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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

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

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Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

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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Nadia Al Sheikh, Founder & CEO of Flenco & Deal’n

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Nadia Al Sheikh has created a business module which incorporates philanthropy and business to empower others, and herself, she’s called her business Deal’n.

What’s your story?
My story is mirrored in my work. Flenco and our Singaporean eco skin care brand, “Flen” combines Dead Sea minerals from the lowest point of earth with Chinese medicine, which represents the wisdom and mystics of the east and these things represent my journey. I’m a single mother rediscovering my identity at a low point in life. Throughout my journey, determination, flexibility and assertiveness are the pillars of innovation. Thus Deal’n was born after years of groundwork in volunteering with various NGO’s and pursuing my masters degree. Transforming a vision, into a module that incorporates philanthropy and business, with tools to empower others and empower myself!

What excites you most about your industry?
The endless opportunities for improvement, innovation, creativity, free thinking which is mastered through interaction with other players in the market and customers creating a virtual place for brainstorming and the exchange of ideas. An evolving industry that challenges each and every person to use their skills, talents, expertise and utilise all their abilities to claim a slice of the pie.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Asia and specifically Singapore are my second home. It’s my spiritual and business safe haven that provides fair opportunities for everyone to succeed. If I was back in the Middle East as a single mother, I’m pretty sure my struggle would have been much longer and more difficult, however, it wouldn’t have stopped me from achieving my dreams. Singapore specifically empowered me professionally and Asia spiritually in redefining who I am as a person and understanding myself better.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, although it’s a very tough and competitive market for entrepreneurs to start a business, it provides them with support and motivation through grants, competitions and subsidising the cost of exhibiting or promotional events to promote their business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Success is measured by achieving your own personal goals and dreams and not what others think you should achieve.

Who inspires you?
Those who go unnoticed. From senior citizens, cleaning tables at food courts regardless of their wealth of knowledge and experience to single mothers, who are fighting everyday to overcome the social stigma and manage taking care of their children while earning an income. The amazing people who give their lives to start an NGO to empower others asking for nothing in return except the success of their beneficiaries, the humble members of our community that work in silence changing lives not for the spotlight but for their belief in making the world a better place.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
To step onto the balcony! In order to evaluate situations and understand people’s motivations from different perspectives and even to understand ourselves better we all need to step onto the balcony and become observers rather than participants. It gives you the power to see life through a variety of lenses.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’d be wiser with my decisions, evaluate situations from different perspectives and believe in myself and my capabilities. That all came with experience and the ups and downs throughout my journey so I guess, to be who I am today I would have accepted the rough times and embraced them because they were my best teachers. So I wouldn’t undo the past but I am changing my future.

How do you unwind?
Meditation, exercising, listening to music, reading a book and a walk in the botanical gardens.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Maldives, I love the peace and harmony in the simplicity of what it offers; beautiful beaches and wonderful people.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Wisdom Of Crowds by James Surowiecki

Shameless plug for your business:
Deal’n provides opportunities for all members of the community to utilize their skills, talents, expertise, capabilities and abilities in various ways, aiming at empowering all users to become productive members of their community. Using the services of other users for all to grow and benefit, interact with each other through the Deal’n community, thus enhancing their self esteem, level of confidence and as a result, a more empathetic and happier community!

How can people connect with you?
Through my FB page Nadousheh, my email [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@nadiaalsheikh

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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