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Thierry Tea, Founder & CEO of PhilJets Group

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Thierry Tea has had a successful and dynamic corporate and entrepreneurial career. From aviation to e-commerce, he is focusing on his latest start-up, WeCube.

What’s your story?
I was formerly a corporate senior executive, entrepreneur and I am now an investor across 4 Asian countries.

I was experiencing dynamic progress in my corporate career with the Airbus Group, but decided to leave my position as CEO of Airbus Helicopters Philippines and Head of Airbus Group Philippines to start my entrepreneurial life. I created Starline Global Industries in Singapore, an investment holding house that has then established PhilJets Group in the Philippines and Agama Investments in Cambodia. While PhilJets has become a leading aviation company operating aircraft management, fractional ownership, timesharing, maintenance services, training services, charter flights and recently launching GrabHeli with GrabTaxi; Agama Investments has invested in agribusiness with Parfum d’Indochine producing vanilla as well as in human resource services with Saint Blanquat & Associates and in retail with Jewelmer Joaillerie’s dealership in Cambodia. From corporate executive, I am now entrepreneur and investor with stakes in 11 companies after 3 years in the startup world. Our latest project is the launch of WeCube, our incubator which will start-up in the Philippines.

What excites you most about your industry?
While aviation is an industry I was passionate about, I decided to broaden my interests and business landscape and learn more about other Industries such as agribusiness, retail, HR services, private equity and finance and now IT and e-commerce. I believe in innovation. The only permanent thing is change, so we should always be learning. I am happy to meet and great business leaders and exchange knowledge and experience. It is an honor to have been able to partner with some of them. Nothing is impossible.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was raised by Cambodian Chinese parents who went from wealthy entrepreneurs in Cambodia to poor refugees and then middle class in the Chinatown of Paris. ‘Work hard at school, be good, family is important,’ these are the Asian values I grew up with. My first trip to Asia was at 17, to Taiwan and Hong Kong. Then, I studied in Singapore and did an internship in Hong Kong before completing another one in Shanghai. I wanted to be working in Asia and started with Airbus Helicopters in 2004 in Singapore and then the Philippines. I have now been based in Manila for 11 years and in the last two years, I’ve had many trips to Phnom Penh.

Heli&jets IMG_0532 TT PhilJets

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for its ease of doing business and winning mindset. Phnom Penh for its amazing vibrant energy and entrepreneurial spirit everywhere in the city. Manila for its new wave of start-up growth.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
There are a few. My partner Dominique Ky of TK Orient advised me, “if you are more daring, you will get anything you want.” My friend Adrien Choux, founder of the Chinese Timekeeper, told me to start my entrepreneur journey a few years ago. Jeremy Harbour of the Harbour Club said “everything measured, improve.” My wife who tells me, “now is the time to develop the business because later, we will be older and will need to enjoy it more!”

Who inspires you?
My wife Lynda, who left her corporate career in Singapore to take over her family’s rice trading business in Gabon, Africa and then decided to take a leave to give birth to our daughter Julia.

My parents, who taught me the right values in life. They know what it is to be rich, to lose everything, but who worked hard and sacrificed a lot to give me and my brother the opportunity of a better future.

Our passionate team and colleagues who give their best everyday to satisfy our clients. Without them, nothing would be possible.

As business figure, Jack Ma has shown the world what an Asian entrepreneur can do. I also admire Asian tycoons that I have had the chance to know, such as Pung Keav Se of Canadian Integrated Group (Cambodia), Ramon Ang of San Miguel Corporation (Philippines), Michael Kadoorie of the Peninsula Hotels Chain (Hong Kong).

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That our generation is endangering the planet at a rate higher than any previous generations. Unfortunately, there are very little remedies, since human nature puts its survival first. While Starline Global Industries and Agama Investments will contribute by putting up schools in remote areas of Cambodia to improve education, I hope the next generation will be more conscious and more caring towards the environment. We have to think of what we leave behind in this world.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
One year ago, I told myself, “If I leave this world tomorrow, my only regret is not having had a child.” This changed 4 months ago. I am having the life I wanted and I enjoy it 150%. Maybe starting entrepreneurship and a family earlier would be one wish. I would have loved my grand-parents to have met my daughter.

How do you unwind?
I used to find having a foot massage or reading a good book were ways to relax, but these have been overtaken by spending time with my 4 month old daughter Julia. It is the best way to clear my mind. Life is magical and children are wonderful in the way they learn and grow. Of course, spending quality time with my wife is also a great way to unwind.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Singapore and Siem Reap are both great places. I love the mix of culture in Singapore. As I am Asian, Chinese and European. Singapore offers the Chinese desserts that we love and also the modern Asian style that suits me. Siem Reap in Cambodia is full of history and culture.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Art of War of Sun Tzu is a must. ‘It’s not how good you are but how good you want to be,’ by Paul Arden. The 2 others are Bernard Arnault’s (LVMH Group) biography ‘The Exterminator Angel’ and ‘Alibaba’s World.’

Shameless plug for your business:
Starline Global Industries is looking at investment opportunities and connecting businesses between Asia and Europe.

PhilJets is the leading boutique aviation solution in the Philippines, managing USD 20 million in assets, fractional ownership, timesharing, charter flights and also offering consultancy, maintenance services, aircraft sales and training services. PhilJets launched the GrabHeli app together with GrabTaxi.
Our new venture, WeCube is the newest incubator in the Philippines, launching the ComeOn Ground co-working space.

Agama Investments engages in creating value and developing long term sustainable activities in Cambodia, whilst also contributing to develop the image and exposure of the country in the business world.

How can people connect with you?
I can be reached on linkedin, facebook, twitter. Or through any one of our websites www.starlineglobalindustries.com and www.philjets.com

Twitter handle?
@thierrytea

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

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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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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