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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

Norman Tien, Founder of Neuromath and Early Math Matters

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From a young age, Norman Tien, found his passion helping students as a math tutor and went on to translate that into a successful business.

What’s your story?
From the age of 14, I knew I would be in business for myself and started designing my company logo.

Growing up in a poor family, I worked part time while I was in school. That’s when I started tutoring and realised I had a gift to help students “see” mathematics. I delivered good results, and my students started to love math as well.

A turning point was when I was down with dengue fever and I realised I had to grow my business to the next level. I started a learning centre and that was the beginning of Neuromath. The initial years were tough as costs went up while my personal income took a dive. I almost gave up, but I pushed through.

Today, we have 3 specialty math enrichment centres managed and delivered by my dedicated team of teachers.

What excites you most about your industry?
“How to win” has always influenced how I position myself in the industry. I researched the psychology of learning, why some students are so naturally good at math, while others struggled. I managed to find the connection, and have always sought out niches to position myself so I can win.

In the beginning, I fused academic delivery with psychology to differentiate my services. Now I have a good team of teachers fully equipped with a psychological skillset.

In the next evolution of our business, we will incorporate technology into education in order to customise each student’s learning experience based on his or her needs.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and educated in Singapore. One key driver why I started a business was, as a youth, I witnessed how my dad struggled daily as a taxi driver trying to make ends meet.

That said, I am very blessed to be in Singapore and to be given the right education. I see this as a very important factor to my success today.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – well, for one, most of my businesses are here. Singapore is convenient for business and is very well governed. There are rules and systems that make the entire entrepreneurial journey more secure here. One big plus is the location: Singapore is a hub that allows us to connect to the world.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
船到桥头自然直 –
There is a Chinese saying that when a boat goes near the pier, it will automatically align itself (with the current). It means we don’t have to worry too much, that things will take care of themselves.

A mentor once challenged me: “But who can guarantee you can even reach the pier?”

It is such a highly competitive world we are in, who can guarantee success? This is the ONE question that has been etched in my mind for decades. The Chinese saying always comes to mind when I am positioning, designing and strategizing for my business.

Who inspires you?
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew – The fact that he started ruling the country just like a startup. With limited resources, he was able to find a strong positioning to differentiate his country from the rest of the of Asia. With hardwork and proper planning, he transformed Singapore from a fishing village to a prominent financial hub in Asia.

Because Mr. Lee Kuan Yew positioned Singapore so well, government owned companies, such as Singapore Airlines, have emerged as the best in the world.

His story inspires me, spurs me to understand that success is not by chance but by design – every little step, all the strategies are all planned out. Not at all by chance.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
My business coach, Marshall Thurber, shared with me the power of the “Trim Tab” – a small part of the rudder system in a ship. This Trim Tab, despite its small size, is able to influence the entire ship’s direction by turning it.

This metaphor helped me see that a man can influence the entire world if the right effort is applied. We are now living in an entirely new world, the way we commute with an app on the phone – that’s the power of the Trim Tab at work.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would embark on the same journey but I would seek a mentor at a very early age.

I have been through many hard knocks along the way, and I definitely could have shortened the learning curve if I had a mentor to advise me on the many aspects of entrepreneurship.

How do you unwind?
Driving down long highways helps me unwind, that’s when I let my mind relax and wander.

I love long distance driving and riding. My wife gave me a Harley Davidson Tourer for my 50th birthday and we intend to embark on riding holidays together in Asia.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Hong Kong – I love the fast pace and the vibrance of the city. I love the cars there and it’s a very unique and exciting experience for me. And of course, I love the food there too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
One Minute Millionaire – this book highlights the mindset of an individual that is the key determinant for success in whatever we embark on. As long as we know we have a very strong reason why we need to do it, we can do it!

Shameless plug for your business:
I am the CEO and Founder of 2 Math enrichment brands:
Neuromath is a Specialist Math Learning Centre that helps students from Primary 1 to Junior College, empowering them with strategies, skills and a strong desire to learn and problem solve. We use technology to train students to avoid careless mistakes reclaiming 30 marks or more in Math exams and achieve their full potential in math.
www.neuromath.com.sg

Early Math Matters is a premier Mathematics and Cognitive Development enrichment centre for preschool children aged 3-6 years old. Through purposeful play and our renowned EMM approach, we help learners build a strong foundation for problem solving at an early age, and instil in them a passion & love for math that will stay with them for life.
www.earlymathmatters.com

We are actively seeking passionate teachers, entrepreneurs and investors who are keen to grow the education business with us.

How can people connect with you?
I speak regularly at workshops for schools, parents and platforms demonstrating the use of technology for peak performance in education.

Do contact me at
www.NormanTien.com

Alternatively, you can connect with me:
www.NormanTien.com/facebook
www.NormanTien.com/linkedin

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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Mikyung Kim, TV Commercial Producer

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Mikyung Kim is a savvy producer who runs her own TV and print production business, based in Hong Kong.

What’s your story?
I am a TV commercial and print producer working with advertising agencies and brands to bring their communication needs to the screen. My background is in film production and I started my career in Hollywood working with Oscar winning directors Michel Gondry and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Before starting my own company last year to produce content directly with agencies and brands, I was with Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong for nearly five years as the Senior Producer and Head of TV running the film production department.

What excites you most about your industry?
How it’s constantly evolving! Every day is different and it’s certainly never boring. I love that it’s a creative industry and that my job involves talking to people with creative minds on how we can bring a story on paper to life. It’s exciting that the advertising industry places high value on the creativity and effectiveness of content. I’ve produced a few commercials that creatively push the envelope with fun and sometimes wild ideas that have converted into positive brand awareness. Ever heard of KFC Finger Lickin’ Good…Nail Polish that yes, tastes like chicken? https://www.adweek.com/creativity/kfc-just-made-edible-finger-lickin-good-nail-polish-yeah-tastes-chicken-171245/

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Seoul and raised in Hong Kong until graduating from high school at HKIS. I spent my university years in Boston at Emerson College and worked in Los Angeles at Anonymous Content and Partizan Entertainment. But on a brief visit back to Hong Kong in 2010, I decided to move back and continue my career here, and it was the best decision I ever made.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong is my home so it will always be my favourite city for business and for me personally. What I love about Hong Kong is that while I am based here, I can actually work with agencies and brands from anywhere in APAC. If I need to attend an important meeting, I can just hop on a quick flight easily. I spent most of 2017 working in Seoul with Korean agency Cheil and Samsung, and currently I am working with Japanese agency ADK and Toyota based in Singapore.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Fake it until you become it,” from Amy Cuddy’s TED talk. Worth a watch. This helped me early in my career when I felt like I was under qualified for the job I was in. I learned to fake my confidence and fake a powerful body language until I truly felt that confidence became something real. It was nerve wracking at first but it worked and now I don’t have to fake it.

Who inspires you?
My friends. Noelle who worked part time jobs while being a full time student to pay her own tuition while we were in college together. Osti who is a lawyer focused on supporting developing nations and a board member of Redress, an environmental NGO working to reduce waste in the fashion industry. Vanessa who runs a real estate company, co-owns the gym Crossfit Asphodel, started a health foods business called Quo and NGO The Keep Moving Project to promote wellness in our community. Cathy who will be the first Asian woman to direct a big budget superhero film starring Margot Robbie with Warner Bros and DC. And too many more to name!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
5.2 million plastic bottles are thrown away in Hong Kong every day. Plastic pollution is a major issue for the environment and we as responsible citizens can do our small part by reducing our consumption of unnecessary plastic. I do mine by having a water filter at home and carrying my own reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go. I love the brand Hydroflask because the stainless steel material keeps water hot or cold for hours, so I don’t feel tempted to buy a cold water at 7-11 on those hot, humid days we have here.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
About five years ago I purchased my very first stock and put one month’s salary into it, which at the time was a lot of money for me. Knowing how that stock has performed now, I would have put all my savings into it.

How do you unwind?
Exercise is essential in my daily life to help clear my head and de-stress. My go to is a workout at Crossfit Asphodel, running outdoors, yoga and hiking. But a glass of red wine and live music at Soiree in Soho on Sunday night works pretty well too!

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
One of the best trips I ever took was to the island of Lombok in Indonesia. Two girl friends and I did a 3 day 2 night hiking and camping trip to summit the Mount Rinjani Volcano. It was physically challenging but mentally relaxing. There was no cellphone reception, no distractions, we had the company of nature and nights with skies full of shooting stars. It was pretty magical. We then went to the Gili Islands for a few days of scuba diving, yoga and sitting on the beach doing nothing but sipping on coconuts. That was pretty relaxing too.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” by Lois P. Frankel and “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. Essential reads for every working woman and/or man who wants to know how to support the working women in their life.

Shameless plug for your business:
I am a TV commercial and print producer that can plug into an existing advertising agency or brand team to produce their communication needs. Many advertising agencies these days are scaling down so they have creative directors and account services but may not have an in-house producer, so I can fill that gap by becoming a part of the existing agency team. For brands that want to produce content directly without involving an agency, I can also bridge the gap by bringing my production knowledge in-house and working as part of the marketing/brand team and liaising with the other departments in the company such as product team and ecomm.

How can people connect with you?
They can email me at [email protected]
or visit my website at mkimproducer.com

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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