Ven Chin was determined to be financially free. Starting his own business would enable him this.

What’s your story?
I have wanted to start my own business since I was a teen. Perhaps, I was subconsciously influenced by my parents who owned a small retail business. I was also an avid reader and enjoyed reading management books on how companies like Starbucks and McDonalds made it big. Robert Kiyosaki’s book “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, made a huge impression on my young mind. It taught me the importance of financial freedom – the ability to lead the lifestyle I wanted with passive income. I was determined to own my own business and be financially free one day.

I did not have capital. I did not have a ‘rich dad’ who was willing to fund a business venture. All I had was my education and a strong resolve that I wanted to build a successful business

After spending some years in a consulting firm, it became clear to me that a good and viable starting point to start a business was in the food and beverage industry. The barriers to entry were considerably low for a beginner, I did not need a huge capital outlay to start a business in this industry. The cash flow output from F&B businesses was typically high, it was a scalable business, and most importantly, I felt that there was always a demand for good food.

I took the plunge and left a well-paying consultancy job (to my parents’ dismay and consternation) to work as a restaurant manager. The stint allowed me to gain vital hands-on experience in managing a restaurant. It also provided insights to the challenges that came with running a business. To cut a long story short, I spent a few years gaining experience from different roles in food and beverage companies before opening my first restaurant in 2010. It was no turning back from there.
 
What excites you most about your industry?
It’s limitless! People will always need to eat, and in Singapore, many people live to eat. The challenge to constantly innovate and find the next concept or food that will keep customers coming back keeps me on my toes.

Witnessing the growth of our outlets and brands in Singapore gives me lots of satisfaction. I cannot wait to see our outlets overseas!
 
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and educated in Malaysian but spent most of my working life in Singapore. So you can say that I have been born bred in the ‘food capitals’ of Asia. I have travelled and lived in many other countries but to me, the best cuisine in the world is still Singapore/Malaysian hawker food.

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Gurney Drive Signatures Logo
 
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down – Singapore. There is rule of law. The system is fair, transparent and the environment is pro-business. There are also lots of investors here.
 
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
From my mum – She told me, “I have no money for you to start a business. Go and get the relevant experience and find the money yourself!”
 
Who inspires you?
Robert Kiyosaki! It was where I first learnt the concept of “passive income”. He made it sound easier than it is, but I do believe it is achievable.
 
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Meditation! It helps relieve my back pain and fatigue almost immediately.
 
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. Even through the tough times, I believed that whatever obstacles and unhappiness we faced during the start up period was an essential learning experience. I am a firm believer of the adage “What doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger.”
 
How do you unwind?
I am a simple man with simple pleasures. Listening to Acoustic and Jazz music, drinking a cup of coffee or tea whilst reading my favourite books.
 
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
My all time favourite – Bangkok. The food and massages are great and so reasonably priced! I must confess that whenever I am there with my wife, we spoil ourselves with daily massages.
 
Everyone in business should read this book:
A Monk who sold his Ferrari. It really begs the question, what do you really want in life? I know it sounds rather like a mid-life crisis kind of question, but it reminds me to put things in perspective and to focus on what is truly important to me.
 
Shameless plug for your business:
GD Group started out with one focus – to make good food accessible to all. Accessibility in terms of price and, or value, in terms of location, and in terms of target segments (e.g. halal certification to reach out to the Muslim community.) Today, GD Group operates a total of 8 outlets and 4 different concepts. The different dining concepts aim to offer customers a spectrum of options catering to different budgets for different occasions. For example, Penang St. Buffet, is popular with customers who want to celebrate special occasions. Penang Culture & Gurney Drive Signatures cater to customers who prefer a la carte style dining. Whilst Mamak Culture, is a cafe concept serving popular Malaysian dishes like roti-canai and nasi briyani. The constant in all restaurant concepts is the same value proposition of authentic, quality food at affordable prices.

In five years, GD Group has come a long way from its early days of fifteen employees and one outlet. However, the company is not resting on its laurels. We are constantly looking forward to introducing more dining concepts and F&B solutions in Singapore and overseas.
 
How can people connect with you?
Website: www.GDGroup.com.sg
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/VenChee
Email: [email protected]

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

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Callum 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.

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Callum Laing has started, built, bought and sold half a dozen businesses in a range of industries across two continents. He is a partner in the Private Equity firm Unity-Group. Co-founder and non-exec director of The Marketing Group PLC and is CEO of Key Person of Influence (Asia). He is author of 'Progressive Partnerships'.

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