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Lim Jing Ying, Co-founder of Soule Enterprise

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Lim Jing Ying is ‘Souledeiring’ on with her business, Soule providing, “a sole for every soul.”

What’s your story?
My name is Jing Ying and I co-founded the social enterprise, Soule with my two friends, Justine Lee and John Tay.
Soule is a play on two words – Soul and Sole. It all started as a project in the year 2008 after Justine, my good friend, was impacted by a humanitarian trip to China after finishing his O Level exams. Upon witnessing the lack of proper footwear in the rural villages, Justine thought of a sustainable business model: for every Soule product bought, part of the proceeds will go into helping children in need – aka to provide a Sole for every Soul.
We then started this journey with another friend, John Tay (we were then aged 16 and 17 respectively) and took the business to new heights in the youth’s business and social enterprise platform.
Currently, I am the chief shopkeeper of The Soule Store, selling locally-designed lifestyle goods such as flip-flops, sunglasses and notebooks. A portion of each sale of every Soule product goes into initiatives for children from low-income families and survivors of natural disasters. Our products are housed at our online store and in physical stores like Naiise and The Nail Social.
We have gifted a total of 1,877 pairs of footwear to children in rural schools in China and also footwear for survivors of natural disasters and 154 school bags to Singaporean children. We believe in the viability of a commercially successful brand that can sell attractive products and at the same time generate finances and awareness for social work.
Besides selling products, we recently started branching out into Soule Social Consulting to provide Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) consultancy services to corporations that seek to engage in social work or social engagement projects.

What excites you most about your industry?
What I think excites me the most is the idea that businesses can be a platform to do good, disrupt the way traditional businesses are being done and the concept of doing well, whilst doing good. We are indeed living in exciting times.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m was born and bred in Singapore. One of my favourite countries is China, where we have been doing shoe drops in the past few years to gift the children in the Yunnan province with shoes and school supplies.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
China! Funnily enough, after doing this business for the past 8 years, businesses in Singapore and China have heard about us either through media or word of mouth. Some business owners have approached us to find out more about how they can do their part to help the community – which led to the start of our CSR Consulting arm. In our consulting arm, we aim to help businesses better define and achieve their social objectives and to help give back to their community in sustainable ways.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“You create the world, blink by blink. It is entirely yours to discover and yours to create.”
― Sophia Amoruso, #GIRLBOSS

I love this quote as it inspires me to think beyond the box that we constantly and subconsciously house ourselves in.

One more quote!
“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
– Mother Teresa

Who inspires you?
Elim Chew (founder of 77th Street) is probably one female entrepreneur that inspires me to be bold and outspoken about what I believe in. Also, she was a very good mentor to us during our start up days; and her belief in youth inspire me to always give back to the next generation just as she has done for me personally.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I think it was not a recent encounter per say, but I would like to share the story of the girl with the pencil sharpener. During our very first shoe drop in 2010, we collected paper hearts filled with the dreams of the children in China. Before leaving that particular village school in the mountains of Yunnan, Lincang, I came across a written heart by a Primary 3 student, that stated – her dream was to own a pencil sharpener. I was shocked! Before that, when we asked the students, their dreams were lofty and big, and they had ambitions. However, this little girl’s dream was to own a pencil sharpener.
To any of us in Singapore, this item would be a necessity. It really blew me away in that sense. Upon uncovering this dream, we then combed the entire village school and found one last pencil sharpener that was in the staffroom. We then gave it to the girl and she was speechless. It made me realise that it sometimes takes very little to impact another person, me included.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would embrace myself and my failures with a little more grace.

How do you unwind?
I love reading and binge watching different shows on Netflix (not proud of it but not ashamed either!)

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Krabi! I recently went there for a beach vacation and it was really fun. I would love to take another short trip there again soon.

Everyone in business should read this book:
A light, fun read for lady bosses would be #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso. Her advice really speaks to me as she also spearheaded her own brand through e-commerce and selling products online.

Shameless plug for your business:
Soüle = Sole + Soul. Our mission is to provide a sole for every soul.
Can shopping change the world? We think so. Every purchase you make at Soule goes towards empowering someone in need. Since 2008, our “Sole for every Soul” initiative and Souledier movement have enabled change through shopping – a portion of each sale of every Soule product goes into initiatives for children living under the poverty line and survivors of natural disasters. To find out more about us, check out www.soule.com.sg 🙂

How can people connect with you?
Email: [email protected]
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/limjingying
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jyings

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

Benedict Heng, Founder of Mr. Farmer

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Benedict Heng is bringing back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your story?
I’m Ben from Mr. Farmer. Mr. Farmer is an online grocer dedicated to supplying the freshest produce to our customers. We believe in sustainable and ethical farming. Since a young age, I have always been an avid food lover (especially meats), developing a strong interest in all things delicious. That is why I ventured into the F&B industry, working as a junior cook for 3 years.

Midway through my career, I made a move to the finance industry to pursue monetary rewards. I dove into high-risk investments and I made lots of money from these investments. However, the good fortune did not last long and all these came crashing down when I suffered a tremendous loss. This coincided with the time that I had just started my own family and it was a huge blow to me both materially and mentally. It was this crash that made me realize that this life wasn’t for me. I went on a hiatus and eventually, it was only through the strong support from my family that I managed to tide over this tough episode.

I went back to help the family business and this was how Mr Farmer came about. My family has been in the food industry for many decades and one thing they noticed from years of experience is that sustainable farming practices are not as developed as in Europe. This is why through Mr Farmer, we hope that we can provide the best quality products to families out there who want the best ingredients for their loved ones.

What excites you most about your industry?
Delicious and wholesome food excites me. I believe food is a critical component of life and it brings people together. The opportunity to serve the community with fresh produce for a healthy life, that brings me joy.

I feel that there is still so much more we can do to improve the quality of food and bring it to the masses. One of the key components of ensuring greater quality of food is to support ethical and sustainable farming. Due to commercialization and urbanization, most farming practices these days are no longer the way they were in the old “kampong” times. Shortcuts are taken, standards are compromised, all in the name of profit. At Mr. Farmer, profit is important too but we want to focus on the concept of One Welfare – sustainable farming directly impacts our health. Our vision is to bring back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore. I call Singapore my home as it’s where my family and close friends are. I also travel frequently to Malaysia and APAC for work.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It’s definitely Singapore. There is just so much this tiny city can offer! Singapore has been globally recognized for its top-notch business environment providing its residents with developed infrastructure, political stability and excellent connectivity. These factors have given us an outstanding support system for businesses to strive.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Surround yourself with people that inspire you, challenge you to rise higher, make you better and, keep them in your life.

Who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from my uncle, who is the head of both the family and business. He takes care of our family matters at home and manages hundreds of employees at work. Handling both the family and business side of things can be tricky, but he has shown me that success can be sustainable and done with a conscience. His guiding philosophy of handling business and family is simply, to have a big heart.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Even just one day of separation from the day the meat is slaughtered, makes a world of difference to its flavour.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I have come to learn that awareness is the beginning of everything. If I had my time again, I would have probably spent more time figuring out who I truly am and with that self-awareness, begun to lead my life with more purpose and meaning.

How do you unwind?
I like to spend my free time sipping white coffee at my favourite coffee place. I enjoy taking in the surrounding sights and letting my mind wander freely. It allows me to unwind and gain clarity at the same time. It also helps me organize my thoughts to prepare for the week ahead.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
It would be Bangkok as the people there are genuinely friendly and hospitable. They say people are what defines the city and I couldn’t agree more with this. I also enjoy the ‘laid back’ vibe of Bangkok. Not to mention Bangkok has all the good food and awesome shopping choices too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Spin selling” by Neil Reckham. It’s an amazing book that teaches you a process designed to help you successfully sell your products and services to business buyers.

Shameless plug for your business:
We at Mr. Farmer have the best tasting meats in Singapore, do a blind test and you will know why it’s Michelin chefs’ preferred choice. Not only are we very confident about the taste, we are also proud to say that all our products are chemical, hormone and antibiotic free. We also focus a lot on supporting ethical and sustainable farming practices believing in the ‘One Welfare’ concept. Do check us out if you enjoy good quality food like us!

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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Callum Connects

Zac Chua, Founder & CEO of The Kettle Gourmet

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Zac Chua’s popcorn business validated itself straight away and fast tracked him to the startup world. Zac now employs 11 people and shifts 500 bags of popcorn daily.

What’s your story?
It’s a crazy one. It was an accidental startup. If you think about it, no university graduate would ever dream of becoming a popcorn seller. We crashed our first tech event to validate our idea and it took off from there. I bought a logo for $7 from a designers marketplace, printed some cheap name cards, and built a 1 page landing page. Sales started pouring in and eventually, we were serving B2B clients (corporate pantries) and we have never looked back. Today we move about 500 bags daily, we have 11 employees and we are growing. Talk about a validation that worked in our favour.

What excites you most about your industry?
It’s food! Everybody loves food! In Singapore the F&B scene is brutally competitive and it spurs me on to fight and compete for market share and to prove to myself that I can do it. It keeps me going and I won’t stop until we become the market leader.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Singapore, and have traveled to most of Southeast Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore! Even though Singapore has a high cost of living, the Government is actually very supportive of startups. They provide grants for us to tap into, and the technological infrastructure makes it possible for us to compete on a global scale. I believe if you can succeed in your business in Singapore, you can succeed in most of Southeast Asia.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
You only need to be right once, and the rest is history.

Who inspires you?
My father, who was a VC. In fact he was the one who gave me the best piece of advice which I shared above. Having one successful exit, he showed me that it’s okay to fail a million times – all it takes is just one time for you to win in business and in life.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The power of compounding.

  • Mary and John are the same age.
  • Mary saves $2k annually from the age of 19-25 – so she puts $14k into her portfolio
  • John saves $2k annually from the age of 26-65 – so he puts $80k into his portfolio, but 7 years after Mary.
  • If both are able to generate 10% per annum, who would have more at age 65?
  • John of course! But how much more?
  • Mary will have $944,641 whilst John will have $973,704
  • Think about it! Mary puts in only $14k but John delays for 7 years and puts in $80k.

CRAZY RIGHT!?!?

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing, my mistakes taught me how to become a better me. But if I really must choose, I’d say take more time to find the right business partner.

How do you unwind?
Poker, Mahjong and Dota 2.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Vietnam! Things are cheap, people are warm and friendly, and their coffee fills up my life. I would love to retire there if possible.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The richest man in Babylon

Shameless plug for your business:
We don’t need a plug. Just try our competitors and you’ll understand why!

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chuazongyou
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zacchua

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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