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Simone Ng, Founder & Creative Director of Simone Jewels

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Simone Ng

Simone Ng loves working with gems. In her business, Simone Jewels she creates unique one off pieces to be coveted by their new owners.

What’s your story?
Doing what I love and loving what I do has been the most rewarding. My journey started out of passion for jewellery and gemstones. Back in 2006, I started Simone Jewels, designing pieces that merge art into jewellery and ensuring that each and every design would be the only piece in the world. Recognising back then that we were going to move into an era of individualism, many would share the same passion as me for loving all things unique. Just fresh from my MBA studies and still nursing my 2-year old toddler and 1-year old baby, I launched a collection with just 20 one-of-a-kinds. Within 30 minutes, I sold half my collection. That was truly encouraging and the beginning of a very exciting journey. Today, sales have grown more than 50 times with the concept of purely distributing through events.

What excites you most about your industry?
The most exciting part of my journey are my customers. Being in the industry that makes people happy gives me that adrenalin rush. Many of the customers whom have been supporting and encouraging me throughout my journey are now my friends. We have gotten to know each other well. That is priceless. Good friendship can never be bought.
In addition, it is such a beautiful experience to be in this specialised trade. Being able to see and be part of the process of how these natural resources, produced by mother nature make their journey through millions of years under the earth into a beautiful piece of jewellery, is truly amazing.

What’s your connection to Asia?
My ancestors came from Guangzhou and since the late 1800s have all settled in Malaysia. My paternal grandparents ran businesses which include jewellery as one of them. My maternal grandparents were national shooters. Their lifestyles have allowed me to meet many people throughout this region as I used to often tag along from a very early age.
Personally, I was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur.. Having had the privilege of growing up in a multiracial environment, I am thankful for the exposure to different cultures, languages and dialects. Today, I am grateful that I am able to converse smoothly in English, Malay, Indonesian, Mandarin and am able to understand several Chinese dialects.
I met my husband while I was studying in Australia. He’s an Indonesian born Chinese and an Australian citizen. After we got married, we lived in Melbourne before moving to Singapore almost 16 years ago. I love being back in Asia!

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
My favourite city is Singapore. It’s a wonderful city with a vibrant multi-racial society and residents from all over the world. One may say, you don’t have to live in different countries to experience the world. Living in Singapore gives you a glimpse of what that is like. I get the opportunity to serve many different people from all walks of life and nationality. It is also the home to many “who’s who” and ranked one of the top most liveable cities in the world.
Singapore provides a very good platform to reach out to other countries in the region. With the government providing transparency and many other support systems, it gives businesses like ours an opportunity to build a good foundation for expansion. In the last few years, the government has been promoting Singapore as a design hub. This is a very exciting place to be now and I feel very fortunate to be here at this time.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been very blessed with a lot of great advice from my loved ones as well as close friends.
From my mum, the woman I am most grateful for, “Be true to yourself and stay grounded. All things may change but nobody can ever change who you are. Integrity is important and this will take you a long way.”
From my forum mates in the Entrepreneurship Organization – “Enjoy every moment of your journey. Passion cannot be bought but comes from within. When your business journey is led by passion, many beautiful things will come out of it. At the end of the day, nobody can rob you of the brand you have built. You are your brand!”
From my husband and best friend, “There is no hurry in chasing success. Success comes from patience in building a strong foundation. Without it, you will have nothing to fall back on. A strong foundation allows you to pick yourself up anytime.” He also encouraged me to stick to the concept of retailing through events and not through a retail shop, at least in Singapore. This has allowed me to focus on the more important things such as building the brand, creating beautiful designs and maintaining a good relationship with my customers.

Who inspires you?
My maternal grandfather inspires me the most. When he and my great grandmother arrived in Malaysia from China, they had literally nothing. Shortly after, was World War II. Times were very difficult but he was very resourceful and was able to survive through it. As a young boy, he didn’t have the opportunity to go to school but he taught himself to read and write. When the war ended, he taught himself the art of shooting and became very good at it. One thing led to another, very soon, he represented Malaysia in competing in the Asean Games, Sea Games and more. He then built his business in this field. He also trained the police force, military and royalties in shooting and archery.
My maternal grandmother was also very gifted. She can do anything by just watching once. This includes cutting hair and sewing which led her to venture into opening her own businesses in these fields. She later took an interest in shooting and archery and competed alongside with my grandfather in the women’s category.
Both have taught me that if you believe, it can come true. It is an excuse when one says I did not receive education or training in that field or you are not gifted in something. Everything is possible with the correct mindset. Never be afraid but be bold and dream. Dream big. Be passionate about what you do and never look back.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I was reading a book by Mikko Niemela called “Anatomy of Cyberattack.” It is scary to know that cyber hackers have the power to destroy loves, shut down businesses and affect every one of us around the world. It got me thinking on how we can be protected and stay safe.
Artificial intelligence is also the talk of the world right now. I am excited to see how this whole thing will unfold and how they will eventually replace many things including people. Embracing this, it is necessary to think about how this will impact my business in future.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I could do it all over again, I would have started my business 10 years earlier. Although I had a very good steady growth, reflecting back, the most challenging time came when my children were still very young and needed my attention. They say it takes 100 years to build a brand. I am challenging myself to achieve this in lesser time.
We are now slowly expanding our brand into other countries through independent distributors. So far, we have seen interesting results for both us and the distributor. If I had started this earlier, expansion outside of Singapore would have been much easier.

How do you unwind?
I love to travel and explore different places as it gives me inspiration and I enjoy that. My best travel buddy is my husband. Together we enjoy good food/wine and music.
I also enjoy my evening walks with my ipod in tow. This is the time that I recharge, reenergize and clear my mind.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I have a soft spot for Penang. I love that it’s very quaint and historical. Being surrounded by the sea is a very serene feeling and yet you are still right in the city. The food is fantastic too.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The biography of Coco Chanel. She ruled over Parisian haute couture for almost six decades. Her story on how she built her fashion empire and into a world class brand name today is very inspiring for women entrepreneurs.
I believe that there is a lesson in every past that we can learn from to help us go forward better into the future. This is reflected in our brand ethos: “Yesterday’s Tales. Today’s Creation. Tomorrow’s Inspiration.”

Shameless plug for your business:
Multimedia and social media is very vital for brand building these days. We need to grow our following in a very short span of time.

How can people connect with you?
Website : simonejewels.com
Instagram : simonejewels
Facebook : simonejewels
Email : [email protected]

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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