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Richel Xie, Creator/Producer of DreamGirl

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Richel Xie’s DreamGirl SG is shaking up the pageant industry, empowering women by focusing not just on their beauty but a full range of capabilities and talents.

What’s your story?
My name is Richel Xie, Director of OTwo Inc Private Limited, Creator/Producer of DreamGirl
DreamGirl SG is about finding beautiful, intelligent and passionate ladies out there who do not fit the conventional height requirements for pageants (1.65m and below) or modelling. Not only does the competition aim to give these ladies a chance to showcase and further develop their talents, we also hope to open doors and opportunities for them to do more for themselves and their community.
DreamGirl SG emphasizes not only the beauty and poise of our contestants, but more importantly, their attributes like their character and personality and their work ethic. We aim to shift away from the idea that women should only be judged by how they look or their figure – as is traditionally done through beauty pageants – but rather, by their efforts and the results they are capable of achieving. Through a unique format where the contestants will be awarded points based on how well they do in a wide range of activities that test their writing skills, patience, teamwork and physical coordination.
DreamGirl SG aims to differentiate itself from the other pageants by giving our participants a sustained platform to showcase the full range of their capabilities and talents.

What excites you most about your industry?
Pageants in Singapore have a really bad name. Ever since Miss Singapore Universe got pulled off the air and the Ris Lows of many other pageants started getting notoriety, very few people – businesses, sponsors and contestants alike – wanted anything to do with pageantry and though many other unique, smaller pageants started springing up (Miss Scuba, Miss Mermaid, etc), they were just rehashing the same formula over and over again, just with slightly different agendas and tweaked execution methods.
Dreamgirl SG is about taking that formula and turning it on its head. Instead of having a group of ladies being judged by how they look, this competition has no category for looks, beauty, makeup or catwalk. Instead of having the ladies spend hours posing for pictures like mannequins, the contestants are sent to learn Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, catch wrestling, flow-boarding, Burlesque dancing and pilates and they are given points according to how much effort they put into each activities and how well they do.
Instead of having them just go on stage dressed in different outfits and giving a short introduction of themselves, this competition allows everyone to truly understand who each of the contestants are through constant interviews during and after each activities; what their hopes and dreams are; what kind of emotions they are going through; and how determined they are to fight for what they want.
This to me, is truly exciting because no longer will these females be judged as little more than walking vases, with little to no personalities or intelligence displayed. To me this is both demeaning and embarrassing for both the competition and the contestants. To have a platform where ladies can truly show their abilities and their strength, where they can truly be empowered and enriched, where they can embark on a journey of true self discovery, this to me, is exhilarating. This industry needs a shake up, and Dreamgirl SG is here to rock the boat.

What’s your connection to Asia?
At the moment, there is not much connection to Asia per se, except in terms of planning. We plan for this competition to first take South East Asia, and then slowly but surely, move into Asia. We have a huge demographic of petite, fun sized, strong and intelligent women here, not just in Singapore, but in the whole of Asia, and I believe this platform is the ideal stage through which all of them can shine.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore. Although operating, logistics and manpower costs here are very high, the legal framework, safe environment and the building and online infrastructure in Singapore is of a decently advanced level for everyday business operations to be executed in a fast and efficient manner. Although, I wish there was less red tape for entrepreneurs to access funding.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
To never give up, no matter how steep the hill is. Every movement upwards, no matter how slow, is still an upgrade of your current situation. Honestly I can’t remember where I heard this, but I guess this sort of repeats itself through many different mediums and in different forms.

Who inspires you?
Cliched, but it’s my mum. She brought me and my brother up through sheer grit and determination after my father passed away when I was 5, leaving her at 24 with two kids and no idea how to properly raise them. Without advanced education (just O’levels), she went through long hours and days of absolute misery just to bring the two of us up, and on just one pay cheque. It took a lot of tears, a lot of putting aside thoughts of giving up and ending her life, and even a nasty divorce, but she succeeded. The sacrifices that she had to make and all the life experiences she had to put aside just to raise us was what inspired Dreamgirl SG, and set the standard for my ideal girlfriend.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That people who are the closest to you, are the ones who could actually hurt you in the worst possible fashion. I recently ended a business relationship with a former business partner whom I helped earn a lot of money for. It was really eye-opening to see how devious, petty and vindictive a person with whom you used to share so much with, can be. But it was even more heart-breaking to see, that when everything goes sour, people with whom you have done so much for, and on whom you thought you could count on for support, just disappear.
I have heard about the cruelty of mankind before, but experiencing this myself, just blew me away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing really, every experience helped shaped me into what I am today.
Oh, maybe be kinder, bolder, and take even more risks than I have already taken. Some experiences are worth dire consequences.

How do you unwind?
Intellectual shows that push the boundaries of what’s acceptable, are my passion. I can binge watch Suits, House of Cards, Preacher, Legion and House for days if my schedule allows me to. Otherwise, there is always Moscato and Football Manager (weird combination, but that’s me!)

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I absolutely love the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand. Pristine beaches, no cars, crappy food, sunburn. I love all of it! Nothing like having to deal with nothing for a couple of days on white sandy beaches with friendly monkeys.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Sun Tzu’s Art of War, because business is war, no matter what anyone will tells you.

Shameless plug for your business:
Be part of something truly different, unique, and representative of how women should truly be gauged – by their character and capabilities. Your participation as a sponsor or investor could mean everything to these contestants, and to your business as well. Dreamgirl SG is a platform dedicated to female empowerment, to strength, to dedication, and it’s a platform that is only going to get bigger and bigger every single year. This competition is now Singapore’s most social media active, female-centric competition, with a fan base on Facebook numbering close to 40 thousand.
As we set our sights on Malaysia and Philippines, we are also looking for partners who can come on board on this exciting journey and help take up arms together with us in this revolution against dull, appearance obsessed, demeaning pageants. Women should be celebrated for who they are, how hard they are willing to fight and all the wonderful things they are capable of achieving.
Help them achieve their dreams. Let us help you achieve your business goals giving you access to reach out to thousands of strong beautiful and independent women on our platform.
#fightforyourdreams

How can people connect with you?
Email me — [email protected], or search for Dreamgirl SG on
Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/DreamGirlSg/,
Instagram — dreamgirl_sg , and
Youtube — https://www.youtube.com/dreamgirlSGandasia/

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

Norman Tien, Founder of Neuromath and Early Math Matters

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From a young age, Norman Tien, found his passion helping students as a math tutor and went on to translate that into a successful business.

What’s your story?
From the age of 14, I knew I would be in business for myself and started designing my company logo.

Growing up in a poor family, I worked part time while I was in school. That’s when I started tutoring and realised I had a gift to help students “see” mathematics. I delivered good results, and my students started to love math as well.

A turning point was when I was down with dengue fever and I realised I had to grow my business to the next level. I started a learning centre and that was the beginning of Neuromath. The initial years were tough as costs went up while my personal income took a dive. I almost gave up, but I pushed through.

Today, we have 3 specialty math enrichment centres managed and delivered by my dedicated team of teachers.

What excites you most about your industry?
“How to win” has always influenced how I position myself in the industry. I researched the psychology of learning, why some students are so naturally good at math, while others struggled. I managed to find the connection, and have always sought out niches to position myself so I can win.

In the beginning, I fused academic delivery with psychology to differentiate my services. Now I have a good team of teachers fully equipped with a psychological skillset.

In the next evolution of our business, we will incorporate technology into education in order to customise each student’s learning experience based on his or her needs.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and educated in Singapore. One key driver why I started a business was, as a youth, I witnessed how my dad struggled daily as a taxi driver trying to make ends meet.

That said, I am very blessed to be in Singapore and to be given the right education. I see this as a very important factor to my success today.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – well, for one, most of my businesses are here. Singapore is convenient for business and is very well governed. There are rules and systems that make the entire entrepreneurial journey more secure here. One big plus is the location: Singapore is a hub that allows us to connect to the world.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
船到桥头自然直 –
There is a Chinese saying that when a boat goes near the pier, it will automatically align itself (with the current). It means we don’t have to worry too much, that things will take care of themselves.

A mentor once challenged me: “But who can guarantee you can even reach the pier?”

It is such a highly competitive world we are in, who can guarantee success? This is the ONE question that has been etched in my mind for decades. The Chinese saying always comes to mind when I am positioning, designing and strategizing for my business.

Who inspires you?
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew – The fact that he started ruling the country just like a startup. With limited resources, he was able to find a strong positioning to differentiate his country from the rest of the of Asia. With hardwork and proper planning, he transformed Singapore from a fishing village to a prominent financial hub in Asia.

Because Mr. Lee Kuan Yew positioned Singapore so well, government owned companies, such as Singapore Airlines, have emerged as the best in the world.

His story inspires me, spurs me to understand that success is not by chance but by design – every little step, all the strategies are all planned out. Not at all by chance.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
My business coach, Marshall Thurber, shared with me the power of the “Trim Tab” – a small part of the rudder system in a ship. This Trim Tab, despite its small size, is able to influence the entire ship’s direction by turning it.

This metaphor helped me see that a man can influence the entire world if the right effort is applied. We are now living in an entirely new world, the way we commute with an app on the phone – that’s the power of the Trim Tab at work.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would embark on the same journey but I would seek a mentor at a very early age.

I have been through many hard knocks along the way, and I definitely could have shortened the learning curve if I had a mentor to advise me on the many aspects of entrepreneurship.

How do you unwind?
Driving down long highways helps me unwind, that’s when I let my mind relax and wander.

I love long distance driving and riding. My wife gave me a Harley Davidson Tourer for my 50th birthday and we intend to embark on riding holidays together in Asia.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Hong Kong – I love the fast pace and the vibrance of the city. I love the cars there and it’s a very unique and exciting experience for me. And of course, I love the food there too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
One Minute Millionaire – this book highlights the mindset of an individual that is the key determinant for success in whatever we embark on. As long as we know we have a very strong reason why we need to do it, we can do it!

Shameless plug for your business:
I am the CEO and Founder of 2 Math enrichment brands:
Neuromath is a Specialist Math Learning Centre that helps students from Primary 1 to Junior College, empowering them with strategies, skills and a strong desire to learn and problem solve. We use technology to train students to avoid careless mistakes reclaiming 30 marks or more in Math exams and achieve their full potential in math.
www.neuromath.com.sg

Early Math Matters is a premier Mathematics and Cognitive Development enrichment centre for preschool children aged 3-6 years old. Through purposeful play and our renowned EMM approach, we help learners build a strong foundation for problem solving at an early age, and instil in them a passion & love for math that will stay with them for life.
www.earlymathmatters.com

We are actively seeking passionate teachers, entrepreneurs and investors who are keen to grow the education business with us.

How can people connect with you?
I speak regularly at workshops for schools, parents and platforms demonstrating the use of technology for peak performance in education.

Do contact me at
www.NormanTien.com

Alternatively, you can connect with me:
www.NormanTien.com/facebook
www.NormanTien.com/linkedin

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

Mikyung Kim, TV Commercial Producer

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Mikyung Kim is a savvy producer who runs her own TV and print production business, based in Hong Kong.

What’s your story?
I am a TV commercial and print producer working with advertising agencies and brands to bring their communication needs to the screen. My background is in film production and I started my career in Hollywood working with Oscar winning directors Michel Gondry and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Before starting my own company last year to produce content directly with agencies and brands, I was with Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong for nearly five years as the Senior Producer and Head of TV running the film production department.

What excites you most about your industry?
How it’s constantly evolving! Every day is different and it’s certainly never boring. I love that it’s a creative industry and that my job involves talking to people with creative minds on how we can bring a story on paper to life. It’s exciting that the advertising industry places high value on the creativity and effectiveness of content. I’ve produced a few commercials that creatively push the envelope with fun and sometimes wild ideas that have converted into positive brand awareness. Ever heard of KFC Finger Lickin’ Good…Nail Polish that yes, tastes like chicken? https://www.adweek.com/creativity/kfc-just-made-edible-finger-lickin-good-nail-polish-yeah-tastes-chicken-171245/

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Seoul and raised in Hong Kong until graduating from high school at HKIS. I spent my university years in Boston at Emerson College and worked in Los Angeles at Anonymous Content and Partizan Entertainment. But on a brief visit back to Hong Kong in 2010, I decided to move back and continue my career here, and it was the best decision I ever made.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong is my home so it will always be my favourite city for business and for me personally. What I love about Hong Kong is that while I am based here, I can actually work with agencies and brands from anywhere in APAC. If I need to attend an important meeting, I can just hop on a quick flight easily. I spent most of 2017 working in Seoul with Korean agency Cheil and Samsung, and currently I am working with Japanese agency ADK and Toyota based in Singapore.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Fake it until you become it,” from Amy Cuddy’s TED talk. Worth a watch. This helped me early in my career when I felt like I was under qualified for the job I was in. I learned to fake my confidence and fake a powerful body language until I truly felt that confidence became something real. It was nerve wracking at first but it worked and now I don’t have to fake it.

Who inspires you?
My friends. Noelle who worked part time jobs while being a full time student to pay her own tuition while we were in college together. Osti who is a lawyer focused on supporting developing nations and a board member of Redress, an environmental NGO working to reduce waste in the fashion industry. Vanessa who runs a real estate company, co-owns the gym Crossfit Asphodel, started a health foods business called Quo and NGO The Keep Moving Project to promote wellness in our community. Cathy who will be the first Asian woman to direct a big budget superhero film starring Margot Robbie with Warner Bros and DC. And too many more to name!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
5.2 million plastic bottles are thrown away in Hong Kong every day. Plastic pollution is a major issue for the environment and we as responsible citizens can do our small part by reducing our consumption of unnecessary plastic. I do mine by having a water filter at home and carrying my own reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go. I love the brand Hydroflask because the stainless steel material keeps water hot or cold for hours, so I don’t feel tempted to buy a cold water at 7-11 on those hot, humid days we have here.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
About five years ago I purchased my very first stock and put one month’s salary into it, which at the time was a lot of money for me. Knowing how that stock has performed now, I would have put all my savings into it.

How do you unwind?
Exercise is essential in my daily life to help clear my head and de-stress. My go to is a workout at Crossfit Asphodel, running outdoors, yoga and hiking. But a glass of red wine and live music at Soiree in Soho on Sunday night works pretty well too!

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
One of the best trips I ever took was to the island of Lombok in Indonesia. Two girl friends and I did a 3 day 2 night hiking and camping trip to summit the Mount Rinjani Volcano. It was physically challenging but mentally relaxing. There was no cellphone reception, no distractions, we had the company of nature and nights with skies full of shooting stars. It was pretty magical. We then went to the Gili Islands for a few days of scuba diving, yoga and sitting on the beach doing nothing but sipping on coconuts. That was pretty relaxing too.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” by Lois P. Frankel and “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. Essential reads for every working woman and/or man who wants to know how to support the working women in their life.

Shameless plug for your business:
I am a TV commercial and print producer that can plug into an existing advertising agency or brand team to produce their communication needs. Many advertising agencies these days are scaling down so they have creative directors and account services but may not have an in-house producer, so I can fill that gap by becoming a part of the existing agency team. For brands that want to produce content directly without involving an agency, I can also bridge the gap by bringing my production knowledge in-house and working as part of the marketing/brand team and liaising with the other departments in the company such as product team and ecomm.

How can people connect with you?
They can email me at [email protected]
or visit my website at mkimproducer.com

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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