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Prerna Malik, Owner of Social Media Direct

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Prerna and her team at Social Media Direct are creating impact, “one word at a time.”

What’s your story?
Our digital marketing agency, Social Media Direct, was born in 2011. We’re a small team at the moment but when we started out, it was just my husband and I. It wasn’t easy but it sure was a lot of fun.

Our agency was born because, like most entrepreneurs, we had our backs against the wall. My husband, Mayank, was really ill and in chronic pain and as a result had to leave his job with American Express. It was at the same time, that we had several small businesses reach out to us via our personal blog, asking us to manage their social media and content for them.

One thing led to another and soon we were in business. We needed this business not only for income purposes but also, as a reason to turn around our health and mindset. Owning a business is great for us since it forces you to re-evaluate your priorities and focus on your core values.

4 years down the line, we’re making a full-time, 6-figure income, in the best of health and working with businesses worldwide.

What excites you most about your industry?
The dynamic, ever-changing nature. Nothing is a given. Everything is open to exploration, testing, tweaking and change.

The only constant in content marketing is quality. Since I’m a perfectionist {ahem!}, this emphasis on quality excites me. It’s amazing to be able to continue to raise the bar and create content that reflects a brand’s values and vision, resonates with it’s audience and most importantly, brings results.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m an Asian Indian, born and brought up in India. We have been able to service a global client base across the U.S, Australia, and Europe, right from our Asian headquarters. It gives us great joy when our clients acknowledge and appreciate our work ethic and best of all say that they never realised we’re in India because we’re so much a part of their on-site team.

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Gurgaon, India. We’re headquartered here and live here. It’s a melting pot of experiences, cultures and blends the small town feel with metropolitan facilities and infrastructure.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Actually I have two “best” pieces of advice:
“Always keep moving. One foot in front of the other.”
“Your mindset matters.”

Keeping momentum going and also, having the right mindset makes a huge difference in an entrepreneur’s life. This is especially true when things don’t go to plan or there are setbacks.

Having the right mindset and keeping your eye on the big picture and long-term goal is what keeps you going.

Who inspires you?
In my personal life,  I’m inspired everyday by my daughter. She’s 7 and she’s incredibly positive, fearless, confident and compassionate. I look at her trying out new experiences, foods, books and love her enthusiasm for life. It inspires me to be braver with my choices, be more mindful of my words and actions and be a better person, every day.

In my business life, I’m inspired by Sheryl Sandberg, Arianna Huffington, Mark Zuckerberg. All of whom have blazed their own paths, set the bar high and never been afraid to think out of the box, question conventions and confidently make their own decisions.  

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Failure, in business, isn’t fatal. You can recover from setbacks and it’s good to fail every now and then, actually.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
While I don’t believe in having regrets, if I had to choose one thing it would be getting started on building my email list earlier. I started focusing on building my email list almost 2 years after I’d had a website. Yes, big fat mistake.

If you’re just starting out, do this one thing. Even if you don’t have a website, put up a splash page and collect email addresses. You’ll be glad you did when you publish your first post, or pop up that first product.

How do you unwind?
I’m an ISFJ which means I enjoy time on my own and quiet time is an essential time for me. Whether it is power walking or simply snuggling up quietly with my daughter while she reads, unwinding for me is about escaping from the online chatter and surrounding myself with calm and serenity.

Reading and baking are two other ways I unwind and let the stress slip away as I flip pages of a book or whip up cakes and cookies.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Goa! Hands down. The best destination to unwind, relax and just press pause. Gorgeous beaches, scrumptious food, a vibrant nightlife and of course, the ocean, washing away your cares and stress. Bliss.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Purple Cow by Seth Godin. Every business needs to be a “purple cow”. How are you carving your identity and uniqueness for yourself? What sets you apart from all the other fish in the ocean?  This book not only inspires you, it actually motivates you to “purple cow-ify” your business too!

Shameless plug for your business:
Social Media Direct {soon to be rebranded to Content Bistro}  is a gourmet digital marketing agency that works with time-starved entrepreneurs and small business owners.

It serves up fresh and crisp content marketing and community management strategies and solutions designed to turn browsers into buyers and fans into followers.

Guided by over 7 years of experience, Social Media Direct believes that content marketing is the cornerstone for all businesses. It is the key to engaging with your customers, your community and your contemporaries.

We specialise in eCommerce businesses, in the home and family niche. Our deep understanding of this market is what has enabled us to work with businesses in the U.S and Australia successfully, delivering results and creating impact, one word at a time.

Our services include: Gourmet aka custom content creation, email marketing, social media and community management strategies and solutions, search engine optimization (SEO), brand outreach and visibility.

Having gone through the entrepreneurial “startup” fire ourselves, we also have a range of DIY eBooks and eCourses for bootstrapping business owners, who’d rather learn the ropes themselves.

How can people connect with you?
To learn more about our gourmet content marketing services and products, please visit our website www.socialmediadirectbiz.com

You can also connect with us :
on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/contentbistro ,
on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/contentbistro/ and
on Instagram at https://instagram.com/contentbistro/

Twitter handle?
@content_bistro

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

CallumConnects

Callum 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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