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Zac Chua, Founder & CEO of The Kettle Gourmet

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Zac Chua’s popcorn business validated itself straight away and fast tracked him to the startup world. Zac now employs 11 people and shifts 500 bags of popcorn daily.

What’s your story?
It’s a crazy one. It was an accidental startup. If you think about it, no university graduate would ever dream of becoming a popcorn seller. We crashed our first tech event to validate our idea and it took off from there. I bought a logo for $7 from a designers marketplace, printed some cheap name cards, and built a 1 page landing page. Sales started pouring in and eventually, we were serving B2B clients (corporate pantries) and we have never looked back. Today we move about 500 bags daily, we have 11 employees and we are growing. Talk about a validation that worked in our favour.

What excites you most about your industry?
It’s food! Everybody loves food! In Singapore the F&B scene is brutally competitive and it spurs me on to fight and compete for market share and to prove to myself that I can do it. It keeps me going and I won’t stop until we become the market leader.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Singapore, and have traveled to most of Southeast Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore! Even though Singapore has a high cost of living, the Government is actually very supportive of startups. They provide grants for us to tap into, and the technological infrastructure makes it possible for us to compete on a global scale. I believe if you can succeed in your business in Singapore, you can succeed in most of Southeast Asia.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
You only need to be right once, and the rest is history.

Who inspires you?
My father, who was a VC. In fact he was the one who gave me the best piece of advice which I shared above. Having one successful exit, he showed me that it’s okay to fail a million times – all it takes is just one time for you to win in business and in life.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The power of compounding.

  • Mary and John are the same age.
  • Mary saves $2k annually from the age of 19-25 – so she puts $14k into her portfolio
  • John saves $2k annually from the age of 26-65 – so he puts $80k into his portfolio, but 7 years after Mary.
  • If both are able to generate 10% per annum, who would have more at age 65?
  • John of course! But how much more?
  • Mary will have $944,641 whilst John will have $973,704
  • Think about it! Mary puts in only $14k but John delays for 7 years and puts in $80k.

CRAZY RIGHT!?!?

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing, my mistakes taught me how to become a better me. But if I really must choose, I’d say take more time to find the right business partner.

How do you unwind?
Poker, Mahjong and Dota 2.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Vietnam! Things are cheap, people are warm and friendly, and their coffee fills up my life. I would love to retire there if possible.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The richest man in Babylon

Shameless plug for your business:
We don’t need a plug. Just try our competitors and you’ll understand why!

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chuazongyou
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zacchua

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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Benedict Heng, Founder of Mr. Farmer

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Benedict Heng is bringing back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your story?
I’m Ben from Mr. Farmer. Mr. Farmer is an online grocer dedicated to supplying the freshest produce to our customers. We believe in sustainable and ethical farming. Since a young age, I have always been an avid food lover (especially meats), developing a strong interest in all things delicious. That is why I ventured into the F&B industry, working as a junior cook for 3 years.

Midway through my career, I made a move to the finance industry to pursue monetary rewards. I dove into high-risk investments and I made lots of money from these investments. However, the good fortune did not last long and all these came crashing down when I suffered a tremendous loss. This coincided with the time that I had just started my own family and it was a huge blow to me both materially and mentally. It was this crash that made me realize that this life wasn’t for me. I went on a hiatus and eventually, it was only through the strong support from my family that I managed to tide over this tough episode.

I went back to help the family business and this was how Mr Farmer came about. My family has been in the food industry for many decades and one thing they noticed from years of experience is that sustainable farming practices are not as developed as in Europe. This is why through Mr Farmer, we hope that we can provide the best quality products to families out there who want the best ingredients for their loved ones.

What excites you most about your industry?
Delicious and wholesome food excites me. I believe food is a critical component of life and it brings people together. The opportunity to serve the community with fresh produce for a healthy life, that brings me joy.

I feel that there is still so much more we can do to improve the quality of food and bring it to the masses. One of the key components of ensuring greater quality of food is to support ethical and sustainable farming. Due to commercialization and urbanization, most farming practices these days are no longer the way they were in the old “kampong” times. Shortcuts are taken, standards are compromised, all in the name of profit. At Mr. Farmer, profit is important too but we want to focus on the concept of One Welfare – sustainable farming directly impacts our health. Our vision is to bring back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore. I call Singapore my home as it’s where my family and close friends are. I also travel frequently to Malaysia and APAC for work.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It’s definitely Singapore. There is just so much this tiny city can offer! Singapore has been globally recognized for its top-notch business environment providing its residents with developed infrastructure, political stability and excellent connectivity. These factors have given us an outstanding support system for businesses to strive.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Surround yourself with people that inspire you, challenge you to rise higher, make you better and, keep them in your life.

Who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from my uncle, who is the head of both the family and business. He takes care of our family matters at home and manages hundreds of employees at work. Handling both the family and business side of things can be tricky, but he has shown me that success can be sustainable and done with a conscience. His guiding philosophy of handling business and family is simply, to have a big heart.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Even just one day of separation from the day the meat is slaughtered, makes a world of difference to its flavour.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I have come to learn that awareness is the beginning of everything. If I had my time again, I would have probably spent more time figuring out who I truly am and with that self-awareness, begun to lead my life with more purpose and meaning.

How do you unwind?
I like to spend my free time sipping white coffee at my favourite coffee place. I enjoy taking in the surrounding sights and letting my mind wander freely. It allows me to unwind and gain clarity at the same time. It also helps me organize my thoughts to prepare for the week ahead.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
It would be Bangkok as the people there are genuinely friendly and hospitable. They say people are what defines the city and I couldn’t agree more with this. I also enjoy the ‘laid back’ vibe of Bangkok. Not to mention Bangkok has all the good food and awesome shopping choices too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Spin selling” by Neil Reckham. It’s an amazing book that teaches you a process designed to help you successfully sell your products and services to business buyers.

Shameless plug for your business:
We at Mr. Farmer have the best tasting meats in Singapore, do a blind test and you will know why it’s Michelin chefs’ preferred choice. Not only are we very confident about the taste, we are also proud to say that all our products are chemical, hormone and antibiotic free. We also focus a lot on supporting ethical and sustainable farming practices believing in the ‘One Welfare’ concept. Do check us out if you enjoy good quality food like us!

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

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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Cat Williams-Treloar, CEO and Founder of Humanisation

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Cat Williams is injecting humanity into brands and businesses through her marketing business, Humanisation.

What’s your story?
I’m Cat Williams-Treloar, CEO and Founder of Humanisation.
Before starting Humanisation, I worked in senior insight, strategy and marketing roles around the globe.
My first passion was as a researcher. I spent hours spotting trends and understanding behaviours using quantitative and qualitative techniques ranging from ethnographics to user testing, to leading a network of 40 trend hunters globally. Along the journey, data became cool so I took the opportunity to start applying our insights for brands and I started experimenting with customer journeys, technology and ways to change customer behaviour. I’ve been doing this as a marketer ever since.

What excites you most about your industry?
As marketers, we’ve always been builders of brands and now we are builders of growth. We are beginning to recognise that marketers can come from diverse disciplines and backgrounds and that all of our skills are valuable.
Likewise, we are just finding our voice as customers. We know more than ever, we can discover what we need and buy it when we want. We are are now relearning that consumers are people.
Today, we have so much knowledge about behaviours and what real humans want. I am excited about the potential to truly build human-centric businesses.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I grew up in Australia and started working across the region as a researcher helping Australian brands launch into Asia. The move to Singapore came about after working on a project in Pakistan and meeting in Singapore to present the recommendation. I adored the place when I first visited and was lucky enough to be transferred from London. My grandmother also spent time in Singapore as a child, so it holds a special place for our family.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore! Ambition, drive and openness to the region. When you live in a smart nation, it keeps you on your toes.
I also love doing business in Hong Kong for the pace, Ho Chi Minh because of the soul and Seoul for the innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Feedback is a gift.”
When you get feedback from a customer, a colleague or even a friend, it’s because someone cares. The more feedback you can elicit from customers, the more you will grow.
I feel this is critical as a 21st Century marketer because we need to be the champions of feedback. We need to listen and inspire action. If we don’t champion the customer or people inside the business every single day, I don’t know what we are doing.

Who inspires you?
Both of my brothers, Chris and Peter inspire me. I come from a family of entrepreneurs. I was the only one to hold a real “job” until I started Humanisation eighteen months ago. Chris founded Natural Solar in Australia and is breaking through every growth ceiling possible. My brother Peter has just started a new wellness business and is about to revolutionise health.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I saw a demo from Noveto – it’s a startup in Israel that beams sound from your device directly into your ears. No headphones. No wires. It spots where your eardrums are and sends the sound just to you. For example, let’s say you are on a webex or Zoom and in an open room – only you can hear the conversation. Or you are driving and you only want to hear the conversation, not the other passengers. Take a look at their latest demo video – they’ve been working on this for a number of years and when I saw the latest I watched it again and again because it’s just so incredible. Clever.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Remember the movie “Sliding Doors?” You can’t play the game, thinking that you missed out on Plan A. I don’t have any regrets.  The only thing I’d do differently is turn my mobile off on holidays. I was the first girl in high school to have a mobile at 14 – because no one else had one, the only people I could message was mum and dad to say I was getting on the train. I’ve been attached to that device for too long and I am glad I put it on silent over 15 years ago, but would have felt better if I turned it off on holidays.

How do you unwind?
I’ve been practicing mindfulness. I do Yin Yoga a couple of times a week and I am starting to meditate and practice being in the present. I think it’s so important to get sleep, clear your head and refresh in a chaotic, always-on world. It’s how I feel human. When that fails, my two mini schnauzers are also mood boosters.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
We got married in Bali. My husband comes from Adelaide and I’m from Sydney.  It was the perfect spot to celebrate. Balinese culture is incredible. It wraps you up like a big warm hug and my body completely relaxes as I exit the airport. I first visited Bali in 2000 and have been a regular ever since. Hearing the Gamelan music, getting a massage with the waves crashing and watching the sunset at La Lucciola is bliss. We’ve travelled across Bali and we find, as areas become more developed our holidays move out of the hustle and bustle to reconnect with the Bali we know.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Winning the Story Wars – Jonah Sachs. It’s about the importance of storytelling and how brands with a purpose can drive meaningful change.  My second answer is – write your own book. It doesn’t have to be one that you publish. Just keep a record of your feelings, observations, ideas and thoughts. Not only does it help to empty your head, it’s also something you can go back over to reflect or inspire.

Shameless plug for your business:
My business is called Humanisation. We’re a Marketing and Business Consultancy that helps brands launch, scale and transform. Our secret sauce is Human-Centered Marketing. Humanisation was born to uncover how businesses can be more commercially successful by putting humans first. We’re here to help inject humanity into brands and businesses. We partner with tech and digital brands as Asia-Pacific Marketing Consultants to help hunt for growth across the region anywhere from Australia to China to Indonesia and everywhere in between.

How can people connect with you?
Be human and say hello! My email is [email protected] or take a look at www.Humanisation.com.
You can also reach out via LinkedIn too here – https://www.linkedin.com/in/catherinewilliamstreloar/

Twitter handle?
@Cat_Williams

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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