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Bonnie Li, Founder of Events Artisan

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Bonnie Li uses her experience in anthropology and interest in exploring human interactions to run her business, Events Artisan, a luxury wedding planning company.

What’s your story?
I am Bonnie, named after the song “My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean” by my sister, as it was one of her favourite songs from kindergarten. Being an anthropologist born in Hong Kong and having studied in the United Kingdom, I have a fond interest in exploring human interactions and cultural differences. I have always enjoyed organising get-togethers, where I find joy and excitement in applying customised details to escalate the specialness of an event. After graduation I became the lead planner at a luxury wedding planning company, and later founded Events Artisan, using my expertise and experience to create intimate celebrations, whilst enjoying the time flexibility of being self-employed.
 
What excites you most about your industry?
Seeing tears of joy in my client’s eyes. I truly believe that anyone can make someone cry, but it takes something unique to make one shed tears of joy. Whether it is a large scale wedding or an intimate birthday celebration, it touches me most not when the decoration is picture-perfect, nor when all vendors are on time. What excites me the most, is that because of the planner’s passionate effort, the client is able to be hands-off and immerse in the emotions brought together by everyone at the event.
 
What’s your connection to Asia?
Being an event planning specialist based in Hong Kong and experienced in destination weddings across Asia, I have established a network of hotels and suppliers in Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, and more. Having being to boarding school in Brighton, I also have friends in different parts of Asia, including but not limited to Taiwan, Korea, India, Singapore and Malaysia. Fluent in English, Cantonese and Mandarin, one of my favourite things to do is to travel around and constantly look for inspirations from all around the world to further heighten my creativity.

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
No doubt, it would have to be Hong Kong!
1. Efficiency – Hong Kong people love speed. Being a person who loves deadlines, I rejoice in getting things done in a timely manner. It is also because of this speedy culture that makes organising a wedding from scratch in a 3-week timeframe possible!

2. Reachable Distances – Everything in Hong Kong makes efficient use of space. It took me some time to get used to the limited space we have here, but it also means that any place, person or material can be reached within an hour from the CBD.
 
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Stay focussed. If you are persistent, you will get it.”
There will be different voices telling you what and how to do things. When filtering such information, don’t forget to stay focussed on why you decided to start up your own business, and what do you want to achieve from it. Through time I have accepted that only an entrepreneur can truly understand another entrepreneur and as such, some loved ones might not be able to understand your feelings and journey.
 
Who inspires you?
Jack Ma.
Having met him in person at a client’s wedding, Jack Ma is one of the most down-to-earth businessmen I have come across. He once said “Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.” He has a true rags-to-riches story but it did not come in a snap. The numerous rejections from school and career did not stop him in any way of dreaming bigger. Jack Ma is my inspiration to give my very best in whatever I do, and enjoy the rollercoaster journey that comes along. Whether I am considered successful or not, I plan to be humble and subtle, as this is how one gains the greatest respect from others.
 
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Flying frogs, flying lemurs, flying lizards, flying snakes, and even flying squirrels exist! I have just returned from holiday in Langkawi and stayed at a resort nestled in 10 million-year-old rainforest. We had the pleasure of exploring the rainforest after dark, and experienced the unique sounds and enigmatic animals. It definitely caught my breath knowing we have been co-living with these special creatures for this long!
 
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason, therefore I rarely look back to see “what I should have done differently.”
Nevertheless, if there was something I could have told my younger self, it would have been to hire admin staff right from the beginning of my start-up. Being cost-conscious is one thing, whilst having someone to take such tasks off my hands in order to allow me to focus on business development is equally (if not more) important!
 
How do you unwind?
To me, exercising is highly effective to unwind. I don’t consider myself a sporty person, though my tanned skin often creates such illusion. Wakeboarding and swimming are my pick, and every now and then I go scuba diving, where I can simply focus my mind on breathing in and out, nothing else.
 
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Chiang Mai in Thailand.
Being in the northern part of Thailand, Chiang Mai has the great benefit of being sunny during the day and yet breezy at night. It is culturally significant and there are things to do for relaxation that suit everybody such as cooking class, lantern release, zip lining, night bazaar, spa and more. Being a Sagittarian, how can I not love a place full of adventures!
 
Everyone in business should read this book:
“Outwitting the Devil: The Secret to Freedom and Success” by Napoleon Hill.
This book taught me a good lesson on how fear, procrastination, anger and jealousy stop us from realizing our goals.

Shameless plug for your business:
Events Artisan is experienced in events that are both intimate (below 20 guests) and large-scale (1000 guests and more). Our business culture is efficient, straightforward and with an enviable eye coordination. Our goal is to take care of every detail, and make your event truly enjoyable, heartwarming and a day worth reliving in your head.

How can people connect with you?
For Business:
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.eventsartisan.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/eventsartisanhk

Personal:
Instagram: www.instagram.com/iambonnieli

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

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

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Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

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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Nadia Al Sheikh, Founder & CEO of Flenco & Deal’n

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Nadia Al Sheikh has created a business module which incorporates philanthropy and business to empower others, and herself, she’s called her business Deal’n.

What’s your story?
My story is mirrored in my work. Flenco and our Singaporean eco skin care brand, “Flen” combines Dead Sea minerals from the lowest point of earth with Chinese medicine, which represents the wisdom and mystics of the east and these things represent my journey. I’m a single mother rediscovering my identity at a low point in life. Throughout my journey, determination, flexibility and assertiveness are the pillars of innovation. Thus Deal’n was born after years of groundwork in volunteering with various NGO’s and pursuing my masters degree. Transforming a vision, into a module that incorporates philanthropy and business, with tools to empower others and empower myself!

What excites you most about your industry?
The endless opportunities for improvement, innovation, creativity, free thinking which is mastered through interaction with other players in the market and customers creating a virtual place for brainstorming and the exchange of ideas. An evolving industry that challenges each and every person to use their skills, talents, expertise and utilise all their abilities to claim a slice of the pie.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Asia and specifically Singapore are my second home. It’s my spiritual and business safe haven that provides fair opportunities for everyone to succeed. If I was back in the Middle East as a single mother, I’m pretty sure my struggle would have been much longer and more difficult, however, it wouldn’t have stopped me from achieving my dreams. Singapore specifically empowered me professionally and Asia spiritually in redefining who I am as a person and understanding myself better.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, although it’s a very tough and competitive market for entrepreneurs to start a business, it provides them with support and motivation through grants, competitions and subsidising the cost of exhibiting or promotional events to promote their business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Success is measured by achieving your own personal goals and dreams and not what others think you should achieve.

Who inspires you?
Those who go unnoticed. From senior citizens, cleaning tables at food courts regardless of their wealth of knowledge and experience to single mothers, who are fighting everyday to overcome the social stigma and manage taking care of their children while earning an income. The amazing people who give their lives to start an NGO to empower others asking for nothing in return except the success of their beneficiaries, the humble members of our community that work in silence changing lives not for the spotlight but for their belief in making the world a better place.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
To step onto the balcony! In order to evaluate situations and understand people’s motivations from different perspectives and even to understand ourselves better we all need to step onto the balcony and become observers rather than participants. It gives you the power to see life through a variety of lenses.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’d be wiser with my decisions, evaluate situations from different perspectives and believe in myself and my capabilities. That all came with experience and the ups and downs throughout my journey so I guess, to be who I am today I would have accepted the rough times and embraced them because they were my best teachers. So I wouldn’t undo the past but I am changing my future.

How do you unwind?
Meditation, exercising, listening to music, reading a book and a walk in the botanical gardens.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Maldives, I love the peace and harmony in the simplicity of what it offers; beautiful beaches and wonderful people.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Wisdom Of Crowds by James Surowiecki

Shameless plug for your business:
Deal’n provides opportunities for all members of the community to utilize their skills, talents, expertise, capabilities and abilities in various ways, aiming at empowering all users to become productive members of their community. Using the services of other users for all to grow and benefit, interact with each other through the Deal’n community, thus enhancing their self esteem, level of confidence and as a result, a more empathetic and happier community!

How can people connect with you?
Through my FB page Nadousheh, my email [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@nadiaalsheikh

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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