Connect with us

Callum Connects

Jonathan Gonzalez, Editor of Quaint Quarterly

Published

on

What’s your story?
I am Mexican, born in France, and raised in the various countries in which my parents were sent for their diplomatic careers (Brazil, United States, Singapore, Ireland, Israel, Malaysia, Taiwan). Moving around the world every few years made me quite adaptable to changing environments, a characteristic that is reflected in the fact that I have worked in many different industries. I have done field work with NGOs, research with multilateral organizations, business development with private firms, data analysis with financial institutions, creative work with advertising agencies, and writing in news magazines. Overall, I love meeting new people and learning new skills.

What excites you most about your industry?
I have just recently set a foot in publishing, an industry that has always fascinated the avid reader and book collector in me. I find publishing to be particularly interesting in Singapore because it is much richer and diverse than most people think; there are a lot of interesting and talented people out there who write books, illustrate stories, create poems, open book shops, or organize readings and meet-ups. They may not be as visible as shopping outlets or as financially powerful as banks, but I feel they are just as important in helping Singapore attain its global leader status.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I first arrived in Singapore in 1997 when my parents were sent here. In 2004 I came back for an exchange year at NTU and then in 2010 I moved back with my wife. You could say that many of the roads I have taken in my adult life have somehow led back to Singapore, where I know I can reunite with all the local friends I have made over the years and connect with new people who have just settled here.

01-med  10-med

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Throughout my career in Asia, I have only ever done business in Singapore, where I already have many friends, ex-colleagues, and business contacts. This position has given me a solid base to launch projects, develop partnerships, and seize opportunities that may not have been available to a foreigner elsewhere in Asia. The fact that English is widely spoken, that transactions are secure, and that public institutions are accountable also creates a very favourable environment. True, there are some discouraging bureaucratic constraints along the way, but I think learning to navigate the system is an important part of doing business, whichever the country.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The main lesson my parents have always taught me is that I should always do things well. Whether it is a school project, a career plan, or simply a hobby, there is no point in starting something you will not finish, in doing something you will not be proud to have your name on, or in undertaking something that will not live to its expectation. This does not mean striving to do everything perfectly or not accepting failure as part of the learning process, but making sure that all projects and tasks are done with all the energy and effort that they deserve.

Who inspires you?
My parents are my biggest inspiration for many different reasons. They do not come from a long line of diplomats or business men. They did not attend fancy private schools. They did not have start-up capital to start a business. They did not have any savings that would buy them time to find their true calling. They started their careers wherever it was that they could start and worked hard to acquire the skills that little by little took them closer to their objectives. Whether it was finding scholarship programmes to go to university or learning languages to be able to move, they seized the opportunities that were out there and made them their own.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
On top of reading all types of books and magazines I come across I also watch all sorts of TV shows and movies. I have just recently watched the entire Marco Polo series which is highly entertaining despite its fair share of narrative imperfections and historical inaccuracies. The show got me hooked on learning more about the history of the Mongol Empire while its soundtrack led me to discover a few very interesting musicians who combine traditional throat singing with hip-hop and jazz.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
From a business point of view, I would perhaps try to save precious time by being more familiar with administrative processes and bureaucratic red-tape. I spent a lot of time discovering things as they came up or relying on someone else’s advice, when I could have avoided a lot of headaches by anticipating potential roadblocks and planning accordingly.

How do you unwind?
Most of my free time is devoted to music. If I’m not organizing events with my friends from the Kilowatt Soundsystem I’m listening to new artists on music streaming sites, if I’m not visiting vinyl record shops I’m organizing and classifying my new music into playlists for upcoming parties.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Sadly I have less and less time to travel for leisure, but as a city guy I am a big fan of exploring huge capital cities and getting lost just wandering around with headphones on. I find Bangkok, Tokyo, and Seoul to be ideal for that.

Everyone in business should read this book:
I know a lot of people don’t have time to sit down to read for a couple of hours, so I will recommend a couple of podcasts: Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History and NPR’s Planet Money. The first one touches on all sorts of topics (history, war, mythology, religion) and includes details that history books often skip over in order to keep things clean and simple. The second one discusses amazing stories, people, or events within the worlds of business and finance.

Shameless plug for your business:
The latest project I am working on is Quaint Quarterly, a new independent print journal focused on long-form articles and eye-catching illustrations. Curated from the four corners of the web, all the content is handpicked for readers who want to read challenging and insightful materials in a well-crafted format. From opinion pieces to academic papers, from amateur photographers to award-winning painters, the work of the featured thinkers, writers, and artists is a snapshot of all the incredibly thought-provoking content that can be found online and yet does not necessarily reach all constantly-connected people. Issue number 01 is on the topic of Nostalgia and future issues will focus on other compelling concepts such as Progress, Identity, Appetite, Desire, and many more.

How can people connect with you?
Anyone who is interested in purchasing a copy of the magazine, submitting content, or looking for sponsoring/advertising opportunities can send me an email to [email protected] or simply follow the Facebook page to find out about news and events.

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

CallumConnects

Callum Laing has started, built, bought and sold half a dozen businesses in a range of industries across two continents. He is the owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 11 countries and he is also the CEO of Entrevo Asia, a company that runs 40 week Growth Accelerator programs.

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

Published

on

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

Continue Reading

Callum Connects

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

Published

on

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

Continue Reading

Trending