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Amutha Saravanan, Co-Founder of Da Vinci Group

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Creating and educating with clay. Find out how this entrepreneur links art and science as da Vinci did hundreds of years ago.

What’s your story?
I did psychology for my bachelor’s degree and then went on to do a masters in psychology by research where I did my thesis on a topic in clinical neuropsychology. I started working with SingHealth, but left soon after wanting to learn a different skill set in the business world. I joined Egon Zehnder, a senior level executive consultancy doing research when I discovered pottery as a hobby and immediately fell in love with it. Within a year of learning, I was being commissioned by friends and family for my works, which was when I started Amooo’s – an original . in 2012 and bought a kiln. Given my background in psychology, I realised that there was more to clay as a medium. I researched extensively and discovered a teaching methodology called neuroeducation, which is a subset of neuroscience. Neuroeducation enquires into how the brain learns at a biological level. It states that when learning occurs with multiple senses, our neurons fire and connect seemingly unrelated pockets of information together, for example, pairing the topic of how plants grow with making a pinch pot through clay and then embellishing it with the knowledge acquired during the lesson. This results in creativity, abstract thinking and problem solving in the long run. I then started Da Vinci Group with my husband in 2012 as well, named after Leonardo da Vinci for the brilliance during his era where the arts and sciences were not segregated and were applied with each other. We created NeuroCeramicsTM and created a curriculum for enrichment classes, team building events and workshops for children, adults and the elderly. When I became pregnant in 2013, I decided to creatively document my pregnancy journey by making ceramic pots off my belly during various stages as well as baby print platters when my son was born. These are now service offerings under Amooo’s – an original . as well. The clay and glazes I use are of high quality. They are food, dishwasher and microwave-safe. I went full time into my businesses in January 2015. Amooo’s – an original . was featured in Business Times in 2014 and Da Vinci Group was recently featured on NewsAsia Channel this year.
 
What excites you most about your industry?
We are pushing boundaries with our service offerings for both businesses. Neuroeducation is known in the US and Johns Hopkins University has a Neuroeducation initiative. However, the idea has not trickled down to Asia yet. We are the pioneers doing this in the education sector and we have plans to go regional with this. As for Amooo’s – an original . BellyPotsTM is a very novel idea and is different from belly casting with plaster. Many of my clients love the fact that they have a functional use for their creations and it is a marvellous way to remember and preserve the memory of creating a new life. Being able to create and play with clay, day in and day out excites me fundamentally.
 
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born here in Singapore. My dad was born in India. He has been a Singapore citizen for a number of years. My mum is from Singapore. Asia has an exciting realm of possibilities and has huge potential for the work I do.

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore. The infrastructure, system, processes, government support, the law are all excellent and shouldn’t be taken for granted. The ease at which we can get things moving on the business front is something I am very grateful for.
 
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
A business never fails. You fail the business. Don’t get stuck. Think creatively from a different context and have a structure for fulfillment.

Who inspires you?
Many people. My husband, my family, my friends, my business partners, my clients, Michelle Obama, Angelina Jolie, Lee Kuan Yew. If we relate to everyone as the greatness they are, inspiration isn’t very difficult to find.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I was blown away the other day when I went to collect some clay for a BellyPotTM session when I realised that never in my wildest dreams did I think I would become a potter and create for a living. It put a huge grin on my face for a long while.  
 
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have just got on with creating the businesses as soon as I had the ideas. Taken the plunge, made the commitment and gone for it earlier. I think I lost a couple of years contemplating about it. I am a firm believer, ‘everything happens for a reason’ though, so the experiences I went through during that time of contemplation were necessary for the outcomes I have now.
 
How do you unwind?
Many ways. A glass of prosecco or red wine and some music dependant on my mood and clay time. Painting and drawing. A trip to the beach or zoo with my toddler and husband. Swimming or trekking. Lunch dates with my husband. Catch-ups with friends. Family gatherings and outings. It really depends on what my soul craves for in that instance.
 
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Hong Kong – the Asian version of New York. Love how there are so many trails to hike on, so much to see and experience and a good party scene.
 
Everyone in business should read this book:
Zen in the art of archery. Applicable not only in business, but really in the way one lives their life.
 
Shameless plug for your business:
About Da Vinci Group (www.davincisg.com)
 
Da Vinci Group (DVG) is a premium educational and training services provider, whose mission is to stimulate creativity and productivity through the concept of Neuroeducation using pottery as a platform. Neuroeducation has its tenets in neurobiology and psychology. It explains how engaging more than one of our senses while processing information strengthens existing and creates new neural networks. Creating pottery is a hands-on experience that engages emotions and stimulates creative expression. When such an experience is paired with learning or acquiring new concepts, associations are made with seemingly unrelated pockets of information which stimulates abstract thinking, problem solving and creativity. We have created NeuroCeramicsTM based on this concept where we use pottery as a platform to engage children, adults and the elderly.
 
Amooo’s – an original . (www.amooos.com)
 
Amooo’s – an original .  focuses on creating ceramic wares such as belly pots and baby prints that crystallize beautiful memories in a tangible form, which can be passed down to future generations. BellyPotTM making is a pleasurable experience for mum, dad and baby, a wonderful opportunity for prenatal bonding as well as a special, novel and unique way to capture one’s journey into parenthood. Imprinting your babies’/children’s feet and hands on clay is an excellent way to mark milestones and etch in your minds how tiny your little ones were as they grow up. Whether you make functional ceramic wares like vases, platters or coasters, for example, or decorative hanging ornaments, these creations are awesome keepsakes that you will cherish for many years to come. We also facilitate fun-filled clay jamming sessions for families to spend quality time together. Amooo’s – an original . also accepts commissions and corporate gifts projects. Ceramic wares created are made of high quality materials that are lead and toxins-free and are food, microwave and dishwasher-safe.
 
How can people connect with you?
Through email, mobile, facebook, Instagram and my websites.
 
Twitter handle?
@Da_Vinci_Group
@amooos_original

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnects

Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia.  He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries.  He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence.  A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.

Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Get his free ‘Asia Snapshot’ report from www.callumlaing.com

Callum Connects

Jasmine Tan, Director of Stone Amperor

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Jasmine saves her clients time and effort when doing kitchen fit outs with her biz Stone Amperor.

What’s your story?
I started working in the industry in 2003. I was in a marble and granite supplier company for 5 years. Even though I left the company, I still had customers calling me for my services. I referred them back to my previous company but they refused to because they loved the fast response service that I offered. I realised that customers do look at prices, however most of them prefer quality over quantity. Thus I have decided to establish a sole proprietor company also known as 78 Degrees which later rebranded as Stone Amperor in 2014.

What excites you most about your industry?
The kitchen countertop industry is a very confusing market. There are many brands, materials and prices to choose from. What excites me the most is my ability to help clients choose the best materials and brands within their budgets, whilst saving them time and effort.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have been in Asia all my life and I love Asia. No matter where you go there is no place like home.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I love Singapore. This is because Singapore has always been a stable country and it is great for doing business. However as it is a small country, it can be really competitive. I believe that if just do your best and give your best to your customers, you can overcome this.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Take actions. Learn and improve continuously. An idea without action is just a dream.” This was really good advice that I received from my partner.

Who inspires you?
A very down to earth billionaire from Malaysia, Robert Kuok

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Property is the foundation of every business.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Own instead of renting property for my business.

How do you unwind?
I enjoy going shopping, watching movies and hanging out with friends. I am quite a simple being.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love going to Taiwan as I love the culture there. Everyone is so polite and the weather is great.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Sun Tzu, Art of war

Shameless plug for your business:
Perfect top, Perfect price, Perfect life from Stone Amperor

How can people connect with you?
Email me at [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@StoneAmperor

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Dextre Teh, Founder of Rebirth Academy

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Dextre Teh is a consultant and marketing guru, helping F&B businesses to tighten their operations and grow their businesses.

What’s your story?
I help frustrated F&B business owners stuck in day to day operation transform from a glorified operator into a real business owner. I’m a 27 year old Singaporean second generation restaurant owner and a F&B business consultant. Entering the industry at 13 years old, I have always been obsessed with operations and systemisation. At the age of 25, I joined the insurance industry and earned a six figure yearly income. However, I left the high pay behind because it was not my passion and returned to the F&B industry. Now I help other F&B companies to tighten operations and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services.

What excites you most about your industry?
The food. I’m a big lover of food and even have a YouTube show on food in development. But that aside, it is really about impacting people through food. Creating moments and memories for people, be it a dating couple or families or friends. Providing that refuge from the daily grind of life. So in educating my consulting clients and training their staff to provide a better experience for their customers, I aim to shift the industry in the direction of creating memories instead of just selling food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I love the culture, the food and travelling in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore hands down. The environment here is built for businesses to thrive. The government is pro business and the infrastructure is built around supporting business growth. Not to mention the numerous amount of grants available in helping people start and even grow business. If I’m not mistaken, the Singaporean government is the only government in the world that offers grants to home grown businesses for overseas expansion.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Learning to do things you do not intend to master is a BIG mistake in business. Focus on what you are good at and pay others to do the rest.

Many business owners including myself are so overwhelmed by the 10,000 things that they feel they need to do everyday. We try to do everything ourselves because we think it saves us money. The only thing that, that does for us is overload our schedules and give us mediocre results. Instead we should focus on what we do best and bring in support for the rest.

Who inspires you?
Christopher M Duncan.

At 29, Chris has built multiple 7 figure businesses. He opened me to the possibility of building a business on the thing that I loved and gave me a blueprint of how to do it. He also showed me that being young doesn’t mean you cannot do great things.

Imran Mohammad and Fazil Musa
They are my mentors and inspire me every single day to pursue my dreams, to focus on celebrating life and enjoying the process of getting to where I want to be.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Time is always more expensive than money. Money, you can earn over and over again but time, once you spend it, will never come back.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am a firm believer that your experiences shape who you are. I am grateful for every single moment of my life be it the highs or the lows, the successes and the failures because all these experiences have led me to become the person I am and brought me to the place that I’m at so I will probably do things the same way as everything was perfect in its time.

How do you unwind?
Chilling out in a live music bar with a drink in hand, listening to my favourite live band, 53A. Other than that I’m big on retail therapy, buying cool and geeky stuff.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok. It feels like a home away from home where the cost of living is relatively low, the food is good and the people are friendly.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Everything you know about business is wrong by Alastair Dryburgh. It is a book that challenges commonly accepted business “truths” and inspires you to go against the grain, think different, take risks and stand your ground in the face of the challenges that will come your way as a business owner.

Shameless plug for your business:
I’m the creator of the world’s first Chilli Crab Challenge. It gained viral celebrity earlier this year with 3 major newspaper features and more than a dozen blog and online publications featuring it in the span of two weeks. In the span of the two weeks, the campaign reached well over a million people in exposure without a single cent spent in ads.

Now I help F&B companies to tighten operations, increase profits and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services. Chilli Crab Challenge (https://www.chillicrab.com/nationalday)

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/djtehkh) or visit www.rebirthacademy.sg for more information or book a 10 minute call with me @ www.tinyurl.com/dexclar

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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