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Anthony Lance, Founder of Phatrice

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What’s your story?
I studied Chinese language and culture for many years eventually achieving a master degree in Chinese Studies. Having become fluent in Mandarin, in 2007 I was hired by a US company to be responsible for establishing and growing the business in the Greater China region. After four years of exponential growth the business was bought out by a Fortune 100 company and continues to grow to this day. In 2013 Matt Davies, one of my colleagues, began to discuss how we could potentially pioneer a company in Hong Kong that would be more meaningful. Having traveled extensively throughout Asia, we both became aware of the extreme social and environmental challenges being faced by local communities. After about 12 months of research we discovered that there were in fact many initiatives that had been started to help address these issues, but despite their great intentions, lacked the sales and marketing skills to take their development projects to the next level. Since we both came from Sales and Marketing, we saw an opportunity to become the missing piece in the puzzle.

What excites you most about your industry?
Regular reports are released containing consumer studies, showing that over half of people in Hong Kong said that they would be willing to pay more money for a product if they were confident that it was made in a socially or environmentally responsible way. The statistic still surprises people in Hong Kong when we share it, but we believe that although Hong Kong is not a large market in terms of scale, we believe strongly that this is the right place to be PhatRice’s launchpad to reach Asia and eventually the whole world.

Just in the last 12 months we have seen an eco magazine launch in Hong Kong as well as a number of new initiatives, many of which will have social impact all over Asia. I believe every person has the potential to do something good, if they are given a good opportunity. We hope that PhatRice is that opportunity!

What’s your connection to Asia?
I spent High School and University studying Mandarin and spent the summers doing internships and traveling throughout China. One such internship took me to the mountains of Yunnan where I was working to source hand-crafted goods from local Minority groups. Seeing the incredible impact of this business on their lives and culture was one of the main inspirations that eventually led to the founding of PhatRice.

PhatRice Founders

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Although not at the top of the list of best place to live, Hong Kong is most definitely my favourite city for business in Asia. For starting a new business there is an incredible amount of talent, expertise and finances right at your fingertips, making the speed at which a business can operate unlike anywhere else in the world.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
A lot of people tell you to just “go for it” or to just take a risk in order to be entrepreneurial. In contrast our founding team spent over a year doing market research, organizing small events, securing outstanding advisors, and developing product partners well before we actually started building the site. We needed to prove that the model would work before we could raise the investment that we needed. Certainly there is no replacement for acting quickly, but it also takes a lot of patience and humility for someone to become a truly successful business leader.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The Alibaba IPO in the US was a real eye-opener for me, as well as a lot of people around the world. It really gave me a sense of confidence that not only are we in the right location, building a dynamic online platform is something that can truly change the world.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. Every great decisions and every mistake have been key to getting to where we are now, so I treasure every experience equally.

How do you unwind?
I play American Football on the weekends and I play music in my church worship band, as well as in my free time.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. Great beaches, great food, very hospitable people, and affordable. Everything you could want.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start Something that Matters, by Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes.

Shameless plug for your business:
PhatRice finds, curates and features the world’s most inspirational products, that are not only ethical and sustainable, but are also extremely well designed. Let everything that you wear or use be a statement to the world that you believe in change, that the real value of our possessions is not the price tag, but rather the story of the people and resources that go into creating each item. Join this consumer revolution and help us make a real difference for good!

How can people connect with you?
Phatrice.com
@phatricegoods

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

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Callum Laing has started, built, bought and sold half a dozen businesses in a range of industries across two continents. He is the owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 11 countries and he is also the CEO of Entrevo Asia, a company that runs 40 week Growth Accelerator programs.

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

Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

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Agnes Yee started Space Executive in Singapore, which is a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

What’s your story?
After graduation, I joined a design media company as a Business Development Executive, during the era when ‘reading a magazine online’ was unheard of. I believe that laid the foundation for being unfazed by rejections.

I fell into recruitment pre-GFC and rode the highs and lows in the early years. A decade later, I decided to set up my own recruitment company, partly because I could. I’m acutely aware of the face that being an Asian female in Singapore is sometimes a privilege, and that many women in the world are living a very different existence.
Thereafter, we joined Space Executive as part of a merger. I am currently the Partner of Space Executive, a recruitment company focused specialist disciplines, including Legal, Finance, Digital, Sales and Marketing and Change. We also run Space Ventures, a venture capital business, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
On a daily basis, we’re influencing how one spends a third of their day. It is interesting how the Internet has transformed the industry, and I’m excited to see how we can harness technology to bring us to the next phase of this business.

The VC is an extension of applying our skills and experience in reading people. We very much invest in the people as much as the idea. Being a native Singaporean, it’s been exhilarating watching Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of ideas; and young entrepreneurs simply daring to dream.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and bred Singaporean. I love that I speak both English and Mandarin, grew up playing with Indian friends and eating Malay food.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for the low barriers of entry to set up a business, but has to be China (and Hong Kong) for their hunger and constant innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
青春不要留白 which translates to ‘Don’t waste your youth.’

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has gone against the grain.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It wasn’t recent but reading the article on https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html never fails to blow my mind how little time we have left. Charting our lives in weeks, and realising I only have enough time left to enjoy 60 Christmas turkeys, read 300 books (all if I’m lucky); and mostly, I’m left with the last 5% of the time that I spend in-person with my parents.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m cognisant that every decision I made in life has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change one thing. But I’d really like to have had more time to travel.

How do you unwind?
Exercise and wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Trekking any mountain in Asia. It brings us back to the most basic. To overcome elements of nature and our own mind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive started in Singapore, a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies. We assist organisations in accessing a targeted and specialised, and often times transient talent pool.

Out of Singapore, we have recruited across 14 countries; and have embarked on our global expansion plans with offices in Hong Kong and London this year, and US, Japan and Europe in the following years.

Space Ventures provides funding, management and financial guidance to young businesses with original ideas. We have invested in peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring, social media education, and other start-ups spanning diverse industries. We are always interested in hearing more about new ideas.

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/agnesyee/

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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Chrystie Dao-Szabo, Founder of iPayMy

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Chrystie Dao-Szabo founded iPaymy for Business – a secure and easy to use
platform enabling SMEs to pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today.

What’s your story?
I’m Chrystie Dao-Szabo, and I’ve worked as an international banker for over 22 years. During that time, I travelled through Asia, Australia and Europe, and everywhere I saw how my clients struggled with managing their finances and keeping cash around.

I wanted to use my experience to help them, but I also knew the solution they needed didn’t exist yet. This pushed me to give up on my secure career, and instead look into the innovative world of FinTech for an answer.

This is how I founded iPaymy – at its launch, a platform to help consumers pay their monthly expenses using their credit cards. We’ve grown a lot since, and today, iPaymy for Business is a platform that allows business owners to use their credit cards to pay for rent, salaries, invoices and taxes, freeing up their cash for business-critical operations.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most about FinTech is it’s culture of constant disruption, thanks to cool and innovative products and services coming out every day.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Vietnam, grew up in Australia and worked in Asia, Europe and Australia. Being raised by traditional Vietnamese parents meant that deep down I was still an Asian at heart, so I have a strong connection with the region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore of course. It’s easy to do business, English is the main language, and the infrastructures like public transportation are great. Also, the government supports local innovation in multiple ways, like giving grants for SMEs and FinTechs.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Keep giving, and one day you will receive.

Who inspires you?
My parents. My father had a successful business in Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon in 1975. After the war, my father was sent to a re-education camp for three years, which meant my mum had to bring up two young kids – a 3-year-old, me and my 4-year old brother on her own.

In 1980, we all fled Vietnam on a boat and arrived in Sydney, Australia via refugee camps in Indonesia and Singapore. There, my parents had to start over with nothing to their names and only AUD 50 given to them by the Australian government.
They went on to build several businesses in Australia!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The number of young and smart people who have carved out successful careers by founding their own startups (or joining really cool ones). When I was starting out my career, doing any of these was not a viable option; it was either working for an accounting firm, an insurance company or a bank.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I were starting out my career now, I would choose the path of joining a startup as you get to learn so much about running a business and how to assemble a winning team.

How do you unwind?
I like travelling to a beach or a resort destination and just relaxing by the pool or beach. I also like to unwind after work with a glass of champagne or wine, and a bowl of truffle fries.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. I love the people and the spicy Thai food.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The E-Myth. It’s a book series that dismantles common myths about entrepreneurship in different industries.

Shameless plug for your business:
With iPaymy for Business, SMEs can pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today. SMEs love iPaymy because it works like a credit card, but pays like cash.

iPaymy’s secure and easy to use platform reliably delivers payments to vendors while freeing up cash and providing access to interest free credit. Forget the delays and aggravations that come with traditional SME financing options. Schedule recurring payments, manage invoices, set payment reminders, and monitor payment status all from one dashboard.

It’s never been easier for SMEs to meet monthly payment obligations while keeping cash available to fuel growth, bridge receivable gaps, and make immediate investment in the supplies, services, and expertise needed to drive a growing business forward.

How can people connect with you?
You can find me on LinkedIn or contact me by email.
My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrystiedaoszabo/
My email: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
https://twitter.com/ceedeees

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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