Had the privilege of being on 938LIVE for a radio interview with Keith de Souza, sharing on his show about the beginning of an entrepreneur’s journey.
Joining me is Lujian and Aurora, two of my business associates I brought along to share their journey as well.
Lujian is a first year student at a local Polytechnic and the President of Alp while Aurora just left the corporate world to pursue starting her very own Social Enterprise.
From this radio interview, I hope you can gain some insights to what it’s like starting out 🙂
Keith de Souza: Home base coming up in just a little while, we delve into the realm of non-profits and find out why social entrepreneurs are taking the road less travelled.
It’s coming up in about two minutes and these are all Singapore created, originated and hopefully, like we say, non-profits not to make profits but they can, and they do! So we’re going to find out from three social entrepreneurs this morning how they got into the world of non-profits. Stay with us, up in two minutes.
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Keith de Souza: This is home base on 938 LIVE and we are speaking with three social entrepreneurs this morning about their foray into the world of non-profits; why did they choose the road less travelled in this day and age?
Joining us this morning is Ranford Neo, Founder of Storyaire. We are also joined by Lujian, he is the founder of Alp and we’ve got a very lovely lady, Aurora Kuang. She is in the process of starting her own Social Enterprise. We’re going to find out what that is… We’ve got a snippet, environmental! But let’s speak with Ranford. Ranford, Lujian and Aurora, a very good morning….
All: Good morning Keith!
Keith de Souza: Let’s talk about Storyaire first.
Ranford Neo: Sure. First of all, I want to thank you so much for having me back on your show again, it’s really great.
Keith de Souza: It’s my pleasure.
Ranford Neo: Storyaire came about through this idea that I actually published my book about three to four years ago…
Keith de Souza: At the age of 21?
Ranford Neo: Yeah, that’s right! Up till today people still ask me, “Ranford, why did you publish your book? What inspired you to do that?” And I share with them it’s because at that time, I was really passionate about entrepreneurship.
So I said, “Hey, why not kill two birds with one stone?” Write a book about it and I get to learn about entrepreneurship. At the same time, boost my credibility as a published author. That’s where it all came about.
Storytelling – What makes us unique as humans is our ability to tell stories and what better way to communicate and connect with each other than telling a story? I mean, all of us enjoy listening to a good story now and then, right?
Keith de Souza: Indeed. So, I have to ask you… You have been in this business for a while right now, are you making money or not?
Ranford Neo: I’m still starting out. Making money… Usually my strategy is, and I don’t mind sharing with your listeners an insider tip and it’s this thing called, making money with no money.
So how do you actually do that? How do you actually make money with no money? It’s usually though this thing called sponsorships; get people to come in to support you first. Maybe through preorders and then from there, develop your idea.
Keith de Souza: So isn’t it difficult? Making money with no money? When you are starting out with no track record, how do you do something like that?
Ranford Neo: That’s a very good question and I get that question all the time. I think it’s about this thing called testing your idea. People always say, “Ready, Aim, Fire” but I always believe you have to, “Ready, Fire, Aim”. Put yourself out there, throw your ideas out there and don’t be afraid of people rejecting you, giving you the “No’s” because it refines your ideas.
I believe that people always put their money where their mouth is. I don’t mean to be crude but when they actually listen to your idea and believe in what you are doing, they will definitely pay you first. This is the concept of “Sell First, Buy Later” that has worked perfect for me.
Keith de Souza: You know what’s very inspiring this morning is that all of you are extremely young, taking the road less travelled and willing to take the risk. Let’s speak with Lujian. Lujian is the President of Alp, it’s an investment portal I believe, correct me if I’m wrong Lujian.
Lujian: It’s not really a portal it’s a leaning platform for us to share information with the public and our readers. Information ranging from basic investment knowledge to a more in depth analysis in terms of the stock market; companies that we feel are worth buying and investing in.
We wanted to change the conventional way of how education is being carried out and how people learn about investment. Usually, you go for a one-time seminar or courses…
Keith de Souza: and someone hooks you in…
Lujian: Yup… and the learning stops there. So what we feel is that learning is a journey, not a destination. We want to grow together with our readers. We really look to teach readers, people who have no idea about investment at all. Start from the basics and really bring our readers along as we progress and grow with them.
Keith de Souza: I’ve seen your website, lots of sponsorship on it as well but when we talk about information, why did you decide to go on the investment information route, given the fact that we are bombarded on a daily basis by information? Do you sieve out the wheat from the chaff, more or less?
Lujian: Yes. How we actually started was because a group of us came together and we really felt that we should start investing at a young age but realised that a common problem was that we don’t have a reliable source of information.
That’s when we decided to try it out ourselves. We actually went on to invest on our own, to really test out our theories. We look into the stock market, analyse on companies that we felt are worth buying. All the report and analysis that are created and published by us are all made by us.
Based on our last year’s record, we actually invested on our own, about six stocks and we have not made a lost so far. That’s why we felt that we want to share this information with everyone so everyone can have a better understanding in terms of which companies are worth buying.
Keith de Souza: We want to find out about your investment strategies in just a moment but let’s speak with Aurora Kuang. Aurora, you are the baby in all of this, you’re taking fledging steps into Social Entrepreneurship. What motivated that decision and what’s the progress?
Aurora Kuang: I’ve actually already worked for a few years, changing from manufacturing to healthcare and the education industry. Every switch, every time I will always ask a common question, “What is the meaning of the job? What impact can I bring, what kind of differences can I bring to others?” It comes to a point where I myself, am also a regular volunteer, both in Singapore and Malaysia.
It exposed me a lot to the outside world and I start to realise that there’s a lot that can be done, both in terms of environment and to the community, to the urban poor including the special needs and the handicapped.
As per last year, I think Stephen Hawkings has been repeatedly stating that as there is further progress in science and technology, it brings new ways that things can go wrong. Right now, we’re actually in a critical moment whereby we have technology that can destroy the planet that we live in without the ability and the capability to escape.
I felt that everyone has a part to play, no matter how small it is. Therefore, I decided that I want to start a Social Enterprise, involving in both environmental; bringing in products and services that will integrate into people’s lifestyle, becomes a good habit and at the same time, create opportunities for the urban poor.
Keith de Souza: So have you got a company up and running already or is it still in the progress?
Aurora Kuang: It’s still in the progress. My team and I thought of a name for the company known as Avoca, which is Evoke, Provoke and Advocate. It kind of combines together to create this name. It’s not finalised yet so we are open to ideas to make it even better. We are also open to ideas to what people wish to see and to be done.
Keith de Souza: So what would the business plan be and who would you be marketing to? If you’re going to make lifestyle, if I were to adopt it, why and how?
Aurora Kuang: Any environmental products like plates and cups actually…
Keith de Souza: So no paper plates, no plastics plates, no Styrofoam?!
Aurora Kuang: Yes, yes! We’re actually looking into that and something that’s biodegradable…
Keith de Souza: And of course this would be marketed not only to Singaporeans because Singaporeans we don’t bury our trash, we burn it!
Aurora Kuang: That is actually another issue because by burning, we are increasing carbon dioxide level. Worldwide right now, we are having the climate change issue, global warming issue… Carbon dioxide level is still constantly increasing. By actually burning, we are still “contributing” in that sense.
Keith de Souza: Our number is 66911938 if you want to get in on the conversation. We’re talking with three social entrepreneurs this morning. Ranford Neo, the man behind Storyaire, we are also speaking with Lujian, he is the President of Alp. They are providing investors with little or no knowledge the way and means in order to get started. Lujian, do you charge for your services?
Lujian: So as of now we don’t because we don’t want people to have the barrier with our readers thinking if we are reliable, whether our source of information is credible. We want to reach out to as many people as possible with this information on starting to invest early, how to invest and what are ways and means around it.
We really don’t want charge and put that barrier between ourselves and our readers. We want to release information that are accurate as well as free to the general public.
Keith de Souza: So are you still just tracking six companies?
Lujian: That was last year. We have some other plans for this year. We are also looking to diversify ourselves towards more of the business connections.
Keith de Souza: What would differentiate your portal from say, other proprietary “value-investor portals”? Because everyone is using this term now, “value investing” these days and you know, “Invest for the long-term, invest in the value of the company…” How different is your company?
Lujian: Okay. First of all, I would say that we are not aiming to earn from our readers so in that sense, we don’t gain anything in terms of giving you the wrong information. The second thing is that whatever we say on our Facebook and website, we actually really go on and do ourselves so we actually try it out.
Keith de Souza: So you do first and then report on it?
Lujian: Sometimes it like that, sometimes we do it simultaneously. That gives our readers a chance to know that the people who are giving the information are doing it as well. We’re taking the risk at the same time when we tell our readers to take the risk.
Ranford Neo: Keith, may I jump in? So just to add on, because I personally know the founder of Alp, I think the big picture… I was very drawn in by their vision, about connecting business, inspiring people. So aside from just an investment portal, where people get all the news and updates, which is very common place, especially for the Singapore market, theirs is about connecting. There’s an entrepreneurship arm, an investment arm. At the end of the day, it’s about connecting people in South East Asia.
For me, I see them as the next, you know, Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn, all rolled into one company! So I was like “Wow, watch out for these guys man, the young guys… They are going to be the next Mark Zuckerbergs of Asia!”
Keith de Souza: Fingers crossed, they might even get bought out and they can live on a yacht somewhere. Speaking about social entrepreneurship this morning with Ranford Neo, Ranford is the man behind Storyaire. Lujian is the president of Alp and Aurora Kuang, in the process of starting an environmental related business.
We’ll come back, talk to Ranford, Lujian and Aurora in just a moment after an update of what’s happening in the world and on the roads of Singapore. Stay with us.
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Keith de Souza: Back into home base on 938LIVE speaking this morning with social entrepreneurs Ranford Neo, the man behind Storyaire, Lujian, he is the President of Alp and Aurora Kuang is in the process of starting all of this. Aurora, can I ask you why you decided to go the road less travelled… What do your parents have to say about all this?
Aurora Kuang: Because it’s a road less travelled and is pretty unconventional so I would say that emotional support is also very important from family and friends. They didn’t stop me from doing it, especially because I have been regularly volunteering, they already saw that I’m a person that looks into the meaning and making a difference.
Keith de Souza: What did mum and dad have to say, Lujian?
Lujian: As I’m only a poly student, I didn’t dare to tell them at first and it was only some time when they asked me where am I going and what are you so busy with that I realised I can’t keep this from them anymore.
I actually told them and surprisingly, they are very supportive because they think that pursuing what you want to do, making that small little difference, following our dream and creating that difference with just your own effort, it’s actually a good thing to do, especially people who are at my age. They really want to support me and get me going with what I’m doing.
Keith de Souza: I’ve been ignoring Ranford, I apologise…
Ranford Neo: No worries Keith, the limelight is on the both of them today!
Keith de Souza: Indeed. Well, Ranford was in last week, he was a volunteer with Craftpreneurs. And let’s talk, was it a success last week?
Ranford Neo: Oh yes, it was great! I mean, thanks so much for having us. We had Dr Maliki, a lion dance and lots of lots of nice pictures. It was really great, we even had The Straits Times, they picked up the story and the Malay papers, they also picked up the story and did a feature.
Keith de Souza: So let’s talk about Storyaire. If someone tells you “I want to make a business out of storytelling”, did anyone say, “Pardon my colloquialism, manner?”
Ranford Neo: I haven’t got that question yet but usually I’m the one who tell them this. I’d say “Okay, that’s the reason why I actually launch my personal website and Facebook page last month because I’m going to be the human guinea pig of what I’m going to teach.”
So whatever that I’m going teach in the future; how do you craft your story; to build your individual brand or cooperate brand, I’ll be the one who make all the mistakes and share with you what works and what doesn’t work.
Keith de Souza: So, would I be wrong to say, basically your business is also a public speaking platform?
Ranford Neo: That’s right. It’s more about getting to share the message that means the most to you; the message that’s closest to your heart to your audience. At the same time, bring the people you want to work with together and repel the people you don’t want to work with. So that’s the power of a story!
Keith de Souza: They say, opposite attract. Is that what you are doing, or are you trying to get rid of the opposites?
Ranford Neo: Get rid? I would say people that you don’t want to work with. I don’t know, actually I’m not sure. It’s more like who you can work with, the chemistry, who can resonate with the message.
I think that is what storytelling is all about. I think in this information age, people are no longer fighting for information acquisition but are facing information overload. So how do you sort out all this information? By telling your story and capturing the hearts of your audience.
Keith de Souza: Where did you draw your inspiration from? Is it from daily life, on how people say, “I’ve got a bunch of employees who are unmotivated and how do I get to get rid of all of them? Or do I start a fire under their chairs?”
Ranford Neo: I think where do I get my inspiration from is daily life, that’s one. At the same time, I’m probably more creative by nature so I usually see things from a different perspective.
So how do I inspire, coming back to your question, to inspire people who are unmotivated? Two ways; at the end of the day, I believe in this philosophy called “live and let live”. So I do my best and of course, you have to do the rest. I do my best to be myself and the best version of myself, I’m also human, but at the end of the day, the ball is back in your courts man, it’s your life, you have to face your own consequences.
Keith de Souza: Indeed. I’m being a bit remiss talking about Alp and of course with Aurora Kuang as well. Lujian, their company vision is to Connect Businesses and Inspire People. They have a website, it is thealpnews.com. They also have a facebook page, head over to facebook and search “Alp Corporation”.
Aurora has Facebook as well, all you have to do is search “Aurora Kuang”. We want to find out from Aurora what challenges have you faced so far? What obstacles have been put in your way? Acceptance, perhaps?
Aurora Kuang: Yes, firstly it’s about acceptance and secondly, we are also looking into an economic downturn period. In terms of financial support, funding are kind of challenging at this moment. Thirdly, we are looking into a dual impact social enterprise right now. Other than making it sustainable, we also have to ensure that the social needs are met. Next we have to look into the expandability and scalability.
Keith de Souza: What about Aurora’s needs? To live, to eat, you know, to pay the rent… Pay the mobile phone bill?!
Aurora Kuang: I guess that will have to be worked out along the way…
Keith de Souza: I mean, I think you are a very brave lady to take the foray into something like this. How long do you think before you can be set and up and running and how long are you going to tap on your own savings?
Aurora Kuang: Maybe about a year?
Keith de Souza: Are you getting outside help for the business at the moment?
Aurora Kuang: Currently, I’m looking into writing in for grants because the government does have some schemes to help social enterprise to get the startup running, especially if they meet social needs.
Keith de Souza: Same question to you Lujian, putting food on the table, how difficult has that been thus far?
Lujian: We have been going on for about almost two years now. The initial phase was pretty difficult for us in terms of how do we sustain ourselves. There are costs everywhere. We started to diversify ourselves and find more sponsorships and other ways to get up and running.
Keith de Souza: A question for all of you, have you ever tried crowd funding?
Ranford Neo: Crowd funding? I did that for my book. Actually not really crowd funding, this is what we call crowd sourcing. Preorders, sponsorships… It works. But I think in terms of crowd funding, your question is more towards something like a kick-starter. For me personally, no. I’m not too sure about the both of them.
Keith de Souza: We would like to talk with you a whole lot more but I don’t know where the time has gone… If you want more information on Alp, all you have to do is to hit Lujian up at “Alp Corp” at facebook.com, their website is thealpnews.com, lots of investor news and of course if you want to take part in their activities, you can do so.
You can search for Aurora on facebook as well and see if her vision and yours match, perhaps you can help her on her way. Ranford, the man behind Storyaire, wish you all the best, you seem to be doing great at the moment.
Ranford Neo: Your listeners can find me at my website, ranfordneo.com…
Keith de Souza: And of course if you can’t find Ranford then just go to Craftpreneurs at Tanjong Katong, OneKM and knock on the door and say, “I want to find Ranford!”
We are out of time this morning for home base I’m Keith de Souza. Ranford, Lujian and Aurora, thank you so much for making it in, hope you come back and talk to us again. Aurora, come back and talk to us when everything up and running!
All: Thank you Keith!
Keith de Souza: This is home base at 938LIVE, I’m Keith de Souza.
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There you have it, the beginning of an entrepreneur’s journey 😉