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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

Elizabeth Wu, Co-founder & COO of Trehaus

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Elizabeth Wu is making work-life integration a reality for working parents in her new family friendly coworking space.

What’s your story?
I co-founded a coworking space in Singapore that comes complete with a child-friendly facility. We’re the first of our kind here and we’ve been making work-life integration a reality for working parents since we opened.

What excites you most about your industry?
We are the first of our kind, and there’s no other coworking space like us. Sure, there are plenty of coworking spaces in Singapore, but we are the pioneers of championing ‘BYO-kid’ to work by creating a conducive workspace and enriching kids play, all under one roof.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I’m a local through and through.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, of course! It’s safe, well-regulated and has a diverse community. Barriers to entry for starting up a business is low, and generally there is good support for small to medium enterprises and startups, which is great.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Life is short. Do stuff that matters.” I think I decided to do “stuff that matters” a long time ago and that’s why I became an educator. When motherhood beckoned, I decided again, to do “stuff that matters” by staying home to be with my kids. Then, I began to desire a meaningful career while raising my kids. So, I decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship, because I am governed by wanting to “do stuff that matters!”

Who inspires you?
So many people inspire me. My members at Trehaus inspire me with the things they do and the changes they make. But if I have to pick someone, it would be Elim Chew, founder of 77th Street; who is a seasoned entrepreneur. She started from humble beginnings, went through setbacks and never said never to new journeys in entrepreneurship. I love that she always looks for ways to give back to society and mentor the next generation with her wealth of wisdom and experiences.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I learned the 5-by-5 rule recently: That is, ‘if it’s not going to matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes being upset by it.’ This helps me puts things in perspective, and I try to remember this every time the urge comes to dwell, to brood, to beat myself up or to sweat the small stuff.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would definitely be more careful with the people I hired to build the team. I’ve learned that it is important to find and build an entrepreneurial team that will plough and work hard alongside the founders. Like Jack Ma once said, “Don’t hire the most qualified candidate. Hire the craziest.” I should have done that right from the start. It would save us so much time and heartache.

How do you unwind?
I take long walks to clear my or I go for a fruitful session of self care, like yoga or a massage.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I really enjoy getting out of Singapore to the outskirts of Bangkok to live amongst the locals. My family of 5 used to do that each December; just taking off to live amongst the locals where street food is aplenty and warmth and hospitality is everywhere. I enjoy their slow pace of life and how simple things can be.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz

Shameless plug for your business:
Trehaus is Singapore’s first ever family-friendly coworking space that lets you build a career while prioritising family. If it takes a village to raise a child, then Trehaus is the modern village where you will find a robust community and supportive ecosystem that lets you be an involved parent – never missing a single milestone in your child’s early years – and at the same time do efficient and productive work. We’ve made magic happen in what we’ve created!

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

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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Mark Winterton, General Manager of InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay

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Mark Winterton has dedicated his life to achieving unparalleled and extraordinary guest experiences in the hospitality industry.

What’s your story?
I’m a seasoned hospitality professional with over twenty years international experience launching luxury brands, repositioning existing brands and driving innovation for some of the world’s most successful hotels.

As General Manager of InterContinental® Singapore Robertson Quay, I’m responsible for the strategic positioning of the property as the next generation of the InterContinental hotel brand and have been spearheading the hotel since its opening in October 2017, with the goal of achieving a unique and unrivalled market positioning as Singapore’s most luxurious residential hotel.

I started my career with InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG®) in 1995 and have since been dedicating myself towards achieving perfection. I find immense fulfillment in leading my team towards achieving extraordinary and unparalleled guest experiences.

What excites you most about your industry?
The hospitality industry boasts an extremely dynamic landscape, and we are always seeing new hotels opening alongside the entry of burgeoning brands. This growth has, over time developed positive competition and generated positive driving forces that have elevated the overall standard of the industry in Singapore. The industry has a dynamic landscape. There are many opportunities to bring the right people together and create amazing teams to launch or reposition hotels. The process of creating teams, inspiring individuals and then working together to bring a project to life is where I find the excitement lies.

What’s your connection to Asia?
The lure of Asia has always been very strong for foreign economies and companies, with great accessibility to new opportunities, customers, consumers and clients. My first foray into Asia was back in 2007, when I launched Crowne Plaza Changi Airport in Singapore. Following that, I was also based in Bangkok for a couple of years for the rebranding of Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park. Over my years in Asia, I have had the opportunity to truly immerse myself in new cultures, establish new connections with key counterparts and friends; and these have further solidified my interest in and strengthened my connection to Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore. Commonly known as the gateway to Asia, we’ve been blessed with a stable government, a sound political economy and a comprehensive infrastructure for reliable business operations. With tremendous efforts put in by the Singapore Tourism Board towards elevating the city as an attractive venue for visitors, the growth of Singapore as a key MICE destination, coupled with a cosmopolitan pool of talent, Singapore remains my favourite city in Asia for business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“You can never be 100% ready for a new role.” I believe that there will always be room for growth and learning on the job. As long as a person is 80% ready for a new role, the opportunity should be extended. I am a strong believer in the development of people and the grooming of talent, and this piece of advice has allowed me to take more chances on people I’ve worked with and developed over the years.

Who inspires you?
Simon Sinek, a speaker with TED Talk.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I don’t think I can pinpoint just one lesson learnt recently, as learning is an ongoing process. No matter how small a piece of knowledge may seem, it should be valued. Everyday is a journey of learning and development.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing at all. I don’t believe in regrets and everything that has happened thus far, has had a part to play in who I am and where I stand today.

How do you unwind?
Spending time with friends over relaxed conversations and wine or working my green fingers in my balcony garden.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali. It’s one destination where I’ve always returned to, simply because it offers me the same level of comfort and familiarity each time I return. It’s where I can feel most relaxed, yet still be able to enjoy the vibrant dining scene.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott.

Shameless plug for your business:
Officially opened on 12 October 2017, InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay is the first international luxury hotel brand situated at Robertson Quay. Set amidst a dynamic, sophisticated neighbourhood along the Singapore River, known for its dining options and arts houses, the luxury residential-inspired hotel has been carefully curated by world-­class designers, architects and culinary purveyors. Located minutes away from the CBD, the hotel still maintains a stylish but laid back, relaxed feel in the leafy, upscale neighbourhood of Robertson Quay. The hotel offers 225 luxurious studios and suites, including an expansive Penthouse, which has unparalleled views of both the Singapore River and vibrant city via floor-­to-­ceiling windows.

The residential-­inspired property combines elements from Robertson Quay’s industrial and intriguing past with sleek contemporary finishes whilst seamlessly blending into the residential surrounds. Light-­filled room interiors have been designed to magnify the familiar comforts of home where guests may enjoy bespoke amenities such as a specially designed in-­room cocktail kit.

Established as part of a holistic dining and lifestyle destination, the hotel boasts a wide range of restaurant and bar concepts. Flagship restaurant Publico, representing the central core of Italian culture, is a multi-­concept dining destination comprising a variety of Italian experiences under one roof – a neighbourhood deli and bar and a ristorante with adjoining terrazzo by the river. Other highlights throughout the hotel include New York institution Wolfgang’s Steakhouse by Wolfgang Zwiener, and a bar and dining concept from the team behind Izy Sushi. Over 40 other dining options await at the hotel doorstep, in The Quayside precinct.

How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markwinterton1/

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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