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Definitive 10 Week Guide To Entrepreneurial Success



I started life rather late. Or so I say, gauging on my personal standards.

I wanted to be uber rich by the time I was 19. However, I lacked the fortitude of certain vital organs to commit to the decision. So I wussed out, went to college, got a degree, wussed out some more, then got a job, then wussed out some more, got a credit card and then finally I manned up.

I started many different ventures, all which had successes, little but not enough to push me out of the rat race of life, meaning pay check to paycheck. Years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing anything for free, because a salary and commissions and payments for my service sustained my wuss life. Of course I idolized Bill Gates and the guy who created Yahoo. Of course I dreamt about being just like them. But, the seduction of middle class life (no matter how high you are in the pay grade, it is still middle class) was far harder to ignore. Also being of Asian descent, family pressure to get a degree and a job was monumental. So basically it was plenty of facilitated wussing.

Then, I took a leap of faith; I was at the time earning almost 100k annually and I decided to finally live all the books and seminars I took. I resigned from my job and I jumped into the middle of the ocean without a life jacket, raft or even knowing which part of the ocean this was. And when you are in that deep, you either swim or die. Best way to learn to swim is when you are in the middle of the ocean. No amount of swimming lessons can beat that motivation. So, I did everything from selling, to acting to directing. Plenty of success in almost all, but it was never enough. I was still clinging to the degree that would be my raft. I kept leaning on my former profession as a life saver. I never really grew as much as I wanted to.

And then it happened. In 2009 my meager business empire came crashing down. All of it just wiped out by the next year. I hit rock bottom. From driving my own cars to washing other people’s cars for a meal. It took me a few more years to grow a pair and really swim. Today the ocean of business is rougher than ever, but I changed my approach. I no longer look for a raft or a life jacket. As a matter of fact I feel nervous when there is shore.

Now, enough about me. What is this got to do with you ? Well if you are an entrepreneur or want to be, before anything else, you need to be ready for one certain thing that will definitely happen when you get into business. Ready? You will definitely fail. And oh so glorious this failure would be that you would want to stab yourself in your own aching heart.  But, keep moving. Never stop swimming and I guarantee you, the next fall won’t be as painful. And then every fall, would just seem like a tiny shaving cut. You won’t even notice it is there. You will understand that a strong psyche is above anything else when it comes to business. Not just foolhardy optimism, but a strong mental ability to accept, adapt and grow. Not denial, but rather acceptance; not ego, but rather humility in learning.

And above all, a cause greater than money, a desire more powerful than wanting to gain wealth. When you have this then know that you are no longer just a businessman, you are now an entrepreneur. Ready to rock the world?

What are you waiting for?

So here are my 10-week guideline for you as an entrepreneur. Do this very diligently. I will go into greater detail in the coming weeks, but for now this is your rough guide to the rough world of entrepreneurship. Take one week for each task, as you will go through your logic sequence of Why, What and How. Define and write down everything that pops into your head. All this is designed to give you enough tools to calculate your probability and then jump into the ocean of business!

Week 1 – Understand your nature.

Why are you an entrepreneur? What makes you as an entrepreneur different? Bill Gates is a much different entrepreneur than Steve Jobs. Richard Branson is a very different entrepreneur than Tony Fernandez.  If you were given a challenge, to sell your service or product with absolutely no profit or no personal revenue for you, will you still be an entrepreneur? Find your definition as an entrepreneur.

Week 2 – What do you really want?

Are you in business for a purpose greater than money? Money is not evil; as a matter of fact I love it. It’s the greatest invention ever. It makes the world move. But lust for it makes people go cuckoo. What is more important, your way of life or your business? Can you go for a year without your past time activities? Will you be able to give up an expensive hobby until your business is really developed?

Week 3 – Money: You either have it or you want it.

How much money do you have? In business (and in life) money buys you time. If you have a fixed monthly expense of 10,000 plus a variable of 5,000, that means you need to have at least 180,000 to flow in seamlessly for the next 12 months. And most businesses do not turn around or even break even until the 3rd year is over. Do you see a flow happening?

Week 4 – The power of PAUSE.  Stillness is far greater than motion.

Everyone makes this mistake. And they make it repeatedly. The trick is to catch yourself doing it. I say this all the time, don’t be in the business, but work on it. When you are feeling overwhelmed, you need to pause. TOTAL PAUSE. No communication, no business talk, nothing. Just PAUSE and absolutely figure out where you are at this moment in your business. Do this frequently.


This is the furthest thing from the truth. In today’s world of business, you are never alone. There is so much help, from free consultations, to leveraging off your competitors; there is absolutely so much help. I don’t say this from theory, but backed by actual experience. I was able to rebuild myself so much more quickly because the world today is about adding value. Seek for help!

Week 6 – Bouncing back after a fall.

If you are an entrepreneur, I would wish for you to fail, and fail big. HUH? You never truly become an entrepreneur unless you have been threatened with law suits, employees complaining to the employment office, partners treating you like crap and above all, teetering the edge of bankruptcy. Please get these experiences sooner than later, because it is so much easier to bounce back up when you are younger.

Week 7 – Love, family and business?

Love and family, could be your greatest ally or your biggest annoyance, when you are on the entrepreneurial path. Most businessman (and women) end up having very sour personal relationships. If someone denies this, they are lying. This is the art of balance; there is no way around it. Messy affairs, fighting with your spouse, divorces and families that cheat lie and steal; get ready for it. But you will eventually find a way to deal with these. This happens because business takes a toll on your personal and emotional needs and of those around you. From trusting too much to being emotionally void; these are the side effects.

Week 8 – The ASIAN FRINGE, Business SCIENCE.

If you are Asian, then you know what Feng Shui or Vastu is. Numerology, astrology, horoscope compatibility… (Did you know that the Tiger and Rabbit are a good business match in Chinese horoscope)? Now, I am not discounting these, as a matter of fact I don’t take in clients that do not fit their numerology personality with me, however business is business. Remember these things are old beliefs that have some practical roots to them. They should not be the full decision maker for you, rather a support system. Best you understand what you are getting yourself into. Else, forget about it.


Glocal stands for think Global work Local. Meaning, you take what is globally a standard and you adapt it to you. For example, McDonalds in the Philippines serves rice by default. Why? Filipinos cannot live without rice. But it is still McDonalds and has all the goodness that comes with it.  So if you are a company here in Asia or a business in Asia, adapt your model to fit the international way (primarily western way) but tailor it so it fits your culture. The old logic that Asia has huge populations and you will succeed by the sheer number of people who get your services is a myth and a painful one, if you get into it without understanding the local market. Trust me, I have seen these happen repeatedly with many foreign owned companies. Every single Asian country is worlds apart in terms of business and people management culture. So, think global operate local.


It’s the new millennium. If Microsoft Excel is your primary accounting tool, you are seriously backdated. Windows is now only in 14% of the world’s computers. Everyone is moving to the CLOUD. A 5-man operation can make bank. There are apps for everything today. Get wise. Get “APP’ed” up. Equip yourself and make life easy for you. Business process is still the same, but it has been sped up so much, that if you snooze, you will definitely loose!

JUMP AND SWIM. Do or die, there is no try.


Women on Top in Tech – Dawn Dickson, Founder and CEO of PopCom, Inc. and Founder of Flat Out of Heels



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Dawn Dickson is the Founder and CEO of PopCom, Inc. (formerly Solutions Vending, Inc.), the company behind PopCom Kiosks and the PopCom API, which provides a software solution to make vending machines more intelligent. She created the company after her own struggles to find vending machines that could sell her roll-up flat products, Flat Out of Heels, at high-traffic areas like airports.  She was awarded First place in the PowerMoves NOLA Big Break pitch Competition and second place in the 2016 SBA Innovate Her Challenge.

What makes you do what you do? 
I love solving big problems and working with amazing people to get it done.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
After working in the vending industry for three years selling Flat Out of Heels in vending machines in airports and nightclubs, I was frustrated with the lack of data I was able to collect from my hardware. I also wanted more engaging and interactive experiences for my customers and after speaking with several retailers they felt the same way. That is when I decided to focus on PopCom and developing a software solution to solve the data problem in self-service retail.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)? 
The fact that I am not the usual, leadership demographic is the main reason why I was up for the challenge. The industry is in need of a change and I believe someone with a unique and different perspective and experience is needed. I look forward to collaborating with the industry leaders and veterans to build a product that everyone loves and finds value in.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work? How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
I am involved in several different industries and sectors – retail, self-service retail, hardware, software…so I have to learn a lot of information quickly.  There are several people that I look up to, follow their career, and seek advice from. I was fortunate to be able to participate in some of the country’s top accelerator and entrepreneurship development programs, including Techstars, Canopy Boulder, and the BIxel Exchange – the mentorship and network I gained from these programs has been invaluable and very instrumental in our progress.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent? 
I have learned that spotting talent takes time, it takes patience, and building relationships with people and networks to meet new people, most of my connections come from introductions. I focus on finding the right fit for the company culture, there is a lot of great talent out there, but the culture is different, I want us to be on the same wavelength. I am fortunate to have met some great people through the programs I was in that came on as mentors, advisors, and eventually full time team members. I take time to get to know my team individually and understand what their personal goals and ambitions are, ask them what their dream job looks like, understand their needs so they can be happy at work and be fulfilled. I believe in self-care and making mental health a priority, if a person is good within themselves they radiate positivity and are more productive.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I am a black woman so I am diversity. Naturally, we attract people we can relate to and have things in common, so I found that my team was heavily female and my diversity initiative was finding more men…when I thought about it I found it funny. Now I have a balanced team of men and women from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives which is exciting.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb? 
To be a great leader you have to be a team player, my rule is I never ask someone to do something that I would not do myself. I also have a rule to give the team the freedom and flexibility to work when and how they are most productive. That means some of us working different hours and being in the office different days, but happy team builds the dream!

Advice for others?
My advice is never give up if you believe in it. I started my company selling shoes in vending machines in 2011, it took me 7 years, a few failed hardware attempts, and many people telling me it would not work because the market was not ready. I was patient and what I believed would happen is happening. In May PopCom is bringing the PopShop to market, a next gen smart vending machine to sell and sample products. Our API will be ready in July and for the first time vending machine and kiosk owners can understand their conversion rates and have the level of data and analytics available that eCommerce stores have, but better. It has been a long journey and I feel it is just getting started, but I am only here because I never gave up.

If you’d like to get in touch with Dawn Dickson, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:

To learn more about PopCom, please click here.

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Callum Connects

Elaine Zhou, Co-Founder of China Women Equipping Center



Elaine went on a journey of self discovery and once she knew her true self she could be successful in her own business.

What’s your story?
I am very proud of where I came from and I am grateful for where I am living and working today. Singapore is my adopted home and it is my aim to always contribute to and serve this country and its people.
Twelve years ago, I moved to Singapore for an internship opportunity. I was twenty one years old and I didn’t have any friends, I didn’t speak English, I didn’t understand the culture or the customs. Everything was new and strange to me. Everything was difficult, but my parents had tremendous faith in me.
My parents have worked diligently on the family farm to raise us and send us to college. My parents had a huge influence on me. The important things I learnt from them are to love, to never give up, to be a hard worker and to have a can-do attitude. These are the qualities that I embrace in my daily life.

What excites you most about your industry?
We offer more than just training. Our business is a resource to be leveraged for transformation, improved teamwork, leadership behaviours, communication skills, relationship skills, coaching skills and increased job satisfaction and productivity.
Our passion and purpose is to help people grow as leaders and to create tremendous results by serving others well. We take people to daring destinations, beyond their imagination.
My greatest joy is to see people grow, change and transform and live a purposeful life; this is what motivates me to do more and do it well.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in China and I have spent all my adult and professional life in Singapore.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore and China.
Singapore is a very sophisticated and systematic country. It is a structured and highly efficient business environment and people are generally nice and honest. Also, the convenience and diverse culture is a great advantage for people who want to settle down there, no matter if they are from the East or West. You always feel at home in Singapore.
I also like China because of its fast growth. The population and the market is here. However, it takes time to settle in because of the language barrier and the very different traditional culture. But you will also find it is very interesting and you’ll want to learn more about China. The people are nice if you know them well. It is always about relationship first and business second, and when you are in a business meeting, you really have to master the skill of “reading the air.” It is a skill to let people know and understand you; your values, your background, why you think in that way or why you do or do not do certain things. Doing business in China is like swimming in the ocean; it is an abundant ocean and it is full of risks. Always know your values and stay true to yourself and make decisions close to your heart. It will help you see things more clearly and get things done in a way that doesn’t violate your values.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Be yourself, Elaine.” That is the best advice I have ever received. It was a big ‘aha’ moment for me. It was also the moment I truly and honestly looked within myself. I realized that when I am being my true self, and not trying to be someone else, I am able to connect with people instantly in a genuine and authentic way. It is a great feeling.

Who inspires you?
There are so many people who encourage me, lift me up and challenge me everyday. My mentor, John Maxwell who helped me discover my purpose in life; Michael Griffin, for his passion for Christ which is contagious and Wayne Dyer, my spiritual mentor who passed away in 2016. Also, people who are living with a purpose and striving everyday for their dream, they really inspire me. My clients, mentees and students. When I see that joy and peace in them, that inspires me to do more and do well. My team inspire me, especially when they said, “Elaine, I joined the business because of you.” They inspire me to make it work for the team and the business because it is beyond my own self interest. I am grateful for having so many people in my life who inspire me.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
China is a big country, we all know that, and it is also an internet giant. Recently on a team meeting, one of the directors who manages a successful beauty business, shared with us, that everybody is on the internet, especially on WeChat. People are obsessed with online communities – for ordering food, getting taxis, forging relationships, connections and friends. Almost anything and everything can get done online. But right now, there is a new trend; more and more people want the “offline” experience. It usually takes one to two hours from one place to another in Beijing, but people want to make the effort to have a real connection with other people, to attend networks, seminars, workshops and business meetings.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I started my first business when I was 24 years old, it failed. One year later, I started my second business and after a year and a half, I closed down the operation. After several painful experiences and two failed businesses, I started to look within myself, and seriously and intentionally invested in my personal growth at the age of 28. If I could turn back time, I wish I could have grown a lot earlier. I strongly believe that the level of our success is determined by the level of our self growth and we are always learning, everyday. But I also understand it is not the only way to live. I also consciously and intentionally try to live in the now. It is a beautiful and great way to live. In fact, I am grateful for what I have gone through; the pains, setbacks and challenges in my earlier life.

How do you unwind?
I like to stay connected with nature. For example, taking a walk barefoot on the grass and smelling the roses on the street. Having a beer or coffee along the riverside with friends; reading a good book; hunting for nice restaurants; swimming or running.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand – nice beaches, food and people.
Bali – fantastic beaches and food, great people.
Malaysia – Nice food and people, particularly Langkawi, Penang and KK.
Of course Singapore, it is always a place dear to my heart. It’s my home.
There are a lot of other interesting places in China which I am still exploring.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Law of Success by Napoleon Hill
The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Tao Te Ching: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life by Wayne Dyer
Developing the Leaders Within You by John C.Maxwell
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
These are some of the books that truly transformed my thinking and shaped my values.
I used to read a lot of different types of books, from sales, marketing, branding and management to different business models. I found it is really hard to master all of it and I was not optimizing my own strengths.
Entrepreneurship is a skill to be learnt. But it is really important to recognize what we are good at and what we are not so good at. We can not be everything.
Entrepreneurship is a journey of self-discovery and soul searching. It is all about learning and striving. We should try and always remember why we started our business in the first place.

Shameless plug for your business:
The China Women Equipping Center, is something both my team are I are very proud. We have put our hearts and souls into it, to help women in China grow and transform. As a developing country and with the rise of China, people are not lacking in money, everywhere is full of opportunity, but the challenge is the civilizations, values and faith. In fact the Chinese government puts a lot of effort into improving and shaping the international image to ensure it is making progress. But people are still facing a lot of pressure, especially women.
One of our business partners who is runs traditional Chinese medicine retail stores, shared that 80% of his patients are female, and the reason they are coming to see him are anxiety and depression.
Our China Women Equipping Center creates a safe and comfortable environment for women to help build their values and characters. My local team and I are very passionate about our mission and purpose. Beijing is our headquarters in China. We are planning to take three to six months to establish our business in Beijing and grow and expand to other major cities in China after that.

How can people connect with you?

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:
Download free copies of his books here:

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