Our writer had the privilege of meeting a handful of local entrepreneurs and got their most Singaporean take on entrepreneurship, along with the bells and the whistles, the “LAHs” and the “LAWs”, and the cherry on top.
Recently, I was commissioned by EO-SG (Entrepreneur Organization Singapore Chapter) – an independent network of entrepreneurs – to put together an anthology about the Organization. I was sent into the boardrooms of some of Singapore’s most inspiring entrepreneurs – without armour or floatation device – to gather stories about being an entrepreneur in Singapore.
The experience is like having rojak (with chili of course) – where each unique ingredient is already awesome in itself, but when put together, becomes magical, without altering or overpowering the others.
It was all very lovely – getting free coffee, career advice, and anecdotes from these rat-race opt-outs (as I – enviously – call them behind their backs). Most of them readily shared their stories about operating a successful business in Singapore, their support systems, struggles, and success. But what inspired me to write this blog entry was the repeated detection of an unmistakable aroma – that of a uniquely Singaporean cocktail of raw energy and gratitude – emanated by each and every single one of them.
Raw Energy in that they all have (proven to have) fight in them, bark and bite, magic and might; thicker-skinned, super-charged with more charisma, teeming with more ideas, and fortified with more resolve than your average Joe.
Gratitude in that they all gave credit to the landscape that is Singapore – made up by a support system that is the Singapore family, our unique fellowship culture, our intelligent, active market, our thriving economy, and the government-led entrepreneurial initiatives put in place over the years.
Here are some amazing quotes (in verbatim)* these entrepreneurs shared – that stuck with me for some strange reason – each delivered in a uniquely Singaporean way
Every single one of them is filled with pride to call Singapore home, just as we should be, to call them compatriots.
Elim Chew, Founder, 77th Street
Seems like just yesterday she was founder of street-wear chain 77th Street, and my personal idol. Today, she is one of Singapore’s most successful, empowered, and fashion forward Female Entrepreneurs. Some say, she is Singapore’s female Richard Branson, I say, she needs no introduction.
“I remember being at one of my first business forums in Dubai, and we were, you know, “clique-ish” only mingling with fellow Singaporeans, and Boon (Ong Tze Boon, CEO of Ong & Ong) told us, “If you wanted to catch up with your local forum mates, you didn’t have to take a plane all the way to do so”… That triggered a healthy social habit in me. I still make the effort to network and mingle today.”
Ong Tze Boon, CEO, Ong & Ong
Ong Tze Boon – Entrepreneur, architect, businessman, who can light up any room with just a fraction of his megawatt smile, multi-million-dollar personality, and his ability to switch on and off, his Singlish accent.
“One day in 2010, I received a call, a call informing me of *Parvinder’s death.”
*Restaurateur Parvinder Singh, founder of popular Indian restaurant Kinara, Boon’s fellow EO member. Fans of the local TV soap opera series, Masters Of The Sea, will remember him as the handsome character, Dr Gupta.
“I instinctively and immediately called all my ex-forum mates and we went to the hospital, as a cluster of friends, the bond we shared, untouched by the time that has past. We were young once, and now we are old friends; we have shared camaraderie, now we share solace. It was then I had an epiphany about the importance of fellowship in our journey through life.”
Douglas Foo, CEO, Sakae Holdings
One of Singapore’s leading entrepreneurs, with a sushi empire that includes 250 restaurants in 10 countries.
“I have 4 sons, Dominic, Donovan, Donahue, Donaghan. All their names begin with “DO”, because I want them to “do something” with their life.”
Lynn Tan, Managing Director, Fusion Cosmetics
This fellow ex-convent girl, who chose entrepreneurship over a lucrative career in advertising is not one to mince her words, much like her mum, you will see. Lynn Tan represents a new wave of female leaders – unabashedly, on top. By the time you read this, Lynn has either served, or is serving, as President of EO Singapore Chapter – as its first-ever female President.
“My mother said to me something, which I always remember. She said: “Do anything you want. But make sure you’re best at it; If you wanna be gangster, be on top… lead it to greater good; don’t be the lackey that gets caught.””
Thomas Fernandez, CEO, PestBusters
PestBuster, author of two published books, on the board of numerous business networks as entrepreneur-mentor, and referred to as “Happy Hour Whisky Authority” by his peers, no matter what hat Thomas is wearing, his advice to young business owners remains the same.
Just a 6 words from this man: “Build a Brand, Leave a Legacy.”