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Jorn Middelborg, Managing Director of Thavibu

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What’s your story?
I came to Bangkok more than twenty years ago to work with UNESCO.  We were developing educational programmes in the region in non-formal education, literacy, and adult education.  It was an exciting and challenging job, though in the end I felt I’d like to do my own thing rather than working within an international bureaucracy – which is very bureaucratic..  

When the Internet started to develop in the late 1990s, I decided to start a contemporary art gallery online and physically at the same time, having been a collector myself. It became the first ‘internet gallery’ in Thailand, and surely one of the first galleries in Asia with an online presence, in 1998.  I remember the first painting we sold online to a client in the USA who had not come to the gallery but bought it from viewing a photo on the website.  

What excites you most about your industry?
Contemporary art is exciting in the way that you meet lots of interesting people; artists from different countries who often have highly interesting personalities.  On the other hand you also meet many interesting clients and collectors.  The work is varied and never boring.

What’s your connection to Asia?
<see first question/answer above>

thavibu_gallery5

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I have lived in Bangkok since I first settled down in Asia, and this is my favourite city to stay in.  Few other cities can beat Bangkok in terms of diversity, contrasts and good food!  It is not a cheap city anymore, but it is one of the most liveable cities, I think.  Singapore and Hong Kong are supposedly good for business, though they seem somewhat boring compared to Bangkok. I often travel to Yangon and Hanoi to interact with artists and they are some of my favourite cities to visit.  

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Follow your dreams.  The future is uncertain so it is hard to plan accurately.  Often life is a zigzag path and you have to make the best out of it.

Who inspires you?
Personally I look up to great personalities such as Desmond Tutu and Dalai Lama.  They maintain their integrity and humor in all kinds of situations.  In the art world, I find the amazing lacquer paintings by Vietnamese artists quite inspiring: Dinh Quan, Truong Tan, Trinh Tuan and Le Quang Ha.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The apps that you can download and use on your mobile phones.  There are so many, and for every imaginable purpose.  I decided to produce an app for the gallery and we’re probably the first gallery in Asia with an iPhone/iPad app.  
Since Bangkok is a world class food city, I also decided to develop a restaurant app for iPhone, which is called: ‘Bangkok’s 100 Best Restaurants’.  It is useful to have all the restaurant details at your fingertips rather than carrying a guide book around. It seems to be the future.  

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I don’t think I would have done things differently.  I started my career in sciences (biology), moved on to education (UNESCO) and then art (Thavibu Gallery).  I have lived and worked in Europe (Norway), Africa (Tanzania) and Asia (Thailand). Thus, I have covered many fields and have had a broad range of experiences.

How do you unwind?
I always find going to the beach in Thailand can help you unwind.  You can find some of the world’s best beaches here, like in Phuket and Krabi, though a nearby place is Kho Samet island. At home listening to classical music, in particular Bach, makes me wind down or sometimes the opposite – but both ways it is rewarding.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Since I live in Thailand, I am biased.  Other really amazing destinations I have been to several times are Bali and Nepal.  They are just magical places – but who knows for how long.  These places have changed a lot during the last few years, and not for the better.  

Everyone in business should read this book:
<sorry….but I don’t have a recommendation really>

Shameless plug for your business:
After a boom in Chinese and Indian contemporary art, the focus in Asia is now shifting to Southeast Asia, and top art works here are still very reasonable.

How can people connect with you?
Feel free to browse our website of top quality contemporary art from Thailand, Vietnam and Burma/Myanmar at www.thavibu.com. The gallery also has a Facebook page, and Instagram and Twitter accounts.  

Twitter handle?
@thavibu

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

Jasmine Tan, Director of Stone Amperor

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Jasmine saves her clients time and effort when doing kitchen fit outs with her biz Stone Amperor.

What’s your story?
I started working in the industry in 2003. I was in a marble and granite supplier company for 5 years. Even though I left the company, I still had customers calling me for my services. I referred them back to my previous company but they refused to because they loved the fast response service that I offered. I realised that customers do look at prices, however most of them prefer quality over quantity. Thus I have decided to establish a sole proprietor company also known as 78 Degrees which later rebranded as Stone Amperor in 2014.

What excites you most about your industry?
The kitchen countertop industry is a very confusing market. There are many brands, materials and prices to choose from. What excites me the most is my ability to help clients choose the best materials and brands within their budgets, whilst saving them time and effort.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have been in Asia all my life and I love Asia. No matter where you go there is no place like home.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I love Singapore. This is because Singapore has always been a stable country and it is great for doing business. However as it is a small country, it can be really competitive. I believe that if just do your best and give your best to your customers, you can overcome this.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Take actions. Learn and improve continuously. An idea without action is just a dream.” This was really good advice that I received from my partner.

Who inspires you?
A very down to earth billionaire from Malaysia, Robert Kuok

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Property is the foundation of every business.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Own instead of renting property for my business.

How do you unwind?
I enjoy going shopping, watching movies and hanging out with friends. I am quite a simple being.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love going to Taiwan as I love the culture there. Everyone is so polite and the weather is great.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Sun Tzu, Art of war

Shameless plug for your business:
Perfect top, Perfect price, Perfect life from Stone Amperor

How can people connect with you?
Email me at [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@StoneAmperor

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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Callum Connects

Dextre Teh, Founder of Rebirth Academy

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Dextre Teh is a consultant and marketing guru, helping F&B businesses to tighten their operations and grow their businesses.

What’s your story?
I help frustrated F&B business owners stuck in day to day operation transform from a glorified operator into a real business owner. I’m a 27 year old Singaporean second generation restaurant owner and a F&B business consultant. Entering the industry at 13 years old, I have always been obsessed with operations and systemisation. At the age of 25, I joined the insurance industry and earned a six figure yearly income. However, I left the high pay behind because it was not my passion and returned to the F&B industry. Now I help other F&B companies to tighten operations and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services.

What excites you most about your industry?
The food. I’m a big lover of food and even have a YouTube show on food in development. But that aside, it is really about impacting people through food. Creating moments and memories for people, be it a dating couple or families or friends. Providing that refuge from the daily grind of life. So in educating my consulting clients and training their staff to provide a better experience for their customers, I aim to shift the industry in the direction of creating memories instead of just selling food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I love the culture, the food and travelling in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore hands down. The environment here is built for businesses to thrive. The government is pro business and the infrastructure is built around supporting business growth. Not to mention the numerous amount of grants available in helping people start and even grow business. If I’m not mistaken, the Singaporean government is the only government in the world that offers grants to home grown businesses for overseas expansion.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Learning to do things you do not intend to master is a BIG mistake in business. Focus on what you are good at and pay others to do the rest.

Many business owners including myself are so overwhelmed by the 10,000 things that they feel they need to do everyday. We try to do everything ourselves because we think it saves us money. The only thing that, that does for us is overload our schedules and give us mediocre results. Instead we should focus on what we do best and bring in support for the rest.

Who inspires you?
Christopher M Duncan.

At 29, Chris has built multiple 7 figure businesses. He opened me to the possibility of building a business on the thing that I loved and gave me a blueprint of how to do it. He also showed me that being young doesn’t mean you cannot do great things.

Imran Mohammad and Fazil Musa
They are my mentors and inspire me every single day to pursue my dreams, to focus on celebrating life and enjoying the process of getting to where I want to be.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Time is always more expensive than money. Money, you can earn over and over again but time, once you spend it, will never come back.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am a firm believer that your experiences shape who you are. I am grateful for every single moment of my life be it the highs or the lows, the successes and the failures because all these experiences have led me to become the person I am and brought me to the place that I’m at so I will probably do things the same way as everything was perfect in its time.

How do you unwind?
Chilling out in a live music bar with a drink in hand, listening to my favourite live band, 53A. Other than that I’m big on retail therapy, buying cool and geeky stuff.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok. It feels like a home away from home where the cost of living is relatively low, the food is good and the people are friendly.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Everything you know about business is wrong by Alastair Dryburgh. It is a book that challenges commonly accepted business “truths” and inspires you to go against the grain, think different, take risks and stand your ground in the face of the challenges that will come your way as a business owner.

Shameless plug for your business:
I’m the creator of the world’s first Chilli Crab Challenge. It gained viral celebrity earlier this year with 3 major newspaper features and more than a dozen blog and online publications featuring it in the span of two weeks. In the span of the two weeks, the campaign reached well over a million people in exposure without a single cent spent in ads.

Now I help F&B companies to tighten operations, increase profits and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services. Chilli Crab Challenge (https://www.chillicrab.com/nationalday)

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/djtehkh) or visit www.rebirthacademy.sg for more information or book a 10 minute call with me @ www.tinyurl.com/dexclar

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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