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Xi-Wei Yeo, Director of Living Theories

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Yeo Xi-Wei is a trainer and concept designer, using gaming as a tool to enhance learning with his company, Living Theories.

What’s your story?
My name is Xi-Wei, and I run a company called Living Theories, with a team that designs gamified learning experiences for institutions and organizations. I’ve had a varied occupational background; I used to work in the food and beverage industry for a while, before transitioning to Singapore Airlines for a couple of years, prior to starting Living Theories.

I started Living Theories to engage our participants in a modern and innovative way, by customising experiential programmes to them. Taking our inspiration from modern games and shows, our programmes typically include cinematics, storylines, and game decks to enhance the learning experience of our participants.

What excites you most about your industry?
Learning is inherently organic, and there are infinite possibilities to how people learn, how they grow, and what they take away from different experiences. A person’s mindset and learning experience is unique, and very often a composition of personal life journeys, philosophies and beliefs. At Living Theories, we build upon this rather than restrict it, to allow freedom of choice and learning.

Gamification is the perfect tool for this; games offer infinite ways of manifesting outcomes and experiences for the individual, and being gamers ourselves, it makes it a lot more interesting to curate and design a brand new concept with different clients. Gamification is still relatively new in Singapore, and there’s a lot to learn and grow within the industry itself.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Born and bred. Don’t think I’d ever stop being fascinated by the myriad of cultures and perspectives that each region contains; it’s just like a saying we have in Singapore, “Same same, but different.”

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I’ve always loved Singapore for what it is, a safe haven for you to build something from scratch with good business regulations and government support. Singapore has its fair share of trials; high manpower and rental costs, and a local audience that is slightly more conservative in incubating new ideas. Together with this though, comes a thoroughly modern city that allows technological advancement in many industries, great business connections and networking, and a highly supportive community of fellow start-ups that keep each other going.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right!” This is a quote that my father used to drill into my brothers and I, from Henry Ford. It speaks truly and surely to the core of my beliefs, that at the end of the day, you’re the only one that can drive yourself forward. I’ve heard many say that they have good ideas they wished they implemented, or that they thought of a trending product before someone else did, but didn’t have the self-confidence at that time to follow through. There’s a tough lesson in there. Having the self-belief and confidence to take a leap of faith and ultimately, fail in order to succeed, is critical to our journeys.

Who inspires you?
I wish I could say it was a famous person who inspires me, but it’s really the people around me. My parents worked their socks off through different economic crises, while raising 3 boys with different personalities and ambitions. My brothers are other examples of people pursuing their own paths. Whys? My older brother gave up a solid career to pursue his true calling in church, while my younger brother is now an award-winning sommelier, having started from scratch. They are all inspirations to me (even though I don’t admit it to them very often), and are prime examples of pursuing radically different paths, but succeeding because they knew they could.

Lastly, my team at Living Theories inspires me the most. They gave up a lot, in different careers, to start this new venture with the same belief and mindset that we can be change-makers in an industry that we feel strongly about. They’re the ones who keep me going, creating new concepts, and fighting hard to establish a foothold.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That over the last 5 years, 5,000 teachers in Singapore have resigned. To me, teachers are a unique breed. They didn’t take up teaching as a ‘stepping stone’ in an industry, and most genuinely are there to help nurture and grow a new generation. To see huge numbers leaving is something that must be addressed, both by the Ministry, and by the local communities – schools, parents and even students. We all have a role to play here.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I wish I could say I’d have worked harder in school, but I’m not so sure. I would have taken the time to see more of the world, to experience more cultures, speak to more people, and start new projects.Too often are we comfortable in the bubble we live in, without actually understanding the world that lies just beyond this bubble.

I wish I had started projects or companies earlier. It gives me the cushion to fail more. I’m 29 now, and I wish I’d started at 25, to try and fail and try and fail and try and fail again before I get up and keep going.

How do you unwind?
A relaxing dinner and movie night with my girlfriend. We typically stuff our faces at a hawker centre, get excited over what desserts to bring home, mix up gin and tonics and watch movies or documentaries. I also play tennis and a tonne of games. More often than not, I suck at them (my friends will testify to this), but I keep experimenting with new methods, new ways of exploring new play-styles within the same characters or roles.

Aside from this, I’ve a little unwinding secret. As a prelude, food is my unwavering passion in life. So when I’m upset, depressed and just need a break, I have a $30 rule. I set myself a $30 budget to buy whatever I want in a nearby hawker centre, which can pretty much get you anything. It’s immensely liberating and uplifting, and I’m always at peace with the world after.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I’d go with Bali or Taiwan. The common denominator between the two is that the local populace are insanely friendly and easy-going, and the language barriers are not as pronounced. Bali is perfect for self-pampering and escaping the world for a bit, and Taipei is amazing for great food, bars and endless things to explore. I’ve barely scratched the surface of Taiwan’s culture, and I can’t wait to get started!

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, by Simon Sinek. That book has been my go-to since I heard his Ted-talk in 2009, and I rely on it to ensure that I know my path. The great thing about the book is that it doesn’t give you “quick tips to success”; there already are many books for that, but this book is really about you, your why, and how you build your business while keeping your personal why in mind. It’s a fundamental read, especially for decision-makers and startup founders.

Shameless plug for your business:
Living Theories was built by us, for you. We’re here to inspire, educate and reinvent the way you think. We design games, create exciting programmes, and work hand in hand with you to discover more about the world we live in. We assist teams to find their WHY, and through uniquely crafted games, allow you to understand each other, and yourself a lot better.

Despite being hardcore gamers, we take our work seriously: To create your customised experience, our team of academic researchers and designers will conduct landscape reviews, work with the client on their needs analysis, solution provision and post-programme data analysis.

Check out our Facebook page or our website, or email me and we’ll have a coffee together!

How can people connect with you?
Interested parties can look for us on LinkedIn and Facebook, or on our website at www.livingtheories.com.sg.

If you’re interested in finding out more about what we do, you could also just email me directly at [email protected], and the next coffee’s on me!

Social Media handle?
You can connect with me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/xiwei.yeo

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

Mikyung Kim, TV Commercial Producer

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Mikyung Kim is a savvy producer who runs her own TV and print production business, based in Hong Kong.

What’s your story?
I am a TV commercial and print producer working with advertising agencies and brands to bring their communication needs to the screen. My background is in film production and I started my career in Hollywood working with Oscar winning directors Michel Gondry and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Before starting my own company last year to produce content directly with agencies and brands, I was with Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong for nearly five years as the Senior Producer and Head of TV running the film production department.

What excites you most about your industry?
How it’s constantly evolving! Every day is different and it’s certainly never boring. I love that it’s a creative industry and that my job involves talking to people with creative minds on how we can bring a story on paper to life. It’s exciting that the advertising industry places high value on the creativity and effectiveness of content. I’ve produced a few commercials that creatively push the envelope with fun and sometimes wild ideas that have converted into positive brand awareness. Ever heard of KFC Finger Lickin’ Good…Nail Polish that yes, tastes like chicken? https://www.adweek.com/creativity/kfc-just-made-edible-finger-lickin-good-nail-polish-yeah-tastes-chicken-171245/

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Seoul and raised in Hong Kong until graduating from high school at HKIS. I spent my university years in Boston at Emerson College and worked in Los Angeles at Anonymous Content and Partizan Entertainment. But on a brief visit back to Hong Kong in 2010, I decided to move back and continue my career here, and it was the best decision I ever made.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong is my home so it will always be my favourite city for business and for me personally. What I love about Hong Kong is that while I am based here, I can actually work with agencies and brands from anywhere in APAC. If I need to attend an important meeting, I can just hop on a quick flight easily. I spent most of 2017 working in Seoul with Korean agency Cheil and Samsung, and currently I am working with Japanese agency ADK and Toyota based in Singapore.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Fake it until you become it,” from Amy Cuddy’s TED talk. Worth a watch. This helped me early in my career when I felt like I was under qualified for the job I was in. I learned to fake my confidence and fake a powerful body language until I truly felt that confidence became something real. It was nerve wracking at first but it worked and now I don’t have to fake it.

Who inspires you?
My friends. Noelle who worked part time jobs while being a full time student to pay her own tuition while we were in college together. Osti who is a lawyer focused on supporting developing nations and a board member of Redress, an environmental NGO working to reduce waste in the fashion industry. Vanessa who runs a real estate company, co-owns the gym Crossfit Asphodel, started a health foods business called Quo and NGO The Keep Moving Project to promote wellness in our community. Cathy who will be the first Asian woman to direct a big budget superhero film starring Margot Robbie with Warner Bros and DC. And too many more to name!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
5.2 million plastic bottles are thrown away in Hong Kong every day. Plastic pollution is a major issue for the environment and we as responsible citizens can do our small part by reducing our consumption of unnecessary plastic. I do mine by having a water filter at home and carrying my own reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go. I love the brand Hydroflask because the stainless steel material keeps water hot or cold for hours, so I don’t feel tempted to buy a cold water at 7-11 on those hot, humid days we have here.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
About five years ago I purchased my very first stock and put one month’s salary into it, which at the time was a lot of money for me. Knowing how that stock has performed now, I would have put all my savings into it.

How do you unwind?
Exercise is essential in my daily life to help clear my head and de-stress. My go to is a workout at Crossfit Asphodel, running outdoors, yoga and hiking. But a glass of red wine and live music at Soiree in Soho on Sunday night works pretty well too!

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
One of the best trips I ever took was to the island of Lombok in Indonesia. Two girl friends and I did a 3 day 2 night hiking and camping trip to summit the Mount Rinjani Volcano. It was physically challenging but mentally relaxing. There was no cellphone reception, no distractions, we had the company of nature and nights with skies full of shooting stars. It was pretty magical. We then went to the Gili Islands for a few days of scuba diving, yoga and sitting on the beach doing nothing but sipping on coconuts. That was pretty relaxing too.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” by Lois P. Frankel and “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. Essential reads for every working woman and/or man who wants to know how to support the working women in their life.

Shameless plug for your business:
I am a TV commercial and print producer that can plug into an existing advertising agency or brand team to produce their communication needs. Many advertising agencies these days are scaling down so they have creative directors and account services but may not have an in-house producer, so I can fill that gap by becoming a part of the existing agency team. For brands that want to produce content directly without involving an agency, I can also bridge the gap by bringing my production knowledge in-house and working as part of the marketing/brand team and liaising with the other departments in the company such as product team and ecomm.

How can people connect with you?
They can email me at [email protected]
or visit my website at mkimproducer.com

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

Renne Ballard, Owner of Renée Ballard Communications

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Renne Ballard runs a social media agency working with business women, helping them find their business’s voice.

What’s your story?
I began my career in PR/communications ten years ago in Australia, after arriving home from two years in Dubai. In Dubai I was working for Emirates Airlines as a flight attendant and flying around the world non-stop for two years. This really sparked my interest for how people communicate. I started out as a community manager for an online advertising company, then moved into the corporate world of outdoor advertising, managing internal and external PR and communications. After having a baby four years ago, I decided to leave the safety net of corporate, and stride out on my own. I now run a social media agency and I specialise in working with business women, helping to find their business’ voice so they can use social media to achieve their business goals.

What excites you most about your industry?
I love the open accessibility online provides. It’s free for businesses to get online and connect with their target audience. Twenty years ago, advertising and PR was insanely expensive and quite elitist, but through incredible platforms like Facebook or Twitter, any business can connect with who is looking for their product/solution. Social media is particularly effective for small businesses because they have the edge when it comes to authenticity and a clear voice.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m in Hong Kong because I’m a trailing spouse. I know it’s such a daggy term, but I love it, it makes me sound so dedicated to my husband! Alas, we came to Hong Kong for my husband’s work. He’s the Design Director of Asia for an international retail design agency. We’ve been here for almost two years and it’s been a huge learning curve in terms of business and culture. We love the fast-paced nature of Hong Kong and the fact that everything is open late – it suits me perfectly because I’m nocturnal.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
That’s easy, Hong Kong. It’s the perfect blend of start-ups and mothership-sized institutions. I love the small business side, watching the collaborations between workshare spaces with galleries, networking groups and foodies; it’s a hothouse of creative partnerships here.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
When you’re are feeling scared about your next step, lean in and feel the difference. Is it fear mixed with excitement? Or fear mixed with dread? Always go with the former and cut loose the latter.

Who inspires you?
I love Tamara Mellon (Jimmy Choo founder). She has created multiple empires and she never stops trying new business models and pushing her limits. It helps that I love shoes too.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I just turned 40 years old. At best, I’m probably halfway through my life. It makes me constantly question, “Am I where I want to be?”

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have asked more questions to the people I looked up to, and listened less to the people telling me I won’t achieve my goals.

How do you unwind?
In this day and age, it’s scandalous to say, but I love sunbaking. At any chance, you’ll find me poolside, laying in the sun in a trance-like state.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Northern Danang in Vietnam. We were there at Christmas, at the foot of the mountains and it was beautiful. Heaps of wildlife and jungles and enough five star resorts that I was never parched once.

Everyone in business should read this book:
‘The E Myth’ by Michael Gerber. It’s an oldie but a goodie because it succinctly outlines how to transition from a one person operation to a global business like McDonalds. Once you see how important systems and processes are, you can recognise shambolic companies a mile off.

Shameless plug for your business:
Renée Ballard Communications is a social media agency that works with business women who are ready to make social media work for them. We create effective, powerful social media strategies that are tailored to the people who will be breathing life into them. We hand on heart promise to never use annoying, marketing buzzwords and that we value laughter above everything else.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected] or www.reneeballard.com or +85296670115

Twitter handle?
@ballard_comms

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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