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Nicolette Ng & Eileen Chin, Founders of The Write Corner

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Nicolette Ng and Eileen Chin

The Write Corner was set up by Eileen and Nicolette and it provides English and Creative Writing classes for kindergarten, primary and secondary students

What’s your story?
Nicolette’s story:
I graduated from university in May 2013. When I graduated, I was very fortunate to get what I thought was my dream job in one of the top PR agencies in Singapore. Though I learned a lot and genuinely planned to carve my career there, I wasn’t sure if I could find fulfillment and be happy there long term. About six months into my job, I quit and decided to teach tuition from home.
During my university life, I taught at a tuition centre and took up private tutoring assignments. Even when I was holding the PR job, I taught on the weekends so by the time I quit, I had about 3.5 years of experience in teaching writing for primary school students. It’s not a long time but it gave me some concrete methods on how to help children improve their writing and a good sense of the MOE syllabus as well as the Singapore education system at large.
I started giving out flyers and soon taught about 12 students from my home. In March 2014, I noticed a small corner HDB shop space just in next block from my house. It was about 300 square feet, a really small place and a thought crossed my mind; maybe I could teach there if the rent is not too expensive. I made a call in June 2014. The rent was decent. That is how The Write Corner started.
It has been 2 years 7 months since we opened at Blk 134 Lorong Ah Soo with a 300 square feet space.
We just opened our 3rd branch last July and have crossed 500 students this March 2017. We currently have 7 full-time staff on board, including my partner Eileen and myself.

Eileen’s story:
I graduated with a business degree from University of London. While I was schooling, I spent about 5 years doing part time as an administrator at a tuition centre. My time there helped me a lot in setting up systems and understanding the operations and my target audience. On top of that, I also tutored a few students at their homes for a couple of years.
My first job was in the shipping industry and I soon found out that I found more fulfilment in the education industry. I joined Nicolette around October 2014 and it has been an exciting journey since.

What excites you most about your industry?
Nicolette:
The children (be it educators from MOE schools or in the private industry) which we teach and impact. I often remind my teachers and staff that each student who walks into The Write Corner is someone’s child. Our professional duty and job is to create a nurturing and conducive learning environment so that we can help each child reach their highest potential and be the best writers they can be – regardless their background, behaviour or ability level.
Eileen: Helping children learn. Being able to see tangible improvements in their language over time makes me very happy and fulfilled. Also seeing the ideas and different parts of the business come together.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Nicolette & Eileen:
Born and bred in Singapore!

The Write Corner

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Nicolette & Eileen:
We have never explored any other places to do business but from personal experience, Singapore is a great place to start an education business. The Singapore agencies offer robust support for SMEs. We have been grateful recipients of grants, workshops and mentorship programmes that have helped us to better as a business along the way.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Nicolette: “Hire slow, fire fast.”
Eileen: People are the heart of the business and we should make it a point to invest in them even if sometimes it doesn’t make the most sense financially.

Who inspires you?
Nicolette: So many. I am most inspired by people who live their lives with great discipline and purpose.
Eileen: My father. He is an entrepreneur himself. He is a hardworking man and has been running the business for almost 30 years.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Nicolette: In business, a common rule is that we should always try to heed to detect and fix any problems in a production process at the lowest-value stage possible. It is something I knew all along but did not know how to communicate to my team. Andrew Grove explained that, along with other important business processes, so well and comprehensibly in his book, High Output Management. It is a great book for any (aspiring) manager.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nicolette: Spend more time to think and reflect. Listen more than I speak.
Eileen: I would have taken more time to look at the bigger picture than focus on firefighting / the current problems and needs only.

How do you unwind?
Nicolette: Netflix! Also, spending time with my husband and family.
Eileen: Good food and Netflix. Definitely no talking at all.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Nicolette: So far, it’s been Korea. I like the city life in Seoul and the nature and sea in Jeju.
Eileen: Bangkok. Cheap shopping, massages and yummy food.

Shameless plug for your business:
Nicolette:
The Write Corner provides English and creative writing classes for kindergarten, primary and secondary students. We run a maximum class size of 7 students. At the Kindergarten level, we use a fun, multi-sensory approach to help children build foundations in the language. At the primary and secondary level, we use a structured skills-based approach to help them progress as they study under the MOE syllabus in schools.
Our team is young but extremely dedicated and passionate. Eileen and myself work closely with our teachers to ensure that teaching and marking standards are consistent and excellent across the branches.
I would also like to add that there are many different language teaching approaches that are offered in the private industry. Because each child is uniquely different, Eileen and myself believe it is important that both the parent and the explore their options to find a centre or school whose curriculum and team are a good fit for them.

The Write Corner logo

How can people connect with you?
You can reach us via our website: www.thewritecorner.sg

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

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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Callum Connects

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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