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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

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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Callum Connects

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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