced when starting out and how did you and your team manage to overcome them?

The first challenge all of us face was the initial phase of starting out because everything was still very ambiguous. We were not sure about many things.

Another challenge for us was to find the right people for our team. We feel that working with a great team is the most important component in a successful business. It took us months to find right people that share the same vision and passion as us.

The most difficult challenge, and I believe other start-ups can relate, was how to turn our idea into a proper business.It took us quite some time to figure that part out.

Fortunately, we had many mentors that were very helpful and gave us tips along the way. Combining with the effort from the team, we were able to overcome these difficulties.

5) Let’s talk about teamwork. Understand that Alp Group has a management team of twelve, each in charge of their own department. How do you rally everyone to work together?

Over here, we put our teams first over all other matters. One of our favourite quotes is “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want far, go as a team”. All our team members share the same vision and passion so it’s much easier for us to communicate and work together as all of us share a similar goal.

6) Is it difficult working together in a team? How do you manage differing opinions?

It’s never difficult working with each other in the team as we are all closely knitted together, having the same vision in mind. By establishing this, we don’t have conflicts among us as we value every team member’s voice and opinion.

Whenever we have a differing opinion during a meeting, we’ll discuss and weigh the pros and cons of each, with every decision made in the best interest for the company.

7) What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs or business owners when it comes to team-building?

I think one of the most important lessons I’ve learned through this journey is when building a team, the key factor to look out for in a team member is the passion and vision. If he or she is able to share the same passion and vision, working together will be much more smooth sailing.

Another aspect I want to emphasise on is trust. You must always trust your teammates because they’re the one that got your back. Team work is like a machine, everyone has their own area of expertise. None of the pieces is more important than the other because it’s only when all of the pieces work together when the machine can function and run smoothly.

8) This has always been a burning question for me… How do you juggle being a full-time student and running a business?!

To be honest, it’s very difficult. The path of an entrepreneur is not easy. At times, I’ll reach home after midnight and exhausted but still with work waiting for me to complete. Most of the time, I sacrifice my sleep and rest.

I think what drives me on is the passion and responsibility. Passion is very important; it’s what keeps you going when you are feeling a burn-out.

Responsibility towards my team members helps me to pick myself up when I’m falling. I know for a fact that my team members trust me to deliver my part so it’s my responsibility to complete the task and not let them down.

It’s tiring but fulfilling. If you were to ask me, I’m living the kind of life I dreamed about since young!

9) What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs or “studentpreneurs” out there who wants to start their own business while pursuing their studies?

We are all creatures of habit and afraid of the unknown. Many of us are afraid of trying out new things, let along starting a business.

I believe that our youth is our greatest asset. Don’t be afraid to fail! Now is the golden opportunity for us to “fail” because it’s not always about the result but what you learn through the journey. Not all of us can succeed on the first try and whenever you are about to give up, think about what made you start in the first place.

We fell countless of times before we could first walk. Imagine, you had the courage to take the first steps when you were only a baby so what’s holding you back now?

Face your fear and step out of your comfort zone, only then can you truly grow and mature.

10) What’s the main goal you intend to achieve for Alp Group in 2017?

 2017 is the year of execution for us and we already have a series of projects lined up.

For Alp Biz, we aim to establish collaborations with China and Malaysia. We’re also very keen to continue building a strong community of business owners.

As for Alp Investment, we will continue from where we left off last year and hope to maintain our track record of not making any losing investment from the time we first invested.

11) In your own words, what does it mean to “Love the Life You Live and Live the Life You Love”?

I think it’s about living life with passion. I think this sentence describes my life right now.

I love my life now because I’m pursing my dream, waking up every day knowing every second of my life is being used to pursue my “happiness”. I can proudly say I’m passionate about my life because it’s the kind of life that I want to live.

Don’t live a life where you leave regrets behind, enjoy the process of living the life you want to live and that’s when you’ll truly love your life!

Greatest Takeaway

 “It takes teamwork to make the dream work”

I’ve been working closely with Lujian, Cehan and the team for a while now and I must say, I’m very impressed with the dynamics of the entire organisation. I’ve always wondered how they could work so fast and deliver with excellence.

Now I know the secret ingredient to their success so far and it all starts with attracting the right talent, having each individual team member aligned with the same vision, mission passion and purpose.

I gave a speech at Nayang Technological University recently on how youths are not leaders of tomorrow but leaders of today. Both Lujian and Cehan have demonstrated how age doesn’t stop you from pursuing what you want in life.

I’m really excited for what’s to come for this young company and young entrepreneurs. It’s a privilege for me to contribute to their organisation to make their vision become a reality.

All the best Lujian and Cehan, continue working hard and build an A-team to take your company to greater heights!


Lujian
President of Alp Group

Alp Group LogoLujian is serving as the president of Alp Group. Other than overseeing operational activities of each department, he’s also working on Alp’s trading sector, mainly dealing with China. He specialises in publicity and marketing.

Headquartered in Singapore, Alp Group is a registered company and established as a platform for businesses and investors in Singapore, which are known as Alp Biz and Alp Investment respectively.

Alp Biz strives to promote business connectedness in Asia. This is in line with SPRING Singapore’s vision to advance the globalisation of Singapore enterprises – while building connectedness of enterprises. Alp Biz is committed to becoming the first-choice destination for Asian businesses to use Alp Biz as a springboard to connect with other Asian countries. The four essential pillars to our approach: market, supply, funding and mentoring.

In addition, to accelerate the development of disruptive start-ups changing our world today, we have leveraged the most comprehensive cross-sector ecosystem to nurture the next generation of start-ups via our Alp Creation Programme in Singapore. Our extensive connections in ASEAN and China provide our start-ups an unparalleled access to the global market for growth and expansion.

Alp Investment aims to build an efficient and effective educational system for investors to learn how to “buy a wonderful company at a fair price”. This is because we strongly believe that education is a journey, not a destination.

Our purpose is to offer those who are ambitious for financial success an insight which will aid them to acquire money, keep the money and to make their surpluses earn more money.

Website: https://www.thealpnews.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TheAlpGroup/

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The Wandering Wasp

28 Apr
The Wandering Wasp

Here’s a fun fact: Did you know Vespa” is the Italian word for “Wasp” ?

Today, I’m happy to share with you a story of one Singaporean’s journey across the globe – on a Vespa.

Here’s a video on her adventure so far…

1) Hey Juvena, share with us who you are and what you’re currently doing right now?

I’m a twenty-nine year old Singaporean, an avid biker and wanderer. On 16th May 2015, I left Singapore on my Vespa scooter to travel world. Twenty-two months, thirteen countries and more than 30,000 kilometres later, I’m still on the road. Right now, I’m taking a hiatus from travelling due to winter. At the same time, I’m also juggling between volunteering in a hostel for free stay and helping at a refugee kitchen.

2) It’s interesting that you chose to travel on your Vespa, how did this idea come about?

I’ve always been a biker first, a traveller second. Naturally, travelling on two wheels is a combination of my two interests. I have a Vespa since I was twenty years old. The idea of travelling was shelved aside as I was caught up in the rat race – working to fund university studies and to pay bills.

3) Why did you choose to embark on this journey and how has it been going for you so far?

A good friend of mine planned to set off on a riding adventure to the border of China. A week before the trip, he passed away in an accident while driving. The brevity and uncertainty of life dawned on me. It got me questioning if I should continue only living a life up to societal expectation or beyond that. Travelling was something I want to do since I was eighteen. I decided to waste no time in turning that into a reality.

From 2008 to 2010, there was another couple from Singapore (Singaporedream) who were travelling around the world on a motorcycle too. They have been a big inspiration.

The world has been great so far. Throughout my travel, many people have shown me generosity and kindness by offering food, opening their homes to me and repairing my scooter. It’s in my times of vulnerability that I rediscovered humanity.

4) What were some of the challenges faced while you were travelling and how did you manage to overcome them?

Challenges usually become the norm and are no longer challenges. Humans being are adaptable. However, one challenge that I still have not gotten used to after two years of travelling is having to saying farewell to new found friends.

5) Share with us some of the greatest life lessons learned while you were on the road.

Learning to let go is one of the toughest and most important lessons. Being overtly attached to expectations and desires make us unhappy and anxious. Being always on the move, I’m constantly learning to recognise and accept the impermanence of situations, relationships and emotions. It may not be so evident when we are settled in one place but impermanence is still prevalent in our daily lives. Nothing is forever, like happy moments and also troubled moments. Travelling has made me a much calmer and rational person in times of adversity.

The luggage I carry during this trip is like a metaphor for the material burdens in our lives. I realised I don’t need many things to survive. The less stuff I carry with me, the less worry I have about keeping them safe or maintaining it. Owning things beyond the necessities are just extra weights to carry and source of anxieties. People tend to associate happiness with the amount of things they own but is that truly the case?

A visit to a secluded village located 1.5 hours trek away from the nearest road redefined poverty. The people here do not have much financially and materialistically. However, the river nearby supplies clean water for our washing, drinking and cooking daily. My host offered me an unripe jackfruit which they just harvested. Their children are healthy because they do not eat junk food and trekked to school half an hour to an hour almost every day.

Their natural surroundings provide well for them as they take care of their environment. A revelation struck me – Poverty is not about the lack of money. It starts when money becomes the only means to get your basic necessities. Probably that’s the reason I see more beggars in cities. The urbanised humans are probably the only species on earth that requires currency to survive.

6) I’m sure safety is a huge concern. How do you ensure the safety of yourself and your friends during these trips?

If you practice common sense, trust your gut instincts and recognise your limitations, usually safety is of lesser concern. Heed the locals’ advice, do as the Romans do. Even so, situations can be uncertain – be it overseas or even at home. Take the examples of terrorist attacks in 2016, it happened in countries you least expected.

7) “Not all who wander are lost”. What you’re doing is very unconventional. How you handle the naysayers and people who try to talk you out of doing what you’re doing?

Naysayers are usually the ones who don’t venture into the unknown and unconventional, imposing their fears and limitations on others. They perceive the world from the comforts of their home and only through media and hearsays. I usually take their advice with a pinch of salt. Their words may stem from their insecurity but they can be well-intended too. I would say listen to yourself and at the same time, respect the elements of travelling.

I do get talked down to because I’m riding a small old scooter and maybe because of my gender. Very often, we are stronger than we think we are. The only limitations are the ones you set on yourself. If you never even try, you’ll never know how much you can achieve. I’m glad that I pay little heed to naysayers. If not, I would have missed out so much on what the world has to offer.

On the contrary, I spoke and met many people who have done trips like this. They’re always very encouraging. So far, I’ve not met anybody who went on an extended travel and regretted it.

8) What advice would you give someone who wants to travel like you do?

I have many people who come to me saying, “I wish I can do what you are doing” or assume that I am very wealthy. I am just a regular middle-class Singaporean.

Turning your dreams of travelling into reality involves action – stop wishing for it and start working for it. It’s not just for travelling but also for other pursuits.

My actions were saving and moonlighting for three and half years, sold things I don’t need and avoiding the life of a consumer. Then, I left the job I had for six years and set off on this trip, only surviving on my savings and donations from followers.

It might sound extreme but I know this is what I want as I recognise that I don’t have infinite time and opportunity on this earth. I’m very fortunate that my parents and I are still healthy and have no liabilities. I want to do this while I can.

You’ll never feel or never be 100% financially, mentally or physically prepared. Even if you feel that you are adequately prepared, you cannot be prepared for the unexpected. The world will surprise you in many ways.

Give yourself a reasonable dateline, prepare the best you can and go. Trust me, you’ll learn and grow so much along the way.

9) What are your travel plans for this year and what do you hope to achieve in 2017?

I hope to explore the rest of Europe in 2017. I have been away for two years and I think it’s also time to head home for some time before resuming the trip again.

10) In your own words, what does it mean to “Love the Life You Live and Live the Life You Love”?

Appreciating and loving the things you have in your life and live a life making the best of it.

Greatest Takeaway

Learning to let go, the concept of poverty and handling naysayers are some of the greatest takeaways I’ve learned from Juvena’s adventure on the road.

“The luggage I carry during this trip is like a metaphor for the material burdens in our lives. I realised I don’t need many things to survive. The less stuff I carry with me, the less worry I have about keeping them safe or maintaining it.”

The acceptance of impermanence is a huge lesson all of us can learn as we walk through life and handle all the obstacles and challenges it brings.

“Poverty is not about the lack of money. It starts when money becomes the only means to get your basic necessities.”

Personal development gurus will usually say poverty is a mindset but I like how Juvena puts it because there’s a practical element to it. Differentiating needs from wants is crucial when it comes to tackling poverty. What is it that we really need in order to survive? At what expense does it cost for us to pursue what we want?

Lastly, naysayers. We’ve all experienced them at least once in our lives. You know what you need best and learn to take what these people say with a pinch of salt.

Thanks Juvena for sharing with us your journey and I’m sure this is just a snapshot of what you’ve learned and experienced so far. I wish you all the best for your upcoming travels and continue being the wandering wasp that you are 😉

If you’ll like to stay up to date with Juvena and her Vespa, head over to her facebook page, “The Wandering Wasp”  or on Instagram to let her take you on an adventure you’ll never forget!


Juvena Huang
The Wandering Wasp

Juvena Huang Profile PictureA Singaporean world traveller on a Vespa scooter. Free-spirited biker, adventurer, animal lover and yogi. Fuelled by an insatiable curiosity and sudden passing of a friend, Juvena decided to discover the world on her Vespa scooter.

Kilometre by kilometre on two wheels, she has transversed Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Serbia, savouring each country slowly.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/thewanderingwasp/
Blog: http://thewanderingwasp.blogspot.sg/

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Breaking Stereotypes

21 Apr
Breaking Stereotypes

Watch this social experiment and it’ll get you thinking on some preconceived ideas society has.

 

 

I was intrigued after watching this video so I took a long shot and wrote to Anna personally and asked if she was keen to do an interview. Super happy she agreed so today, we have the privilege of learning from a female CEO on her experiences, struggles and lessons in the corporate world.

1) Hey Anna, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this interview. Share with us who you are and what is it that you do for a living?

I’m the CEO of The New Savvy and Director at Tera Capital, a private investment firm. I was also the President of the Singapore Management University Women Alumni. Heading the Women in FinTech Committee, I’m heavily involved in the founding committee of the Singapore FinTech Association.

I conduct workshops on personal finance and had given talks on finance, women issues and empowerment for organisations – Singapore Exchange (SGX), ShareInvestor REITs Symposium, Citi-SMU Financial Literacy Symposium, Female Entrepreneurs Worldwide (FEW), SG50 Singapore Female Leaders, Singapore Women Network etc…

I also regularly teach and mentor students and professionals on financial prudence and investments, facilitating their ability to be better informed when making financial decisions.

Participating in various charities supporting women and children causes, I have also become one of the main donors for a library building that is specially catered for underprivileged female students.

2) Tell us more about The New Savvy!

THENEWSAVVY.COM is an online platform that focuses on financial and career issues for women in Asia. Despite advancing in our career and earning more, women lack confidence in financial matters. 41% do not invest or manage their money. There is a lack of media outlets that engages women financially.

In particular, The New Savvy uses simplified, relevant language to help women make smarter decisions. We cover thirty-five topics ranging from investments vehicles, savings, buying property, marriage, fashion and health. We want to make money fun and promote better financial habits among women.

The New Savvy is a fast-growing, women-focused site and we have worked with many financial institutions and organisations namely Fast company, Singapore Exchange (SGX), MayBank Securities and others.

We are also content partners with Yahoo!, AsiaOne and CPF.

Here are a list of our press and partners.

3) Where did the inspiration come from to start this business and how has it been going for you so far?

There are two major inspirations for The New Savvy:

First, due to my family financial situation, I’ve always been fascinated with the intricacies behind the working of money.  I understood that I have to take care of myself and my family and that realisation sparked off my wealth-building path.

The idea of making my money work harder for me really fascinated me and I felt that was a way out for me from living pay cheque to pay cheque, feeling very stressed every month.

As a result, I started learning to invest by reading Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham while in Junior College. I also read a lot of other finance books.

I’m lucky to have the opportunity to study and work in Finance. I learned financial management skills, picked up economic ideas and started investing since I was twenty-one. While I’m no expert, I’m familiar with financial products and managed to build a comfortable portfolio for myself.

Second, when I was in Hwa Chong Junior College, I did some volunteer work and noticed how many women were stuck in unhappy situations or marriages as they were not working or have any earning capabilities. That motivated me always to protect myself financially and to prevent myself from being caught in similar situations.

If proper financial knowledge and planning worked for me, it would work for many women too – which was why I started The New Savvy.

Overtime, we have expanded thirty-five categories in three areas of focus for our platform: technical articles, lifestyle pieces, and inspirational stories.

Technical articles are informative, must-know finance concepts in bite-sized to make it more palatable to readers.

Here are some articles; What’s the difference between ETFs and mutual funds, Bonds 101, Which Real Estate in Singapore Should You Purchase?

Lifestyle pieces are fun articles that discuss issues plaguing the modern women. All of them include a finance or female empowerment angle to them.

For example, When Women Earn More Than Men In a Marriage, 10 Financial Questions You Should Ask Your Date, How to measure your cost per wear for clothes…
Inspirational stories include stories of individuals breaking barriers, speaking up, living authentic lives. We also have interview sections where we question participants on their occupations or businesses, financial planning and thoughts on women issues.

We are also developing bite-sized financial online courses and looking at holding workshops for financial education every two months.

4) What are some of challenges faced and how did you overcome them?

There were a few difficulties when I first started The New Savvy:

One, when I shared the idea with people, most of them dismissed me thinking that it’s just another blog. Or they think that I’m limiting myself by focusing only on women. Many told me to make it as broad to ensure that we get more website hits.

Second, coming from a finance background with very decent earning power, it’s difficult to turn into an entrepreneur. I was giving up a good five-figure income and some people told me not to be naïve and “get a real job”. That affected my morale.

For a long time, I was wondering if I’m just impetuous or silly. Should I just continue earning money and be in banking? There’s a societal pressure, especially when you don’t know what’s going to happen and I’m doing this mostly to help other women.

Third, I wasn’t trained for this. It was an uphill struggle for me. I ended up working till 4am every day. Most of my close ones were concerned and told me not to overwork. I think I made every mistake that shouldn’t be made. But that’s life, isn’t it? You falter but you pick yourself up.

Last, a good product is useless if there are no users. How do I get the word out? How do I market TheNewSavvy.com to ensure that more women are aware that my product exists?

Most importantly, this difficulty had been in my mind non-stop since I embarked on this journey – How do I make women more interested in financial literacy?

In the beginning, I struggled a lot. My background was pure Finance and Banking. I was clueless on developing a website, producing content, digital marketing and publishing. But I knew it was something I wanted to do and HAD to do. It was a desire that couldn’t be ignored any longer.

I did everything from scratch myself. I looked around for website developers and researched on websites. I learned about how websites are arranged and how they worked. I did a short market surveys on what is lacking regarding women financial education and what women will like to learn more.

Additionally, I took up a digital marketing course and learned how to utilise tools like Google Analytics, Search console and understood the terms.

Till today, I am constantly learning in a humble manner while working towards my passion. I try to stay positive against all odds and trust myself for every decision I make for the company.

5) Speaking of challenges, how is it like being a female CEO?

I don’t see myself as a female boss. I see myself as a leader, leading my company to achieve our goals and profitability. My role is to build a great team that I can tap on and learn from.

To address stereotypes, we need to ask ourselves two critical questions:

What are the stereotypes?

Why do they exist?

A lot of female bosses are perceived to be “aggressive, bitchy, cold and emotional”. I empathise with it. Most women feel that to get a seat on the table or to get to the top, you have to be masculine and “be one of the boys” as that’s the widely accepted norm.

As for being emotional, is that a bad thing? Being in tune with your feelings can mean that you are an empathetic leader.

I think society is slowly embracing different kinds of leadership styles. Stereotypes are harder to ignore if they create systemic bias.

As a leader, I don’t focus on my gender or if I’m female. To me, my role is to ensure I do my job well and produce consistent and quality work each and every time.

I always believe that we should let our work speak for itself and let its quality demand respect.

6) What are your thoughts on the breaking a stereotype of CEO’s being male?

I advocate gender equality in the sense of offering equal opportunities to both genders, rendering the same amount of respect in both professional and social contexts.

Hillary Clinton attacked Donald Trump during the Presidential Debates for saying “Women don’t deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men”, framing it as an unfair premise for gender equality. Is it fair then to award women the same pay as men if there’s a shortfall in performance?

I believe gender equality should present equal opportunity, not equal entitlement.

Right now, I think feminism sometimes goes a bit too far towards pushing women and men to be overly against traditional gender roles even if their personal proclivities are in line with them… But in theory and in the long run when it’s no longer as big of an issue, people will just be freer to do what they like without the heavy pressures to conform (or non-conform).

In this sense, I don’t believe that gender matters for a CEO as long as he or she can fulfil the role well. However, to ensure that opportunity is open for all, I do have a few thoughts:

First of all, today’s leaders must make a personal commitment to increase women’s presence in decision-making – not just in their numbers, but in their contributions.

There are many ways to do this – quotas and numerical targets for women’s participation, training and mentorship to boost women’s confidence and capacity, private-sector engagement matching public-sector initiatives. Countries will find their own ways, if the will is there.

Employers must ensure equal hiring, payment and promotion policies. This is to support balance work-life conditions and give women the opportunity to lead. Managers must also learn to welcome women’s input and contribution.

With the support from the society as an overall, I think the assumption of CEO to a particular gender (man in this case) will gradually go away.

7) Who are some inspirational figures you look up to keep you going when the road gets tough?

I have many mentors that I really look up to and am grateful. They’ve taught me countless lessons and provide valuable advice whenever I need them.

My parents are the kindest people I know and I love them deeply! They’ve always taught me always to be humble and be willing to learn. Exercise often and take care of yourself. Be kind and have lots of fun!

8) Any advice for women out there in the workplace? How can they overcome this stereotype to perform at their best?

I have written an article related to this question earlier: Are Ambitions Unfeminine? Why You Should Be Ambitious Anyway!

Here are my five pointers for women in the workplace:

#1: Ignore the Double Standard

Some of the biggest obstacles to success are psychological. You can choose to be above them. Affirmations can be very powerful tools for changing negative thinking and blocking out the negative thoughts unhappy people may try and project onto you. Here are some affirmations for achieving goals, thinking positive and thinking big.

#2: Pursue Innate Talents

Pursue what you are good at and what you love. Use your talents and expertise. Do not be afraid to try many new things in search of your talent.

#3: Follow Your Passions

Talent and passion are a powerful force that pushes many women to achieve their  career dreams.

#4: Use Pregnancy to Accelerate Your Career

Savvy women have turned the tables by becoming the employer and boss. More and more mumpreneurs are starting their own businesses, many during pregnancy leave.

#5: Support Other Women

Psychiatrist Anna Fels identifies two factors that lead to the realisation of childhood ambitions: a special skill and an appreciative audience. By supporting other women, you can play an important role in helping them meet their ambitions.

9) What’s the main goal you intend to achieve for The New Savvy in 2017?

Most of our current revenue stems from inbound queries. The New Savvy focuses on making Finance more relevant and engaging for women. I think brands see value in that. Women investors are an untapped market and I believe The New Savvy is the perfect gateway to reach these savvy decision makers.

Hence, we are looking into ways to monetize some of our unique selling points this year, something we are changing in 2017!

10) In your own words, what does it mean to “Love the Life You Live and Live the Life You Love”?

Personal – To live authentically and lead a balanced life.

Interpersonal – Relationships are very important to me so I always ask myself if I’m giving enough to my loved ones and how I can help others.

Financial – Being financially successful to me is having the choice and security to live the life I seek meaning in. And by extension, giving the people I love the lives they desire.

Greatest Takeaway

I like what Anna shared about title vs. leadership. She doesn’t see herself as a “female boss” but a leader. Leadership is about influence. Leadership is about communication. Leadership is about vision and direction.

In one sentence, she was able to sum up what it takes to be a CEO of her company.

“Gender equality should present equal opportunity, not equal entitlement”.

I’m grateful to grow up and live in a country that advocates meritocracy. Unfortunately, certain stereotypes still exist and the perception of males being the CEO of a company is definitely one of them. It’ll be naïve to think we can change this overnight so besides what Anna shared, is there anything else we can do as individuals or collectively as a society to make a progressive step forward?

What are your thoughts?

Thanks Anna for being so transparent and authentic in sharing with us your journey. The first step to change is awareness and I acknowledge your courage to take a stand in the cause you believe in.

Keep up the amazing work you’re doing at The New Savvy and continue to be an inspiration to us all.


Anna Vanessa Haotanto
CEO of The New Savvy

Anna Vanessa Haotanto Profile Picture

Anna Haotanto is passionate about finance, education, women empowerment and children’s issues. She has been featured in CNBC, Forbes, The Straits Times, Business Insider, INC and Executive Lifestyle. She was also nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen).

Anna has ten years of experience in the financial sector and is currently a Director in Tera Capital. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai. She graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance).

Anna provides wealth management consultancy to select clients and conducts workshops on personal finance. She regularly teaches and mentors children and adults on financial prudence and investments, facilitating their ability to be better informed when making financial decisions. Anna gives talks for organisations and is involved in various charities supporting women and children causes.

Anna earned her financial independence at age twenty-eight. However, she seeks meaning in focusing her entrepreneurial career on financial literacy as she firmly believes that continuous learning empowers people.

For full bio: http://thenewsavvy.com/anna-haotanto/

The New Savvy Logo

TheNewSavvy.com is an online platform that focuses financial and career issues for women and millennials in Asia.

Despite advancing in our career and earning more, women lack confidence in financial matters. 41% of women do not manage their money; we are simply saving or depending on others to handle their financial matters.

The New Savvy uses engaging and simplified language to facilitate the financial knowledge of women as we move through our career and life milestones. We cover thirty-five topics to help women make smarter decisions, ranging from investments vehicles, savings, buying property, marriage, fashion and health.

Looking for inspiration in your education, professional career and entrepreneurship journey? The New Savvy provides dedicated insights that are compelling and fun to read.  We profile individuals to inspire you.

We want to make money interesting to women and transform women’s relationship with money.

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Stand Up, Be Proud & Speak Out

14 Apr
Stand Up, Be Proud & Speak Out

Had the opportunity to share the stage with Gaurav at Ardor Buzz recently and that was when I first heard his message about speaking up on things that matter.

As we progress to become a more affluent society, bringing up difficult conversations and asking hard questions are inevitable.

Here’s a snippet of a recent interview by Mr Stephen Sackur for BBC’s HARDtalk with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to set the context of this article.

 

 

Let’s get Gaurav to share with us his experience in this arena and what it takes to stand up, be proud and speak out.

1) Hi Gaurav, thanks for taking this interview! Share with our readers who you are and what is it that you do for a living?

Thanks for having me on the site Ranford, I’m truly flattered.

My full-time job also involves trying to make Singapore a better place, although it’s quite different from the volunteer work I do with dialectic.sg. During the day, I work in the military. On the weekends and evenings, I spend a lot of time in the debate community. I used to be the President of the Debate Association (Singapore) for many years.

We aspired to bring the skills of debating to every student in Singapore regardless of background. I’m most proud to say that we expanded what used to be an elitist activity into one that is now part of the basic school curriculum and can be participated in by almost every school in Singapore. Nowadays, I still volunteer as a debate judge for competitions and an occasional trainer for less-privileged schools.

2) Tell us more about dialectic.sg and how this idea came about?

Many years ago, I was told young people were very disrespectful when they spoke up – they asked good questions but didn’t know how to ask those questions in a respectful way.

Today, I think youths are able to express themselves very persuasively in person. I’ve been impressed many times when I hear young people argue for a cause they believe in or question something they doubt. However, I noticed a new problem that was growing: online commenters were becoming very disrespectful.

Unlike in real live conversations, people were more rude online. There appeared to be no easy solution. Some respected websites even turned off their commenting feature to prevent “trolls” and rude commenters from ruining the page because there was no good commenting tool.

I decided to use my year off in Harvard to research the problem a bit further and design a better system for online commenting. After a lot of trials and research, dialectic.sg was born.

A “dialectic” is a process of intellectual discovery, where a thesis (an argument) is considered with its anti-thesis (the counter-argument) in order to determine the synthesis (the “truth”). Through this process, we’re moving closer to the truth by assessing both sides of a controversial topic in a structured manner.

The goal was to address the disrespectful, divisive and unproductive nature of online comments and to build a website that encourages respectful, rational yet robust debates on important issues.

The prototype took a lot of coding effort but once the idea was validated, we set about building the full site. Today, we have supported debates on controversial issues such as the Chinese-Malay-Indian-Others debate with PM Lee, on racial harmony with Minister Janil Puthucheary, among many other controversial topics.

Our volunteer researchers ask difficult questions that few others do because we believe it’s important to ask people the right questions and have a safe space for a robust debate.

3) Was it difficult getting people to speak up on controversial issues?

Yes, and it still is. We’ve got over a thousand active members, and have peaked at over ten thousand visitors a month but most people are unwilling or afraid to leave a comment behind for various reasons.

I’ve polled my audience before and some felt they prefer to read comments rather than leave their own. Others worry their comments are not intellectually developed enough and don’t have the time to research and prepare a good comment to meet the standards of the site.

Others have a perception they will be “black marked” for leaving dissenting opinions on existing government policy (although I tried to address this by allowing them to leave comments anonymously once they register). So yes, it’s difficult.

Fortunately, we have enough people who are willing to step up and be courageous enough to try to leave a comment because they understand that a democracy only gets stronger when the people in it are willing to express their views and engage with each other in the process of an intellectual debate. I hope that more people will continue to try and participate in the conversation, for all our sakes.

4) What are some of the challenges people face when talking about difficult topics or asking controversial questions? How did you help them overcome this?

The first challenge is many people don’t have time to read all the articles about an issue. We make it easier for them by doing a simple background brief or highlight the key facts and figures with some international examples of similar policies in action.

This helps frame the issues and is based on the famous Harvard Business School “case study” method of discussions.

The second challenge is many people don’t know what the questions are. They understand an issue is complex but may not be aware of the reasons why. We address this by highlighting the policy dilemmas at stake.

For example, when we debated whether to implement an English Language entry requirement for all immigrants , we highlighted the policy dilemma that many of our own elderly who came to Singapore during pre-independence did not speak English or any of the official mother tongue languages but were arguably “more Singaporean” than those who came later and spoke English.

When we raise these dilemmas in the background brief, people are made aware their comments should address the dilemmas if possible.

The third and final challenge is teaching people how to comment better and the site does it in two ways; one, we have simple lessons available online for commenting techniques and two, we built a real-time commenting engine that is quite unique. Essentially, as a person writes a comment, we assess how persuasive the comment is based on our database of “persuasive” comments and we provide immediate feedback on how they can improve it, as they are typing!

5) Why is it crucial to speak up on important matters, knowing the risk that one might get into trouble? Isn’t it easier to let things remain status quo?

Yes, it’s definitely easier to let things remain status quo. However, no good change ever happened in the world from people who just “accepted the status quo”. The world and our society will only improve when people believe that we can be better and are willing to put in the effort and courage to make that change happen.

This is true for dialectic.sg and for many other social causes out there. Change requires courage; it requires people willing to believe that the change is important enough to work for.

Singapore is at a point of transition today. Society is increasingly fragmented along many different lines (class, race, religion etc…) and we need to be able to handle disagreements better in order to thrive. I spoke about this at TEDx at Harvard previously and explained why a platform for socio-political debate needs to exist in Singapore.

6) What are your thoughts on the concept of “agreeing to disagree”?

We’ll not always agree unanimously on all issues. Society is much like any relationship; there won’t be unanimous agreement always. We must therefore find a way to disagree respectfully, find good balances and compromises.

Every question has at least two sides and we try to ensure that reasonable arguments from both sides are treated equally. This is not the same thing as saying both sides must always be equal. It’s clear that in some cases, one side is much stronger and deserves more attention because of that.

However when designing policies, we need to listen to all opinions fairly and then weigh our own assessment of the “truth” objectively. We must try to agree on facts and disagree on opinions. Today, I find it worrying that some are disputing even basic facts from science without any basis. This is unhealthy and dangerous.

7) Can you give advice to individuals who are keen to speak up but are fearful of being ridiculed or insulted simply because of their differing opinions?

A more general response is this – The key is to be able to listen to dissenters without being dissuaded. Take their criticisms and ridicule and re-interpret it as a challenge or feedback on what can be done differently or better. Use their negative energy to fuel your positive energy on your own personal quest.

When I first discussed the idea of building a website from scratch with a unique commenting engine that nobody had ever seen before, I was obviously chastised by many well-meaning friends. Many said that if such a thing existed, Google would have already built it!

I felt otherwise. Clearly Google had not already built it (look at how awful the Youtube comments were!). I told them that it was worth trying because even if I failed, hopefully I will inspire others to follow in my footsteps and try to build something even better.

What made me “immune” to such criticism was my personal conviction and belief. I didn’t care whether it succeeded or failed, I only wanted to try to make a difference. I believe it was important for me to use my blessings in life to give back to others in whatever way I could.

If you want to make the world a better place, you have to learn to be a bit thick-skinned and take criticism and ridicule in your stride. Once you’ve succeeded, you can look back at those events and laugh it off. Until then, keep persevering. Don’t be afraid to comment on an issue because of the fear of ridicule.

On a side note, you really shouldn’t worry about this happening on dialectic.sg because our system is designed to defeat such rude trolls! 🙂

8) Where do you intend to take dialectic.sg in 2017 and how do you see it helping the public hold better debates?

I want to continue asking difficult questions about important issues. Some of the topics debated on dialectic.sg were subsequently debated in Parliament and many of the views expressed there echoed comments received on the site, which is wonderful.

This means that our site is relevant to the national discourse and we’re part of the wider conversation that is making a difference. I hope to continue that mission. I’m also trying to recruit more volunteers to help write topic briefs for the site. The site is powered by the energy and passion of our volunteers and I’m grateful for that.

9) In your own words, what does it mean to “Love the Life You Live and Live the Life You Love”?

We must follow our own path with purpose and passion. We shouldn’t be afraid of ridicule or criticism along the way and we should take the feedback in our stride.

Each of us has a different path in life and it’s important to believe that you’re following your own path and enjoying that pathway. It may not always be easy and we’ll all stumble along the way but we must learn to pick ourselves up from each failure and stand up stronger.

Love is also best experienced with other people so share your blessings with others, be a part of their lives and remember that accolades are meaningless unless you give them meaning by using them to make society a better place.

Oh, and have fun along the way la.

Greatest Takeaway

I’ve always wondered how one can “agree to disagree”. Although I did write about this, I find it sometimes hard to put into practice. A great point to note is to agree on facts and disagree on opinions.

“No good change ever happened in the world from people who just accepted the status quo” and I think this sentence alone is a good enough reason for us to start looking into issues and speak up on them.

Like what Gaurav said, in order to make the world a better place, we have to learn to take criticism and ridicule in our stride. Keep persevering and don’t be afraid to comment on an issue because of the fear of ridicule.

Thanks Gaurav for sharing your knowledge and insights on how to engage in a constructive conversation. I have to agree with you that it’s definitely an uphill task but as long as each of us play our part and respect each other in the process, it’ll not be as hard as it seems.

If debating is something of interest to you, feel free to drop a note here to be a volunteer with dialectic.sg!


Gaurav Keerthi
Founder of dialectic.sg
Gaurav Keerthi Profile PictureGaurav Keerthi volunteers actively in the debate community during his free time. He has debated, coached, moderated, and judged since 1992. He was the President of Debate Association (Singapore) from 2006 to 2010 and a founding Fellow of the Raffles Debate Academy.

In television, he co-created and hosted Mediacorp’s Emmy-nominated student debate TV show, The Arena (2007-08) and was the moderator for Channel News Asia’s Bridging Asia: The Singapore Debates (Season 2, 2012) and The Year Ahead (2014).

He published a local bestselling book in 2011 titled Think Speak Win (with a foreword by Dr Vivian Balakrishnan) and is the founder of www.dialectic.sg (a patent-pending website which aims to make online debating respectful and rational again).

Gaurav did his undergraduate at Stanford University on a government scholarship and his masters at Harvard Kennedy School of Government on the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship where he graduated as a distinguished Littauer Fellow. He also enjoys running, playing guitar, singing karaoke badly and having long debates with his wife (who usually wins, since she’s a lawyer and better debater).

dialectic.sg LogoDialectic.sg is a reinvention of online commenting. Websites, forums, and social media currently encourage comments that are divisive, disrespectful, and unproductive. The site uses patent-pending algorithms to help users write better comments, improves the quality of conversation through peer-based pre-moderation and structures the conversation to be balanced and open.

Our vision is to help build a society where we can have rational, responsible, respectful conversations about important issues facing Singapore. We want to catalyse moderates, educate commenters and influence decision makers. Dialectic.sg has been featured in The Straits Times, Channel NewsAsia, the Boston Business Journal and has been showcased at Harvard University and TEDx at Harvard. The dialectic.sg currently has 1,062 members who have left 1,224 comments on ninety-one discussions. And we are growing every day.

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At the 11th Hour

7 Apr
At the 11th Hour

What will you do at the 11th hour?

Jun Yuan is a personal friend of mine and I’ve seen him create this mobile application from scratch. Had the privilege of learning from his co-founder Ting Hong on the work they do and how their journey has been so far.

1) Hey Ting Hong! Share with us who you are and what is it that you do for a living?

I was from the sales industry for about eight years, managing a group of fifteen people. Before that, I was working both part-time and full-time as an engineer before and after my schooling days in PSB Academy where I pursued my degree in Engineering.

Currently, I’m at the 11th Hour full-time with my Co-founder, Jun Yuan.

2) How did this idea, 11th Hour come about?

Jun Yuan ran a Bak Kut Teh stall where he faced many challenges with leftovers, especially during lull periods and raining days. He was concerned about the waste, sometimes as much as ten to fifteen bowls a day!

That got us thinking, what if we could come up with a solution that allows us to respond to these last-minute scenarios in real-time?

Jun Yuan was someone who used to run an F&B business so he can tell you that there’s not much resource out there to help F&B owners prevent food wastage. In order to overcome this, many F&B outlets run one-for-one closing hour promotions. Others run ad-hoc promotions using standees or fliers.

However, this doesn’t solve the root problem of food wastage. There were many initiatives by government and non-profit organisations as well but a lot of them have limited success.

When we brainstormed, what we concluded was that ad-hoc, last-minute promotions was the way to go. Imagine a situation where outlets can quickly create last-minute offers through a platform with a click of a few buttons and people from around the vicinity can see and take up these exciting promotions.

That’s how the idea of 11th Hour came about.

3) What makes 11th Hour different from other F&B mobile apps?

Most other F&B mobile apps that we know, you’ll have to plan promotions in advance. By doing so, users can abuse and time the promotions. On top of that, if a merchant wishes to make any changes or end the promotion half-way through a campaign, they’ll still have to honour the deals.

For 11th Hour, merchants can respond to the current situation at anytime. They can immediately pull out their mobile phone or tablet to create a promotion in less than a minute. Users around the area will then be able to see and response to these last-minute deals almost instantly and seize any deal that catches their attention.

I’m sure nobody can resist turning down a good deal, right? For others, they find this a very unique concept; a fun initiative to tackle the food wastage problem.

4) What were some of the challenges faced when starting this business and how did you manage to overcome them?

At first, it was to have a reliable mobile app developer. The first two teams didn’t manage to commit full-time or produce satisfactory work after a long period of time. This delayed our project considerably. The third team was a local, outsourced company and they were the ones who developed the app that you see today.

Initially, we went out there to give flyers to increase the awareness. Many merchants were sceptical of the idea and were hesitant to enrol with us. It was only after being featured on the newspapers and magazines when we started to gain more traction. Subsequently, it’s our continued activities that more merchants started to believe in the idea and came on board to join us.

5) To date, what’s the response so far and how did you mange to let the public know about your business?

In the short span of time since 11th Hour was launched, a number of media outlets such at The Straits Times, TODAY, The Guardian, Tech in Asia, Vulcan Post, e27.co, Eco Business and The Middle Ground picked up our story and featured us in their publication.

The Straits Times

It Changed My Life: 11th Hour may just clinch the deal

App makers, scientists pitch in to curb wastage

TODAY

11th Hour app an innovative solution to food wastage

An 11th Hour answer to cutting down on food waste

The Guardian

Tackling food waste around the world: our top 10 apps

Tech in Asia

This man went from university graduate to hawker to startup founder

Vulcan Post

Young Hawker-Turned-Entrepreneur Fights Food Wastage With App That Gives You Food Discounts

e27.co

Take all you eat, but eat all you take: This startup will curb food wastage in Singapore

Eco Business

A new app to save food at the 11th Hour

The Middle Ground

Reducing food waste with last-minute deals

I think this has been the most effective way for the public to get to know us and what we do.

Facebook has also been another useful platform to get the word out. Here’s a short video to introduce what 11th Hour does.

 

 

Since late last year, 11th Hour has been downloaded more than 10,000 times.

We’ve received great and constructive feedback from both users and merchants from time to time and overall, the feedback was positive.

6) “Failure is the mother of success”. Share with us the number of times you’ve failed and how did you stand up every time after you fall?

In my early years in the sales industry, I was expecting and demanding everyone to perform like me. I wasn’t able to get along with those who view things differently from me. After a while, I learned that everyone is different. All of us defined success very differently. Each individual has his or her own unique strengths that he or she can contribute to the team.

I was very blessed to have great teachers and mentors during that period, giving me countless opportunities to perform and shine. However, I still remained stagnant for a few years.

From this, I learned that if I don’t proactively improve myself consistently, I’ll not be successful regardless of the amount of help and opportunity given to me.

Personally, I believe that each and every encounter in life is either a success or an opportunity to learn.

7) To all aspiring entrepreneurs and existing business owners out there, what advice do you have for them when they hit a road block or come to a crossroad in their life?

Maybe I’ll just share what has worked for us so far and that’s to have a very strong belief in the vision and to stick to the process. I also believe that it’s important to consistently network with people who are way more successful or who have already accomplished what you want to achieve in order to grow or overcome any major roadblock in life.

8) In your opinion, what do you think is “make or break factor” for individuals when the rubber hits the road in business or life for that matter?

You must persist and not give up. Many people give up just when they are about to achieve success.

9) What’s your main goal you’re working towards in 2017 for 11th Hour to achieve?

We target to expand to three countries, more than quadrupled all our key metrics and have our very own in-house mobile development team.

10) In your own words, what does it mean to “Love the Life You Live and Live the Life You Love”?

It means making your dream become a reality and living it every single day.

Greatest Takeaway

I’ve read through all the articles about his company and I must say, what Ting Hong shared in this interview is just a tip of the iceberg. Together with his co-founder Jun Yuan, the both of them went through several ups and downs pursuing this endeavour and calling it a “roller coaster ride” is an understatement.

To wrap things up, the name of their mobile application echoes a very important question one must ask during their entrepreneurial journey or life for that matter – what will I do at the 11th hour?

Both you and I are not immune to problems. That’s just the way how life works.

Problems can either make you or break you. The hammer that breaks glass can shape up the steel. It’s up to you to be a piece of glass or a rod of steel.

At the 11th hour, what will your decision be?

Thanks Ting Hong for sharing your journey so far building this company and I wish you and Jun Yuan all the best. The both of you are game-changers in your industry 😉


Lim Ting Hong
Co-founder of 11th Hour

Profile Picture of Jun Yuan and Ting Hong11th Hour founders Tan Jun Yuan (Left) and Lim Ting Hong

Ting Hong is the co-founder of 11th Hour and together with his partner Jun Yuan, they are set to take the F&B industry by storm.

11th Hour LogoThe 11th Hour app is available for both iOS and Android.

When faced with excess capacity and lull periods, F&B businesses create last-minute deals on 11th Hour.

#1: Find last-minute steals happening around you.

#2: No middleman. Hear it straight from the merchants.

#3: Lowest price guaranteed

Website: http://11thhour.me/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/get11thhour

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The Accidental Entrepreneur

31 Mar
The Accidental Entrepreneur

Will you take your entire family on a six-month road trip across the United States?

How can I do that?!

What about my school? And work??

I got to know about The Ong family’s story through The Straits Times and had the same few questions before watching this video.

 

 

After watching the video, I was inspired and reached out to them to ask if they were keen to do an interview. I’m glad they readily agreed and today, we have the privilege of having mummy Ong, Ms. Sue, to share with us her family’s exciting adventure.

1) Hey Sue! Thanks for taking this interview! Share with us who you are and what is it that you’re currently doing?

Well, where do I begin? I’m a woman who wears many hats but if you asked me what my main occupation is, I’ll say “Mom”.

That’s been my life for the past seventeen years – mom to six precious blessings.

My husband Dan and I have also homeschooled all our children so a more accurate description is “Homeschool Mom”. My newest hat is an entrepreneur of a fledging business and that happened sort of unexpectedly.

2) Tell us more about your journey with 6 Kids and a Pop-up Camper!

“6 Kids and a Pop-Up Camper” is the title of our travelogue which my good friend and “partner in crime” Rachel Meyer and I coined while dreaming about my six month road trip.

I had this dream to see America and finally in 2015 when my husband decided to step out of his teaching job, we had the window of opportunity to make the trip happen.

With the Meyer’s help in acquiring a fourteen-year old, nine-seater Chevvy and pop-up camper (our house on wheels), we covered forty-three states in three large loops, always starting and ending at the Meyer’s hundred-year old farmstead.

Nine-seater Chevvy and pop-up camper Nine-seater Chevvy and pop-up camper and family

We did the southern states in the summer and New England in Fall. We saw many iconic American destinations like the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Niagara Falls and many many more. The depth of the experience is hard to sum up in words. It was amazing.

The Ongs Family Photo 2

At the time of our road trip, our children were aged fifteen, thirteen, eleven, nine, six and three. It turned out to be a good mix of ages because the two older boys were big enough to help with the muscle work like setting up and taking down the camper and my older girl Abigail was able to help me with the two little girls while Dan and I were handling other things.

Our shared experiences; spending so much time together and looking out for each other makes our family’s bonds very strong.

3) What were some of the challenges faced while travelling with your family on the road and how did all of you manage to overcome them?

The biggest challenge we faced while on the road was being tight on money. We only visited places that we didn’t have to pay entrance for and ate value meals and sandwiches, cooking whenever we could. We gladly stayed with American friends whenever we could.

There was once when we were seriously just down to Cherrios (breakfast cereal) for food. But the kids learned to be resilient and it was heart warming to see the older ones sacrifice for the younger.

There really weren’t other big challenges other than money. We viewed the whole trip as one huge adventure to be embraced – new things to try, places to visit and people to meet! Overall, it was a wonderful trip.

4) What are some tips you’ll give families out there who want to embark on the same adventure as what you guys did?

When you’re out there on the road, throw away that stuffy schedule and be very flexible about your plans. We really enjoyed the freedom of changing course if a more interesting destination presented itself.

Children Photo5) Let’s talk about you and your family’s experience of suddenly becoming “entrepreneurs”. How did all of this come about?

Before we went on our trip, I had a little hunch that a trip like ours would make good fodder for a book. Just on a whim, I said we could write the book like a homeschool project, sell it and perhaps re-coup some of our travelling expenses. That was a completely un-researched proposal. Good thing too because if we really found out all the odds, the pragmatists in us might not have embarked on such a huge endeavour.

Prior to this, we had no idea Asher could take such beautiful photographs and they turned out to be a big part of our book. So that was a big blessing. We actually crowd-sourced and collected seventy pre-orders for our book project – I’m still amazed at this since we had no prior background in writing books! We are ever so thankful for all the support of these folks who believed in us enough to buy our book even before it was published.

Asher Ong Photo 2

Well, fast forward the long and winding process of getting the book published in 2016, our book and story has been met with keen interest and great warmth from the media and public about what our family did. We never imagined that partners now want to come on board our “entity” and have approached us.

As opportunities presented themselves, we are now branching beyond selling books to doing talks and sharing sessions. Sometimes we talk about our travelling experiences, sometimes about our Christian homeschooling philosophies. It’s great because as a family, we do enjoy sharing what we have experienced to bring another perspective for people to ponder and consider.

6) I’m sure all of you are new to this. How’s your entrepreneurial journey so far and what obstacles are you currently facing?

Oh yes, *very* new. It’s fun to let our reputation as “the crazy family who brought their children for a six-month road trip” precede any introduction of ourselves.

Thanks to the media and social media, many people have heard of us. I’ll say our journey so far has been really good, maybe because we didn’t have any expectations to begin with. haha..

We’re really thankful for the warmth of the public for what we did for our kids; really cheering us for giving our children an opportunity to experience life at its best. The hiccups happened mostly with the production of the book that caused months of delay. From this, we learned to take detours and delays as part of what’s considered “normal” in business.

The homeschool parent in me will also say that it’s a dream come true that together with the children, we can have a taste of what running a business entails. Previously, we were a single income family, spending the money that Papa earned. But we yearned for the opportunity to work together as a family and earn a living together. One of our homeschooling goals is for our children, especially the boys, to be self-employed in adulthood.

Right now, everyone in the family is in on the action- even down to our youngest Michaela (4 1/2 yrs) whose job is autographing books with her drawings of a girl, presumably herself.

Dan and Daughter

This business has impacted every of our children’s learning but is especially an opportune meeting of right timing and talent for seventeen year old Asher. At fifteen, he went on an epic road trip and basically taught himself how to use the camera skilfully to take great photos. He also learned photo-editing. At sixteen, he taught himself Adobe InDesign and together with me, painstakingly created the entire three-hundred page travelogue. And now at seventeen, he is our media man and has begun sharing his ideas in talks as well.

Asher Ong Photo 1

As for obstacles, if you asked me this question last week, I would have said that we were facing a major road block regarding the printing of our second run of books. But thankfully, that has been resolved and hopefully our book will be found in major bookshops around Singapore and our region. Huge sigh of relief!

Our business seems to be versatile enough to have quite some interesting paths to branch into in time to come. One avenue is developing Asher as a professional photographer and we are intending to sell his prints as well. There have already been several who suggested that he should do a photography exhibition but we don’t have the funding currently.

7) I saw Isaac’s video on your Facebook page making a request to put them on the road again. How has this campaign been going for you so far?

Yes! Glad you mentioned that! We’re a family that’s known for travelling and the fact that we are not travelling is kinda weird.

We believe that our followers are interested to know how a family with six children functions together in an unstable environment like being on the road. Also, it’ll be great to show all the places we’re going and the things we’ll do. We’ve made it known that we’re opened to travelling again, albeit shorter duration trips this time.

We’ll be producing family-friendly, homemade videos and blogs to share with our audience. And Isaac (his multiple accents and characters) will be our “secret weapon” to reach to audiences in our region.

We hope that people will be tickled by his acting and not think we are trying to belittle or stereotype anyone! We love our friends from different nationalities and celebrate the diversity!

We’re also looking to work with travel partners, airlines, tourist attractions (we love outdoors, adventure-y type activities), restaurants and food outlets. We’re also looking for journalism equipment to upgrade our capabilities to share better footage with the use of drones and GoPros. Asher will be grateful for a wide angle lens too.

Our proposal is still in the consideration process by possible partners so nothing is firmed up yet. We’re still open to offers to put us on the road again and we hope that we’ll be able to announce exciting news of a trip very soon!

8) As parents, how do you inculcate the spirit of entrepreneurship in your children?

Let’s see, if you asked me what I did over the years of talking about starting a business, it would be: dream, try, flop, dream again. We’ll keep talking and exploring ideas and testing out what we thought was feasible.

One business we tried in a small way was making baby girl elastic headbands, you know those with the fancy flowers? We really did our best to source the materials, get the children to make them, work on packaging, sell at flea markets, etc… But we quickly realised that the market for elastic hairbands was very limited and we eventually dropped the effort.

Another thing I did as a mom to inculcate a spirit of entrepreneurship was to be a learner and take on new things. I think the thing that started it all was my passion for baking and decorating cakes.

It was while I was pregnant with our third child Isaac in 2003 when I baked my first ever successful batch of cupcakes. With that, I was hooked. Moving on to cakes, then birthday cakes, and now I have done over eleven wedding and special occasion fondant cakes that are up to four tiers high. I especially love to custom make them with quirky ideas that tickle the imagination. I never attended a single class but learned through books.

Sue's Cake

From there, I’ve also dabbled in sewing clothes and dresses for my girls and myself, making soft toy cuddleys, cooking new recipes every once in a while… stuff like that.

As the children observe me, they pick up the attitude that it’s fun to learn new things and do further research into it, keep trying. More importantly, many times at the start it’ll fail and maybe not be up to expectations but that’s ok, just keep trying.

9) Moving forward, what are some of the plans The Ong Family intends to achieve in 2017?

On the homeschool front, Asher is facing two more O levels this year. He cleared three subjects last year and is considering entering a polytechnic in 2018. We have Isaiah facing PSLE: we’ll give it our best shot!

The other kids have their various goals to accomplish too, like music exams.

We do hope to travel and grow our reach. Meanwhile, the kids are learning how to vlog so as to share our travel experiences with our audience.

 10) In your own words, what does it mean to “Love the Life You Live and Live the Life You Love”?

I actually feel very blessed because I know I am in the center of God’s will for me, being a full-time mom to the precious souls that God has entrusted me with.

It’s been a very fulfilling seventeen years dedicating myself to nurturing my kids at home and I wouldn’t exchange it for anything in the world.

I guess to “love the life you live” is to have a certain amount of contentment about your lot in life, not to wonder if you are being short-changed of something better. In order to live the life that one loves, one has to take decisive steps that allow the freedom to make it happen.

But in a way, I’m glad that in 2015, with all the loose ends coming together nicely, I had a chance to live the life I really, really love for six months. Being free to be close to my loved ones and close to nature, experience new things and meet wonderful new people, make lifelong friends. That’s the life I love and I am grateful that I was granted that window to do so.

Greatest Takeaway

Wow. Is it just me or do you feel inspired after listening to Sue and her family’s story?

There are so many things I’ve learned from this short interview I think I’ll need to do up another after just to cover that!

In summary, my greatest takeaway is that it takes a whole lot of courage to pursue what you intend to achieve. I didn’t get a chance to ask this question but I can only imagine how difficult it must be to be different from the rest. Taking the homeschool route, doing a six-month road trip using a pop-up camper, getting the entire family to be involved with entrepreneurship… just to name a few.

But I guess it’s all with the intention of creating the joy of learning together as a family and inculcating the spirit of entrepreneurship along the way. Most of all, it’s how she values family above all. Like they say, “a family that travels together stays together”. 😉

How You Can Get Involved

This time, The Ong Family is looking to travel to different destinations, partnering with people from the travel and tourism industry. They’re open for sponsorships in exchange for social media advertising on their platforms.

Another aspect you can work together with them is though Asher’s passion in photography. He can give a talk, lessons on how to use the camera, techniques of taking nice photos and do up exhibitions to showcase his work to inspire other young talent.

If this is something of interest to you, feel free to contact them here and I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to hear from you.

To learn more about their interesting journey, you can get also get a copy of their book, “6 Kids and a Pop-up Camper” here. Let them take you on an unforgettable voyage across the United States and experience it through the eyes of The Ong Family 🙂

6 Kids and a Pop-up Camper Book CoverThanks Sue for sharing with us your family’s adventure! I’ll definitely help you keep a lookout for opportunities or partners to put your family on the road again!


The Ong Family
6 Kids and a Pop-up Camper

The Ongs Family Photo

Sue Ong was born and educated in Singapore, graduating with a degree in English Language and Literature. She took the unconventional route by becoming a stay-at-home mom to six children and homeschooling all of them. She enjoys playing the piano and cello and sings (mostly at home and in the context of church).

Dan Ong is the committed husband and father of the Ong Family. He was an Education Officer with Singapore’s Ministry of Education for seventeen years until his resignation in 2015. Currently, he is a supervisor with a private learning centre.

Because of the epic America road trip, he can now say that he is also an accomplished driver. In six months, he drove as far as from Singapore to England and half way back, pulling a camper trailer.

Mr and Mrs Ong’s firstborn and also the photographer of their travelogue is Asher Ong. Being homeschooled all his life, his educational experience is one that is full of exploration and chasing his passions. This book is a product of his passions – photography, photo-editing and graphic designing.

The other children are Abigail (15), Isaac (13), Isaiah (11), Magdalena (8) and Michaela (almost 5). They flourish and blossom at their own pace in the shelter of their homeschool.

PHILIPPIANSFOUR19 is the fledging company set up by the Ongs as they make an entrance into doing business, more for the sake of exposing their kids to the concept of self-employment.

Currently, aspects of the business have to do with the selling of the travelogue that is based on the family’s account of their six-month road trip around America.

From time to time, the family also gives talks, sharing topics ranging from travel to education (homeschooling) and photography.

Website: https://6kidsandapopupcamper.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/6kidsandapopupcamper

Footnotes:
Photo Credits: Courtesy of The Ong Family (Mostly taken by Asher Ong)

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A TEDx Presentation: The Road Less Travelled

24 Mar
The Road Less Travelled

Here’s a TEDx presentation where I share my experiences on the road less travelled and knowledge on entrepreneurship.

In this article, I’ll cover the entrepreneurship framework which will give you a macro perspective on what it’s all about.

My name is Ranford and I’m going share with you what entrepreneurship is all about.

Raise your hands if you think entrepreneurs are business owners. Okay, keep your hands there and look around.

We have about twenty to thirty percent of the people here who think that entrepreneurs are business owners.

This is actually the problem I’ve uncovered in the process of writing my book on entrepreneurship.

So you must be asking, “What’s the difference between an entrepreneur and a business owner?” Let me break it down for you, the definitions of an entrepreneur and a business owner.

Entrepreneurs solve problems and/or add value to the lives of others for a profit.

The keyword here is “the lives of others”. So it’s for people, and the profit is just a by-product.

Some of the characteristics of an entrepreneur are people who think of changing the world. They strive in chaos. When you give them system and structure, they’ll go crazy. They constantly challenge the status quo.

Entrepreneurs have a hard time in NS (National Service), they really hate regimentation. Life is such an adventure for them. They always think beyond themselves and they always think of giving back to society. They are always known to as the crazy ones.

Some examples I have for you are people like Thomas Edison, Richard Branson and Steve Jobs! I like what Seth said earlier about passion. These people are the really passionate people and I agree completely with what he said that the media is over selling passion. It’s more than passion that drives these people.

It’s for others. It’s for people. It’s for doing what they love and of course, for the profits. The media only promotes “passion, passion, passion”, it’s lopsided.

How about business owners? The definition of business owners is this:

Business owners solve problems and/or add value for a profit.

Do you see the differences now? It might not be very distinct but their primary focus is for profits whereas for entrepreneurs, their primary focus is for people!

This is where it gets confusing because in today’s time and age, entrepreneurs are always very synonymous with business owners. Because of this, it causes a lot of confusion when we talk about entrepreneurship, entrepreneurs and business owners.

With this in mind, I’ve created an entrepreneurship framework for all of us to have a bird’s eye view on what entrepreneurship is all about.

But before that, here are some characteristics of business owners. They love stability and certainty. They’re always for profits and bottom line. They enjoy security and sustainability. Their mantra is always system and structure.

Some examples are people like Michael Dell and Donald Trump. You know, if you’re not good at doing what you are doing in the business then you’re fired!

Let me go straight into the entrepreneur framework.

Entrepreneur vs. Business Owners

As you can see, entrepreneurs and business owners are on the two extreme ends of the spectrum. They are extremely opposite of each other.

“Entrepreneurs solve tomorrow’s problems today”

“Business owners create and sustain the problem solving process

You might be asking, “So where does a social enterprise or social entrepreneurship fall under?” It falls right smack in the middle, between these two quadrants right here.

Social Enterprise Quadrant

That’s where Sophee’s organisation is. If you remember her slides earlier, she’s saying that there’s a double bottom line. The social and the profits and it falls right smack in the middle.

One very good example I can give you, is this lady by the name of Anita Roddrick. For those of you who know her, she’s actually the founder of The Body Shop.

These three quadrants are for profits so take note.

Social Enterprise Anita Roddick

Where does the quadrant of charity exist? It exists beyond where entrepreneurship is – right here, for non-profit.

Charity Quadrant

This gives you a very good bird’s eye view of what entrepreneurship is all about.

Do take note of two points:

One, each quadrant is not mutually exclusive. What do I mean by that? It means that an individual will be able to shift from one quadrant to the next throughout their entrepreneurial journey.

Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates

Two examples I have for you, the first example is Mark Zuckerberg. He started as an entrepreneur, founding Facebook in 2007. But today, seven years later, he’s actually the CEO of Facebook.

The next example I have for you is Bill Gates. Highly successful and rich guy who’s the former chairman of Microsoft. But today, he is focusing most, or if not all his time, energy and resources in his foundation called the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

So the question you have to ask yourselves today is this, “which category do I fall into? Am I more of an entrepreneur or more of a business owner? Do I strive in chaos or in certainty? Am I more profits driven or passion driven?”

The next problem that will surface after you have an idea of the distinct differences between a business owner, entrepreneur, social enterprise and charity is you have to ask yourself “which quadrant am I more skewed towards?”

It is important to know where you are now before you can get to where you want to be.

I always give this GPS analogy. One day, you tell the GPS “Hey GPS lady, I want to go to Orchard Road!” And then she asks you “so where are you now?” and your reply to her is “Oh I don’t know, somewhere in Singapore lor.” Or “I’m not sure”.

And there are two problems:

Firstly, there’s a thousand or million and one permutations and combinations for you to get to where you want to be, the destination. Next, there won’t be a clear distinct roadmap to get you from where you are to where you want to be.

In the same way, it’s very similar for entrepreneurship. You have to know where you are exactly; am I more excited doing what Sophee is doing – social enterprise, or am I more excited being a food blogger? Telling people where are all the good food, like Seth.

Where are you now? Are you more profit driven or passion driven? Are you systematic or are you all over the place? You have to know where you are before you can know where you want to get to.

And this is what I have to share with you on entrepreneurship. Before I end my session, is it ok if I share with you my story?

I’m definitely an entrepreneur, and how do I know this? This is because when I was eighteen years old, I started my first business selling children clothing. I was really excited, I prepared a proposal, about five to eight pages long, ran to my teacher from the entrepreneurship centre and I shared with her “you know I’m selling children clothes blah blah blah..”

But this meeting was really discouraging because within three to five minutes, my teacher thrashed me and asked me questions like “So Ranford, what is your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)? What is your competitor analysis? Where your SWOT analysis? How are you going to differentiate yourself from the rest?”

And at that point of time, my proposal was thrashed.

Needless to say, that was an utter failure, but thank God for my character, because I’m someone who has this “I will never take ‘no’ for an answer” kind of person. So I launched into my next venture which is the flea market. Back in 2008/2009, it was a very popular thing in Singapore. What I did was I collected second-hand items all around and I went to sell at flea markets.

That was a very successful venture because it was little to no startup cost. Usually for second-hand items, there were no cost involved and when I sold them at these platforms island wide, I managed to generate quite a good sum of capital. That was a very successful second venture.

The third venture I did was called the carton wallets. You know those milk cartons that we drink? My mum has this ability to make it into a wallet. So I thought “hey, that is quite nice!”

What I did was that I tested the market first. I went to my flea market platform, sold it for 1 for $3.90, 3 for $10. Surprisingly, the response was really good. I upped the price to 1 for $5.90 and 2 for $10.

Carton Wallets Image

Subsequently we did a lot of marketing. We placed our products to create more awareness at this thing called “toy outpost” – a rental locker unit with other eco products to create branding and more public awareness.

In 2011, we tied up with Century Square during their Eco-Buzz Carnival to teach the public how to make these carton wallets.

Eco-Buzz Carnival at Century Square

At the same time, teach women from low income families how to make these kinds of wallets so that they can sell and generate more income for their families. This third venture was also success.

Women from Whispering Hearts at Century Square

These are the workshops. The women from Whispering Hearts actually.

Workshop for Public at Century Square

And the workshop for the public.

Right now, my latest venture is that I’m the founder of Entrepreneurship Hub. What we do is that we help aspiring entrepreneurs and new startups, teach them how to use creative and unique sales and marketing strategies to kick start their venture.

I do a lot of sales training. The latest one I did was at SIM with thirty students.

Ranford Sales Training at SIM

Not only that, I do entrepreneurship training, this was the whole of last year.

Ranford Entrepreneurship Training

What I’ve just shared with you over the past ten minutes is just the tip of the iceberg on what I have written in my book called The Instant Entrepreneur.

The Instant Entrepreneur

This book will cover basically three things:

  • Why now is the best time to pursue your entrepreneur journey
  • Ten strategies that will transform you into an instant entrepreneur
  • Three key factors in order to be successful in starting any venture.

I’m running out of time so let’s connect on social media. You can add me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,.. I’m on Facebook Messenger 24/7. Today there’s a lot of you here so I can’t possibly take all the questions. Feel free to drop me a message and I’ll reply to you when I have the opportunity to.

For those of you who are really fast and are already in my social media, you can see that I’m no different from every single one of you here. I’ll like to use this to encourage you that if I can do it, so can each and every single one of you here.

I’ll like to end off my session with this quote, my favourite quote by Zig Ziglar and he says this “You can everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want”.

And that’s the reason why I do what I do today, thank you.

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Inspiring the Young to Save and Invest Early

17 Mar
Inspiring the Young to Save & Invest Early

Today, I’m happy to introduce to you a friend of mine by the name of Kenny Chia! He’s a young man with a bright mind that breaks all conventional wisdom about savings and investments.

Here’s a short CNBC interview video of his co-founder Aloysius Lee, sharing some tips on how the young can start to save and invest.

This video caught my attention and I immediately got on the phone with Kenny to ask if he’s up to do a quick interview.

In this article, we’ll be talking about the importance of financial literacy and how the young can start to save and invest early.

1) Hey Kenny! Thanks for taking this interview! So tell us, what are you currently doing now and what’s the latest project you’re working on?

Hey Ranford, thanks for having me!  I’m awaiting matriculation into National University of Singapore where I’ll be doing my Bachelor in Business Administration. In the meantime, I am working on TLS with my partner Aloysius. The both of us started in 2015.

2) Interesting… Tell us more about TLS!

TLS stands for “The Little Snowball”. It is a financial website/blog that mainly focuses on personal finance and stock investing. Our philosophy is “with the right knowledge and temperament, investing can be a highly profitable venture with relatively low risk”.

Our mission is “to educate and empower individuals to take charge of their finances and snowball their way to financial freedom”. We aim to accomplish our mission by writing useful articles as well as conducting investing workshops.

3) On a side note, how did “The Little Snowball” come about? I find this name really cute…

I got the inspiration from reading a biography on Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors of our time who started investing when he was eleven and has since accumulated a net worth of USD$74.8 billion at the age of 86 solely by investing. The title of the biography was “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life”, written by Alice Schroeder.

The title struck a chord within me as I could see that investing was akin to gathering snow (capital) and rolling it down the hill through the passage of time (compounding). As the snowball rolls down the hill, it gathers more snow along the way and exponentially increases in size. Eventually, one will end up with an enormous snowball at the bottom of the hill.

The word “Little” holds two meanings for us, the first being our size. Jack Ma once said “Small is Beautiful”. We see the beauty of being small because it means that we are versatile.

We know that being small allows us to understand and connect with our audience who have just started investing. You can’t invest the same way an institutional investor does due to limitations of being a retail investor and we understand that.

Secondly is our mindset. Being “Little” means that no matter how big our snowball becomes, we still think as though we are small, always thinking how to grow bigger!

4) What were some of the challenges faced when you first started out and how did you overcome them?

“If you want to go fastgo alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb.

I believe we’re still starting out!

We faced many challenges, even before deciding to start TLS together. Those were internal challenges; we were our greatest enemy. We feared failure, wasting our time and resources, absence of demand from the marketplace, criticism, etc. However, we overcame those inner demons by supporting one another and tackling every fear and doubt objectively.

In the end, we realised that things aren’t so bad after all; we had everything to gain and nothing to lose. Time was on our side.

When we decided to start TLS, that’s where the external challenges began. One of the key challenges we faced was sourcing for a venue to conduct our workshops. We looked around and found many suitable venues. However, they were very expensive to rent and would be uneconomical to do so.

Then I got a random idea, why don’t I just turn my room into a classroom? So I went about budgeting for a whiteboard, tables, chairs, paint for the walls, etc. Turns out, the renovation would only cost less than a thousand! I promptly went ahead with the renovation.

Now, we have a proper classroom to conduct our workshops in and need not pay expensive rent.

The only drawback is… I now sleep on the floor!

5) Why do the young need to save and invest early? Won’t they be saving/investing with their parent’s money?

Simply because financial freedom is easier and cheaper if they start early.

For example, Alfred and Ben is aged 20 and 40 respectively. They both want to retire with $1 million at the age of 60. Assuming a rate of return of 10% per annum, Alfred only needs to invest $158 per month till he is 60 to reach $1 million. However, Ben would need to invest $1,317 per month just to achieve the same results. Alfred would have only invested $76,000 in capital while Ben invested $316,000 in capital to achieve $1 million.

Time was on Alfred’s side, time is on young people’s side!

6) Why are you passionate about promoting financial literacy for the young?

I’m passionate about the subject matter and I see massive untapped potential in our youths.

Besides, in today’s economic environment, investing is a vital skill everyone needs to have in order to retire early or at all.

7) What are three quick tips for the young to start saving and investing early?

Save first, spend what’s left. Most people spend first and save what’s left. Problem is, there’s often nothing left!

Have a budget. Record every single purchase you make, review them monthly and challenge yourself to reduce your expenses.

Have a mentor. Learn from someone whom you know have been investing profitably over many years.

8) What’s the biggest milestone TLS intends to achieve in 2017?

We aim to achieve 100% growth in subscribers for TLS.

9) In your own words, what does it mean to “Love the Life You Live and Live the Life You Love”?

To me, it’s about playing the hand you were dealt with to the best of your abilities and make the most of out every moment.

Greatest Takeaway

One of the key lessons I’ve learned when I was in the financial industry is the importance of financial planning. Kenny takes it a step further to advocate about financial literacy, specifically for youths. He’s able to take something so complex and make it simple for them to understand. I think this shows the depth of understanding he has for this topic and how well he has already grasp these concepts.

Thanks Kenny for sharing with us your knowledge and I wish you and Aloysius success in building your snowman! Continue to inspire the young to save and invest early, all the best! 😀


Kenny Chia
Co-founder of TLS

Kenny Chia Profile Photo

Kenny Chia is an Equity Fund Manager & Educator. He will be pursing an undergraduate course (Business Administration) in National University of Singapore (NUS). Kenny is also a recipient of the NUS Merit Scholarship.

Kenny graduated from Singapore Polytechnic (SP) with a Diploma in Banking and Financial Services (Merit) with a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 3.961 out of 4 and was awarded the DBS-POSB Silver Medal and GIC Prize. During his study in SP, he was awarded the SP Scholarship for all three years, been on the school’s Honour Roll for all six semesters and was appointed as the President of the Diploma in Banking and Finance Chapter.

Currently managing multiple portfolios worth six-figures in aggregate, Kenny combines value-growth investing strategies from Warren Buffett and Peter Lynch, along with his 15-Point Checklist Methodology to achieve above average returns. He strongly believes that in today’s economic and political climate, investing is a vital skill everyone needs to have in order to achieve financial freedom and retire early.

The Little Snowball is a financial blog that mainly focuses on personal finance and stock investing. The Little Snowball also conducts investing workshops aimed at equipping individuals with the right knowledge and temperament to invest profitably in stocks.

The Little Snowball is co-founded by Kenny Chia and Aloysius Lee.

Website: http://www.thelittlesnowball.com/

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