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Cheryl Ou, Founder of The Nail Social

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Cheryl Ou has been part of many start-ups. She is now motivated by social returns and is running a social enterprise working with local, underprivileged women.

What’s your story?
I started my first business when I was only 22 years old and and won my first major entrepreneurship award, the Spirit of Enterprise, at 25. Since then, I have been blessed to have been a part of various start-ups.
In 2011, I created Singapore’s first Pod Hostel and built it up to become one of the top flashpacker hostels in Singapore, only to be forced out of my own company after 2 years by an investor, without receiving a single cent of profit. This episode really opened my eyes to the reality of running a business. I decided then that I did not want to be the kind of entrepreneur who was motivated solely by money and started looking into the idea of running a social enterprise.

What excites you most about your industry?
We are a part of 2 main industries:
1) Beauty Industry
The beauty industry is extremely competitive and nail salons are a dime a dozen, which means our unique selling proposition has to be very strong. We constantly have to reinvent ourselves and come up with services/promotions that are practical yet unique to maintain our competitive edge. It makes work stressful, but also a whole lot more interesting.

2) Social Enterprise Industry
We specifically train and employ underprivileged women and we mentor them to help them work through their personal challenges to become more confident and independent. It makes work a lot more meaningful and we get inspired when we see the progress of the women that join us.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I love to travel, especially to locations off the beaten track and these experiences really open my eyes to other cultures and make me appreciate coming home to Singapore a lot more.

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore. One of the biggest hurdles to entrepreneurship is starting up – navigating the red tape, understanding the rules and complying to restrictions often put off entrepreneurs right from the start. In Singapore, the process of starting a business is painless and there are many organizations and networking groups that are on-hand to provide assistance when necessary.
In recent years, the Singapore government has also started to encourage the emergence of social enterprises and has launched various grants and schemes to support this industry.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Always remember why you started. When the going gets tough (and it is going to), remembering what motivated you to get started in the first place will help keep you going.

Who inspires you?
My answer to the question would have been very different a few years ago. Ever since my venture into the world of social entrepreneurship, I no longer look towards big successful business owners for inspiration. I am now inspired by the founders of smaller social enterprise start-ups who are so passionate about their cause and helping others that they persevere through failure and setbacks. They are motivated, not so much by the money or glamour, but rather the possibility of making a positive difference in someone’s life. They have taught me that the littlest things can sometimes bring the most happiness.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That it’s okay to lose your pride for love or friendship. I recently reached out and reconnected with an old friend and ex-business partner whom I had an argument and falling out with a few years back and it’s an amazing feeling. I guess I always knew this, but it’s a different thing altogether to experience it for yourself.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I still have a chip on my shoulder over some of my past negative experiences, but I am also a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I’m convinced that I would be a very different person if not for those experiences and even though I didn’t realise it then, I am thankful for the lessons that these failures and setbacks have taught me.

How do you unwind?
I cycle to and from work almost everyday, and that allows me to clear my mind before I start work and have a bit of a time-out after a busy day.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali! I love everything about being by the beach. There’s something about the sand between my toes and the sound of the waves that totally relaxes me.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Shameless plug for your business:
The Nail Social is a lifestyle nail salon that offers manicure, pedicure and foot massage services, enjoyed with a personal iPad pre-loaded with movies, games, magazines and books. You’ll also be glad to know that most products we will use, serve or sell in the salon will be non-toxic, eco-friendly, fair-trade and/or cruelty-free.
We are a socially-conscious salon that was established with the aim of training and employing local, underprivileged women with a higher barrier to employment, so as to help them progress from a position of vulnerability to security and self-sufficiency.

How can people connect with you?
Website: www.thenailsocial.co
Email: [email protected]
Facebook: www.facebook.com/thenailsocial.co
Instagram: www.instagram.com/thenailsocial

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

CallumConnectsCallum 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

Denise Morris Kipnis, Founder & Principal of ChangeFlow Consulting

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Denise Mossis Kipnis’ curiosity in people and the world, lead her to set up ChangeFlow Consulting.

What’s your story?
I’m driven by curiosity. Having been the only one in a room who looks like me for most of my life, I developed a curiosity about who stays, who leaves and who thrives in minority/majority situations including when and how connection and collaboration happen. I was a systems thinker long before I knew what that was, always asking why and so what; and seeing the pieces, the whole, and the places in between. So helping people and organisations move through the complexity of transformation feels natural to me.

What excites you most about your industry?
I see change and inclusion as two sides of the same thing; I don’t practice one without the other. Some people see change as death, as loss, as exhausting. And it can be. But I see in the work I do as an opportunity for something new or hidden to emerge. When an organisation understands that it is first a group of people, who themselves represent and belong to groups of people, and it begins to tackle what it would mean to understand and learn from all that talent, all that diversity, to have them all working for and not against the organisation, to truly unleash all that their people have to offer; that’s magic.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Change and inclusion are personal values as well as professional strengths. For me, living and working outside of the States was a bold experiment to see whether any of the stuff I’d learned about change and inclusion would work outside of the US. My husband and I targeted Asia specifically: it would be the greatest contrast, culturally speaking, for me; and a unique career springboard for him.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Although I’ve practiced in other cities, I am biased towards Singapore. In some ways it’s what Los Angeles is to the rest of the United States, a microcosm of sorts. The regional/global nature of it means that so many different nationalities and cultures are represented. As a result of this mix, you never know what you might get. In some situations, cultural dynamics are obvious, sometimes subdued. The variability is compelling.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.” Michael Rouan.

Who inspires you?
Often it’s a “what” not a “who.” I can get inspiration from a passage in a book or a situation in a movie, as well as a turn of a phrase or watching people interact. I often make the biggest connections between the various threads I’m working on when I’m sitting in someone else’s event.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’m honestly not blown away by much. Instead, I’m struck how circular things can be: ideas often come back around with a slightly different twist and I watch the way it shakes things loose for people. I recently sat through a workshop on Self as Instrument, and despite being thoroughly versed already, I learned something. In preparing for a panel on design thinking, I unearthed a new language to describe things.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
You’ve caught me at a good time. I’m sitting in appreciation and gratitude for all my experiences, because I wouldn’t be who I was today if all that has happened, didn’t. And yet one thing comes to mind: It wasn’t until I redesigned my website two years ago (shout out to Brew Creative!) that I realised I hadn’t made explicit agreements with my past clients as to what I could share publicly about our engagement, or whether I could use their logos in my promotional materials. In my business, confidentiality is so important, and yet I need to be able to talk about the work as reputation and experience leads to the next success, and so on. It turned out a lot of the contacts I had known had left the organisations where the work was done, so they couldn’t help at that point. So the practice I’m carrying forward is to get those agreements up front, and to make sure my relationships in client systems are broad as well as deep.

How do you unwind?
Science fiction, puzzles, wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Home. I don’t travel to relax, I travel to learn and explore.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Built to Change, by Ed Lawler and Chris Worley. To my knowledge, it’s the first pivot from advising organisations away from stability and toward dynamism, from strategic planning to strategizing as an action verb; to blow up the traditions and rigidity that impede organisations from developing change capability.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re taught that there are two kinds of people: those who see forests, and those who see trees. There is a third type, my type, and we see the ecosystem. Worms, climate, birds, the spaces in between. This is the perspective organisations need to be successful in solving complex problems and thriving in change.
ChangeFlow uniquely blends four disciplines (two of which are multi-disciplinary in themselves): organisation development, culture and inclusion, change management and project management.

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChangeFlowConsulting/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dmorriskipnis/
LinkedIn Company page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/4862954/
Email: [email protected]
Website: http://www.changeflowconsulting.com

Twitter handle?
@ChangeFlow

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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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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