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Simon Wong, Founder of Triquetra.sg

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Inspired by his incredible grandfather, Simon Wong keeps his work and personal life varied.

What’s your story?
I’m a British born Hong Konger, and came to Singapore in 1999 for my late wife. I grew up heavily influenced by my grandad, who was a Tai Chi Expert and lived to 94 maintaining total physical health and mental dexterity the entire way. I first met him when he was 75, he could still do 3 fingered push ups and pistol squats. He had run a 200 year old family tea empire that stretched from Fuzhou to Guangzhou, a clothing business, and raised 5 kids while having time for a daily nap, studying, and frequent calligraphy practise. One of the strongest impressions he left was that he was always energetic, and never, ever sick. It made me rethink about human potential and how to achieve such a balanced life in a modern context. Maintaining wellbeing and living authentically doing things I truly enjoy, as he did, has moulded the way I live. I have my fingers in a few pies.

The two main pies are design and tourism: being an owner and director from 2003 at the award winning design firm Chemistry, I got to contribute during its formative decade to the foundation of its graphic design business, and sat at the helm of major rebranding projects.
As a designer, in my early years in Singapore I designed the iconic Singapore Management University’s ‘tangram lion’ brand-mark.

While wearing the tourism hat, I recently launched Singapore’s vintage vespa sidecar tours. With the support of STB and other investors, I put on the roads a fleet of fully restored sidecars – the first tour in the world using vintage vespa sidecars. I get to utilise my branding and design expertise to create something we see has the potential to become truly iconic – as synonymous with Singapore as the Singapore Girl, Shophouses or Chilli Crab.

Aside from conceptualising tour experiences, I also oversee Fleet Services – the restoration and upkeep of vintage bikes, from maintenance to design and development of new ride technology.
And yes, in keeping up with Gramps, I Taichi every day and get a powernap on most.

What excites you most about your industry?
Having my fingers in several pies. I get to be a Taichi practitioner, a designer, and a scooter guy. I believe it’s healthy to maintain freedom of movement and shift from one project to another, and not be confined to one workspace. The common link in my work is they’re creative and expressive businesses – and the outcome of my work frequently enriches lives, or puts smiles on stranger’s faces, be it an item of design or a vintage vespa experience.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Through family, it’s people, and culture – after my wife passed away fighting cancer, I make sure I live a conscious life – conscious in the meditator’s sense of the word, in that one remains aware of one’s thoughts as they arise, and chooses to go with those that lead to constructive outcomes while negating suffering. I try to ensure fair effort is concentrated in giving back to people in need, through organising fundraisers and putting profits to good causes.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I have personal connections to Hong Kong, Malaysia and of course Singapore. These cities are humming with interesting connections and opportunities, it’s always exciting to see the ideas that emerge from conversations! Ultimately I do have a soft spot for Singapore. All the pieces of the jigsaw can be found there. Things get done fast.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Listen to your breath. That’s from my retired meditation teacher.

Who inspires you?
My Grandad and my godma. She’s 91, with a memory sharp as a knife and mentally, extremely agile. She suffered a stroke last Christmas that rendered her unable to call for our weekly chats, for four months. 11 months later, she was speaking normally again, and amazed doctors asked her to help coach other stroke patients.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Feldenkrais Method. Completely complementary with my practise in Taichi – a few sessions of gentle moving with awareness led to experiences of catharsis, full release of tension in the hips and shoulders, and emotional reset. I now incorporate ideas from Feldenkrias Method into my Taichi work.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing at all.

How do you unwind?
Truthfully, I don’t usually wait until I have to unwind. I take frequent exercise breaks throughout the day – maintaining wellbeing has become intertwined with my work life. I also love being near vast areas of greenery, and find silence and mountains, extremely energising.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Too many! Nepal, Myanmar and Sri Lanka come to mind. I found the people extremely gentle, sensitive, and gorgeous and I love the varied scenery. The diversity of Sri Lanka amazes me. Colonial railway rides, lush tea plantations, clear beaches, seaside forts, ruins of ancient cities, and swank places to stay. It’s all there. But it’s still hard to pick a fave. I recently came back from a 200 year old stone hill village in China, isolated deep inside bamboo forests. The accommodation was a farmhouse restored to an international boutique hotel standard, and I’m going back. You always find something new in Asia.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Krishnamurti: Think on These Things.

Shameless plug for your business:
Triquetra.sg – the world’s first vintage vespa sidecar experience provider, operated by it’s B2B brand Sideways. We’re very popular with MICE groups, and have accommodated between 25 – 120 pax. For larger groups, we go in rotation with other heritage or tour activities. We work with partner tour operators and are open to collaboration. Sidecars have been hired for filming – both as filming vehicles (cameraman in sidecar) and in front of camera. Upcoming projects include incorporating an augmented reality experience with the rides, plus we’re calling for partners to work with in the creation of sidecar merchandise. We have STB behind us.

We like working with socially conscious partners – sidecars were founded on charity and fundraising over a decade ago, and we continue to support good causes. Drop us a line at [email protected] for inquiries on rides, event rentals, collaborations. Like our Instagram at Vespa_Tours_Singapore.

How can people connect with you?
Feel free to drop me a personal email at [email protected]

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

Jonathan Oh, CEO & Co-founder of Supplycart

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Jonathan Oh’s enquiring mind and love for learning has led him on an entrepreneurial journey, with him starting Supplycart which helps businesses manage their offices better.

What’s your story?
I am a person that just can’t sit still. I was always intrigued by how the world spins and how people connect. Spending a lot of time outdoors, I had an affinity with exploring new paths, thus leading me to become a serial entrepreneur with experience in creating, operating and building new companies. I am a firm believer there is so much to learn in the world and I love talking to people about ideas, what they are passionate about and what drives them.
Starting off my career in the medical industry, I realised I had a flare to create something that mattered, something that impacted other people’s lives. After exiting my first company in 2014, I continued my journey with two other ventures with a purpose to look towards impacting businesses in the region together with like minded individuals, and here I am.

What excites you most about your industry?
Being able to part of the SME tech industry and seeing how technology is moving SMEs to go digital to improve workflows and efficiencies is an exciting space to be in. Users are consumers. More and more, they are familiarising themselves with using technology in their everyday lives. We foresee the SME space to be the next area where adopting new technology would become vital for any organisation to remain relevant. As I have dabbled in this industry for close to nine years now, I am really looking forward to working with more people in the business community to make a change.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Born in Malaysia, I had the opportunity to go abroad and I realised there was so much to do back home. Spending time in Melbourne, Australia for a couple of years and recently Silicon Valley, it has provided me with experiences and insights into the difference a multicultural community can make. It also made me aware that Asia is still a very culture driven economy, as each country has its unique differences. I believe that the time is right to be in Asia now. We are a growing economy and a lot of exciting stuff is happening in this region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Malaysia. I believe Malaysia is still a very attractive destination for business as it’s close to other neighbouring countries within the region and travelling between the countries is easy. There is also proper infrastructure in place, an affordable cost of living and a sizeable pool of talent. The government also has numerous initiatives for technology companies to apply for MSC status that permits companies to hire foreign companies without restrictions. Malaysia is the perfect launchpad to start growing businesses regionally. From a culture perspective, we are multicultural, which promotes diversity in business and language is never a barrier here.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“The difference between a businessman and an entrepreneur; one does a markup and the other creates value.”

Who inspires you?
I would say the people around me inspire me. I wouldn’t narrow it down to a particular person but lump it up with family, workmates, entrepreneurs and friends. From my eyes, everyone has a certain drive, a certain glow and strengths that sometimes they do not see, and that inspires me. I believe the journey to success is never alone, it’s with people.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Something recently that blew me away, made me realise, visually about how much time I have left. I was reading and stumbled upon the writer doing this. This might sound morbid but I drew a horizontal line and started plotting the year I was born all the way up to when I think I might go. It showed me that I have spent 25% of my life growing up, I am going to spend another 55% of my life working and the final 20%, maybe retirement. It got me remembering all the milestones I have achieved and to be thankful for and above all, how I want to spend the 55% of my life doing what matters the most.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I believe that I am exactly where I need to be because of the experiences I have had before. Thank god for the journey so far. It has been filled with ups and downs, new experiences and people along the way these have moulded me. I guess a small thing, if I had my time again, would be to pick up playing a musical instrument which I think still possible now. You are never too old to learn anything.

How do you unwind?
Unwinding for me would be spending time with my family and my two little boys. The little ones are such a bundle of joy. Reminding myself to have balance in terms of not missing the early years with them. Other than that, having coffee with other entrepreneurs, sharing ideas and learning from them is also another way I unwind.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
A term I would use would be “cuti cuti Malaysia.” This means heading to a local destination for some R&R to save on the cost of going on overseas to travel. Top of my the list would be heading to a farm or the jungle with clear river waters and a waterfall all to myself. Staying the night, out in the open under the stars, with a campfire and heading back to nature. The other option would be taking a boat to one of the furthest islands in Malaysia, just before the border of Indonesia, to get away from civilization.

Everyone in business should read this book:
I would actually recommend two books that everyone in business in the early years should read. ‘Founder’s Dilemma’ and ‘Start with Why.’ After being in a couple of businesses and many mistakes later, I came to realise the importance of starting it right. Both these books address the whole mind-set on what founders need to have from selecting who is it we start a business with to why are we starting the business. The business foundation is built from the founders and moving forward everything is built from there. Sometimes we are so into the business that we forget we need to be on the business as well. I would have definitely avoided a couple of bumps if I came across these much earlier on.

Shameless plug for your business:
Manage your office better, that’s our motto. We are always on the lookout to work with organisations, suppliers and partners in this field for partnerships and collaborations.
Supplycart is a B2B procurement platform addressing a need for a change in the way companies manage their office supplies, products and services. We enable suppliers and companies to adopt digital technology when selling and procuring for their business, resulting in a more efficient and productive workforce.
Supplycart provides an easy to use, convenient platform that streamlines the whole procurement process by allowing users to quickly order and reorder, receive instant quotations, obtain quick approvals from necessary approvers and fulfilment items are coordinated/planned to ensure a timely a speedy delivery.
Businesses can now focus on the more important matters in growing and sustaining their business while leaving managing the office to Supplycart. Our vision is to be the number 1 office platform for businesses across South East Asia. “Your office will never be the same again.”

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/ohjonathan/
e : [email protected]
w : www.supplycart.my

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

Trung Nguyen, Founder & Managing Director of Advertising Vietnam

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Having initial success with his first start up in the ad industry, Trung Nguyen went on to start other ventures in the ad world in Vietnam. He now has the largest agency community in Vietnam.

What’s your story?
Three years ago I got my first job in the advertising industry. I worked for a local agency in town, and I fell in love with the creative industry. In June 2015, I founded Agency Life Community in Vietnam. It quickly became the most engaging community in the ad industry. The main content focuses on entertainment. After six months we had over 30,000 organic followers, now we have 120,000 followers.

Because the industry had been good to me, I decided I had to something for the industry to help the industry be better. So, I opened http://AdvertisingVietnam.com – a creative industry ad site which keeps advertising informative, creative and inspiring.

After more than a year in the ads industry in Vietnam, I figured the industry needed a better solution for the recruitment of good staff. Given I own the largest advertising community platform, why don’t I utilise Agency Life to help connect talent with ad agencies. So, I founded job site, AdJob.Asia in January 2017.

What excites you most about your industry?
The ad industry is a creative one with very passionate people who are always challenging themselves. The exciting part for creatives, in the morning they might be working on a baby brand and in the afternoon they are answering a beer brief. There is so much diversity. Every day is the new journey.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I am Vietnamese.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Thailand. The Thais are the kings of the creative industry in SEA. Thai ads are very smart and creative.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Do what you love.

Who inspires you?
My friend, mentor and partner Mr Nghi Nguyen, founder of BrandsVietnam.com. We started our businesses at a similar time. He doesn’t see us as a competitor but rather, he believes that we share the same passion and we are working to provide better knowledge for the ad community.
Mr Nghi also guided me a lot when I first opened the business. I am inspired by his vision to make our marketing industry better.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Our business is a startup company and as a founder I do everything from operations, business development, planning and strategy. However, this is not the good way grow our business. You have to share the workload – find a co-founder or hire a great employee to help share the workload. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Quit my full time job sooner.
During the first year of running my business, I was still working as an ad manager for an agency. However I lacked focus at work due to the overload of work and it affected the company I used to work for. I strongly recommend people who have an idea to start their own business, quit their job early on and focus 100% on it from the get go!

How do you unwind?
Play with my cat.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love to travel throughout all of Asia. I enjoy new places and meeting new people.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Carpenter: A story about the greatest success strategies of all.

Shameless plug for your business:
AdvertisingVietnam.com is a site where you can quickly update yourself on the advertising news in Vietnam. We have 15,000 unique monthly readers who are professional people in the advertising and communications industries.

The Agency Life, https://www.facebook.com/agencylife is largest agency community in Vietnam. This is the right place for ad agencies to share their creative work.

AdJob.Asia now has more than 160 agencies in Vietnam who use our services. We are a leading recruitment service for the advertising industry in Vietnam.

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/trungnx26
Email: [email protected]
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/trungnx26/

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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