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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

Denise Morris Kipnis, Founder & Principal of ChangeFlow Consulting

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Denise Mossis Kipnis’ curiosity in people and the world, lead her to set up ChangeFlow Consulting.

What’s your story?
I’m driven by curiosity. Having been the only one in a room who looks like me for most of my life, I developed a curiosity about who stays, who leaves and who thrives in minority/majority situations including when and how connection and collaboration happen. I was a systems thinker long before I knew what that was, always asking why and so what; and seeing the pieces, the whole, and the places in between. So helping people and organisations move through the complexity of transformation feels natural to me.

What excites you most about your industry?
I see change and inclusion as two sides of the same thing; I don’t practice one without the other. Some people see change as death, as loss, as exhausting. And it can be. But I see in the work I do as an opportunity for something new or hidden to emerge. When an organisation understands that it is first a group of people, who themselves represent and belong to groups of people, and it begins to tackle what it would mean to understand and learn from all that talent, all that diversity, to have them all working for and not against the organisation, to truly unleash all that their people have to offer; that’s magic.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Change and inclusion are personal values as well as professional strengths. For me, living and working outside of the States was a bold experiment to see whether any of the stuff I’d learned about change and inclusion would work outside of the US. My husband and I targeted Asia specifically: it would be the greatest contrast, culturally speaking, for me; and a unique career springboard for him.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Although I’ve practiced in other cities, I am biased towards Singapore. In some ways it’s what Los Angeles is to the rest of the United States, a microcosm of sorts. The regional/global nature of it means that so many different nationalities and cultures are represented. As a result of this mix, you never know what you might get. In some situations, cultural dynamics are obvious, sometimes subdued. The variability is compelling.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.” Michael Rouan.

Who inspires you?
Often it’s a “what” not a “who.” I can get inspiration from a passage in a book or a situation in a movie, as well as a turn of a phrase or watching people interact. I often make the biggest connections between the various threads I’m working on when I’m sitting in someone else’s event.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’m honestly not blown away by much. Instead, I’m struck how circular things can be: ideas often come back around with a slightly different twist and I watch the way it shakes things loose for people. I recently sat through a workshop on Self as Instrument, and despite being thoroughly versed already, I learned something. In preparing for a panel on design thinking, I unearthed a new language to describe things.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
You’ve caught me at a good time. I’m sitting in appreciation and gratitude for all my experiences, because I wouldn’t be who I was today if all that has happened, didn’t. And yet one thing comes to mind: It wasn’t until I redesigned my website two years ago (shout out to Brew Creative!) that I realised I hadn’t made explicit agreements with my past clients as to what I could share publicly about our engagement, or whether I could use their logos in my promotional materials. In my business, confidentiality is so important, and yet I need to be able to talk about the work as reputation and experience leads to the next success, and so on. It turned out a lot of the contacts I had known had left the organisations where the work was done, so they couldn’t help at that point. So the practice I’m carrying forward is to get those agreements up front, and to make sure my relationships in client systems are broad as well as deep.

How do you unwind?
Science fiction, puzzles, wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Home. I don’t travel to relax, I travel to learn and explore.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Built to Change, by Ed Lawler and Chris Worley. To my knowledge, it’s the first pivot from advising organisations away from stability and toward dynamism, from strategic planning to strategizing as an action verb; to blow up the traditions and rigidity that impede organisations from developing change capability.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re taught that there are two kinds of people: those who see forests, and those who see trees. There is a third type, my type, and we see the ecosystem. Worms, climate, birds, the spaces in between. This is the perspective organisations need to be successful in solving complex problems and thriving in change.
ChangeFlow uniquely blends four disciplines (two of which are multi-disciplinary in themselves): organisation development, culture and inclusion, change management and project management.

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChangeFlowConsulting/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dmorriskipnis/
LinkedIn Company page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/4862954/
Email: [email protected]
Website: http://www.changeflowconsulting.com

Twitter handle?
@ChangeFlow

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

Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

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Agnes Yee started Space Executive in Singapore, which is a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

What’s your story?
After graduation, I joined a design media company as a Business Development Executive, during the era when ‘reading a magazine online’ was unheard of. I believe that laid the foundation for being unfazed by rejections.

I fell into recruitment pre-GFC and rode the highs and lows in the early years. A decade later, I decided to set up my own recruitment company, partly because I could. I’m acutely aware of the face that being an Asian female in Singapore is sometimes a privilege, and that many women in the world are living a very different existence.
Thereafter, we joined Space Executive as part of a merger. I am currently the Partner of Space Executive, a recruitment company focused specialist disciplines, including Legal, Finance, Digital, Sales and Marketing and Change. We also run Space Ventures, a venture capital business, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
On a daily basis, we’re influencing how one spends a third of their day. It is interesting how the Internet has transformed the industry, and I’m excited to see how we can harness technology to bring us to the next phase of this business.

The VC is an extension of applying our skills and experience in reading people. We very much invest in the people as much as the idea. Being a native Singaporean, it’s been exhilarating watching Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of ideas; and young entrepreneurs simply daring to dream.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and bred Singaporean. I love that I speak both English and Mandarin, grew up playing with Indian friends and eating Malay food.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for the low barriers of entry to set up a business, but has to be China (and Hong Kong) for their hunger and constant innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
青春不要留白 which translates to ‘Don’t waste your youth.’

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has gone against the grain.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It wasn’t recent but reading the article on https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html never fails to blow my mind how little time we have left. Charting our lives in weeks, and realising I only have enough time left to enjoy 60 Christmas turkeys, read 300 books (all if I’m lucky); and mostly, I’m left with the last 5% of the time that I spend in-person with my parents.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m cognisant that every decision I made in life has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change one thing. But I’d really like to have had more time to travel.

How do you unwind?
Exercise and wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Trekking any mountain in Asia. It brings us back to the most basic. To overcome elements of nature and our own mind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive started in Singapore, a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies. We assist organisations in accessing a targeted and specialised, and often times transient talent pool.

Out of Singapore, we have recruited across 14 countries; and have embarked on our global expansion plans with offices in Hong Kong and London this year, and US, Japan and Europe in the following years.

Space Ventures provides funding, management and financial guidance to young businesses with original ideas. We have invested in peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring, social media education, and other start-ups spanning diverse industries. We are always interested in hearing more about new ideas.

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/agnesyee/

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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