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Theresa Evanoff, Founder of Gift-it-Forward

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Theresa Evanoff is the founder of Gift-it-Forward, a giving platform, with a charitable twist!

What’s your story?
After moving to Singapore in 2004, I spent many years in consulting but now I consider myself a social entrepreneur, dreamer and change-maker. I started my own business initially to have more control over my travel and work schedule, but now I love having something to call my own. Having lived in Singapore for over 13 years, I also wanted to find a way to give back to the local community. So with the intention of teaching my kids and others’ about social responsibility, I founded Gift-It-Forward early last year.

What excites you most about your industry?
I love that I can make a difference, change mindsets and create impact for families, individuals (both kids and adults alike) and the charities that I work with. I love that I am changing the way people celebrate and think about gifts. Technology can be used in so many ways and being able to use technology to make a social impact is something that makes me really happy.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Hong Kong to parents who were also raised in Hong Kong. Although my family immigrated to Canada when I was one year old, I have been exposed to Asian culture for as long as I can remember; my parents spoke Cantonese at home, we celebrated Chinese customs (which was special with the immigration of both sets of grandparents to Canada) and naturally, dim sum was a part of life!
In 2004, I completed an exchange program in Singapore as part of my MBA and loved it so much, that I decided to make Singapore my home!

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, of course! The business rules are transparent, there are no language barriers and the start-up ecosystem is strong, maturing and supportive.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
To accept that everything happens for a reason. While I love to be in control and always give my all to whatever I put my mind to, it takes extra strength to realise there are many situations that are simply beyond your control. In these cases, there’s no point wishing things went one way or another; it helps to have faith that things work out the way they are meant to, and even though we may not understand why in that moment, it always becomes clear with time. Then you look back and realise what the lesson was and try to stress a little less next time.

Who inspires you?
My greatest inspirations have been my parents. They have always been role models for me by setting examples of exceptional generosity, simple acts of kindness and volunteerism. They showed me that you can always give back to the community and it is this inspiration that drives me today. Their unwavering faith, positivity and perseverance during tough times is admirable and qualities I aspire to have.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That my 5 year old was proudly telling his friend at the zoo the other day that he “helped the animals” by supporting the SPCA through Gift-It-Forward for his birthday 6 months ago. While I always hoped that doing something like that would make an impact on him, hearing him talk about it half a year down the line warms my heart and reinforces the values I want to instill not only in him but in other kids and adults too. Not only that, but he’s also asking his brothers who they will help for their birthdays and every birthday party he goes to he’s asking who they are helping – so something’s working!

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have looked for a co-founder earlier in the life of the business. Although I have managed as a single founder so far and enjoy the freedom to make my own decisions, I think I could have benefited from a partnership. I am a people person, so it would be nice to have someone to work with regularly, but fortunately I have many good people who I can rely on to bounce ideas and strategies off of as well.

How do you unwind?
I think my husband would say that I rarely do! However, I do love going out for a nice dinner with him or with friends for good food, good company and good conversation!

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
It’s a toss-up between Phuket and Bali. I love the cultures, beaches, diving and great food. There’s no better way for me to relax than by going for a swim with the family in the clear waters and soft, white sandy beaches of Thailand and Indonesia!

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Lean Start-Up, by Eric Ries. It applies not only to start-ups but also to business units or departments within a larger business.

Shameless plug for your business:
Gift-It-Forward is an invitation and gifting platform with a charitable twist. By sending invitations through Gift-It-Forward, you automatically create a personal gift fund, where a portion goes towards a charity of choice and the other portion towards a group gift you hope to receive. You can send this to family and friends near and far to support your causes. Guests will appreciate being able to simply contribute to your gift fund online – no shopping, no guessing what you want! After the event, we pool together the funds and split it between you and your charity. Everyone wins! Now that’s something to celebrate!

How can people connect with you?
By email ([email protected]), Facebook (/giftitforward), or visit our site at www.gift-it-forward.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

Callum Connects

Marek Danyluk, CEO of Space Ventures

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Marek Danyluk has a talent for assessing the competencies of management teams for other businesses and pulling together exceptional teams for his own businesses!

What’s your story?
I am the CEO of a venture capital business, Space Ventures, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses. I also own and run Space Executive, a recruitment business focused on senior to executive hires across sales, marketing, finance, legal and change.

My career started as a trainee underwriter in the Lloyds market but quickly moved into recruitment where I set-up my first business in 2002. The business grew to around 100 people. I moved to Asia in 2009 as a board member of a multinational recruitment business with the mandate to help them scale their Asian entities, which helped contribute to their sale this year, in 2017.

My main talent is assessing the competencies of management teams as well as building high performing recruitment boutiques and putting together exceptional management teams for my own businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
Building the business is very much about attracting the best talent and being able to build a culture which people find invigorating and unique. It’s an exciting proposition to be able to define a culture in that regard and salespeople are a fun bunch, so when you get it right it’s tremendous.

From a VC point of view there is just so much happening. South East Asia is a melting pot of innovation so the ideas and quality of people you have exposure to, is truly phenomenal. The exposure in the VC has taken me away from a career in recruitment. Doing something completely different has given me a new level of focus.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Whilst I came here with work, both my boys were born in Singapore and to them this very much is home. That said, my father in law spent many years in the East so coming and settling here was met with a good degree of support and familiarity.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Possibly Hong Kong. It’s the closest I’ve been to working in London. Whilst there are massive Asian influences people will work with you on the basis you are good at what you do and work hard. I find that approach very honest and straightforward.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Always treat people well on the way up!”

Who inspires you?
I like reading about people who have excelled in business such as Jack Ma, James Kahn, Phil Knight, Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk, all have great stories to tell and they are all inspirational. No-one has inspired me more than my parents and they are well aware as to why…

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Pretty much any technology innovation blows me away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Whilst it is important not to have regrets I do continually wake up thinking I’m still doing my A’ Levels. So, I’d have probably tried a little harder in 6th form.

How do you unwind?
I like the odd glass of red wine and watching sport

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan skiing. I love skiing and Japanese food and it’s a time when I can really enjoy time with the wife and kids. I recently tried the Margaret River which was divine, although not technically Asia.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Barbarians at the Gate

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive is the fastest growing recruitment business in Singapore focused on the mid to senior market across legal, compliance, finance, sales and marketing and change and transformation. Multi-award winning with exceptional growth plans into Hong Kong and London this year, and the US, Japan and Europe by the end of 2022. We are building a truly global brand.

Space Ventures is interested in any businesses that require capital or management and financial guidance or any or all of the above. We have, to date, invested in on-line training, food and beverages, peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring as well as other tech and fintech start-ups. We are always interested in hearing about potential deals.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

Twitter handle?
@Spaceexecutive

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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Malcolm Tan, Founder of Gravitas Holdings

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Malcolm Tan is an ICO/ITO and Cryptocurrency advisor. He sees this new era as similar to when the internet launched.

What’s your story?
I’m a lawyer entrepreneur who owns multiple businesses, and who is now stepping into the Initial Coin Offering/Initial Token Offering/Cryptocurrency space to be a thought leader, writer (How to ICO/ITO in Singapore – A Regulatory and Compliance Viewpoint on Initial Coin Offering and Initial Token Offering in Singapore), and advisor through Gravitas Holdings – an ICO Advisory company. We are also running our own ICO campaign called AEXON, and advising 2 other ICO’s on their projects.

What excites you most about your industry?
It is the start of a whole new paradigm, and it is like being at the start of the internet era all over again. We have a chance to influence and shape the industry over the next decade and beyond and lead the paradigm shift.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m Singaporean and most of my business revolves around the ASEAN region. Our new ICO advisory company specialises in Singaporean ICO’s and we are now building partnerships around the region as well. One of the core business offerings of our AEXON ICO/ITO is to open up co-working spaces around the region, with a target to open 25 outlets, and perhaps more thereafter.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, since it is my hometown and most of my business contacts originate from or are located in Singapore. It is also a very open and easy place to do business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Be careful of your clients – sometimes they can be your worst enemies. This is very true and you have to always be careful about whom you deal with. The closest people are the ones that you trust and sometimes they have other agendas or simply don’t tell you the truth or whole story and that can easily put one in a very disadvantageous position.

Who inspires you?
Leonardo Da Vinci as a polymath and genius and leader in many fields, and in today’s world, Elon Musk for being a polymath and risk taker and energetic business leader.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Early stage bitcoin investors would have made 1,000,000 times profit if they had held onto their bitcoins from the start to today – in the short space of 7 years.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Seek out good partnerships and networks from day one, and use the power of the group to grow and do things together, instead of being bogged down by operations and going it alone from start.

How do you unwind?
I hardly have any time for relaxation right now. I used to have very intense hobbies, chess when I was younger, bridge, bowling, some online real time strategy games and poker. All mentally stimulating games and requiring focus – I did all these at competitive levels and participated in national and international tournaments, winning multiple trophies, medals and awards in most of these fields.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket – nature, resort life, beaches, good food and a vibrant crowd.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Richard Kiyosaki

Shameless plug for your business:
Gravitas Holdings (Pte) Limited is the premier ICO Advisory company and we can do a full service for entrepreneurs, including legal and compliance, smart contracts and token creation, marketing and PR, and business advisory and white paper writing/planning.

How can people connect with you?
Write emails to [email protected], or [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@malcolmABM

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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