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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

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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Callum Connects

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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