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Bonnie Li, Founder of Events Artisan

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Bonnie Li uses her experience in anthropology and interest in exploring human interactions to run her business, Events Artisan, a luxury wedding planning company.

What’s your story?
I am Bonnie, named after the song “My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean” by my sister, as it was one of her favourite songs from kindergarten. Being an anthropologist born in Hong Kong and having studied in the United Kingdom, I have a fond interest in exploring human interactions and cultural differences. I have always enjoyed organising get-togethers, where I find joy and excitement in applying customised details to escalate the specialness of an event. After graduation I became the lead planner at a luxury wedding planning company, and later founded Events Artisan, using my expertise and experience to create intimate celebrations, whilst enjoying the time flexibility of being self-employed.
 
What excites you most about your industry?
Seeing tears of joy in my client’s eyes. I truly believe that anyone can make someone cry, but it takes something unique to make one shed tears of joy. Whether it is a large scale wedding or an intimate birthday celebration, it touches me most not when the decoration is picture-perfect, nor when all vendors are on time. What excites me the most, is that because of the planner’s passionate effort, the client is able to be hands-off and immerse in the emotions brought together by everyone at the event.
 
What’s your connection to Asia?
Being an event planning specialist based in Hong Kong and experienced in destination weddings across Asia, I have established a network of hotels and suppliers in Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, and more. Having being to boarding school in Brighton, I also have friends in different parts of Asia, including but not limited to Taiwan, Korea, India, Singapore and Malaysia. Fluent in English, Cantonese and Mandarin, one of my favourite things to do is to travel around and constantly look for inspirations from all around the world to further heighten my creativity.

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
No doubt, it would have to be Hong Kong!
1. Efficiency – Hong Kong people love speed. Being a person who loves deadlines, I rejoice in getting things done in a timely manner. It is also because of this speedy culture that makes organising a wedding from scratch in a 3-week timeframe possible!

2. Reachable Distances – Everything in Hong Kong makes efficient use of space. It took me some time to get used to the limited space we have here, but it also means that any place, person or material can be reached within an hour from the CBD.
 
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Stay focussed. If you are persistent, you will get it.”
There will be different voices telling you what and how to do things. When filtering such information, don’t forget to stay focussed on why you decided to start up your own business, and what do you want to achieve from it. Through time I have accepted that only an entrepreneur can truly understand another entrepreneur and as such, some loved ones might not be able to understand your feelings and journey.
 
Who inspires you?
Jack Ma.
Having met him in person at a client’s wedding, Jack Ma is one of the most down-to-earth businessmen I have come across. He once said “Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.” He has a true rags-to-riches story but it did not come in a snap. The numerous rejections from school and career did not stop him in any way of dreaming bigger. Jack Ma is my inspiration to give my very best in whatever I do, and enjoy the rollercoaster journey that comes along. Whether I am considered successful or not, I plan to be humble and subtle, as this is how one gains the greatest respect from others.
 
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Flying frogs, flying lemurs, flying lizards, flying snakes, and even flying squirrels exist! I have just returned from holiday in Langkawi and stayed at a resort nestled in 10 million-year-old rainforest. We had the pleasure of exploring the rainforest after dark, and experienced the unique sounds and enigmatic animals. It definitely caught my breath knowing we have been co-living with these special creatures for this long!
 
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason, therefore I rarely look back to see “what I should have done differently.”
Nevertheless, if there was something I could have told my younger self, it would have been to hire admin staff right from the beginning of my start-up. Being cost-conscious is one thing, whilst having someone to take such tasks off my hands in order to allow me to focus on business development is equally (if not more) important!
 
How do you unwind?
To me, exercising is highly effective to unwind. I don’t consider myself a sporty person, though my tanned skin often creates such illusion. Wakeboarding and swimming are my pick, and every now and then I go scuba diving, where I can simply focus my mind on breathing in and out, nothing else.
 
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Chiang Mai in Thailand.
Being in the northern part of Thailand, Chiang Mai has the great benefit of being sunny during the day and yet breezy at night. It is culturally significant and there are things to do for relaxation that suit everybody such as cooking class, lantern release, zip lining, night bazaar, spa and more. Being a Sagittarian, how can I not love a place full of adventures!
 
Everyone in business should read this book:
“Outwitting the Devil: The Secret to Freedom and Success” by Napoleon Hill.
This book taught me a good lesson on how fear, procrastination, anger and jealousy stop us from realizing our goals.

Shameless plug for your business:
Events Artisan is experienced in events that are both intimate (below 20 guests) and large-scale (1000 guests and more). Our business culture is efficient, straightforward and with an enviable eye coordination. Our goal is to take care of every detail, and make your event truly enjoyable, heartwarming and a day worth reliving in your head.

How can people connect with you?
For Business:
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.eventsartisan.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/eventsartisanhk

Personal:
Instagram: www.instagram.com/iambonnieli

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

CallumConnects

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.

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

Jace Koh, Founder of U Ventures

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Jace Koh believes cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Understanding it will enhance your ability to run and manage your business.

What’s your story?
My name is Jace Koh and I am the Founder of U Ventures. I’ve always been inclined towards investment and entrepreneurship. I’ve played a hand in starting businesses across these industries – professional services, cloud integration, software and music. I believe that succeeding in business is tough, but that’s what makes the rewards even sweeter.

What excites you most about your industry?
Everything excites me. These are my beliefs:

  • Why is accounting important?
    The accounting department is the heart. Cash flow is like blood stream, it pumps blood to various parts of the body like cash flow is pumped to various departments and/or functions in a business. It is vital to the life and death of the business.
  • Is accounting boring?
    Accountants are artists too. They paint the numbers the way they want them to be.
  • What makes a good accountant?
    A good accountant can tell you a story about the business by looking at the numbers.
  • Why is budgeting and projection important?
    Accountants are like fortune tellers, they can predict the numbers and if you wish to understand your business and make informed decisions, feel free to speak to our friendly consultants to secure a meeting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore, and here’s where I want to be.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is my favourite city. We have great legal systems in place, good security and people with integrity. Most importantly, we have a government that fosters a good environment for doing business. I recently went for a cultural exchange programme in Hong Kong to learn more about their startups. I found out that the Hong Kong government generally only supports local business owners in terms of grants. They’ve recently been more lenient and changed the eligibility to include all businesses that have at least 50% local shareholding. But comparing that to Singapore, the government only requires a 30% local shareholding to obtain government support. In the early days of starting a business, all the support you can get is precious. It’s great that we have a government that understands that.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best time ever to plant a tree was 10 years ago as the tree would have grown so big to provide you with shelter and all. When is the next best time to plant a tree? It is today. Because in 10 years time, the tree would have grown big enough to provide you shelter and all.

Who inspires you?
Jack Ma. His journey to success is one of the most inspiring as it proves that with determination and great foresight, even the poorest can turn their lives around. I personally relate to his story a lot, and this is my favourite quote from him, “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve faced multiple rejections throughout my business journey, and recently came across a fact on Jack Ma about how he was once rejected for 32 different jobs. It resonated very deeply and taught me the importance of tenacity, especially during tough times.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I live a life with no regrets. Everything I do, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, happy or sad, and regardless of outcome, it’s a lesson with something to take away.

How do you unwind?
I love to pamper myself through retail therapy and going for spas. I also make a conscious effort to take time off work to have a break outside to unwind as well as to uncloud my mind. This moment of reflection from time to time helps me see more clearly on how I can improve myself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan! Good food with no language barriers and the people are great!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I don’t really read books. Mostly, I learn from my daily life and interactions with hundreds of other business owners. To me, people tell the most interesting stories.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re not just corporate secretaries, we’re “business doctors.”
U Ventures is a Xero certified advisory firm that goes beyond traditional accounting services to provide solutions for your business. You can reach us on our website: http://uventures.com.sg/

How can people connect with you?
Converse to connect. You can reach me via email at [email protected] or alternatively, on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacekoh/

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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Ray Ferguson, Founder of Caber Partners

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Ray Ferguson left the banking world and returned to Asia to explore exciting fintech opportunities.

What’s your story?
I am the Founder of Caber Partners, a Singapore based MAS Licensed Fund Manager and Financial Advisor investing and working with companies focused exclusively on the intersection of finance and technology. I work specifically in the areas of payments, insurance, wealth management, alternative lending and blockchain.

I am also Chairman of Singapore Life which was founded last year. It is the first new local life company in Singapore. Concurrently, I chair Youtap a business which is creating a cashless e-money processing backbone providing real-time interoperable settlements of all consumer e-money payments to the merchants, e-money providers, retail and FMCG distribution groups, and banks across emerging markets.

My 30 year journey as a banker had its main leg with Standard Chartered Bank, where I held multiple country chief executive and regional leadership roles across four continents. I spent 6 years as Regional CEO, South East Asia and Chief Executive, Singapore. After Standard Chartered, I moved to Bank ABC, Bahrain and assumed the role of Group Chief Banking Officer where I took care of the group’s banking businesses worldwide.
Last year, I decided to step down after 3 years from my role with Bank ABC to return to Asia to pursue interesting and exciting opportunities that fintech disruption was providing.

What excites you most about your industry?
The sheer pace of technological innovation in the financial sector, and how it is up-ending the traditional models and traditional players. There are huge implications and benefits for efficiency, transparency and importantly financial inclusion which will drive growth in emerging markets.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have lived in and worked in Asia for more than 30 years. I first came to Singapore in 1994 and today I am a proud Singapore citizen, and to me Singapore is home.

Its an invigorating environment. Asia is in the middle of an historic transformation. If it continues to follow its recent trajectory, by 2050 its per capita income could rise sixfold in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms to reach Europe’s levels today. It would make some 3 billion additional Asians affluent by current standards. By nearly doubling its share of global gross domestic product (GDP) to 52 percent by 2050, Asia would regain the dominant economic position it held some 300 years ago, before the industrial revolution. This is a big deal and I’m excited to be part of it!

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore! Singapore is known for being a business-friendly country and it was crowned the best country in World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business List” and ranks as the top 3 in the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitive Index.” Singapore is an attractive hub, for both businesses and has a great community to live in.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Listen intently and you will know what you don’t know.

Who inspires you?
Nelson Mandela

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That the global mobile wallet market was valued at approximately USD 594 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately USD 3,100 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of around 32% between 2017 and 2022.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have learnt to code.

How do you unwind?
Exercise, golf and sailing large catamarans.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket. Easy to reach, Thai people and service, breadth of choice of locations/accomodation and great sailing weather.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Good to Great – Jim Collins. It’s about how companies transition from being good companies to great companies, and how and why most companies fail to make the transition.

Shameless plug for your business:
Caber Partners team is uniquely connected with our networks and experience in fintech markets, investing and banking and business growth solutions throughout Asia and across the emerging world.

How can people connect with you?
Come connect with me through my LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rayfergusonscb

Twitter handle?
Rayferguson888

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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