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Natalie Turner, Founder of Entheo

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For anyone sitting on the fence as to whether they should explore the business opportunities in Asia, Natalie and Carl have a great story of how they built up a contact base, made the leap and have been thriving in Singapore.

What’s your story?
in January 2009 I came to Singapore in the dark, cold days of the Global recession  to speak at a leadership conference at SMU. Within the space of four days I had set up 22 meetings and was overwhelmed by the interest and enthusiasm for innovation and creativity services. I thought, what am I doing in the UK,  packed up my bags, spent a year building up contacts, set up our company in Singapore and moved, with my husband and business partner, in February 2010. We have never looked back.

What excites you most about your industry?
Being on the evolving edge of the new and helping broaden people’s thinking to imagine great things. To see people light up when they realise they have untapped creative potential, and to see organisations change so that their culture’s support innovation as a way of working. To take innovation beyond the Research and Development labs and democratise it amongst the many. The fact that there is never time for boredom, always more to both learn and unlearn and to have our curiosity constantly fuelled with new ideas.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I originally came to Singapore in January 2008 to speak at a creativity conference and had been here on a couple of business trips whilst I was working for an international research company, prior to setting up my company in 2006.  I made some great friends and kept in touch and it was through these contacts that the opportunity to move to Singapore evolved a few years later.

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It’s got to be Singapore really. Ease of setting up business, business friendly policies and regulations, a Government that invests heavily in helping grow local companies’ innovation capabilities.  As well as working with local SMEs through SPRING Singapore’s capability funds, we work a lot with multi nationals who have their Asian headquarters here.  This gives us great opportunities to travel across the region and work with the diversity of cultures in Asia which we love.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I had a great mentor in the UK who said to me, “Natalie, you have been working in the field of innovation for many years, you know a lot, go and create your own intellectual property.” So, I did.  Out of this The Six ‘I’s of Innovation ® was born and is now used as an innovation management and assessment tool all over the world.

Who inspires you?
There are a number of people that inspire us but what they all have in common are certain types of characteristics. Those who have grit, the ability to preserve against the odds, the passion to follow their heart as well as their mind and a willingness to be open to life and all that it can give.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
We are both really interested in science and health and were recently introduced to an amazing company called Jeunesse Global, one of the fastest growing companies in the direct selling industry. Jeunesse are bringing cutting edge Nobel Prize winning research to a mass market.  One of their products, Finiti, blew our minds. It can actually reverse the aging process by growing the shortest telomeres in our cells (the parts of our chromosomes which protect our DNA). As a species we are only dipping our toes into these new discoveries. It is an exciting time to be alive.  

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
We don’t live with regrets. Never have. We are hugely optimistic and see the bright side of life in all things.  We could say that we wish we hadn’t made some business decisions that we made in the UK when economic times were really hard, but then we might never have come to Asia if we had done things differently. That doesn’t mean that we don’t go through the pain, we do, but we firmly believe, if you have strong relationships with people and a supportive family, you can turn what might be considered disastrous into something quite beautiful.

How do you unwind?
I have, what I call, rhythms in my life that help me keep anchored and balanced.  The practice of mindfulness and meditation, journal writing, Qi Gong and yoga.  I start my day, or most days anyway, with these rhythms and if I miss them for a few days I start to miss them. They keep my feet firmly on the ground, in the here and now. Carl likes to DJ and play soul, disco and funk music and staying healthy and fit with regular gym workouts. He also designs his own clothes and loves to look stylish. We both are epicurean in nature, and love the finer things of life, enjoying a glass of red wine or two and hanging out with friends as well as being keen fiction readers and travellers.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
There are many, but we would have to say Bali. We have been five times, over the last few years, and never tire of the beauty and uniqueness of the Island of the Gods. I went to the Ubud Writers festival a couple of years ago and stayed in a small guest house overlooking rolling rice paddy fields.  The sounds of the Gamelan fused with the scent of jasmine and frangipani transport me back to Bali, and in so doing, to a place of deep relaxation. We both love to hang out in Seminyak too, cool shops and great night life, sipping cocktails by the sea.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Unleashing Innovation by Nancy Snyder and Deborah Duarte.  There are very few books that document how a large company, with all the legacy systems and corporate culture that that entails, can be innovative.  This is a great story of how Whirlpool, the white goods manufacturer transformed not only itself but its industry.

Shameless plug for your business:
The Entheo Network is a leadership innovation company that provides consultancy and training services to help individuals and companies create new products and services whilst building innovation skills, capabilities and the right cultural environment to support and sustain innovation as a way of working. Our clients come from a range of industries, both big and small. We’d be delighted to explore with you how we could help you grow your business.

How can people connect with you?
www.entheo.com
[email protected]
[email protected]

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

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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

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

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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

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