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Timothy Yee, Director of Ta Square

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Timothy Yee has several enterprises. He is a F&B and hospitality consultant and he has his own interior design agency.

What’s your story?
During my childhood years I always loved to draw and I have always wanted to do something creative. I used to see my dad produce beautiful manual drawings as a draughtsman which sparked my interest in architecture. I would take my pencil and pen and draw on the piles of recycled papers next to him as he worked late nights to meet deadlines. It was only natural for me to pick architecture and design as a chosen field. There are so many ideas that I would love to create and work on.
After spending a few years honing my skills and craft with different reputable firms, working on residential, commercial and aged care living projects, I decided to fulfill my university dream of starting my own design studio. Along the challenging journey of establishing a young design studio in Melbourne I managed to co-found Seoul Soul, a small and quaint Korean restaurant in Richmond and Northcote as well as Breakfast Thieves, a popular local breakfast joint in Fitzroy. This opened up the door of opportunity for me to venture into interior design and grew our services as a F&B and hospitality consultant. From a one man practice in 2011 we are currently a team of 20 people including architects and interior designers for our Melbourne studio.

What excites you most about your industry?
To be given the opportunity to realise our client’s vision into built reality, is always exciting for me!
Be it a new building or a new restaurant concept we are always striving to do it better. Being located in Melbourne, the works created by our peers are amazing and we want to be the best at our craft. The design scene in Melbourne is very active and this keeps us on our toes.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Malaysia. While pursuing my architectural degree I also worked on projects with a local firm to gain practical experience and an understanding of the local market. We are setting up an office in Malaysia to expand our presence and we are currently looking into collaborating with a local Malaysian manufacturer to create furniture pieces for our clients’ projects.

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I would say it has to be Malaysia as my network is based there. Because of our experience and skills, we are finding that local developers or investors wanting to expand their presence or experience in Melbourne will look to us, to provide them with advice prior to starting on a development project in Australia. We have also worked with clients from China, Singapore and Indonesia and have started expanding our presence in Sydney and Perth.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
What won’t kill you will make you stronger and if you don’t succeed first, keep trying! I’ve learned that if you put your heart and mind to it, with determination, patience and passion, the end result is always rewarding. Also important is to remain humble and honest and our clients always end up as friends in the process.

Who inspires you?
My mum has been a great inspiration to me. There was a time during my year as an architectural student I almost gave up as it was so challenging and exhausting. She however, encouraged me not to give up and don’t be too focused on achieving good grades but to enjoy the journey and process by simply giving my best. Needless to say I went on to achieve a position on the Dean’s list at Melbourne University for my final year studies. I owe my determination and success to her to this day.
My ex tutors and boss Mr. Arnold Lim, Mr. Azroei Ahmad and Mr. Paolo Tombesi. Without their guidance and insights I would not have the courage and determination to take on the challenging role of delicately balancing architecture as a design and business model in Australia. You can still achieve great results if you do your best for your clients and sincerely look after their needs.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
To ensure a project is delivered successfully you need to align yourself with a good team and most importantly a skilled and honest builder. Working with different builders on a variety of projects on different scales has allowed us to constantly hone our design skills to ensure we can deliver a beautiful outcome with modest budgets from the clients. You’ll be amazed how skilled and creative the local tradesman can be if you work closely with them to come out with great solutions for the client’s projects!

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I don’t think I would do things any differently as every step and decision made from my journey has been integral to where I am today. Perhaps the only regret I have was not spending enough time to invest and work on my personal projects and ideas. However better late than never!

How do you unwind?
I love to travel and explore different places to broaden my mind and experience. For any other usual days that would be trying new food at new establishments with friends as Melbourne always has something new to offer. Other times if possible that would be reading the news or catching a movie. Taking brief short breaks from work allows me to look at the project again with a fresh approach and new perspective to ensure we can deliver good results for our clients.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
That would be Japan. Every visit is always an exploration process for me. The architecture, the food, the people and the culture are fascinating!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I’m actually quite a visual person. However if given the time I would try and read books. The last book I read was Hannibal and Me by Andreas Kluth. I find Hannibal quite fascinating and his greatest successes and failures somehow, can be applied to what I am trying to achieve with my life.

Shameless plug for your business:
Ta square is a full service architectural, interior and project management studio based in Melbourne, Australia. We are able to assist our clients to source for development sites and ensure their vision and aspiration is achieved through collaboration with relevant parties and consultants to achieve a successful outcome. We are pragmatic and we focus on delivering real projects for our clients by balancing the needs of creating an outstanding product without sacrificing the bottom line results. No project is too small or too big for us as we enjoy collaborating with talented individuals to deliver bespoke design solutions for our clients.

How can people connect with you?
Over a cup of coffee at Breakfast Thieves!
You can also reach out to us at [email protected] or visit us at www.tasquare.com or our instagram @t_a_square

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

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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Callum Connects

Chrystie Dao-Szabo, Founder of iPayMy

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Chrystie Dao-Szabo founded iPaymy for Business – a secure and easy to use
platform enabling SMEs to pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today.

What’s your story?
I’m Chrystie Dao-Szabo, and I’ve worked as an international banker for over 22 years. During that time, I travelled through Asia, Australia and Europe, and everywhere I saw how my clients struggled with managing their finances and keeping cash around.

I wanted to use my experience to help them, but I also knew the solution they needed didn’t exist yet. This pushed me to give up on my secure career, and instead look into the innovative world of FinTech for an answer.

This is how I founded iPaymy – at its launch, a platform to help consumers pay their monthly expenses using their credit cards. We’ve grown a lot since, and today, iPaymy for Business is a platform that allows business owners to use their credit cards to pay for rent, salaries, invoices and taxes, freeing up their cash for business-critical operations.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most about FinTech is it’s culture of constant disruption, thanks to cool and innovative products and services coming out every day.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Vietnam, grew up in Australia and worked in Asia, Europe and Australia. Being raised by traditional Vietnamese parents meant that deep down I was still an Asian at heart, so I have a strong connection with the region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore of course. It’s easy to do business, English is the main language, and the infrastructures like public transportation are great. Also, the government supports local innovation in multiple ways, like giving grants for SMEs and FinTechs.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Keep giving, and one day you will receive.

Who inspires you?
My parents. My father had a successful business in Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon in 1975. After the war, my father was sent to a re-education camp for three years, which meant my mum had to bring up two young kids – a 3-year-old, me and my 4-year old brother on her own.

In 1980, we all fled Vietnam on a boat and arrived in Sydney, Australia via refugee camps in Indonesia and Singapore. There, my parents had to start over with nothing to their names and only AUD 50 given to them by the Australian government.
They went on to build several businesses in Australia!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The number of young and smart people who have carved out successful careers by founding their own startups (or joining really cool ones). When I was starting out my career, doing any of these was not a viable option; it was either working for an accounting firm, an insurance company or a bank.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I were starting out my career now, I would choose the path of joining a startup as you get to learn so much about running a business and how to assemble a winning team.

How do you unwind?
I like travelling to a beach or a resort destination and just relaxing by the pool or beach. I also like to unwind after work with a glass of champagne or wine, and a bowl of truffle fries.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. I love the people and the spicy Thai food.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The E-Myth. It’s a book series that dismantles common myths about entrepreneurship in different industries.

Shameless plug for your business:
With iPaymy for Business, SMEs can pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today. SMEs love iPaymy because it works like a credit card, but pays like cash.

iPaymy’s secure and easy to use platform reliably delivers payments to vendors while freeing up cash and providing access to interest free credit. Forget the delays and aggravations that come with traditional SME financing options. Schedule recurring payments, manage invoices, set payment reminders, and monitor payment status all from one dashboard.

It’s never been easier for SMEs to meet monthly payment obligations while keeping cash available to fuel growth, bridge receivable gaps, and make immediate investment in the supplies, services, and expertise needed to drive a growing business forward.

How can people connect with you?
You can find me on LinkedIn or contact me by email.
My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrystiedaoszabo/
My email: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
https://twitter.com/ceedeees

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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