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Lady Boss

Introduction What does it mean to run your business like a girl? In the early days, most the women were trying to act as much as possible like the guys. We hoped no one would notice we were women (and we sure didn’t let anybody call us girls). But its also true that we run our businesses differently from the men around us. We flat out didn’t do a lot of things most businessmen probably consider essential. We are not saying the way men do it is wrong. Some of the best role models we had in business, and in life, have been men, and the same is probably true for you. But there are things women can teach about business that you aren’t likely to hear. Over time we have met more and more women entrepreneurs. And although we each have our own approaches to business, we are largely alike in the sense that we are not doing it by the book-at least not by the books they hand out at schools. The thing about The Lady Boss is that you never read about, reality is that women don’t do business the way they teach it in Business 101, we think our company is just an anomaly that’s somehow, against all odds, squeaking through to success.

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Foreword I have always been amazed by the creativity, resourcefulness and single-mindedness of women in business, even more so when this is translated into the realm of female entrepreneurship. In the developing countries around Asia, I have seen how women have set up small businesses in communities, grown their businesses through network links and ultimately become breadwinners to their three or even four generation families. In Singapore, I see a new breed of women entrepreneur, armed not just with business acumen - but with the wherewithal to succeed and expand in the cut and thrust of a very competitive field. No longer is she content with the local domestic market, many a time, she has set her sights on the global marketplace. With a women’s flair – some call it EQ - she may be better placed for new product development, marketing, PR and communication strategies, customer relations as well as facing failure and coming back from those setbacks – essentials in any business operations. Aided by advancements of global trade links through technology – she is more likely to succeed as a business entrepreneur than ever before. It is very likely that women will be founding an equal number of small businesses in the next 10-20 years as men and thus personal wealth between the sexes is set to narrow even further. The numbers of women starting companies in Singapore has spiked in recent years, averaging at a 4.25% increase every year from 2001-2011, even throughout the recession years. The number dipped in 2012, but picked up in 2013 with an average monthly increase of about 48%! Moreover today, it is women who make most of the household economic decisions. A recent MasterCard survey on Money Management showed that women in 8 out of 16 Asia Pacific markets controlled the purse strings for household finances and that 95 percent of women are involved in a multitude of financial decisions in their households, from paying the bills and booking family vacations to filing taxes. The Singapore stories of female entrepreneurship contained in this book is therefore not just inspirational but also a very timely and important archival record of the development of women gender roles in Singaporean society. The women featured are providing a voice and laying the foundational building blocks for a new breed of the modern Singaporean woman for generations to come.

Trina Liang-Lin President Singapore Committee for UN Women 2

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Foreword

Lady Boss

Being a women in business can often serve as an advantage however, every businesswomen shares the common challenge of balancing some of the most conflicting demands. We often faces mountains of opportunities and has baskets of things to do. How can one person be everywhere and do everything . Balance – has always been the key to a Winner. It’s a skill that takes one to practice by prioritizing the one that matters most to the least. No one is born a Winner, we are all groom to be. When You find Balance then you live your life accordingly without the need to seek work/life balance. I believe it is important for women to share their knowledge and commitment to cultivate her garden and allows her business, projects and careers to become more fertile. The publishing of Singapore Business Gurus- The Lady Boss is a great opportunity that allows women in Singapore to share their journeys and winning methods in running their businesses, for the hope to connect a strong society of women and the ability to influence the next generation. All the women featured in this book are Winners because they balance successful businesses with equally successful and healthy families, communities, and private lives. A fabulous resource for women, but also something men could learn a thing or two from as well! Liana Ali Editor

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CONTENT Royal Security .............................................................................................................

6-10

Brightime by Champion Time ...................................................................................

12-17

Sunray Woodcraft Construction .................................................................................

18-23

TOUCHE™Elite .......................................................................................................

24-29

Chuangxin School of Education ................................................................................

30-34

Oticon .........................................................................................................................

36-40

Cutis Medical Laser Clinics .......................................................................................

42-46

Pacific-Tec Scientific ...................................................................................................

48-52

The Big Sheila ............................................................................................................

54-58

The Experience Architect ..........................................................................................

60-63

Rev 22 .........................................................................................................................

64-67

Mai Thai Restaurant ..................................................................................................

68-71

Gastrogig .....................................................................................................................

72-75

Sheer Health Phram ...................................................................................................

76-79

Bee Choo Herbal ........................................................................................................

80-83

Soulmanna Live ..........................................................................................................

84-87

Bebebows ....................................................................................................................

88-91

Heaven’s Gift ..............................................................................................................

92-95

Klassique Musik ..........................................................................................................

96-99

Pranic Angel Healing Centre ..................................................................................... 100-103 JP Concept .................................................................................................................. 104-107 Origins Jamu Massage ................................................................................................ 108-111 Ythu Wendy Restaurant ............................................................................................. 112-115 Proof Perfect ............................................................................................................... 116-119 Absolute PR ................................................................................................................ 120-123 Mount Sapola ............................................................................................................. 124-127 Gill Capital ................................................................................................................. 128-131 2am: Dessert Bar ........................................................................................................ 132-135

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Lady Boss

“If women understood and exercised their power, they could remake the world.� - Emily Taft Doughlas

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SINGAPORE BUSINESS GURUS 2013

Lady Boss


Royal Security

Lady Boss

“You only live once, so eat well, drink well and live your dreams.” That is the personal mantra of Ms Vijayah Sigamani, Director of Royal Security Management. A woman with an indomitable will, amazing tenacity and great inner strength, she has overcome the setbacks that life has dealt her to build her company into the success it is today.

Life’s little lessons Vijayah was born the eldest daughter of three children. Her father was a policeman and her mother a housewife. As her father was often away at work, Vijayah was brought up by her mother, a woman who dedicated herself to taking good care of the family. Coming from a traditional and conservative background, Vijayah’s mother was a firm believer in family values like humility, thrift, responsibility, filial piety and respect, and she spent years instilling these admirable qualities in her children – qualities that would shape the character and personality of the woman that Vijayah has become today. As Vijayah grew up, the well-being and disciplining of her siblings slowly fell to her. But being of a tender age herself, she did not fully understand the importance of the responsibility she held. All that changed the day her brother was nearly crushed by a heavy cupboard, saved only by her quick thinking and fast reflexes. Young Vijayah felt like a heroine. And from that day on, at just seven years of age, she took on the role of disciplinarian, watching over her siblings and instilling in them the qualities she had inherited from her mother.

Developing an interest in law enforcement Growing up the daughter of a policeman, Vijayah was often struck by how impressive her father looked in uniform and she slowly began to develop an interest in law enforcement. While other girls dreamed of working in glamorous careers, Vijayah was drawn to occupations that would allow her to understand the criminal mind. So it was no wonder that upon her

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graduation she decided to be a prison officer, a career that would allow her to help rehabilitate those who had broken the law and understand the reasons behind their actions. However, it was not to be. Her ageing father, who had retired from the force and had started a security firm, wanted her to help him run the family business. Security back then was not a glamorous career, with guards being middle-aged men or older and referred to as “jagas”. It was not something that Vijayah had envisioned and she was torn between her dreams and her father’s wishes. In the end, filial piety won out, and she decided to help her father.

Learning things the hard way Working for her father was not easy. As a fresh graduate with no relevant experience, Vijayah found herself in unfamiliar territory. There was no one she could turn to for help and she soon became less confident of herself. But her father was not one who accepted excuses or gave in to adversity. As a man who scoffed at favouritism, he set higher standards for his children and expected much more. His work ethics were exceptional and he firmly believed that lessons were best learned the hard way. Despite him being diagnosed with kidney failure, he never gave up and lived life to the fullest and he expected nothing less from his children. Inspired by her father’s tenacity, hardworking nature and attitude to life, Vijayah threw herself into the job, determined to master every aspect of the business. For the next few months, she spent long hours at work, reading up and doing research on what she didn’t know. Slowly she began to understand the business. But her father was still not convinced of her capabilities. Undaunted, she decided to prove herself. Using all the skills she had acquired from pursuing her business management degree, Vijayah set about increasing the number of clients the company had. It was a proud day for Vijayah when business poured in as a result of a marketing letter she had written. But the greatest reward for her came from the nod of approval her father gave. She had finally managed to impress him. With renewed confidence and her father’s support, Vijayah quickly took on other areas of the business. 8

Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss


Making sacrifices

Lady Boss

In addition, she had to be mindful of the number of employees depending on her. Even if the company was not doing well, salaries still had to be paid. In fact, there were several occasions when the company did not receive payment and With increased responsibility Vijayah had to sacrifice her own salary to her employees. came additional workloads However, all her sacrifices would soon pay off. and stress, and Vijayah soon found herself making sacrifices just to keep the business running smoothly. With her security details running every hour of the day, it meant that Vijayah had to be oncall 24/7, leaving her with little or no time to spend with her family. To cope with her family, social and work commitments, she often gave up what little sleep she had. But things were about to get worse. Today, Vijayah is the proud director of Royal Contrary to what many believe about Security Management where she oversees successful entrepreneurs having huge multiple aspects of the business. Since she has amounts of disposable income, Vijayah taken over, she has managed to increase the realised she had to be extremely careful with number of clients and build a good reputation her money. As this was her family business, for the company and won several awards. But the responsibility of ensuring the continuity it is not all smooth sailing. In an industry of the company fell to her. With business as where human capital determines the her first priority, every cent she received had to success of the business, Vijayah constantly be saved to prepare for bad times as a result of faces manpower issues. While the security unexpected losses or unpredictable events. Also, industry has shed the stereotype of offering to continually upgrade the business, Vijayah had low-paying jobs for the low-skilled, there to constantly invest in training for her staff. are still few who are willing to enter a career that entails long working hours.

“

But just like every other challenge she encounters, Vijayah takes it in her stride.

�

The struggle never ends

Vijayah also faces the challenge of finding the right man for the job. With no sure-fire method to ensure that applicants will be vigilant and responsible, traits that are crucial to the business, she takes a risk each and every time she makes a new hire. But just like every other challenge she encounters, Vijayah takes it in her stride and she now has a team of dependable security personnel. Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss

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Lady Boss

Dealing with adversity

Although things are going well for Vijayah, life is full of ups and downs and she has had her share of adversity. Her business went through a rough period when she had to absorb a series of bad debts from customers who couldn’t pay up. But the biggest blow for her came when her husband was killed in an accident, leaving behind huge debts. Despite her grief, business still had to go on and she had to deal with stress from the company, worry about her debts and her sorrow at her loss. It was an extremely difficult and trying time for Vijayah, one that would have broken a lesser person. To deal with her problems, she turned to reading to escape and keep positive. From motivational books to biographies, they kept her going through that difficult time. Now, whenever Vijayah feels stressed or the need to keep calm, she turns to her books for answers. In fact, she can always be seen with a book in hand, everywhere she goes.

The iron lady

Looking ahead

As a woman in a male-dominated in dustry, many marvel at her success. Despite being born into a traditional, conservative Indian family culture that believes in male superiority, Vijayah has never let that thinking affect her drive to succeed. While some might find the prospect of working among a group of men daunting, this doesn’t have any effect on Vijayah. In fact, it makes her even more determined to prove herself. At work, she makes all the difficult decisions and is known as a tough nut to crack. Vijayah also uses the fact that she is a woman to her advantage to recruit female security officers, who feel more comfortable knowing that a lady is in charge.

Since she joined the company, Vijayah has taken over the operations of a new training school, which offers WSQ security courses for security personnel looking to upgrade their skills. Moving forward, she hopes to double the family business and increase the number of courses provided in the training facility.

Even with her hectic work schedule, Vijayah still finds the time to be a filial daughter and a loving mother. She firmly believes that it is possible for her to have it all and enjoy time with her family while building a career. Vijayah puts great effort into balancing her work and family, often spending the weekends with them and taking time off to go on trips. While she cannot always be there for her son, she has never neglected him because of work.

But more than that, her dream is to create an association for single Indian women – a centre where they can go to for emotional support, where they are not constricted by the boundaries of their culture, where they can truly live their dreams. Till then, Vijayah will continue to strive to maintain work-family balance while working towards the fulfilment of her dream.

Royal Security Management Services Pte Ltd Blk 20 Woodlands Link #06-07 Singapore 738733 Tel: 63687890 (5 lines) Fax: 67553011 admin@royalsecurity.com.sg

AWARDED ASIA PACIFIC TOP EXCELLENCE BRAND

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Lady Boss

“What is most beautiful in virile men is something feminine, what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine.� 8

-Susan Sontag

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SINGAPORE BUSINESS GURUS 2013

Lady Boss

by Champion Time

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Lady Boss

Brightime by Champion Time

Entrepreneur Elizabeth Hsu is a woman with an uncommon love for what could be seen as “Men’s toys”, like Ferraris and five-figure time pieces. However, she proves that such pleasures in life aren’t just for the boys. She established Brightime by Champion Time 18 years ago as a rare female entrepreneur in Singapore’s male-dominated timepiece industry. She turned her appreciation of watches into a business that has continually grown to become the recognised establishmentit is today. Her dedication to delivering high-quality products and repair services was recognised by customers when they recommended her company for a Singapore Brands Award in 2012.

Travelling with her father

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

As a young girl, Elizabeth regularly travelled with her father, a banker, across the Asia Pacific region as he set up banking branches in countries as far away as Taiwan and South Korea. Unlike other young girls who may have found accompanying a parent on business a boring affair, she attentively observed her father’s every interaction, disagreement and completed deal. Whether her father spoke to a client about bank branch establishment details or loan terms, she always paid close attention to how he communicated with businessmen, officials and other key decision makers. This informal internship provided many important business lessons, and would greatly influence how she conducted business later in life.

Starting her professional career After earning a double degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Hawaii, she returned to Singapore to start her professional career. However, she found it difficult to find a job because many companies believed that she was too overqualified to work with them. Thankfully, her search for employment ended when she hired by the American telecommunications corporation

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Lady Boss

AT&T. Working for the company’s Asia Pacific office, she quickly progressed into a management position where she was in charge of thecompany’s production line process. Her job encompassed procuring raw materials and managing the smooth production of telecommunications devices. Her job was incredibly demanding, but she learned many key aspects of management including motivating and encouraging employees, and developing strong interdepartmental relationships to increase productivity. She also learned the importance of punctuality, scheduling and time management, which was the most important aspect of her job. This was because any production delay or disruption damaged both the company’s bottom line and reputation.

A career transition

While working for AT&T, the constant management of procurement and production timelines increasingly ate away into her personal time. As time went on, she began to long for a job that fulfilled the saying: “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. After three fruitful years at AT&T, she decided to leave the company to focus on going into business for herself. Her parents were initially wary about the transition, because she left a management position with an internationally renowned 14 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss

company to journey into the uncertainty of entrepreneurship. But after seeing their daughter’s desire and enthusiasm, her parents relented and gave their full support.

Old love, new business

Time was one of the factors that caused her to leave her job at AT&T. However, “time” was also one of her loves. When she was a young child, her father gave her a charming Mickey Mouse watch as a gift. Since the moment that she wore her first watch, she has had a constant love affair with timepieces. “I can still remember the warm feeling I had when I received that watch from my father. It had its own unique character and gave me happiness because I appreciated its intrinsic value,” she remembered. Elizabeth did not know much about the timepiece industry, but that didn’t dissuade her from choosing it as her business focus. She was driven to find out everything she could about watches and horology. She also went so far as to learn simple watch repair in order to become a more hands-on business owner. Despite her initial lack of industry expertise, she quickly and enthusiastically gained the industry knowledge needed to establish Brightime by Champion Time in 1994.


Lady Boss

A woman in a male-dominated industry

Elizabeth quickly realised that she was one of the only female entrepreneurs dealing in the selling and repair of used, branded time pieces. In fact, many of her industry peers, who were older businessmen with traditional mind-sets, took notice of this and were not too welcoming. “Chinese society is very male-centric, so they are more comfortable working with other men when it comes to business. They see women as being just homemakers,” related Elizabeth. There were many occasions when men expressed their doubt about her abilities in business simply because of her gender. However, her experiences at AT&T had taught her that women could not only do a job as well as men, but they could even surpass them. She believed that when it came to business, women have the “soft skills” needed to create smoother business relationships. These skills proved useful, as her ability to communicate tactfully with a “softer” approach helped her cement many positive business relationships. Her father’s influence also contributed greatly to her ability to compete in a male-dominated industry. By observing the way her father conducted business, she learned how to handle communications with confidence and poise. “Boss-to-boss interactions are always difficult, but seeing the example my father set in his business dealings taught me different ways of communicating with businessmen. This was something I never would have learned from a textbook,” said Elizabeth. The most important rule she learned from her father was that the purpose of all business communications is to make profit.

You must have determination and a willingness to adapt to change if you want to be successful.

Changing mind-sets about women entrepreneurs As time went by, she began to experience less chauvinistic behaviour in her communications with male entrepreneurs. This can be attributed to Singapore’s socially progressive society, which saw an increase in the number of female professionals and entrepreneurs joining the workforce. “Singapore is more open-minded compared to the 1970s and 1980s because people are seeking education overseas before coming back to run their own businesses,” she said. Elizabeth believed that the influence of seeing greater gender equality abroad had a positive effect that lowered instances of discrimination based on sex.

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Lady Boss

The right timing to expand

Sticking to the same products and services is good for well-established international brands with generations of history, but for entrepreneurs who want to grow, diversifying and expanding your offerings is the only way to expand your markets. Three years ago, Elizabeth ventured into offering new watches in addition to used time pieces. This move improved her business productivity by expanding her markets to include younger individuals wanting to own quality time pieces. She also used her business acumen to establish relationships with major watch companies to become an authorised repair centre.

Growing with the times

Since first making the decision to become an entrepreneur, she has guided her business through many hardships and changes throughout the years, including economic downturns and evolutions in technology. Change is never an easy thing to accept, but when it comes to business, it is something that must be acknowledged. “Setting up your business is never going to be easy. Carrying on the business through economic uncertainty won’t be any easier. You must have determination and a willingness to adapt to change if you want to be successful,” said Elizabeth. In 2004, she embraced technology by creating a website for her business. At the time, the Internet was still growing and some entrepreneurs were sceptical about the commercial impact a website could deliver. As a firm believer in the power of technology, she saw the Internet’s potential and continually upgraded her website’s look and content to serve her customers better. It turned out to be a wise decision, as her business grew because the website gave customers another route to make enquiries and purchases. 16 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss

In the coming year, she will further expand her selection by incorporating even more select watch brands to her existing catalogue. With greater selection, she hopes to expand further her appeal to an even broader customer base looking for watches ranging from a few hundred dollars to five-figure time pieces.

Making every second count

Every entrepreneur experiences the issue of striking a work-life balance when it comes to business. However, this issue poses more challenges for women as they have to manage both their home and their business. For Elizabeth, making the business a second “home” eased the time spent away from her family. “I am tied down by my business because my job requires my presence. This is because my company’s buying license is under my name. But my three kids visited me often and even contributed to business operations,” she related. In fact, her children became more interested in business as a result, and now manage her website and other business activities. She hopes to pass on the business to her children in five to 10 years as they gain a better understanding of the business.


Lady Boss

Advice for future lady bosses Driving into “Time” is not only her business, but a necessity for every business. Elizabeth advises all current and future lady the future bosses to make the most of their time by either planning the future of their business or strategising how to improve it. “Set up your goals and work to reach them. To succeed, you must adopt the mentality that there is no ‘going back’, no safety net. Your only option is to persevere,” she explained. She stresses that determination is another key attribute to have when it comes to business as it will help entrepreneurs weather the challenges that will occur. Finally, she urges all female entrepreneurs to know their business inside and out in order to maximise profitability and efficiency. “In my business, I have to judge the price of a watch based on its condition and I need to know every hidden cost behind refurbishing it to a state worthy of my company’s reputation,” she related. She believes that knowing about your industry and what costs are associated with your products and services is the key to making your business more profitable.

Over the last few years, she has seen her business accelerate almost as fast as the Ferrari she owns. With her 18 years of dedicated service in the industry paying off with numerous awards including a Singapore Brands and Promising 500 Award in 2012, she is driving her business towards even greater recognition and growth. “I am a driven person when it comes to success. What motivates are not the awards, but the kind words of satisfaction I receive from my customers. That’s what keeps me going,” she explained.

Brightime by Champion Time 180 Bencoolen Street #01-70/71 The Bencoolen Singapore 189646 12:00 noon to 7:00 pm Tuesday to Sunday (Monday Off) Tel: 63386368 www.championtime.com

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SINGAPORE BUSINESS GURUS 2013

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Lady Boss

Sunray Woodcraft Construction Pte Ltd

“Never give up, persevere and strive for your dreams.” These are the words that keep Ms Connie Wu going each time she is faced with an insurmountable problem. Through hard work, determination and an iron will, she has come a long way from a young girl with a humble background to become the executive director of one of the largest interior building companies in Singapore – Sunray Woodcraft Construction.

A simple life

Connie grew up in humble beginnings. Her family lived in a kampong, and they led a simple life. With many children, her parents worked extremely hard to provide for the family. But despite their best efforts, often, there was barely enough. Though life was hard, Connie never let it get her down and often faced each day with optimism, believing that tomorrow would be a better day. As she grew up, she saw the burden her parents were carrying and decided to help them whenever she could. As such, even at a young age, she learned how to be independent.

Never give up, persevere and strive for your dreams.

When she attended primary school, Connie started looking for ways to earn her own pocket money. But jobs were scarce for a young girl with little education and limited skills. Refusing to give up, she persevered in her search and finally found work selling lipsticks and cleaning houses. Juggling school and work was tiring, but she was happy in knowing that she had eased her family’s burden through her efforts. Upon completing her primary school education and having enrolled into secondary school, Connie set about searching for a job that would provide her with more income. With her experience selling lipsticks, she soon started working at a boutique selling clothes. Her hardworking nature quickly caught the attention of her lady boss, who convinced her husband, an accountant, to let Connie help with his paperwork. For the next few years, she strived to balance her school and work. This went on until the day she obtained her ‘O’ level results. Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 19


Lady Boss

A life-changing event

Now that she had obtained her qualifications, Connie was ready to step into the working world. That was when her cousin approached her with an offer to join Sunray Woodcraft Construction as a clerk. Sunray Woodcraft Construction was established in 1987 as a family business in the construction industry by her future husband and his eldest brother, Mr Tan Choon Huat and Mr Tan Teng Huat. When Connie accepted the job, little did she know that this decision would change her

life. With no prior experience in the industry, she had to learn everything from scratch. However, there was a big problem – everything was in English. Having been Chinese educated all her life, this was a huge obstacle to her. But rather than being discouraged, she rose to the challenge. Determined to learn everything she could in the shortest time possible, she threw herself into every task. Day and night, she pushed herself to the limits, poring over training manuals and contracts, trying to make sense of everything. Slowly, she began to pick up the skills and knowledge she needed. Back then, Sunray Woodcraft Construction had only 10 employees and Connie quickly found herself taking on different roles in the various aspects of the business. As her experience in the company grew, so did her responsibilities. Besides being tasked with simple paperwork and administrative duties, Connie was also overseeing everything from the tendering of bids, negotiation and procurement to handling site problems. Therefore, it came as no surprise when she was appointed as an executive director.

The growth of a company

Under the stewardship of Connie and the board of directors, Sunray Woodcraft Construction began to grow. Then tragedy struck in 1999, when the company’s factory burned down. Though the company was insured for S$1 million, the losses were 20 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss


Lady Boss

several times more. It was a devastating blow to the business. Faced with mounting financial problems from the loss of equipment and the threat of closure, the directors were forced to make a hard decision. They decided to start the business from scratch, but as an independent contractor instead of its previous classification as a subcontractor. It was going to be very hard to restore the business to its former success, but Connie was determined to make it happen. “This was a very dark period for the company and a time of great uncertainty. I knew it would be hard, but I really wanted the company to succeed,” she shares. After years of hard work, the company was almost fully restored. In the months that followed, Connie, together with the management and employees, worked tirelessly to win contracts for the company. She spent her days searching for opportunities and her nights drawing up contracts and tender documents to ensure that all the projects were completed as per schedule. Her hard work paid off as the company slowly gained business and began to grow. Things were finally looking up.

I knew it would be hard, but I really wanted the company to succeed.

Today, Sunray Woodcraft Construction has developed into one of the largest interior builders in Singapore for interior fittingout works. Over the years, it has earned many accolades for its quality of work and excellent customer service such as the BizSAFE Star and BizSAFE Partner certifications by Singapore’s Workplace Safety and Health Council. With a pool of diversified talents from more than 10 different nationalities across the globe, Sunray Woodcraft Construction is now a far cry from the company it used to be.

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Lady Boss

A woman in a man’s world

Not many women would choose a career in the construction industry, a job that requires vast technical knowledge and entails spending nights entertaining clients and potential prospects. But this is where Connie has chosen to leave her mark and make a name for herself. Despite being one of the few women in a male-dominated industry, Connie has never allowed herself to feel inferior to men. But it has not been easy. In the course of her career, she has met with her fair share of discrimination and prejudice where men have shown apprehension in working with her for no other reason than the fact that she is a woman. But rather than let this affect her, she works doubly hard to prove herself and show that she is just as capable. “Whatever men can do, women can do too. Don’t allow yourself to be held back by your gender, and strive for your dreams,” she emphasises.

Despite the discrimination she has faced, Connie admits that being a woman in a man’s world does have its advantages. “I’ve realised that men speak less harshly to me and tend to use less vulgarities when I’m around, which is a good thing,” she shares. She has also noticed that it is easier for her to hire female employees as they feel more comfortable knowing that a woman is in charge. Working with men has enabled Connie to notice fundamental differences in the way men and women think and run a business. “Women tend to be more conscientious than men, which is extremely important when it comes to contracts and tender documents,” she says. She has also observed that men are more impulsive and often make grandiose plans whereas women are more careful and conservative when it comes to business. In addition, women are more emotional, which makes them appreciate their employees more. “I treat my employees like my family and that is why many of them have stayed with the company for a very long time,” she shares.

Keeping it balanced

Whatever men can do, women can do too. Don’t allow yourself to be held back by your gender and strive for your dreams.

22 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss

Although Connie is extremely proud of her achievements, they have not come without sacrifice. In fact, her greatest regret is missing out on her children’s childhood. That’s the reason why, even as she continues to contribute to the company, she strives to make time for her family. Although her children are grown up now, she makes an effort to meet with them for meals or just to catch up. “It is extremely important to know how to balance work and family and be able to prioritise. I am very thankful that my family has been so understanding,” she shares. She adds that women have many responsibilities to handle and a great many things to think about. And it is for these reasons that women have to know how to multitask so that they can lead a more balanced life.


Lady Boss Shouldering so many responsibilities has not been easy for Connie, and there are times when everything seems too much to handle. That’s when she draws her strength and inspiration from a person she greatly admires, Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. “I truly admire his patience, determination and perseverance. It is with these very qualities that he has developed Singapore to the nation that we are today. Without him, our lives would be very different,” she shares. As such, each time she is faced with problems, she remembers the struggles that Mr Lee has had to overcome and is spurred to work even harder and not give up. Looking back at her amazing journey through the years, Connie has only one thing to say: “I am very proud that despite what little education I had, I have managed to achieve so much. That’s why no matter what you do, you must never give up.”

The future awaits

Despite the success of the company, Connie, a self-confessed workaholic, is constantly searching for ways to expand it. In fact, construction of a new eight-storey office and factory, Sunray Building, has already commenced. In the next lap of the business, she will continue to work towards improving all levels of services, innovative solutions, cost engineering and manufacturing technologies to bring up the name of the company. In time, she hopes to expand the business overseas and make Sunray Woodcraft Construction a name that is synonymous with quality interior building services.

I am very proud that despite what little education I had, I have managed to achieve so much. That’s why no matter what you do, you must never give up.

Sunray Woodcraft Construction Pte Ltd 2027 Bukit Batok Street 23 Singapore 659532 Tel: 6566 2311 Fax: 6565 3332 Email: swc@sunray.com.sg

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SINGAPORE BUSINESS GURUS 2013

Lady Boss


TOUCHE™ Elite

Lady Boss

Two beautiful women, two ambitious individuals, one shared vision. Driven by their passion for beauty, Ms Choo Lee Lian and Ms Eileen Lee, partners and founders of TOUCHE™ Elite, have come together to make their dream a reality. Through determination, tenacity and sheer hard work, they have built a company and brand that is now synonymous with beauty.

The budding beautician

Eileen’s passion for beauty started when she was just a young girl. Her auntie was a beautician and would often bring her beauty kit to family gatherings, where she would do treatments for the family. Young Eileen would sit fascinated for hours, quietly watching as her auntie applied different creams and used a variety of instruments. When she reached the age of 13, Eileen became increasingly curious about the secrets of the beauty trade. Eager to find out more, she began experimenting on her sister, imitating what she had seen her auntie do. Her keen interest quickly became apparent to her family, and Eileen found herself working part time in her auntie’s beauty salon as an apprentice. She was elated! However, she soon realised that it was not all fun and games. Although it had seemed extremely easy when her auntie was doing the treatments, in practice, it was not! Being a beautician actually required a lot of knowledge. There was so much to learn about the different techniques, products and technology involved.

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Lady Boss

Pursuing her passion

Determined to learn everything she could about her trade, Eileen enrolled in an advanced course in beauty at Top to Toe Beauty College. In the months that followed, she studied as hard as she could, picking up the different skills and techniques she needed to succeed. Her hard work paid off when she received a distinction for her CIDESCO Diploma. Impressed by her industrious attitude and her drive to succeed, her teacher introduced Eileen to her first job at a cosmetic company, where she first met Lee Lian. Unbeknownst to her, their paths would cross again many years later. Eileen worked for seven years at the cosmetics firm before leaving the company. By then, she had amassed a wealth of experience and her next job saw her as the chief trainer of a beauty salon. During her time there, besides training the staff in operations, she also helped to kick-start a beauty school operated by the company. She managed to achieve all of this despite having just had her first child. When she became pregnant with her second child, Eileen decided to be a full-time mum.

It’s about knowing what Although she was happy to be spending more time with her family, you want she found that she couldn’t give up her passion. She started to conduct research on different beauty products and the latest techniques. With the and being support of her husband, she started a home-based business doing beauty committed treatments. Initially, her only clients were her family and friends. But as to your word of the effectiveness of her beauty treatments began to spread, she soon found herself having a steady clientele. Eileen was content to maintain the passion. status quo until the day Lee Lian called with an enticing business opportunity.

A strange twist of fate

Lee Lian started her journey into the beauty industry as a result of her mother, a woman she greatly respected. Influenced by her mother’s advice to enter an industry related to women, she decided to take up a beauty course at Top to Toe Beauty College. Despite having no knowledge of anything related to beauty, she industriously applied herself to her studies and graduated with a CIBTAC and World Master diplomas. With the skills she had acquired, Lee Lian joined a beauty company as a brand executive, where she could put her knowledge to good use. As fate would have it, it was the very company where Eileen was working. Working for a beauty company with no prior experience in the beauty industry was not easy. But Lee Lian was not one to give up. She started learning everything from scratch, doing the best she could each day. Her efforts paid off as she slowly began to advance in the company. But it wasn’t enough. She was looking for an even bigger challenge. It was time to move on. 26 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss


Lady Boss

An opportunity arises

Lee Lian joined a company that wanted to setup a medi-spa. Back then, medi-spas were a fairly new concept, which meant that she would have to do a lot of research to ensure that the business would succeed. It was an extremely challenging task, but it was exactly what she craved. Throwing herself into the task, she worked day and night, tirelessly finding out everything she could about medi-spas. Using her newfound knowledge and the skills and experience she had acquired when she worked in a sales and marketing position, she slowly began to build up the company. Her capabilities and hardworking nature were soon noticed by the people around her. It was not long after that she was given the opportunity to take over a business salon and be her own boss. The success of the medi-spa had filled Lee Lian with confidence and she knew that, with her level of commitment and effort, she would be able to make her own business a success. There was just one problem. She needed a partner who could handle the operational side of the business. It was then that she thought of Eileen.

Always know what you want in life. Everything comes with a price. So be prepared for sacrifices, but go for it.

Joining strengths

When Eileen first heard Lee Lian’s proposition, she was excited but afraid. The prospect of owning her own beauty salon was tempting, but she already had her own business venture. It was a hard decision. In the end, the promise of greater success won out and she took the plunge. Working together, Eileen and Lee Lian combined their strengths to create a beauty salon that would give them an edge over their competitors. With Lee Lian’s experience in marketing and Eileen’s expertise in operations, they complemented each other perfectly. Before long, TOUCHE™ Elite was born. The company has come a long way from the small shop at Pagoda Street in Chinatown where it started, to four outlets in Singapore today.

Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 27


The feminine touch

Lady Boss

While neither of them has faced discrimination for Eileen and Lee Lian have never let the their gender, both women agree that there is an fact that they are women hold them back advantage to them being female for the industry from their dreams. In fact, the thought they are in. “We are in an extremely femaleof being restricted by their gender has oriented industry and it helps greatly that we never crossed their minds. They both know the problems that women face, being ladies agree that a person’s gender doesn’t ourselves,” Eileen comments. “Being female does matter when running a business. “I think help in our business, as inevitably, people judge what is more important is a person’s the effectiveness of our services by how we look,” attitude and perception,” says Eileen. Lee adds Lee Lian. Lian shared the same sentiments saying: “It’s about knowing what you want and being committed to your passion.” Their But for both women, the greatest success lies in firm belief in these statements is evident their ability to juggle both work and family. Even from the way they have strived to achieve with their busy schedules, Eileen and Lee Lian success. Both women have worked tirelessly still find the time to be with their loved ones. For in pursuit of their dream and goals. Even Eileen, she places equal emphasis on her family now, as lady bosses, they take a very hands- and career. Although initially, at the start of on approach, always at the ready to handle the business, she was very involved and spent whatever obstacles they might face. Despite a lot of time at work, now that the company their success, they are constantly searching for has stabilised, she makes much more time for ways to bring up the business. her family. As for Lee Lian, she achieves a

The secret to success

balance through proper time management. By planning her schedule every day, she is able to keep track of what needs to be done, enabling her to prioritise her time very well.

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Over the years, both ladies have tackled and overcome challenges and setbacks such as weathering through difficult market conditions and dealing with the SARS crisis. But the biggest trial they have conquered is facing their fears and having the courage to live their passion. “Always know what you want in life. Everything comes with a price. So be prepared for sacrifices, but go for it,” advises Eileen. For aspiring female entrepreneurs, Lee Lian’s advice is, “You must have the right attitude and integrity to achieve your goals. The journey is more important than the result.”

Lady Boss

Sharing the art of beauty

TOUCHE™ Elite is currently in its 11th year of business, but both lady bosses are still reaching for more. They are constantly looking for ways to improve, expand and develop the business as they see great potential in it. They have been approached by many interested parties over the years enquiring about franchise rights to the business. While they are eager to expand, Eileen and Lee Lian will only grow the business after careful evaluation of the market. For now, they are focussing their efforts on starting a beauty school that will enable them to share their passion and love for beauty.

TOUCHE™ Elite 6222 5279 marketing@cls-touche.com www.cls-touche.com Palais Renaissance 6738 8441 / 6221 6612 390 Orchard Rd #03-04 Palais Renaissance Singapore 238871 Bugis 6238 0500 9 Tan Quee Lan Street #01-02 TQL Suites Singapore 188098 East 6789 6616 4 Changi Business Park Ave 1 #B1-11 UE BizHub East Singapore 486016 Orchard Gateway 277 Orchard Rd #B1-07 Orchard Gateway Singapore 238858 Opening 1st Quarter 2014!

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Lady Boss

Chuangxin School of Education

“Be like a gentle blade of grass that bends when the wind blows, that springs back when trampled, that continues to grow even in adversity.” This is how Ms Mary Ma, Principal of Chuangxin School of Education, overcame the challenges in her life to become the woman that she is today. Through sheer tenacity, determination and an iron will to succeed, she has single-handedly developed Chuangxin School of Education to be one of the best Mandarin learning centres in Singapore.

A venture into the unknown

Be like a gentle blade of grass that bends when the wind blows.

“Between her family and her career, a woman should always put her career first.” This was one of the first lessons that Mary received from her mother; a lesson that she would never forget. Born in Jilin, a province in China, Mary was brought up by her mother, who often imparted to Mary her values and experiences in life. As a result, even at a young age, Mary learnt how to be independent and to never rely on anyone for anything, a trait that would contribute to her future success. As Mary grew up, she developed an aptitude for the arts. To pursue her passion, she studied dance at a prestigious school in Beijing. However, her career would take her down a very different path. A young and bright student, Mary impressed her teachers, who recommended that she join a programme that recruited native Mandarin teachers as language instructors in Singapore. Having passed the stringent tests, she was quickly accepted into the programme and became one of the selected few in the first batch of teachers recruited by the Ministry of Education.

Finding strength in adversity Mary’s first posting in Singapore was as a Chinese teacher in an American school. Young and full of hope at the prospects her journey would bring, she was eager to start work and impart her knowledge and love for Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 31


the Chinese language. But that excitement soon turned to despair when she found herself hit by the harsh realities of life. With only a basic grasp of English, Mary found herself unable to cope with the demands and workload of the school. Simple tasks like report writing took up hours of her time and Mary became increasingly frustrated with herself. Despite the many challenges she faced, she refused to give up. Instead, she found ways to channel her frustrations into an outlet that she knew best – art. Mary started drawing murals on the school walls, transforming her anguish into beautiful works of art. Her paintings soon caught the attention of the school management, who began to take notice of this young, quiet Chinese lady. Mary’s efforts and perseverance paid off when she was promoted to the position of school vice-principal, a position she would hold for the next three years.

A step of faith Emboldened by her success, Mary soon began looking for other opportunities where she could challenge herself, and she joined a school that had only three students. Rising to the challenge as the principal of the school, she quickly took over the operations and increased the school’s enrolment to 80 students and then to 800 in just a few years. Unfortunately, the school board started to step in and oversee her actions and Mary 32 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss

Lady Boss

decided that it was time to move on again. With S$100,000 to her name and driven by a passion to teach Mandarin in Singapore, Mary decided to start her own language centre and Chuangxin School of Education was established. However, starting a new business was hard and she faced fierce competition from other centres offering the same courses. To make her school known, Mary distributed pamphlets to residences around the school on foot, not stopping even when blisters formed on her feet. She also taught alongside her staff, living on a minimal salary. Her determination and drive soon inspired the teachers of her tuition centre and she slowly earned their trust and support. Today, Chuangxin School of Education has become one of the best Mandarin learning centres in Singapore.

Braving the storm While Mary is now the proud owner of a successful language centre, she has met with her fair share of trials and tribulations. In 2012, she faced a dark period where she almost had to close down the school due to her competitors. It was an extremely stressful time for


Lady Boss

her as she suffered massive losses and had to deal with pressure from her students’ parents. With so many obstacles to overcome, many expected Mary to fail. But she is not one to give up. There is a Chinese proverb that says, “The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.” A woman who firmly believed that the more adversity she met, the stronger she would become, Mary was determined not to let this setback get her down. Forcing herself to remain positive, she put her problems out of her mind and focussed all her concentration on putting her life and career back on track. Slowly, she found a solution to her problem.

I am woman Mary has never considered herself to be of the weaker sex. A lady who is fiercely independent, she has never taken advantage of the fact that she is a woman to gain special privileges. On the contrary, she firmly believes that women have the ability to be stronger than men as they are able to handle stress better. To her, a man’s success is defined by his career only whereas a woman is judged by her ability to juggle her career and family.

The gem cannmot be polished without friction, not man perfected without trials.

her family and career separate, she takes on all problems herself and never burdens her loved ones with her issues. Despite her busy schedule, Mary firmly believes that it is possible to have a successful career while being an ideal wife. While she admits that certain sacrifices have to be made, it all boils down to being able to create a balance. Although she puts her career before her family, she makes it a point to ensure that her family never feels neglected. But Mary’s success truly stems from the fact that she faces every challenge with resolve and equanimity. And to all the aspiring female entrepreneurs, she has one simple piece of advice: “Never be afraid to step out

Being a lady boss, Mary has had to deal with all sorts of stressful situations at work, but she never lets work affect her family life at home. A woman who believes in keeping

Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 33


Lady Boss

out of your comfort zone and learn from your hardships. Be unafraid of criticism, and see it as a form of motivation and encouragement.”

Paving the future of Chinese education Since its establishment, Chuangxin School of Education has come a long way. Over the years, the school has helped many students cultivate a love for the Chinese language. It is the first Chinese educational centre in Singapore to provide Mandarin courses to the Malay community. As further measure of its success, the centre’s Caucasian students are so adept in the language that they have performed for large audiences, receiving compliments from prominent figures including Singapore’s Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong and former Senior Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong.

Never be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and learn from your hardships. Be unafraid of criticism, and see it as a form of motivation and encouragement.

34 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss

Looking ahead, Mary hopes to help even more students to master the Chinese language. To achieve her goal, she is looking to expand and open more educational centres in the heartlands to cater to those staying in suburban areas. Until then, she will continue not only to educate her students on the beauty of the Chinese language, but also to impart thelife values and experiences that have made her the determined and driven woman she is today.

Chuangxin School of Education Add: 271 Bukit Timah Rd Balmoral Plaza #02-09 Singapore 259708 Tel: 6887 0111 Email: chuangxin_edu@yahoo.com.sg


Lady Boss

“You just have to learn not to care about the dust mites under the beds.� -Margaret Mead

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Lady Boss


Oticon

Lady Boss

A woman who draws her inspiration from Mother Teresa, Ms Doris Ong, Director of Oticon Singapore, has dedicated herself to improving the lives of others. It is this passion that has enabled her to grow her business to the success it is today. Since she took over the company, she has restructured its operations and overseen the dramatic expansion of its services to countries around the region. Now, Oticon has eight retail centres in Singapore, 12 retail outlets in Malaysia and is the wholesaler for hearing aids to hospitals and the private health sector in both countries.

The art of healing Given her compassionate nature and kind heart, Doris always knew she would someday work in the health industry. That dream turned into reality when she started her career as a staff nurse at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), where she could dedicate herself to helping those in need. During her tenure, Doris was attached to the Ear Nose Throat (ENT) department, assisting surgeons performing microsurgery. Though the hours were long and work was tiring, she was happy in knowing that she had played a part in reducing the suffering of her patients. However, everything changed when her husband was relocated overseas for work. Before establishing their family, Doris and her husband had laid down the rule that whenever one of them had to travel for work, the other would have to stay in Singapore to look after their children. Determined to be a dedicated wife and loving mother to her children, Doris quit her job at the hospital and started working part time in the property market, which gave

No matter how hot the day is, the sun must set at the end of the day. No matter how dark the night is, the sun must rise at the break of the day; there is light at the end of the tunnel.

her flexible timing. Upon her husband’s return, Doris set out to find a job that would enable her to continue doing what she loved – helping others.

Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 37


One step closer to her dream

Lady Boss

Driven by her motivation and heart, With her experience in ENT, Doris quickly found a job as a dispenser in a hearing aid company. However, she soon found that whatever knowledge and skills she had were insufficient. Determined to succeed in her field, she applied herself to the task and learned everything from scratch. Her determination and capability soon paid off as companies in the industry began to notice her. In 2006, she was headhunted by a well-known Danish manufacturer of hearing aids to run the Singapore office of the company. Despite the allure the job held for her, Doris decided to decline the offer as she wanted to dedicate her time to charity and mission work. But the company was persistent and a friend of Doris’, a surgeon, encouraged her to take up the job. After discussing it with her family, and with the support of her husband, Doris accepted. With no prior experience in running a business, Doris soon found herself overwhelmed. But she refused to give up. With the skills she

38 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss

had acquired selling goods as a child and the experience she had gained working in the medical industry, she began to turn the business around. After nine long months, the Singapore office was finally stable and Doris turned her attention to Malaysia. With the success of the offices, the company has also expanded its product range and started to develop diagnostic equipment.

Staying positive

Though she has achieved success, it has not come without a price and, sometimes, things are too much for Doris to handle. When that happens, she stays positive by repeating a simple mantra to herself – “I always look at the sun and tell myself; no matter how hot the day is, the sun must set at the end of the day, no matter how dark the night is, the sun must rise at the break of the day, there is light at the end of the tunnel.” As a devout Christian, she also finds refuge in God and prays for Him to give her the strength to overcome her adversities.


Lady Boss

I have certain basic principles that I will never compromise such as the safety of my children and their well-being. By setting my priorities, I am able to maintain a balance.

Her driving force

A woman’s touch

Doris cites her passion for helping those in need as the reason for her success. As a nurse, she was driven to excel as her job allowed her to gain the knowledge and skill sets she needed to reduce the sufferings of those in pain. Those skills also enabled her to reach out to people in China and Vietnam, places she has visited as part of her church missions. While she has touched the lives of many, she admits that sometimes she is limited by time and funding. This was what led her to decide to go into business.

Doris’s achievements stretch beyond her career and her charity work, for she is also a dedicated wife to her husband, a loving mother to her children and a dutiful daughter-in-law to her in-laws. While others might find it daunting to juggle so many responsibilities, Doris handles it with equanimity. “I have certain basic principles that I will never compromise such as the safety of my children and their wellbeing. By setting my priorities, I am able to maintain a balance,” she shares. This is evident from the time she sets aside for her family. Though her schedule is extremely tight, she still makes it a point to have meals with her family at least once a week and she organises family trips at least once a year. Despite the success she enjoys today, it has not been an easy journey for Doris. Over the course of her career, she has met with much discrimination because she is a woman. Her previous employees could not accept

“My early days taught me to face reality. Help comes with a price for you need time and funding. By choosing to go into business, I hope to generate more funds to help these people,” she shares. Although her job can be demanding at times, it does give her the flexibility and resources to continue doing what she believes in. “I have not given up my dream of helping others. Rather, this is a stepping stone that allows me to do even more,” she explains.

Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 39


Lady Boss a lady boss and doubted her abilities. As a result, Doris received many negative remarks and was the source of a great deal of gossip. However, she has never let it affect her. “I am never bothered by these remarks as my focus is on expanding the business. All that matters is that I am true to myself and I know that I have tried my best,” she shares. Besides the discrimination, the fact that she is a woman also makes it inconvenient when she has to travel overseas for work. “I travel very frequently for my work, and most of the time, I am alone. Being in a foreign country alone can be quite a harrowing experience for a woman, especially when you have to speak to strangers for market research,” she says. Although she has had bad experiences as a result of her gender, Doris admits that being a woman in this industry does have its advantages. “My competitors tend to let their guard down because I’m a woman. However, they do not know who they are dealing with,” she jokes. Doris has also found that her clients find it easier to talk to her because she is a lady. In addition, her industry requires a lot of passion, patience and empathy, qualities that are more commonly found in women.

Oticon Singapore Pte Ltd 371 Beach Road #08-02/03 Keypoint Singapore 199597 Tel.: +65 6238 2910 Fax: +65 6238 8876 E-mail: do@oticon.com.sg

40 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss

Fulfilling her calling Even as she is busy contributing to the success of the business and heavily involved in its expansion plans, Doris is slowly planning for her second career – devoting her life to charity work. A woman who draws her inspiration from Mother Theresa, Doris has spent the majority of her life helping others whenever she can. Now that her children are grown and she has the funds, Doris is looking forward to living out her dream and fulfilling her calling.

All that matters is that I am true to myself aand I know that I have tried my best.


Lady Boss

“You cannot belong to someone else, until you belong to yourself.� -Pearl Bailey

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Lady Boss

Cutis Medical Laser Clinics A passion for research They say that “Behind every successful man is a woman.” However, in the case of Dr Sylvia Ramirez, founder of Cutis Medical Laser Clinics, the reverse is true. This inspiring Lady Boss had the full support of her husband to set up and run Cutis Medical Laser Clinics, a clinic offering a variety of dermatological and non-invasive aesthetic treatments and products aimed at helping people achieve natural beauty.

Family of doctors

Dr Sylvia grew up in the Philippines surrounded by a family of doctors. Her grandparents set up and owned a hospital, and her father and aunts and uncles all entered the profession. Inspired by the family ethics of hard work and integrity, Dr Sylvia looked up to her father, whom she calls her “hero”. A trauma surgeon and Dean of a medical school in the Philippines, he taught her the importance of having an education and career, instilled in her a sense of confidence and showed her that no matter how busy he was, he would spend quality time with the family. “He was a good husband to my mother and a good father to his children,” she said. “He never once neglected us or made us feel that he was not available when we needed him.” Such was her admiration for her father that she was inspired to follow in his footsteps. It was, therefore, no surprise that she was accepted into the prestigious Harvard Medical System. After earning her degree in medicine, Dr Sylvia went on to pursue a degree in Public Health at Harvard University before moving on to Cardiff University to take on a degree in dermatology. She sealed her formal education with an MBA from the Chicago Booth School of Business.

After completing her academic education, Dr Sylvia secured a full-time job on faculty at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Medical School. Influenced by her upbringing, she felt compelled to venture into non-profit work and secured a job as a consultant at a healthcare think tank in the US. There she chaired major projects for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which aims to improve quality of life for patients suffering from chronic illnesses and to reduce their overall healthcare costs. “All I wanted to do was to make a difference in people’s lives by working on projects that could improve the quality of life for the needy, but due to a lack of funds available for academic healthcare research, it was tough to achieve that goal,” Dr Sylvia explains.

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Lady Boss

Starting her own practice from scratch

It was her husband’s idea to combine her two main areas of expertise, aesthetic dermatology, and research and evidence-based clinical care, to set up a clinic with a unique service offering aimed at making a difference in people’s lives. “My husband had confidence in our abilities,” she said. “We thought that my background in medicine and experience in research could offer people with different needs a different option for treatment.” Armed with her knowledge in dermatology and experience in evidence-based medical research, Dr Sylvia successfully set up Cutis Medical Laser Clinics in 2008, now located in Orchard Road. The clinic offers a wide range of dermatological and aesthetic services backed by extensive, rigorous clinical research. Strongly believing that people are inclined to feel more confident about themselves when they look their best, she was motivated to give her patients the best treatment outcomes. With the clinic up and running, Dr Sylvia knew that she had found a way to fulfil her dream of making a difference in people’s lives without sacrificing her own financial integrity in the process. However, starting up a business wasn’t easy. Dr Sylvia and her husband had recently settled in Singapore, so they did not have a strong support network, and had to start from the ground up. The start-up capital was a 44 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss

further obstacle. The capital outlay needed to purchase expensive laser machines meant that neither of them could quit their full-time jobs and, as a result, were working long hours to keep the clinic going. This left no time for a social or family life, and any dreams of starting a family were shelved as there simply wasn’t time. On top of that, Dr Sylvia was also working as a consultant for a pharmaceutical

You don’t necessarily need an MBA to be successful in business.

company and regularly contributed scientific articles to peer-reviewed journals and wrote medical literature. Added to the stress of a full schedule, there was also the pressure to look good and youthful all the time as Dr Sylvia explains: “We feel that our patients expect us to be a “walking advertisement” of our solutions.” However, the rewards of being an entrepreneur far outweigh these challenges. Dr Sylvia loves the fact that she now gets to meet many people from different parts of the world in the course of her work, something she hadn’t had the opportunity to do previously. Moreover, being a woman in the field of aesthetic medicine has its advantages. Since most of her patients are women, Dr Sylvia is able to easily connect with them, and understand how they feel, what they are going through and what they wish to achieve at the


Lady Boss end of their treatment. She feels that women are more sensitive to other people’s feelings than men, so this helps her in her treatment of her patients. But more importantly, she gets to see the difference she is making in people’s lives: “While treating people, I have the opportunity to interact with them and learn more about them and help them with their problems. I feel that I’ve grown a lot more by taking care of people, and this is really the arena in which I am comfortable.”

Making a difference

Now that Dr Sylvia understands where her destiny lies, she has clear plans in place to remain in a position to make a difference to the lives of others. She will continue to do this through her ongoing research work and also intends to grow Cutis Medical Laser Clinics so that she can reach out to even more patients. “I want to grow the business vertically by adding in new services, such as age management, to our clinic offerings, but also horizontally by expanding the number of clinics we operate,” she explains. Her goal is to take Cutis Medical Laser Clinics international by setting up outlets beyond Singapore. Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 45


Everyone needs support

For aspiring female entrepreneurs, Dr Sylvia has several words of advice that come from her personal experience of starting Cutis Medical Laser Clinics. “Don’t listen to the conventional advice that you’ve to give up your job to focus fully on bringing up your business. I found this piece of advice to be very impractical and I tell entrepreneurs not to do so until their business takes flight. No doubt it’ll be relatively tough in the beginning, but you should only give up your job when your business is stable. Otherwise, you’ll have nothing to fall back on.”

Cutis Medical Laser Clinics 9 Scotts Road #03-06 Pacific Plaza 228210 Singapore hello@cutislaserclinics.com 6664 8119 46 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss

Lady Boss

She also advises that the key to successful business doesn’t lie solely on your educational background. “You don’t necessarily need an MBA to be successful in business. You need the support of the people that care for you and someone to turn to for encouragement when things get tough.” She acknowledges that without her husband’s support emotionally, her route to entrepreneurial success would not have been so smooth. “So, if you have a great idea for a business venture and you have people around you to offer support when you need it, then don’t let anything stop you from setting up your business. Just go for it!”

www.cutislaserclinics.com Monday - Friday 10:00am - 8:00pm Saturday 10:00am - 4:00pm


Lady Boss

“An aim in life is the only fortune worth finding.� -Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

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Pacific-Tec Scientific

Mention radiation detection equipment and Pacific-Tec comes to mind. Since it was set up in 1994, the company has firmly established itself as a brand that is synonymous with the radiation community in Asia. Today, Pacific-Tec Scientific, part of the Pacific-Tec Group, is a major distributor of handheld scientific instruments in radiation detection and elemental analysis, filling a niche business capacity that has a huge potential for growth. But this would not have been possible without the leadership and vision of Sophie Bochot, the company’s bold, determined and committed managing director. With a personal mantra to “never give up”, she has single-handedly overcome the crises in her life to beat the odds and build her company into the thriving success it is today.

It’s important to never give up no matter what you do.

A love of adventure

Sophie was born in Southern France, in Nice, an aptly named scenic city on the French Riviera. Her father was a sports rehabilitation Doctor and her mother a doctor who devoted her time to the care of the disabled. Growing up in a family of medical practitioners, she soon formed good work ethics that moulded the basis of her future success. But besides a high level of discipline, young Sophie also inherited a sense of adventure and a fierce independence, the result of a grandmother who embraced unconventionality and who loved travelling. It would be this interesting mix of traits that enabled Sophie to triumph where others had failed. With her sense of adventure, she enrolled for a three-year business course in Paris that would equip her with the essentials of commerce and allow her to visit exotic cities such as Tokyo, New York and Seoul where she spent her days studying different business models. Soon, she entered her final year of education, which saw her doing an internship at a small consulting firm in Paris that was run by a lady boss. The experience exposed her to the challenges and trials of running a business and enabled her to pick up valuable lessons and qualities that would someday contribute to her success. Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 49


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Turning adversity into opportunity

Armed with her degree and a multitude of skills, Sophie was ready to enter the workforce when she graduated in 1991. However, she soon found that it wouldn’t be easy. Europe was in the throes of recession and France was no exception. With limited employment opportunities, she was forced to make a choice – stay in Paris and work part time until the economy picked up or take her chances overseas. After short deliberation, she decided to pursue opportunities in the East. The only problem was which country? “I considered Japan but from my experience in Tokyo, I saw how difficult it was for women to be respected and climb up the corporate ladder,” she shares. After much thought, she decided on Singapore, drawn by its multi-racial society, dynamism as an emerging Dragon and positive attitude towards women. She flew to Singapore to assess the job market, sending her resume to different French companies. In no time, she received several job offers and she knew that she had made the right choice. Having made up her mind to move to Singapore, she flew back to Nice to break the news to her family. However, their reaction was not what she had expected. Her father didn’t want her to leave as he was worried for her future and safety. “I was the first member of the family to consider migrating. What was worse was how far away I would be,” she says. Despite her family’s protests, she was determined to make the move.

A new beginning

Once she was settled in Singapore, Sophie joined a French dental lab where she used her business skills to improve the practice’s operations and the efficiency of the business systems in place. As she watched the business grow, she knew she had the capabilities to run her own business. After half a year, she left with the conviction to start her own company, and set out to find a niche industry where she could put her knowledge and experience to use. It was then that she met her future husband who would become her company’s technical director and an influential business partner. With his help and expertise, she soon learned about scientific instruments despite not having any prior technical education or training. Early 1994, using her newly acquired knowledge, 50 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss


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Sophie started her own trading and equipment company in Singapore, Pacific-Tec Marketing Services. Soon after, she met an American investor who was interested in expanding his radiation equipment business to Asia. With a new business partner as a Nuclear Physicist, Dr. Galal El-Sayad and a Technical expert in Analytical Chemistry, Dr. Patrick Fernandez, she was armed to build up the company and bring in radiation equipment to Singapore. Over the next few years, learning everything about the trade and establishing relationships with various suppliers and with the financial backing and the support of her technical director, the business grew rapidly.

Success is possible as long as you are focussed. The sky’s the limit.

In 2007, with a strong presence in the radiation community, Sophie set up PacificTec Scientific Pte Ltd to focus on sales and support of X-Ray analytical products and new scientific Radiation detection Instruments.

The power of woman

Coming from a country that firmly believes in equal rights and opportunities for both sexes has shaped the way Sophie views the capabilities of men and women. “In France, we believe that men and women have the same aspirations and ideals. Also, French women are very independent and are often respected,” she shares. This explains why Sophie has never felt any form of discrimination nor allowed herself to feel inferior to men in anyway. She firmly believes that a person’s success is not determined by gender but rather by the amount of hard work they put in and the determination they possess. That said, she does feel that women have many advantages over men. Being a lady has enabled her to have deeper connections with her customers, which also allows her to handle them better. Women are more intuitive and emotive compared to men, traits that are invaluable in establishing business relationships. “I find myself being able to gauge my customers and their thoughts better than my male counterparts. This has really

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helped me to better assess and understand their needs” she says. In addition, Sophie has noticed that men in Singapore generally treat women fairly and sometimes better than their male counterparts despite the male-oriented environment she is exposed to dealing with metal recyclers, ship repair or petrochem customers, testing services technicians or nuclear medicine doctors to name a few.

my culture,” she shares. But more than the advantages that women might enjoy over men, she feels that the true reason for success lies in a person’s attitude. “It’s important to never give up no matter what you do. Just like a child who has yet to learn how to walk, you’ll fall, but someday you’ll learn to stand up. That’s why even if you fail, you must carry on,” she advises. Sophie adds that it is important to have a clear mind and idea of your goals and what Being a lady who is also a foreigner has its you want to achieve: “Success is possible as perks too. “I am a very outspoken woman who long as you are focussed. The sky’s the limit.” speaks my mind and sometimes I can be too Pacific-Tec Scientific Pte Ltd frank. I know some may dislike it. However, 33 Ubi Avenue 3, #06-48, that’s where the fact that I am a foreigner Vertex Lobby A, Singapore 408868 helps because people will just attribute it to Contact : 63421530

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“If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.� 8

-Geena Davis

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The Big Sheila

Lady Boss

Fleur Glover Life likes to give us little sneak peeks, just ask Fleur Glover. Recalls the owner and creator of home-style restaurant The Big Sheila, “My earliest memories were of cooking with my mother in the kitchen.” Up until age 11, Fleur regularly helped her mother run the family-owned restaurant in Melbourne, Australia from behind the scenes. Those early years instilled in her a lifelong passion that would lead to a thriving career in the food industry. Her childhood exposure to high culinary standards trained Fleur to develop a sophisticated and discerning palate, a natural talent that takes years of professional training to hone. Just through taste alone, she can tell exactly what ingredients, seasoning and spices are in a dish. Despite Fleur’s obvious talents, her parents were dead set against her going into the restaurant business. They feared that the industry’s long hours and demanding work would cause their daughter to suffer an impoverished social life. Fleur’s mother wanted her to be a lawyer. Instead, Fleur followed her second brother into IT, moving to London to work with British Telecom (BT) as a Deal Architect. With good pay and a secure environment, Fleur seemed to have found a comfortable arrangement. However, her passion for food remained with her. “It was a stressful job,” said Fleur of her career with BT, “so I would cook to relax myself.” In her mid-30s, Fleur was hired by entrepreneur Scott Frew for her business expertise to expand his existing operations into Asia. While working for Scott, she realised that she had the skills and experience to start an enterprise on her own, so if she was going to put in all the hard work of starting a business, it may as well be her own. This exciting revelation, combined with a second, more significant event put Fleur back on the path towards a culinary career. “One of my best friends knew me well and always told me I should be following my passion and set up a business around food,”

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recalled Fleur. However, it wasn’t until her friend passed away suddenly that Fleur began to appreciate that life is too short not to be lived to the max. “I realised that I didn’t want to hit 40 and regret that I didn’t live the life that I wanted. I wanted to be financially independent by then, and I wanted to be doing what I love.” She was 38 at the time. Leaving her corporate career behind, Fleur took a two-week retreat in Koh Samui, Thailand. There, she re-connected with her dreams. She wanted a career in food. She wanted to write and publish cookbooks. She wanted to be recognised for her own brand of food. And she realised she could combine the skill sets she had gained working in IT with her natural talent in food to create her dream business! Choosing Singapore as her base, Fleur quickly identified there was a lack of wholesome Western home-style cooking for people working and living in East Coast. The expat community was clamouring for delicious, hearty, honest-to-goodness cuisine, the sort that they used to get all the time back at home. This was a niche that seemed tailor-made for

Fleur, and she was inspired to create a home food delivery and takeaway service. An avid writer, Fleur runs a successful blog with over 20,000 followers and, over the years, has cultivated an online personality called The Big Sheila. She announced her plans to set up her own restaurant to the Internet and, encouraged by the good reception, decided to adopt the same moniker for her new venture. Thus, The Big Sheila stepped off the monitor and into the real world, becoming a brickand-mortar entity that served her signature brand of fresh, delicious cuisine that fed the senses and the appetite. With a strongly defined brand and a ready market, interest in The Big Sheila quickly went through the roof. A clever Facebook campaign of daily food photos and witty captions garnered more than 3,000 followers. Fans even stopped Fleur on the streets to ask when the restaurant would open, so anticipated was the launch. Things seemed to be off to a great start, but very soon, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Her inexperience in the F&B business led her to underestimate her budget by 100%. By now determined to succeed, Fleur calmly roped in three investors.

I didn’t want to hit 40 and regret that I didn’t live the life that I wanted.

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“I never had doubts about the quality of my food. That was what gave me the conviction to push through all the problems,” she said. Living by the adage: “You can choose your attitude” that is exactly what she chose to do. Her vision of the end result spurred her on to turn her dreams into goals and goals into success. Finally, the day arrived when The Big Sheila opened her doors to an eager public – and still it wasn’t all roses and champagne from there. Fleur had 15 staff and a team of six when she opened for business on Day 1. However, she soon ran into problems with staff who defied her instructions and took advantage of her friendly attitude. Meanwhile, Fleur ran herself ragged, working from 6 am to midnight, 24/7. “The biggest mistake I made in the early days was being too much of a friend and not enough of a boss,” she explains. Part of the problem was gender differences. “Some of the male staff came from cultures in which men didn’t take instructions from women,” she explained.

You either can do it or you can’t. Passion is important, but so is experience.

standards. This has enabled her to lower her stress levels while continuing to serve satisfying home cooking. Barely a year old, The Big Sheila is well on her way to going, well, big. Supported by a stream of loyal customers – some come in every week, even bringing visitors from out of town; others have signed on to work for the restaurant – Fleur is ready to expand the number of The Big Sheila outlets.

Costs also spiralled out of control due to lack of cost management and productivity plummeted. Despite this, the restaurant was garnering rave reviews and many customers gave great feedback. However, overwhelmed by too much work, Fleur could not sit back and enjoy the praise.

Leaving us with some parting advice, Fleur says that women bring an intuitive understanding of the needs of customers and staff to business. This is important because men often lack this degree of sensitivity. However, men tend to be more pragmatic and Fleur realised that she needed male input while running the business. Regardless the innate differences, both genders can combine their strengths for a successful partnership.

“So, it was me or them,” It was the clean start the business badly needed, and after the January 2013 reboot, The Big Sheila now runs like it should. Fleur learned that to be a successful CEO, she has to think, move and act like one. She has gone on to pick up the finer points of being a successful business owner, hiring a Head Chef to learn her recipes and execute them to her

When asked how she would do things differently if she were to start again, Fleur replied that she would seek out experienced F&B professionals from the get go. “This industry is one which is fast-paced and with long hours. You either can do it, or you can’t. Passion is important, but so is experience. If you are entering an unfamiliar industry, teaming up with a mentor who can give you advice is crucial.” Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 57


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“It takes as much courage to have tried and failed as it does to have tried and succeeded.� -Anne Morrow Lindberg

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The Experience Architect Kelly Hamilton In 2011, experience architect Kelly Hamilton was on the cusp of setting up her own business in Sydney after developing the right contacts and networks over seven years. Then her husband was offered an amazing opportunity managing projects across the Asia Pacific region so they jumped

Having a positive mind set and working hard in all that you do are really important drivers for success.

at the opportunity and challenge of relocating to Singapore. To another person, this news would have been problematic for her business dream, but not for Kelly. Ever the optimist, her positive outlook on life supported her through the move and allowed her to start up her business anyway. Her “baby” was simply born in Singapore instead of Sydney. It was just a question of geography.

Settling into her new base in Singapore, she was determined to set up the business and make it a success, as everyone who knew her was sure she would. To date she considers her company, The Experience Architect, to be her greatest achievement. But for Kelly, there will be many more successes in store. “Having a positive mind set and working hard in all that you do are really important drivers for success,” Kelly explains. Growing up in Auckland, New Zealand, she inherited the art of positive thinking from her Dad whilst her Mum inspired her to work hard and put her all into everything and to be the best person she could be.

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Today The Experience Architect is a successful one and a half year old “experience agency” that brings together award-winning event producers, marketing magicians, designers and experiential strategists to create, plan and organise events. Based in Singapore, the company manages products and artistes throughout the Asia Pacific region and has established a niche by creating complete event experiences focussing on the special design of innovative spaces and concepts, and utilising behaviour analytics to make every event environment unique. Kelly has been able to draw on the knowledge she has gained through ten years working in the property space, where private developers assigned large budgets to have her organise their unique promotional events. Within a short space of time, news of Kelly’s event experiences spread and it wasn’t long before clients came to her exclusively any time an event needed planning. “The business was really grown by me combining the creative talents I have always had with my past work experiences and interests,” Kelly says. The name The Experience Architect was inspired from two concepts: Experience - the importance of delivering the entire experience of an event putting yourself in the shoes of the guests (the devil is in the details) and Architect – the career she initially pursued before she was sidetracked into the property industry. Combining the words perfectly defines her business – that of designing and constructing experiences.

It isn’t what you are faced with but how you choose to react to it that separates those who can from those who can’t.

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The Experience Architect evolved over the past year, mainly through word of mouth, but also through some aggressive marketing, as Kelly explains: “With my creative design background, I have been able to design the brand and all marketing campaigns for the business in-house at negligible cost. So, getting the name out into the market place has been fairly easy.” She found that she would hand her namecard over at networking events and have her brand immediately recognised by at least one participant in the group each time, which satisfies Kelly enormously. “When I came to Singapore a year ago, I knew no-one except my husband. There I was, all ready to launch this business in Sydney with my existing network and contacts, but ended up in Singapore starting from scratch.”


Lady Boss

Her first stop was at ‘A Small World’ an online portal that helps people connect in new countries. She posted her location and called for like-minded people to contact her, and before long she was building a quickly expanding network. “Every time I tell people what I do, they always want to know more,” Kelly adds. “I guess it’s because what I am doing is unique in the industry.” Her first contract was secured so quickly that Kelly hadn’t quite finished setting up the basic business fundamentals. “Looking back, it was a mad scramble to get that project completed, but I did it. However, I would advise others starting a new business to really take the time to set everything up first and have the ready network to draw from so things go smoothly before you start engaging clients.” Kelly thinks back to the first few months in business and laughs: “I really was running around in a mad rush at the beginning because I felt I had to take advantage of every opportunity that came my way.” However, as the business became established, she realised that she had to slow down to be more effective, and that she had to learn to say no. “Today I agree to a maximum of two meetings a day so that I am not overcommitting my time and sacrificing other equally important aspects of the business.” While she’s learning to be tougher in time management, managing staff and customer negotiation, Kelly does find that being a female in a male-dominated industry has its advantages. “In my past roles, I was always

brought in to negotiate as the soft touch. The ‘good cop’ against my male colleague’s ‘bad cop’ if you like.” Kelly also finds that her feminine intuition allows her to be able to read people very quickly on meeting them and that certainly helps the negotiation process, particularly as she deals with many parties contributing to a single project. Coming from a country that had a female Prime Minister in her formative years, and with parents that involved her from an early age in activities aimed at building up her capabilities, Kelly believes women have as much to contribute to business as men. Rather than gender, it’s attitude she believes, that opens the door to success. “While working with charities, I came across people who had taken hard knocks and really had no opportunities, so I can understand how tough it can be.” However, Kelly advises that it isn’t what you are faced with but how you choose to react to it that separates those who can from those who can’t. “Never give up. Always stay positive. It’s infectious. Your dreams can become a reality with a positive attitude and plenty of hard work. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.” Kelly is proof that dreams can come true with the right attitude, the right effort and the right support. The Experience Architect Address: Tiong Bahru Estate, 73 Eng Watt Street, Singapore 160073 Phone: 9726 9167 Email: hello@teaagency.com Website: teaagency.com Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 63


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Rev 22 Pte Ltd

Lady Boss

Using her knowledge and experience of alternative healing methods, Managing Director Veronica Ong established Rev 22 Pte Ltd, The River of Life, in June 2010. Since its inception, the company’s clientele base has grown dramatically due to the revolutionary Energia Sleeping System, which infuses natural minerals mainly Tourmaline that can emit far-infrared rays (FIR) and negative ions into the fibre of the material using nanotechnology. As numerous video and written testimonials on Rev 22’s website attest, Veronica’s dedication to improving the chronic conditions of individuals is the key to her company’s success. She was recognised by the International Women Federation of Commerce and Industry (IWFCIS) as a finalist in both 2012 and 2013 Extraordinary Woman Award for her contributions to business and the community. Her latest achievement was being selected as the Global Women’s Summit Outstanding Leadership Award for being outstanding in balancing the many areas of her life as a daughter, mother, wife, employee and currently a lady boss.

A passion for healing

Veronica, a state registered nurse (SRN), was employed by The Salvation Army’s as a nurse manager to manage a day care and day rehabilitation centre in 1994. She managed the daily activities and physiotherapy of the elderly clients recovering from chronic debilitating diseases such as Stroke, Parkinson’s disease,

Veronica’s dedication to improving the chronic conditions of individuals is the key to her company’s success.

dementia, heart problems, etc. At the centre, she noticed a growing number of clients in their late 30s and early 40s suffering from chronic ailments made her wonder why these people in their prime of lives were stricken with chronic ailments needed physiotherapy. Was it the stress, water, food, environment or radiation In year 2000, she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and later, Grave’s Disease (an over-active immune problem where her body is not able to balance her thyroxin). Doctors recommended she underwent surgery or radio-active iodine to destroy part of the thyroid gland. At that point she knew that she had to take control of her health as the path proposed by modern medicine is invasive! She strongly believes that we are created with very powerful immune system to heal our body naturally. Since then she had explored alternative and complementary solutions. After 10 years of researching, she chanced upon a scientific sleep system that has helped balance her immune system within months and treated her Grave’s disease naturally without medication. Her clinical report showed complete recovery with no relapse.

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She already had the tools she needed to succeed

Lady Boss

Driven by her motivation and heart, Veronica ventured into entrepreneurship with the mission to improve quality of life simply by improving the quality of the blood stream. “I did not calculate the risk and costs involved, I only thought of helping myself at the same time able to help people who are suffering from chronic ailments looking for alternative therapy said Veronica. Initially, her parents and her husband were strongly against her entrepreneurial venture, calling it too “high risk”. Despite their protests, her strong will persisted and she established Rev 22 in June 2010. Ironically, her biggest source of support was also one of her greatest initial opponents, her husband, Adam. “No matter what, he always supported me throughout all of my business trials,” she related. Although she had no business experience, her 14 years as the nursing manager at The Salvation Army taught her much. “I treated the centre like it was my own business, supervising the therapy of 80 clients a day, managing 16 staff members, networking, budgeting and organising national events,” remarked Veronica. She had also transformed the Salvation Army’s day care and day rehabilitation centre from a deficit position in 1994, to a profitable concern by the time she left in 2008.

The trials leading to business success

Her first year of business was tough as she struggled with the complexities of running a business. Instead of giving up, she strengthened her lack of business knowledge through self-learning and entrepreneur programmes. Veronica used her medical expertise as an SRN and her strength in social networking to build relationships with customers and partners, steadily turning her fortunes around. “Networking is a necessity for every business owner. You must build positive relationships and trust,” she advised. 66 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss


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While some women find they are not taken seriously in business, Veronica had no such issues. “People are very comfortable working with me because I deal in health products and I am a registered nurse, so the trust level is high,” she stated.

The turnaround from her early business woes has been immense. From celebrating her first year of business in solitude, she celebrated her second anniversary and recently 3rd anniversary with 100 friends, customers and partners. As news of her alternative medicine solutions using the Energia Sleeping System spreads and business improves, Rev 22 would respond to a higher calling to establish a comprehensive centre that will deliver integrative therapies such as yoga, nutrition, pranic healing, aromatherapy, dance therapy, etc to help improve people’s health naturally.

Working towards a noble goal

Rev 22 donated three sets of the Energia Sleeping System to a non-profit nursing home and another set to the Kampung Senang Holistic and Wellness Centre to give the under privileged a chance to experience the therapeutic effect of the sleeping system. Currently, Veronica is also working on a major volunteer initiative project with Pranic Angel Healing Centre, Kampung Senang Charity and The Centre for Inner Studies in Singapore for the Towards Zero Cancer Campaign. The campaign aims to

If you want to gain a customer’s trust and confidence, be a HEART sales GURU (Gee you are you); not doing any hard sales.

achieve no new cancer case by the year 2050, through preventive education and holistic practices. The preventive education focuses on proper lifestyle (proper sleep, proper diet, and proper exercise), have clean and healthy energy body through pranic healing and proper emotions (ability to forgive self and others, awareness of emotions of fear such as anger, hatred and jealousy and emotions of freedom such as love, peace and joy). Highly involved in a few women’s organisations such as Soroptomist Club, IWFCI and Global Women Summit, she urges all future lady bosses out there to be a doer when it comes to business instead of someone who “thinks” about it all the time. Veronica offers one last piece of advice to women entrepreneurs: “If you want to gain customer’s trust and confidence … be a HEART sales GURU (Gee you are you); not doing any hard sales.”

Rev 22 Pte Ltd 189 New Bridge Road #04-01 Singapore 059422 Tel / Fax: 6535-4677 Email: info@rev22.com www.facebook.com/rev22pl Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 67


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Mai Thai Restaurant

Gazing upon the gentle countenance of Ms Jessuda, founder of Mai Thai Restaurant, one could never guess the amount of hardship she has endured. With courage, conviction and sheer determination, she has overcome the adversities in her life to bloom and flourish and build her business into the success that it is today.

The loss of innocence

The daughter of an army general, Jessuda grew up in the lap of luxury. Her father worked for the Thai government and her family had a business selling jade. As a young girl, she had maids, a chauffeur and a chef at her beck and call, and attended an exclusive private school. She had everything she asked for and wanted for nothing. But all that would change when she was seven. As a government official, her father was involved in top-secret missions, but one day, he disappeared without a trace. Jessuda’s mother was devastated. She never recovered from her grief and passed away soon after. And at the young age of ten, Jessuda and her brothers became orphans. As she was the eldest child, the responsibility of her younger siblings fell to her and she was forced to grow up overnight.

Picking up the pieces

With no relatives in Thailand, Jessuda and her brothers soon found themselves under the care of a guardian who sent them to different boarding schools across Thailand for their studies. Just like that, her family was torn apart. Jessuda thought that she would never see her siblings again until one day, when she was 16, a close friend of her father’s came forward and made the decision to send her and two of her three siblings to Taiwan to learn Mandarin. Filled with gratitude, Jessuda was determined to repay the kindness of her father’s friend. To ease his burden, she sought to find ways to pay her school fees and support her siblings in Taiwan. She worked as a waitress after school and, when the restaurant closed, would gather whatever wares she could find to sell at the various night markets. “Those times were extremely hard, but I felt indebted to this man and I wanted to repay him,” she reminisces. Through her experiences, she began to realise her responsibilities and started to appreciate the little things in life. Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 69


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A new life, a new dream

Jessuda stayed in Taiwan for two years before returning to Thailand to complete her high school education. Though she did well enough to further her studies, she decided to stop school as she didn’t want to burden her father’s friend further. To finance her own education and pursue her passion for interior design, Jessuda went to work and soon earned enough to enrol in a diploma course. However, it was not to be. There were no night classes for interior design and her work commitments kept her busy in the day. Left with no choice, she enrolled herself in a business course. In the months that followed, she worked from 8 am to 10 pm every day, dividing her time between working as a property agent and teaching Thai to Taiwan students, before going for her studies at night. It was extremely tiring, but she persevered. Her hard work paid off and she graduated with a diploma in business. It was also at this time that she met her husband, got married and made the decision to move to Singapore. Things were finally looking up for Jessuda. But it was not as smooth sailing as she had hoped. Despite her best efforts, she couldn’t find work in Singapore. Refusing to give up, she set about searching for opportunities where she could put her skills to good use. Two years after her arrival, she opened her own florist. “I’ve always dreamed of having my own business and, since I couldn’t find work, it was the perfect opportunity,” she explains. Falling back on the skills she had acquired doing flower arrangements in Thailand, she built her business from scratch. In no time, she was receiving so many orders that she engaged her friend’s help and soon entered into a joint venture.

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Reaching for the stars

But now that she had tasted success, Jessuda wanted more. So when the opportunity to enter the F&B industry arose, she grabbed it. Together with a business partner, she started a café, learning everything about the business along the way. Her will and determination enabled her to get the café up and running, but it still wasn’t enough. Unfulfilled, Jessuda started looking around for other opportunities. It was then that she saw a gap in the market, one that she could fill. In 2009, Jessuda left the café and set up the first Mai Thai Restaurant at Chip Bee Gardens, a step towards her dream of providing a place where people could enjoy authentic Thai food in a nice, cosy environment. Employing all the skills and experience she had gained from setting up her previous businesses, she worked hard to build up her restaurant, getting involved in every aspect. Her passion for interior design shone through as she took on the task of designing the restaurant, choosing the different layouts and materials to be used. Today, Jessuda is the proud owner of two Mai Thai Restaurant outlets, a feat that she could never have achieved without her will, determination and perseverance.


A rose among thorns

Lady Boss

Despite growing up as the only girl among three brothers, Jessuda has never felt like she is the weaker sex. In fact, she feels that there is no difference between men and women as she has the same strong will and determination as her brothers. “To me, both sexes are equal and it doesn’t matter if a person is male or female as long as they have the drive and passion to succeed.” Although Jessuda is now a successful lady boss, she always strives to maintain a balance between her career and family. She enjoys a close relationship with her children, treating them like friends so they can confide in her.

By believing you can achieve success, half the battle is won.

Given the trials and tribulations of her life, she has but one piece of advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs. “If you want it, work hard and define your goal. Learn as much as you can, be prepared for hardships and never give up. Also, remember to have will, determination and confidence. By believing you can achieve success, half the battle is won.” Mai Thai Restaurant 44 Jalan Merah Saga, #01-58 Chip Bee Gardens Singapore 278116 (65) 6752-3688 1 Seletar Road, Greenwich Village, #02-03 Singapore 807011 (65) 6752-3688 info@maithai.com.sg www.maithai.com.sg Open Daily: Lunch 11:00am - 2:30pm Dinner 6:00pm - 10:30pm Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 71


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Lady Boss Gastrogig – Singapore’s first Pop-up Feast-masters! Rebel, mastermind, creative genius. These are words synonymous with Ms Jasmine Cheah, founder of Gastrogig. With sheer perseverance, unshakeable tenacity and determination, she has taken her passion for food, architecture and events and transformed it into a company that is now known for creating revolutionary dining concepts through pop-up architecture.

Circumstances are what one makes of them. You can choose to be bound by them, or overcome them.

A woman of substance

Despite being born into a traditional and conservative family, Jasmine has never allowed the shackles of tradition to bind her. This is evident from the fact that she was a player in the national women’s rugby and touch rugby team. Free-spirited and with a mind of her own, she is a source of inspiration for women who dream of success yet are held back by circumstances. “Circumstances are what one makes of them. You can choose to be bound by them, or overcome them,” she explains. A woman with an indomitable will, Jasmine scoffs at the idea that women are the weaker sex. In fact, she feels that female bosses know how to make their employees feel more appreciated compared to male bosses, a trait that is extremely important to a company’s success.

She has also observed that female bosses often have goals other than monetary gains, which motivate and spur them to greater success. To her, the only inconvenience of being a woman is the stereotype and discrimination that many successful women face, a problem that doesn’t bother her. But Jasmine’s true success lies in her ability to balance her work and home life. Despite her busy schedule, she makes time for her family and enjoys an active social life. She does this by only taking on projects that can help her make a difference, yet don’t cause her to neglect her family. To her, it’s all about being able to prioritise and managing time well. “When you run your own business, you control your own time and destiny. It’s all about managing your time properly,” she advises. Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 73


Lady Boss

A journey of discovery

Jasmine’s journey to success started during her university days. University is a time of discovery for many. Some discover love, but, for her, she discovered the beauty of travel. It all began when she was studying for her degree in architecture and realised that she wasn’t content with the offerings in Singapore. Despite her academic achievements, she felt that something was missing in her life, something that she could find only through travel. In the months that followed, she travelled as much as she could, drawn by the different cultures and experiences of each trip. Upon graduation, Jasmine continued her journey to discover the world. Climbing the corporate ladder could wait, she needed to find herself first. She began travelling extensively to broaden her horizons and mindset so that she could differentiate herself from others. It was a big turning point for her, one that would one day spark the idea for her Gastrogig.

A calculated risk

Having returned from her travels, Jasmine threw herself into finding a career. Although she could have been an architect, she wanted something less desk bound. She finally decided on an events sales job despite the protests of her parents. With no prior sales experience, Jasmine had to work hard to learn everything she could. Her hardworking attitude, determination and conviction to succeed soon had her climbing up the ranks of the corporate ladder. By the time she made the decision to leave the company, she had worked there for eight years and held the position as a corporate event sales director. After a brief stint in corporate real estate, Jasmine quickly found her way back into events, only this time, it was a marriage of her love for the adrenalin in events and passion for food and wine. Jasmine led the sales and marketing team for the debut Singapore’s largest gourmet food festival, Savour. 74 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss


A love of food

Lady Boss

After leaving the events industry for a brief stint in corporate real estate, it did not take long for Jasmine to find her way back into events - only this time, it was a marriage of her love for the adrenalin in events and passion for food and wine. Jasmine led the sales and marketing team for the debut Singapore’s largest gourmet food festival, Savour. With the successful set-up of Savour, Jasmine was even more motivated to seek more creative challenges . As she started to consider her career options, an idea began to form. Her exposure to the F&B industry had made her realise that there was a great interest in good food and wine in Singapore, but a lack of platforms for chefs to showcase their creativity. It was a market with vast potential if only she could find a way to tap into it. As she thought hard, the idea of pop-up restaurants came to her. Though wildly popular in Europe and U.S, not many people were aware of this culinary concept in Singapore. And so, Gastrogig was born. “I wanted to recreate a whole new dining experience that would allow chefs around the world to push culinary boundaries,” she shares. In the days that followed, Jasmine worked tirelessly to bring her idea to fruition. Using her experience in events, she set about finding a location that would be the site of her first pop-up restaurant - a warehouse rooftop. Her architectural background came in handy as she worked with her architect buddies to create Singapore’s first pop-up restaurant using recycled materials, namely 500 used wooden pallets. The alternative dining experience was complete with her presentation of emerging celebrity chefs presenting cuisine which is uncommon to Singapore. The first Gastrogig was launched on 30 August 2012, and it was a great hit with the community of adventurous foodies.

Sharing the gift of food

Since the success of her first pop-up restaurant, Jasmine has gone on to replicate her success in many other locations in Singapore, using different themes and ambiences, and featuring Celebrity Chefs and artists from exotic locations. While she has plans for Gastrogig to go international and expand our portfolio, she believes in growing the business organically, working with passionate go-getters and allowing Gastrogig to find her “soul’”.

Gastrogig Phone: 6474 6347

Email: JamWithUs@gastogig.com Website: http://www.gastrogig.com

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Lady Boss

Sheer Health Pharm

“Only by falling and getting hurt will you become stronger and wiser.” It is her firm belief in this simple statement that has enabled Ms Yanna, Co-founder of Sheer HealthPharm, to stay strong and overcome all the obstacles in her life. With positivity, determination and an indomitable spirit, she has triumphed against hardship to create the empire that her business is today.

Shattered childhood dreams

Yanna’s childhood was a happy one. Despite being born the fourth of five children, her parents doted on her immensely. Her father, in particular, adored her and would buy her pretty dresses, dolls and toys. Though they were not very well off, they led a comfortable life and were able to afford simple luxuries such as a colour TV, washing machine, record player and telephone back in the 70s. The family was happy and Yanna was content. However, her world came crashing down when her father left them for another woman. At the tender age of 10, she lost her father and

it devastated her. Her life changed overnight. With the departure of her father, her mother was forced to find work to support the family. Determined to still be there for her children, her mother worked as an odd-job worker, a job that had flexible working hours, so she could head home during lunch to prepare dinner. Though her mother worked extremely hard, there was barely enough to feed the family and most days, they only had one meal. To help ease her mother’s burden, Yanna began working part time after school.

Only by falling and getting hurt will you become stronger and wiser.

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An unexpected tragedy

Lady Boss

Even in the face of adversity, she managed to successfully complete her ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels in Accounting. In 1994, she enrolled into NAFA and took up a part-time course in Fashion Design, while working full time in a children’s boutique to pay for her school fees. Upon her graduation, she started work for a local retail company, managing brands like POA and Domanchi. And at the age of 26, she fell in love and got married. It was the happiest time of her life. However, Yanna’s happiness was short lived. Her marriage began to fall apart due to her husband’s infidelity and they separated. She took custody of her three-yearold son without any child With no prior maintenance. In the days experience that followed, she worked in starting a as hard as she could to business, Yanna provide her son with had to start from the best. But she soon scratch. As she had found herself wishing training in fashion that she could spend design, she decided more time with him. to venture into With that thought, women’s lingerie, she decided to quit a line that she her job despite her mother’s objections understood and had great interest and passion in. Applying her creativity and start her own and curiosity into product development, she managed to conceptualise business. “It was the first strapless adhesive brassiere with medical swap to protect the a very big risk I skin.“I have skin allergies so the products that I develop have to be safe took, but I was for the skin,” she explained. With everything in place, the only thing left determined to was the mammoth task of convincing a reputable brand to supply her succeed,” she with the medical swap. recalls.

Beating the odds

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The woman of steel

Having great confidence in her innovation, she decided As a lady boss, Yanna has met with her fair share of to send her proposal and discrimination but she has never let it get her down. She portfolio to medical giant Smith recalls a time when she received a call from a director of & Nephew (USA) in hopes that it a reputable local company that was keen to purchase her would supply and allow her to use health supplements and rebrand them as theirs. “After I its medical swap, Skin-PrepTM, turned him down numerous times, he began to question as part of her development and my experience and expertise in retail as a young lady,” marketing. When the company she recollects. Her calm attitude and expertise soon sent a local representative to meet had the director taking back the words he had said. with her, Yanna knew her hard work and determination had paid off. It is this quiet strength that makes Yanna the pillar “SheerBlu-Secret Bra” was an instant of the family. Through all the storms, she has been success and she soon had 360 retailers the one to provide comfort and positivity. Despite selling her products in Singapore, her busy work schedule, she takes the time to bond Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan with her family. “It’s not the quantity but the and HongKong. At the young age of quality of time,” she says. For aspiring female 30, she had started her journey as a entrepreneurs, Yanna has one final piece of successful entrepreneur. advice. “Like a baby bird, you need to get out and take your first step. With perseverance and endurance, it is only a matter of time Due to the huge orders and rapid growth of before you begin to flap your wings and fly.” the company, Yanna had to bring in partners for funding. This would prove to be her undoing, and she soon left the company as a result of internal conflict. Having also lost her sister to leukaemia and taking over the responsibilities to care for her late sister’s 2 children, it was a big blow to Yanna. Forcing herself to remain positive, she went back to becoming an employee again, designing apparel for fashion labels like Hang Ten, Elle Active and Fila.

A silver lining

By chance, in one of her business meetings, she met a senior buyer she knew who encouraged her to develop new products for new markets.” Filled with confidence, Yanna began her research and soon discovered ovine placenta. She decided to give it a try. The results were amazing and Yanna knew she had found her next business venture. It wasn’t long before she met another Co-Founder, Mr Dennis See. “Each of us has our own strengths to contribute to the company,” explained Yanna.. Together, they created Sheer HealthPharm Pte Ltd, a company that is now synonymous with beauty.

Sheer HealthPharm Pte Ltd T: (65) 6846 6696 F: (65) 6844 1192 Email: yanna@sheersecret.net www.sheerhealthpharm.com

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Bee Choo Herbal

Lady Boss

Looking at the success of Bee Choo Herbal Pte Ltd today, one would never have guessed that it is the result of one woman’s passion and her determination to achieve her dream. That woman is none other than Ms Cheah Bee Chew, founder of Bee Choo Herbal Pte Ltd. Through hard work, determination and perseverance, she has single-handedly built a business that allows her to do the very thing she lives for.

Through hard work, determination and perseverance, she has single-handedly built a business that allows her to do the very thing she lives for.

Life’s struggles

Born in a village in Malaysia, Bee Chew grew up knowing hardship. Her family was extremely poor and they often struggled to make ends meet. Although times were extremely hard, they managed to get by. But their situation took a turn for the worse when her father suffered a stroke. As the sole breadwinner, her father’s condition was a huge blow to the family. Faced with mounting medical bills, young Bee Chew knew she had to make a decision. “It was between my family and school, I choose my family,” she said. She decided to give up her studies, and at the young age of 13, she went out to work. Having only completed her primary school education, there were not many jobs open to Bee Chew. Left with no choice, she applied for work at a biscuit factory in the village, working hard day and night to earn enough for her family. This went on for three years, until the day her auntie offered her the opportunity of a new life in Kuala Lumpur. Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 81


An uncertain future

Lady Boss

With her cousin’s help, Bee Chew found a job in a hairdressing salon, where she helped with simple chores like pouring tea for the customers and cleaning up the shop. It was hard work, but she was happy. As she watched the hairdressers at work, she slowly came to realise that she had found her calling. “Something just clicked, and I knew that someday I would be a hairdresser,” she relates. Filled with confidence at her epiphany, she set out to learn as much as she could. And in the days that followed, Bee Chew spent hours observing the techniques of the different hairdressers, dreaming that one day she too would be able to do the same. For the first time in her life, she felt content. Then one day, her boss announced that she was closing down the shop as she was migrating to Australia. As Bee Chew had shown herself to be a quiet and responsible woman, her boss made arrangements for her to come to Singapore by train, where she would have the chance of a better life. she met the man who would be her Bee Chew was devastated, her dream of being a husband. And before long, the happy hairdresser shattered. With no desire to return couple had three children. to her village, she agreed to her boss’s wishes. And at 19, a young Bee Chew, uncertain of her Now that she had a family, Bee Chew future, made her way to Singapore alone. became a housewife, raising her children the best she could. Despite her duties as a wife and mother, she never gave up her dream. “I would plan my hairdressing lessons Alone in a foreign country with little so that I would still be able to send my children education, the future looked bleak for off to school and pick them up when they Bee Chew. But she refused to give in to were done,” she reminisces. She also spent her her fears. Driven by her strong desire free time experimenting with different natural to be a hairdresser, she set about ingredients to treat hair problems. Her hard work finding a way to make her dream and determination paid off when neighbours and come true. Having no money, she friends started coming to her flat for hair treatments. worked as a house maid for months She started out with one steamer, one shampoo chair to earn enough so she could and two customer chairs. Soon, business was booming attend hairdressing courses. For and she opened her first shop at Ang Mo Kio in 2006. two years, she worked hard to Bee Chew’s dream had finally come true. supplement her passion, until

Dreams do come true

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The art of women

Bee Chew has never let the fact that she is a woman hold her back from achieving her dream. In fact, she thinks that far from being the weaker sex, women are stronger. “A woman has a lot more roles and duties to fulfil than a man. Besides her career, she has to ensure that her family is well taken care of while juggling the stress from her career,” she says. Even with her family responsibilities, Bee Chew has single-handedly built her business with nothing but her drive and determination.

Bee Chew also firmly believes that the qualities she possesses as a woman have led to her success today. As a lady boss, she is less calculative and more appreciative of her employees, who, in turn, are extremely loyal and faithful to her. She is also able to take criticism better, viewing it as a form of motivation that spurs her to work harder. In addition, she feels that women are more inclined to constantly improve themselves. And to all the aspiring female entrepreneurs, her advice is: “Be prepared for hard work and sacrifices, and always have the passion and drive for what you are doing.”

Conquering the world

Bee Choo Herbal

Today, Bee Chew is the proud owner of Bee Choo Herbal Pte Ltd, with three outlets in Singapore and more than 40 shops in Malaysia using her products. As a woman who places a great emphasis on the quality of her products, she is committed to maintaining the integrity of her business. To that end, she is planning to expand her factories and invest in better systems so as to deliver quality products to her loyal customers. In time, she hopes for her products to be able to help more people with hair problems. Till then, she will continue working hard in the industry she loves.

Ang Mo Kio Blk 443 Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 #01-1239 Singapore 560443. Tel: (65) 6554 3003 Clementi Blk 433 Clementi Ave 3 #01-256 Singapore 120433. Tel: (65) 6779 1101 Bedok Blk 217 Bedok North Street 1 #01-65 Singapore 460217. Tel: (65) 6246 1238 Marsiling BlK 132 Marsiling Rise #01-216 Singapore 730132. Tel: (65) 6365 7707 Tiong Bahru Blk 111 Jalan Bukit Merah #01-1684 Singapore 160111. Tel: (65) 6272 2224

origin@beechoohair.com www.beechoohair.com Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 83


WEB COLOUR SPECIFICATION

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Soulmanna Live

Lady Boss

Sometimes life drops us hints of what is to come. As the woman largely responsible for bringing the new generation youtube and social media artists out to Asia in the flesh, just ask Ms Deb Fung, Director of Soulmanna Live. Recalling the events that have led to her success, she reminisces: “I always loved to sing on my guitar in the privacy of my bedroom.” Even as a young child, Deb loved music and would sing and compose songs. With words like singer, performer and songwriter, among others, now synonymous with her name, she has developed her lifelong passion into a thriving business in the very industry she loves.

The sound of music

Deb’s fondness for music was instilled in her as a result of her growing up in a church, where she was inspired by the power of music and its unique ability to communicate a powerful message. As she grew older, her love for music developed into a passion as she started writing and composing songs, performing initially at her 21st birthday and later her sister’s 18th. Her brother fuelled her passion by teaching her how to play the guitar, a skill that would feature greatly in her future music career. Recognising her gifts, Deb yearned to pursue a career in music but practicality took over and she instead made the decision to study law. Even as she dedicated her time to her studies, Deb never forgot her love for music, one that quickly became a burning desire that filled her with uncertainty about her decision to be a lawyer. Torn between her dreams and realism, she knew she would have to make a choice. It was a pivotal point in her life, a decision that would change her future forever. Deb chose to give up law but she was already halfway through her degree and her parents were adamant on her completing it. Respecting their wishes, she put her dreams on hold and graduated as a lawyer. With her degree, she was quickly offered a job at a law firm, but she turned it down. It was time to make her dreams come true. Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 85


Lady Boss

With that decision, she threw herself into building up her music career. Slowly, her hard work paid off as she began to be recognised as a promising and up-and-coming singer and songwriter. Her dreams were finally coming true.

Living a life of music

In the months that followed, Deb embarked on an artiste’s career, writing her own songs and singing them at each gig she could secure. It was hard work, but she was happy as she was finally doing what she loved. Her brother showed his support by turning out for her performances whenever he could. However, the life of a budding artiste is not an easy one and she soon found herself in need of funds to further her music career.

Sharing the gift of music

In 2007, when Deb was on tour to promote her latest pop album, her husband had to be hospitalised for an emergency medical condition. She immediately cancelled the rest of her tour and flew to be with him. “When that happened, it really made me take a second look at my life and prioritise the things which were most important. Determined to overcome this setback, she worked I knew I had yet another hard decision part time as a lawyer while still performing gigs to make,” she shares. Though she knew and composing songs. Day and night, she pushed it could mean the end of her music herself to the limit. Every day was a challenge, career, she cancelled the remaining but she was making it work. As her music career tour plans and put aside her music began to grow, so her schedule became increasingly with no hesitation. demanding. At the same time, another law firm offered her a tempting job which would, however, As her husband could not work for an require more of her time. Deb soon found herself extended period, she went back into the being forced once again to make the same decision corporate world so that she could help she made years ago – either give up law or her music support the family. However, even as she career. It was one or the other. For the second time in tried to forget about music, her passion her life, she chose music. was too strong to be denied and she

Always follow your heart and live your life following what you believe in.

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took up a Master’s degree in arts management while working. “It was then that I felt I had a calling. Even if I could not be an artiste, I knew was meant to stay in the industry,” she says.

With that revelation, Deb quickly realised that the years she had spent as an artiste had equipped her with the experience, contacts and skills needed to launch and manage a business in artiste management. “When I first started out, I did everything myself from songwriting and recording to performing, booking venues and promoting my albums. I really lived the

360-degree life of an artiste and I remember wishing that I had a manager who could help me,” she reminisces. With that thought, she set up her business, a company that would aid new artistes in launching their careers, help existing artistes expand theirs, and continue innovating ways for people with influence to make a positive difference in the global community. Soulmanna Live has continued to grow in the Asia Pacific region, also recently launching Soulheartist – a concept which integrates advocating for social justice as part of an artist’s unique potential.

soulmanna live ptd ltd 15 hoe chiang road #26-01 tower 15 singapore 089316 info@soulmannalive.com | www.soulmannalive.com

The sweet notes of success

Recalling her journey, Deb believes that it was her fearlessness in pursuing her dreams that has enabled her to accomplish what she has today, something that she attributes to two key people in her life; her husband and her brother. “When I was at my first crossroads, deciding between law and music, my brother counselled me. He told me that I should always follow my heart and live my life following what I believe in.” Her husband, she shares, has been her rock and most faithful supporter in all her entrepreneurial and risky endeavours. “Without his blessing and business counsel GREEN all along the way, it would not have been #00FF00 possible to pursue this path.” With her Red : 0 (0%) | Green : 255 (100%) | Blue : 0 (0%) personal mantra of “refusing to live with regrets”, it is clear that Deb has a confidence, aided by these positive influences in her life, that causes her to flourish in the midst of uncertainty and challenges. Sharing one last piece of advice, Deb says: “Don’t ever make a decision out of fear. Instead, always have faith in what you want to do. Do your homework, weigh it all up, but ultimately if you truly believe in something, it is your passion and inner conviction that will make it happen.”

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Lady Boss

Bebebows Leza Parker was only 20 years old when she got married. She was deliriously happy and had a bright future ahead of her as she migrated to Australia with her husband, an Australian citizen. By the time she was 21, she had everything she could ask for – a loving husband, a new restaurant and a baby on the way. Life was perfect, until tragedy struck. In the eighth month of pregnancy, Leza lost her baby. Her world shattered. It was a devastating blow and it sent her into a downward spiral of depression. In the days that followed, she was thrown into the depths of despair and became suicidal. Worried for Leza, her husband took a break from his job so that he could look after her and nurse her back to her former self. Slowly, with her husband’s support, she began to come out of her depression. But, there was more to come. After two years of operation, her restaurant was forced to shut down as business was dismal and she took work as a HR trainer.

A new beginning Although her life was starting to get back on track, there was still something missing – the joy of having a child. When Leza found that she was pregnant again, she was determined to carry the

child to term. At the end of the pregnancy she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. By mutual agreement, both she and her husband decided to quit their jobs and return to Singapore, with a second child on the way, as they felt they would have greater business opportunities. With nothing except their luggage, a toddler and each other, they took a leap of faith and made the move. Experiencing the loss of a child taught Leza and her husband how to appreciate the gift of parenthood. As such, both of them put the family first and they decided to be stay-at-home parents. To make ends meet, they became full-time tuition teachers, working out of their home. In the months that followed, despite her being heavily pregnant, Leza worked as hard as she could, putting in 60-hour weeks, to give her child a better future. When her daughter was finally born, she knew everything she had been through was worth it. But her busy schedule soon began to take its toll. “I started to resent my job as it was causing me to lose precious seconds with my child. It was then that I knew it was time to find a way out,” Leza explains. With that, Bebebows was born.

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Lady Boss

When the orders started pouring in, I knew I had created something brilliant.

The love of a mother Today, Bebebows is a leading supplier of children’s hair accessories, with major retailers such as Toys ‘R’ Us, MetroJaya, Mothercare, Parksons Online and OG Department Stores carrying its products. The company ships its bows to many different countries including Malaysia, Thailand, USA, Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, China and Australia. Bebebows has come a long way from a simple home-based business to a well-known brand with a sales office in Singapore and a head office in Kuala Lumpur. And it all began with a mother’s love for her daughter. “When my daughter was young, she didn’t have much hair and was often mistaken for a boy. So I started looking for accessories to doll her up with,” Leza shares. However, she soon realised that hair accessories for children were really expensive. That was when she decided to learn how to make her own bows. By watching YouTube videos and spending hours trying to perfect the art of bow-making, Leza soon had her first collection of children’s hair accessories, which she started selling to her Facebook friends. “When the orders started pouring in, I knew I had created something brilliant,” she reminisces.

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In growing her business, Leza drew from the lessons she had learnt through the failure of her restaurant. “Back then, I was very naïve and thought that starting a business was easy, but in reality, there is so much to learn and do,” she shares. Determined to make her business succeed, she began exploring different ways to promote her bows, running an active webstore on her own and selling her bows at flea markets and events. That hard work has paid off, evidenced by the sheer success of Bebebows today.

The gift of womanhood As a wonderful mother, a supportive wife and a successful business owner, Leza believes that women are as capable as men. To her, there is no difference between the capabilities of a man and a woman. What matters is not being held back by the constraints and stereotypes of society. “Many people have brilliant ideas, but

It’s about making your dreams come true and having the determination to fulfil them.

how an idea can grow is determined by you and not your gender,” Leza explains. “It’s about making your dreams come true and having the determination to fulfil them,” she advises. Although she grew up in a conservative family, she has never been bound by tradition. In fact, her husband is a stay-athome dad for last three years while Leza is the sole breadwinner of the family. She has also discovered that, in her line of work, being a woman has an added advantage. Most of her customers are mothers and women, so Leza finds it easy to connect with them, which is crucial to increasing sales. In addition, women have the ability to multitask, a skill that has enabled her to juggle her career and family and achieve success in both. But the greatest gift of womanhood that Leza possesses is her tremendous inner strength, which has empowered her to overcome all the adversities and obstacles that she has encountered in her life. For despite the loss of her first child and the failure of her first business, Leza is proof that when you get knocked down in life, getting back up and facing the challenges can bring some wonderful second chances.

Bebebows 201 Telok Kurau Road, Unit #01-05, Singapore 423190 Contact : +65 97561224 Email : leza@parker.per.sg Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 91


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Heaven’s Gift

Lady Boss

In 2003, Hannah Chong had everything she could ask for. She was young, successful and at the peak of her career which she had the potential to become the next Vice President of the company. Life was perfect, until a life-changing incident exploded around her. Hannah was on a work trip in Jakarta, Indonesia when the terrorists bombed the Marriot Hotel where she and her co-workers were staying. Although she escaped unscathed, the experience had marked a turning point in her life.

A difficult decision

Her role as the Group Account Director for Raytheon Professional Services had required her to travel extensively, something she had always loved. But now, the close shave made her realise how precious life was and how little time she had spent with her family. Hannah was torn with indecision then. She loved her job, but at the same time, she wanted to be near to her loved ones. After struggling with her decision for a year, she decided to resign and set out to start her business.

effort to be trained and certified by Weddings Beautiful Worldwide, a global organisation that provides professional education and certification for wedding planners across the world. Armed with her newfound knowledge and her past experience doing floral arrangements for her friends’ weddings, Hannah was more than ready. With that, Heaven’s Gift was born. Hannah has been able to draw on the skills she has developed in the course of her career. Having started working at a young age, she has handled many different roles such as admin, HR, sales and marketing, retail and branch management, which has proved invaluable in running her business. In her first profession as a fashion merchandiser for international brands such as Picard and Jane Shilton, she was able to explore her creativity. Her innate ability to envision designs within spaces and transform them has enabled her to consistently create event experiences that never fail to wow her clients and their guests. In addition, her four years in Raytheon Professional Services honed her astute project management and

At first, she struggled to gain family and friends support. “They were worried for my future and couldn’t understand why I would leave a stable, high- paying job to start something that might not succeed,” she explains. Despite the risks and uncertainties she knew she would face, Hannah was adamant. When her loved ones saw how determined she was, they decided to believe in her.

Priceless gifts, invaluable lessons

With her flair for colours and designs as well as her love for weddings, she set out to craft a business that she would be passionate about – designing and planning weddings. To prepare herself for the profession, she took the time and Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 93


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people skills and exposed her to clients of different cultures. “I used to travel a lot for work, mostly alone. As such, I learn to interact well with people from different countries, which has expanded my horizons,” she shares.

Today, Heaven’s Gift is a successful wedding and events planning company that is known for its breathtaking aesthetics, unique concepts and the ability to make every event an expression of one’s dream. Although based in Singapore, Hannah and her team have served clients and created events all over the world in places such as Bali, Chennai, Penang, Seychelles and Tokyo. Hannah’s work has also been featured in the Straits Times, Business Times, Tatler Weddings, Icon Weddings, Prestige, Her World Brides, Female Brides, Style Weddings, as well as popular US Bridal site - Style Me Pretty. In recent year, Heaven’s Gift has also birthed forth its second brand Celebrate Heaven, an online boutique that sells International labels of couture flower girl dresses, design-led party and tableware, handcrafted bouquets and bridal accessories for today’s modern and savvy brides.

Never stop envisioning, never stop dreaming.

Learning from experience

However, her success has not come easy. When she started her business, wedding planning was a fairly new concept and there were not many opportunities available. In addition, people had the misconception that wedding planners were mere coordinators and not concept planners that she was striving to be, which made wedding couples hesitant to engage her services initially. “People didn’t understand what is a concept planner back then so I decided to show them what I could do,” she recalls. She took time to show her clients how she would interpret their dream weddings into designs, details and experiences she has been envisioning. When she has won her clients to her vision, Hannah still faces other problems such as being challenged on her ideas and concepts. “Although I have been in this business for 94 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss


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quite a while, there are times when the contractors will question my designs and set up,” she says. To deal with this problem, she draws on her previous experiences of being discriminated and the way she handled it. “I used to work for an extremely male-oriented industry so discrimination is not new to me. The only way to convince and win them over is to train and perfect yourself,” she shares. As such, whenever she’s working with new partners, she empowers herself with research that will back up her designs and concepts, and she trains her team to be very meticulous and precise, a solution that works remarkably well. While she has had her share of tough experiences as a result of her gender, Hannah admits that being a woman in her line of work has great advantages. “In a wedding, the most important person is the bride. Being a lady, makes it so much easier for me to communicate with her and understand her needs and fears. That’s something a man wouldn’t be able to achieve,” she says. Also, women are more detail-oriented, a quality that is essential to Hannah’s business.

The keys to success

But more than her skills, Hannah believes it’s her determination and attitude that has opened the door to success. “When I first started Heaven’s Gift, I didn’t know if I would succeed. In fact, I gave myself two years to see if I could make things happen. But once I made up my mind to start this business, I gave it my all. That way, if I failed, I would know I had already given my best,” she shares. With “Never stop envisioning, and never stop dreaming” as her personal mantra, Hannah advises that the people who dream are the ones who will take steps towards fulfilling it. She adds that success comes with the right influence and support, saying: “Stay with people who encourage you and leave those who discourage you. Surround yourself with individuals who inspire you, guide you and keep you positive.” A visionary, dreamer and romantic, Hannah is living proof that, with the right attitude, dreams can certainly come true.

Heaven’s Gift Pte Ltd 8 Jalan Kilang Barat, Central Link #04-09 Singapore 159351 Telephone: +65 6220 0378

Website : www.heavens-gift.com ; www.celebrateheaven.com Email : enquiry@heavens-gift.com; hannah@heavens-gift.com Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 95


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Nurturing Talent For The World Stage Corinna Chang Founder/CEO, Klassique Musik.

Corinna was destined to be a musician the moment she was born. She felt a close affinity for music at an early age and was instantly entranced by the Performing Arts. Greatly influenced by her Uncle Marcus Leong, conductor for the Sarawak State Symphony Orchestra,music became her passion. This began a musical journey that saw her learn piano and ballet at age six, and violin at age ten. “ From a young age, I knew I wanted to be involved in music and the arts. It is part of my DNA, my life.” A recipient of the Singapore Government Scholarship, Corinna obtained an Honours with Degree in Piano Performance at Elder Conservatorium, University of Adelaide. Her deep-rooted passion for music, she was driven by the constant desire to be best at it, becoming a prize-winning musician and then becoming an entrepreneur that trained prize-winning musicians. Corinna is passionate in nurturing musical talent in children. Start young is her philosophy for musical success.

From a young age, I knew I wanted to be involved in music and the arts. It is part of my DNA, my life

Become like water

An avid believer of the Japanese Kaizen Philosophy, Corinna points out that an entrepreneur can never be satisfied with the status quo. The Kaizen Philosophy, which literally translates to “good change”, is a set of practices focusing on the continuous improvement of a person or organisation. “As a leader and founder of a corporation, you have to keep abreast of the latest trends and developments,” says Corinna, adding that entrepreneurs must always seek selfimprovement and be ready to change in a heartbeat. “You have to dream big and have a mission in life if you want to start your own company,” Corinna advises. When she embarked on setting up Klassique Musik, her mission was to make people more confident and creative through music. My aim is to spread the joy,culture and beauty of music. “My background in music gives me a distinct advantage in business as it allows me to be more engaging, likeable and empathetic to the needs of prospective clients. ” Being in tune with our emotions helps me not to take myself too seriously. People feel more happy and relaxed and this translates to better sales. Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 97


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Stay positive and persevere

Having a positive mind set has been crucial to Corinna’s success. She draws inspiration from business guru Anthony Robbins. “Staying positive has a positive influence on those around you,” she advises. “Nobody wants to see a grumpy face.” Corinna feels very blessed to have spent 4 years Australia and the United States. This has given her a “Go For It Atitude, Nothing Is Impossible.”

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Whenever faced with difficulties, she always reminds herself that the tough times will pass and there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. I myself set very high expectations and standards for myself and my company. Through experience she learnt to sometimes laugh when faced with challenges. Everybody in business would definitely have heartbreak and challenges. When in doubt, be humble and seek advice from friends, family, mentors and have a deep faith in God. She also emphasises the importance of perseverance. “Without a high level of determination, you will tend to take things easy and not work so hard on your business,” she warns. Her dream of making music her life is something that she pursued with single-minded focus and energy.” If I had a mascot, it would be a bulldog as they never let go and they just keep on fighting, just like me!” Corinna encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to never be content with what they have. She maintains that to thrive in any venture, you have to be hungry for success. “Listing Tennis champions Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, both did very badly in 2012. Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, they managed to rise to be No.1 in 2013. ” This never say die attitude is what propels people and companies to be World Beaters. As my Korean professors say, 110 percent effort hard work and determination make the crucial difference. “See how Samsung is taking over the World!”

Surround yourself with those who support you

Corinna thinks that you have to be a little “crazy” to want to have your own business, but you must want it badly as well. Dedicating yourself to your dream does require sacrifice, especially when it comes to work / life balance. Corinna warns that there is no such thing as a “ Perfect” balance, but also insists that trying to make your family understand your dedication to your business is an important part of working towards that balance. “You need to stay motivated when you can’t spend as much time as you’d like with your family by remembering that you are doing what you’re doing in order to make your life better for you and your children,” she advises. “It is also imperative to have a solid support team.” 98 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss


Stay fluid

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Her dream for the future would be to set up a foundation to transform the lives of Another key to Corinna’s success is her ability underprivileged children. To help them to gain to reinvent the business by adding on additional access to a better life through music. new courses as needs are identified. On 14th August 2013,Klassique Musik recently launched the new “ Baby Programme “targeted at infants as young as three months old. “Baby loves Music Fun” aims to provide an integrated programme to foster closer bonding with their parents through music. Corinna believes that by learning music at a young age, parents are helping their children in their intellectual development and to be happier babies.She hopes that with the success of her recent launch, people will recognise her as the “Baby Whisperer”. Embodying the very fundamentals of the Kaizen Philosophy, Corinna knows that she cannot be stagnant and should always look for opportunities to expand and improve. With the focus on expanding the awareness of Klassique Musik through student performances, Corinna and her professional staff are set on giving their students the tools they need to impress audiences region wide. Having already schooled numerous award-winning musicians since 2005, she hopes to harness the continuing success of Klassique Musik to make it a global brand. Subsequently, she plans to open branches around South East Asia before expanding into the Middle East, and finally the world. Corinna’s vision to nurture talent for the world stage became a reality when three of her students performed on November 24,2012 at Carnegie Hall, New York, USA. Subsequently, her students in 2013 have won international competitions in Japan, Italy, Greece and Russia. They also performed for Media Corp Star Awards, Childaid Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur and ABRSM High Scorer Concert in Singapore 2013, 2014. This achievement is given to the students with the highest mark in Singapore.

Parting advice

Corinna has some wise advice for young women looking to start a business: “In order to sustain a business, it is important to be passionate about what you do.” There must be a sense of fun and the joy of teamwork. For me, building a business is a labour of Love and Joy fuelled with lots of energy. You must be happy and enthusiastic and this energizes your team. To Conclude, Find your purpose in life. Remember to dream big! Be an inspiration to others. Live Life with joy, hope and love! Klassique Musik Pte Ltd 271 Bukit Timah Road #02-15, #02-18/19 Balmoral Plaza Singapore 259708 Tel: 6333 6486 Email: admin@klassiquemusik.com www.klassiquemusik.com Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 99


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Pranic Angel Healing Centre

To heal, to forgive, to give of yourself – these are the teachings of pranic healing and what inspired Ms Cynthia Chan, to give up her comfort zone and founded Pranic Angel Healing Centre in September 2012. It is a business that allows her to live those values. “It’s about finding your meaning in life and working towards it,” she explains. A woman of unwavering conviction and determination, Cynthia began a journey that ended with the fulfilment of her dream.

A journey of self-discovery

Cynthia grew up watching her father, a tailor, worked tirelessly to support the family and admired him for it. As there was barely enough for the family, Cynthia took her initiative to take on odd jobs to earn her pocket money even during school days. But despite all that, she was happy. When she was in Primary 6, she suddenly went into a period of deep depression. Suffering from low self-esteem, Cynthia became listless and moody. At that time, she was convinced that she would never amount to anything in life and lost all her self-confidence. With no one to turn to, she approached her form teacher, who patiently listened to her problems. Then one day, her form teacher gave her two books with the instructions to complete them and write about what she had read within seven days. Cynthia, who had never read or written anything before this, was taken aback, but she agreed. As she laboured to keep her promise, she soon found herself enjoying it. And that was the start of her love for reading and writing. Cynthia soon became a voracious reader and writer and it wasn’t long before her stories were published in the local Chinese newspaper. With her confidence renewed, concentrated on her studies and soon graduated.

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programme for a year. She succeeded and saved her gall bladder. But the experience had left its mark and she started to ponder the purpose of life. It was then that she recalled an incident when a stranger came up to her and told her that she shouldn’t be content to be an employee but aim to be an employer. While she didn’t have the courage to start her own company then, it became a wishful dream of hers. Confused, she went on a spiritual retreat to India, where she met a guru who answered all her doubts. Still, she was afraid.

It’s about finding your meaning in life and working towards it.

Finding the meaning of life

After her “O” level, with no immediate plans to further her studies, Cynthia joined a local insurance company. Having no knowledge of the industry, she worked hard to learn from her superiors. With the company treating her well and with nice colleagues, Cynthia was contented in with her life and work. Then something happened that planted the seeds of doubt. She fell sick. The nights of entertainment required by her job had taken their toll on her, and she was diagnosed with gall bladder stones and fatty liver and required surgery. But her commitment to her work left her with no time to schedule an appointment for surgery. Left with no alternative, she decided to cure herself by eating right and had gall bladder detox 102 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss

Living the teachings

A woman who believed in constant self-improvement, Cynthia enrolled herself in a part time Master’s degree in business management course. With only secondary school qualifications, it took her seven years to complete. It was hard work, but she persevered, and, at age 50, she received her MBA. With that, her destiny was decided. By some strange twist


of fate, Cynthia found the reason and courage to change her life forever. It all happened when her friend brought her to a seminar on ‘Achieving Oneness with The Higher Soul’. Listening to the speaker, she felt an instant connection and she signed up for the Pranic Healing courses offered at the event. It was the answer she was looking for in life. And six months after she started her courses, Cynthia resigned from the company she had worked in for the 36 years.

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A Noble Goal Female power

Cynthia spearheaded a volunteer-initiated project as chairlady of “Towards Zero Cancer” campaign in conjunction with Kampung Senang Charity and Education Foundation Centre, Rev 22 Pte Ltd and the Centre for Inner Studies, Singapore. Through preventive education and holistic practices, the campaign aims to To accelerate the learning and eradicate the occurrence practice of Pranic Healing, she of new cancer cases by the sold her car and house, and year 2050. This is through channelled her resources by focusing on proper lifestyle volunteering at the Centre for habits—proper sleep, diet Inner Studies, Singapore and and exercise, achieving Kampung Senang Charity and clean and healthy energy Education Foundation to help within the body through in healing, nurturing school mates and co-ordinating Pranic Pranic Healing, as well as Healing events. Her faith and understanding and managing commitment paid off when positive (love, joy, and she met a fellow healer during freedom) and negative (anger, a seminar and they decided to hatred, jealousy) emotions. open the first Pranic Healing centre in Singapore. At that moment, Cynthia knew her wishful dream had finally come true.

In a business that requires patience, love and a gentle nature, being a woman does have its advantages. Cynthia encountered many customers who came to her for physical, mental and emotional healing. She realised that being a lady makes it easier for people to feel comfortable to take refuge in her. But Cynthia’s success does not stem from the fact that she is a woman. Instead, it is her bold desire to overcome her fears, and to achieve a meaningful life. Today, Cynthia is the proud owner of Pranic Angel Healing Centre and a certified Pranic Healing trainer. While she has many responsibilities as a businesswoman, she still finds the time to have an active social life and ,a balanced family life and an active volunteer in the community. To all the aspiring lady bosses, she has but one piece of advice. “While you live your life purpose, do not leave out your soul purpose!”

Pranic Angel Healing Centre 101 Upper Cross Street, #03-28 People’s Park Complex 珍珠大厦 Singapore 058357 Tel: +65 6227 2789 www.pranicangel.com 59

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JP Concept

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Sometimes the call of destiny is too strong to be denied. Just ask Ms Jerlyn Poh, Director of JP Concept. Recalling the events that have led to her success today, she reminisces: “My earliest memories were of me poring over interior magazines.” Even as a young child, Jerlyn was fascinated by the pictures she saw of beautiful houses and their amazing interiors. This fascination would grow to become a passion that would one day lead to a successful business in interior design.

A love for design

Jerlyn’s love for design quickly showed in her ability to envision and develop creative and inspiring concepts. Recognising her gift and driven by her passion, she set herself on a path that would enable her to do the very thing she loved. Even in her teens, when many of her peers had yet to plan for their future, she knew her direction. Upon graduation from secondary school, she quickly enrolled for a course in interior design. As her family was not well off, Jerlyn had to pay for her own course fees. Determined to put herself through school, she took on part-time jobs while studying. It was hard work. But she felt it was worth it.

You must always have passion for what you do. With passion comes satisfaction, and these are what keep you and your business going. If you truly love what you do, somehow you will make it a success.

With her natural aptitude and determination, Jerlyn quickly completed her course, obtaining a diploma in interior design. But she was thirsty for more. To expand her knowledge, she signed up for a distance learning course and was awarded a UK diploma in interior design. Armed with her qualifications and knowledge, she was ready to enter the workforce. Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 105


Starting out small

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It didn’t take long for Jerlyn to get a job with a small interior design firm. Although the pay was not what she had expected, she did not complain as her ambition was to learn the basics. In the months that followed, she threw herself into the job. She was exposed to every aspect of the business, from administrative work to site visits, meeting with clients to developing designs. It was challenging and demanding but she did it all. The whole experience enabled her to develop skills that would prove invaluable in later years. Besides the different roles she played, Jerlyn also credits her ex-bosses, clients and colleagues for having contributed to her success. “They were my mentors as they gave me many opportunities to learn and exposed me to different designs and concepts.” When Jerlyn finally left the company, she was armed with a wealth of skills, knowledge and experience.

Treading down the path of destiny

It was during this time, when she was taking a break and at the crossroads of her life, that fate intervened in the form of a close friend, who approached her for help with a project. This would be the first step towards her dream. Having accepted the project, Jerlyn wanted to create a professional feel and she began considering the idea of setting up a business. When she found out that the government was encouraging Singaporeans to ‘be your own boss’ and offering courses for entrepreneurs, she knew it was a sign. She attended the courses to learn how to run a business. Soon, she was ready. In 2002, Jerlyn established JP Concept, a name borne of her initials and her love for interior design. Now that she officially had a business, she began looking for ways to make it succeed. She worked day and night, developing new concepts and searching for clients. It was hard work, but she was determined to build up her company. Her husband showed his support by helping her set up a website where people could view her designs and the work she had done. Slowly, through word-of-mouth and recommendations, her business and reputation as an interior designer began to grow. In 2005, with the support of her family, Jerlyn decided to incorporate JP Concept. Two years later, her husband joined her in the business. Today, the company has grown from a onewoman, home-based business to a successful company, known for its interior designs. 106 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss


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A resilient lady

In a trade dominated by men, it is easy for a In addition, women tend to more sensitive and woman to feel intimidated and inferior. But patient, qualities that have enabled Jerlyn to Jerlyn takes the situation in her stride and uses connect better with her employees. “Interior it to her advantage. “Back when I was a young design is a very competitive industry so it designer, the contractors saw me as a small girl, really helps that I am able to trigger my which made them more willing to teach me and staff ’s passion for design and develop their share what they knew. They probably wouldn’t creativity,” she shares. Looking at her have been so patient if I were a man,” she shares. accomplishments today, it’s not hard to Even now, Jerlyn has noticed that it is easier for her believe that she has succeeded in doing so. to communicate with contractors as compared to her husband, which she believes has to do with the Looking back at the journey she has taken, Jerlyn has only one piece of fact that she is a woman. advice to share, “You must always have Besides having preferential treatment every now passion for what you do. With passion and then, another advantage is having the ability to comes satisfaction, and these are what plan, something that is crucial to interior design. “In keep you and your business going. If my line of work, planning is extremely important as you truly love what you do, somehow everything needs to follow a process. Having a proper you will make it a success.” plan means that things will go smoothly and the project can be completed on time,” she says. Working with her husband has also made Jerlyn realise that women are more detail-oriented than men and prefer doing things step-by-step, which is a great benefit in running a business.

JP Concept Pte Ltd Address: 62 Ubi Road 1 #04-08 Oxley Bizhub 2 Singapore 408734 Tel: 6732 3937 Fax: 6636 4200

AWARDED ASIA PACIFIC TOP EXCELLENCE BRAND

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Origins Jamu Massage

A child is the greatest gift any woman can receive. For Ms Rebecca Chan, Founder and Managing Director of Origins Jamu Massage, this rings especially true. With the birth of her child, not only did she receive the gift of life, she was also gifted with the idea that would someday form the basis of her business.

The pains of pregnancy

It was a joyous year for Rebecca in 2005, when she gave birth to her firstborn child. But her elation was soon masked by the discomfort she felt. Despite having given birth, her body was filled with aches and pains from her pregnancy and the endless breastfeeding sessions, leaving her feeling lethargic and fatigued. Desperate to rid herself of her pain, she sought the services of a Malay auntie whom she knew practised post-natal massage. While she had her doubts initially, they were soon erased as she experienced the difference in her body after each session. Intrigued by the techniques of post-natal massage, Rebecca set out to learn more about it, doing her own research online and finding out everything she could. Her interest took a more serious note when she started exploring the different training schools, even signing up for courses to learn the original Jamu post-natal massage techniques, skills and related knowledge. With the completion of each course, Rebecca became more convinced that she had discovered something of great value to women. But it wasn’t until the birth of her second child that she decided to turn her knowledge and passion into a successful business idea. “I looked at how I was spending my time and decided that I had to start prioritising my kids. It was then that I knew it was time to start my own business,” she shares.

The birth of a company

Although she had made up her mind, establishing a business was a huge step for her. Having been in the Food & Beverage industry for the past nine years,

I had to start prioritising my kids. It was then that I knew it was time to start my own business.

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Rebecca had little knowledge as to what it took to set up and run a business. However, she was determined to succeed. Driven by the thought of her children, she gritted her teeth and began to learn everything from scratch. It was not easy and she made many mistakes initially. “At that point in time, my biggest challenge was just staying in business,” she shares. Undaunted, Rebecca persevered, taking note of her mistakes and finding ways to improve on them. Little by little, she formed the structure and framework of her company.

With her business up and running, she turned her attention to attracting customers. Rebecca knew that the fastest and best way to reach her target audience would be online platforms. There was just one problem – she had little IT knowledge. Rising to the challenge, she spent many nights learning about the different websites and portals that she could use and how to use them effectively. Her hard work paid off when the calls started coming in. “I knew that I had succeeded when women started calling to enquire about my services,” she says. Today, Origins Jamu Massage is a leading home spa in Singapore, offering different treatments to women after birth. The company currently employs 14 people, ranging from masseuses to support and sales staff. Besides providing post –natal massage and post-partum care, the company has also developed its own line of products – BodiNeeds . Natural & Chemical Free products that are cater to women especially during the use from pregnancy to post recovery. Judging from its success, Origins Jamu Massage has come a long way from a simple, home-based business it was to the successful company it is today.

The arduous journey to success

Although Rebecca now enjoys success, it has not all been smooth sailing and there were times when she almost gave up. “In setting up my business, I encountered many challenges and setbacks. Sometimes, everything seemed too much to handle and even staying positive was a challenge,” she says. Rebecca has also had to make many sacrifices to keep her business going, such as time with her family, something she values very much. As such, she is very thankful for the support her family has given her over the years and God’s Faith that strengthen her perservance. “My extended family has been tremendously supportive of my entrepreneurial activities. It is this support that has given me the strength to go on,” she shares. Besides her family, Rebecca also believes that it is her passion for what she is doing that has enabled her to overcome the trials and tribulations of her journey. That is why she has but one piece of advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs, “Always stay positive and have a real passion for what you do. Always keep that passion going for it will see you through the most challenging times.”

Origins Jamu Massage

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The joys of womanhood Despite the success she has achieved in her career, Rebecca counts her ability to juggle her work and family as her greatest accomplishment. For even with her busy schedule, she is able to work her responsibilities as a mom, wife and lady boss into her daily life. She credits her talent for multitasking to the fact that she is a woman. “Women are brought up to take on multiple responsibilities. As such, we have learnt how to multitask to achieve success in every single one of our roles,” she explains.

Always stay positive and have a real passion for what you do. Always keep that passion going for it will see you through the most challenging times.

Origins Jamu Massage Booking / Service Enquiry e | rebecca@originsjamumassage.com Ordering / Product Enquiry e | sales@originsjamumassage.com Wholesale/ Distribution Enquiry e | jason@originsjamumassage.com t | 65 9791 7008 - Rebecca t| 65 9090 8108 - Hazel Blk 644 Bukit Batok Central #01-68 s650644 t | 6565 0636

Being a woman has also contributed greatly to her business. “I’m in a business that caters exclusively to women. As such, it really helps that I’m a lady as my customers would definitely be more comfortable with a woman as compared to a man,” she shares. The fact that Rebecca has had first-hand experience with post-natal massage and is a mother herself also enables her to relate better to her customers. Looking back at her journey through the years, Rebecca has only one thing to say: “It is an amazing feeling owning something that I built from the ground up. I never would have thought it possible. That’s why you must always believe in yourself and never give up.”

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Thanks To The Lord, for All The Things You Gave It to Me.


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Ythu Wendy Restaurant

A love of food, a passion for cooking and a hunger for success, these are the very ingredients that have enabled Wendy Ythu, owner of Ythu Wendy Restaurant, to accomplish what she has today. Driven by her passion and spurred by her desire to succeed, she has relentlessly pursued her dreams. With determination, conviction and sheer tenacity, Wendy has weathered the trials and tribulations in her life to transform her hopes and wishes into reality.

An unstable period

Wendy was born in Vietnam in a little province called Vàn Rây (Tinh Rach Giâ), where her family owned a trading company. Having a family business meant that she led a comfortable life and was also exposed to business at a very young age. In fact, Wendy remembers the times when her grandfather would share the tricks of the trade, lessons that she never forgot. These lessons instilled in her the conviction that she would someday run her own business. As she grew older, Wendy started working for the company even when she was studying. It was hard work but she was content. All that changed when she was 15. The year was 1978, and the Vietnam war had just ended. Thousands of refugees were fleeing the country including some friends of her uncle. However, getting out of the country was not easy and they soon turned to Wendy for help for, despite her tender age, Wendy was well known in her province and extremely influential. Using her influence and reputation, she quickly got her uncle’s friends on a boat and, together, they fled to Thailand. Wendy would travel to two more refugee camps in Indonesia and Singapore before finally migrating to the US alone.

A new beginning

Being alone in a foreign country would have seemed daunting to many, but Wendy was fiercely independent. She found a job in the supermarket so she could put herself through high school. In the days that followed, she would attend her classes in the day and work to support herself at night. Those were hard times, but despite her dire circumstances, she never forgot her dream of starting a business. When

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she graduated from high school, she knew it was time to make her dream a reality. Using the skills she had acquired over the years, the knowledge she had gained from helping in the family business and her love for cooking, she set up her first business selling submarine sandwiches. Five years after she arrived in the US, Wendy had finally made her dream come true.

Now that her business was established, she began looking for ways to make it succeed. Remembering the lessons her grandfather had taught her, she toiled day and night to build up her business and increase the number of customers, with barely a rest day. It was extremely hard work but to Wendy, it was all worthwhile. From left to right: Sam Lee (Chef), Tan Ah Ba, “I was doing what I loved so even though I was working Wendy, Lyly (Training Chef) every day, I didn’t find it tough as I was enjoying myself,” she shares. Slowly, her hard work paid off as her business began to grow. Then, she met her husband, a Singaporean. Four years after starting her business, she gave it up and relocated to Singapore with him.

Starting anew

With her experience in F&B, it wasn’t long before Wendy found a job in Singapore. However, she soon found that Asians had very different tastes from Westerners and she realised that she had much to learn. Throwing herself into the task, she picked up whatever she could, refining her techniques and expanding her culinary skills. Soon, she was ready to start her second business venture – a restaurant selling Vietnamese food. “Maybe it’s because of my roots, but I wanted to create a place where people could enjoy authentic Vietnamese cuisine while soaking in the culture of Vietnam,” she explains. In 1999, Wendy opened the first Ythu Wendy Restaurant at Takashimaya Shopping Centre. It was an instant success. By 2004, she had expanded the business to Christchurch, New Zealand. In addition, Wendy now has restaurants located at ION Orchard, 313@Somerset, VivoCity and 112Katong as well as a stall selling Asian-fusion kueh at ION Orchard. But Wendy’s dreams do not stop here. Despite her success, she still spends time creating new dishes every day, and has plans to open even more outlets overseas so more people can enjoy a taste of authentic Vietnamese food.

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The way to a woman’s heart

Despite being born to a traditional and conservative culture, Wendy has never let the bonds of convention restrict her. “In Vietnamese culture, a woman’s role is very clearly defined. Every Vietnamese woman knows that her priority and sole responsibility is her family and her in-laws,” she shares. That was the reason why she gave up her business in the US and came to Singapore with her husband. It was so she could fulfil her duties as a daughter-in-law. But even that couldn’t stop her from realising her dream. Over the years, Wendy has seen the role of women evolve from simple housewives and homemakers to career women that are leaders in their chosen industries. “In the past, the only concern a woman had was her family. Today, women have many different shoes to fill and roles to play,” she says. It is for this reason that she feels that women are blessed with the ability to multitask, a quality she feels is sometimes lacking in men. Y THU WENDY’S VIETNAM RESTAURANT Y Thu Wendy Vietnam Delicalies 313 Somerset, Food Republic, Level 5-23, Singapore 238895

Listen and learn whenever you can, for the learning process is not a single step, but a long journey.

Wendy also feels that women are more patient and have greater perseverance, values that are essential to the success of a business. “Starting a business and sustaining it is like boiling a pot of good soup. It is a slow and tedious process but, if done right, will leave an unforgettable taste,” she says. Drawing from her experiences, Wendy leaves us with some parting advice: “Always be focussed on what you want. And listen and learn whenever you can, for the learning process is not a single step, but a long journey. Lastly, always be humble.” Thanks to chef Sam Lee and Chef Lyly, workers, family, friends and husband.

Wendy’s Authentic Vietnam Cuisine 2 Orchard Turn #B4-04D, Food Opera, Ion Orchard, Singapore 238801

Fenwind Pte Ltd - Pho’ No 1 1 HarbourFront Walk, VivoCity Food Republic, Level 3 Singapore 098585

Fenwind Pte Ltd - Pho’ No 1 112 East Coast Road, Katong Mall Food Republic, Level 4-01 Singapore 428802

Taste Enclave Avenue K Mall +603 2181 8888 No. 156 Jalan Ampang 55000 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 115


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Proof Perfect Pte Ltd Angela Dove

The passionate copywriter

When you love what you do for a living, you can hardly call it work. That’s what Angela Dove, owner of marketing agency Proof Perfect Pte Ltd, has come to realise. “I am known for my passion as a copywriter by all my clients,” she says, “but luckily I But that all changed when Angela’s also have the passion to keep growing the business.” nomadic desires led her to Singapore. “I took an 18-month contract to teach But the passion came late in life. “I had no real English in a private language school ambition growing up,” she recalls. “When I here and essentially never left!” she left school in the UK at 18, I had absolutely no recalls. The experience gained teaching idea what I wanted to do, and joined a bank as a English over the next 10 years gave “safe” option.” And Angela says that is where she Angela a very firm foundation in the would still be now 30 years later, if she hadn’t nuances of the English language and this has been invaluable in writing her moved to Singapore. in-house training courses for her writers “If you had told me 20 years ago that I would be and customers. “Being a native English running my own business,” she laughs, “I simply speaker, you know when something is wouldn’t have imagined it. I was never a risk taker right or wrong, but you can’t explain and needed the security of a steady job and income. it to anyone else. It just “is”. With No one I knew ran a business and I had no model to the language training, I was able to put rules to the language and explain draw from for it ever to be a sensible option.” it to people.”

Discovering the passion

It wasn’t until Angela landed a position as Head of English at a local business school that she started writing. “The school had limited resources and I found myself writing a lot of my teaching materials,” she explains. That was when she discovered she could write and, more importantly, that she enjoyed doing it. When a close friend who ran her own design agency asked Angela to help out with writing copy for a client’s brochure, Angela knew she had found her calling. “Discovering that I could make money doing what I enjoyed, and being able to do it from home so I could look after my two toddlers at the time, was an added bonus.” Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 117


Best-laid plans …

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So Angela set up a home office, but her plans all went wrong pretty quickly. “I started to get a lot of demand for my services as word spread and found that I had to move out of my home office and into a “real” office and hire staff to help me,” she laughs. “So my plan to work from home pretty much backfired!” The business continued to grow and customers increasingly started to demand design services in addition to copywriting. “When I found that too much of my turnover was being literally turned over to outsourced design agencies, I decided to bring design in-house,” Angela explains. Proof Perfect’s resident Art Director is now co-director with Angela, and together the pair embarked on rebranding the business and putting systems in place to be able to replicate the business in other locations when the time comes.

A learning journey

“Everything I have learnt in running the business, I have learnt from experience, from mistakes and from business coaches along the way,” she explains. “I realised that I needed a mentor to guide me and have at times hired coaches to provide that external motivation and guidance. I also draw from friends I now mix with that are business owners too, and pick their brains when I need to,” she says. “And I also read a lot of business books to keep myself inspired. I’m always looking to improve the business in every way I can.” Angela is adamant that she will not downsize the business. “I’ve come too far to turn back now. It’s forever onwards and upwards, which is why I am doing so much now to systemize the business so that we can expand into other offices in the region when the time comes.”

Sacrifices are inevitable

Asked if juggling being a lady boss, wife and mother is a challenge, Angela says absolutely yes, it is. “I really don’t think you can have it all,” she says. “Something has to give. Running a business requires complete commitment, but so does having a family. I sacrificed a lot of family time and sleep in the early years, and that’s something I can’t get back,” Angela observes. “But at the same time, I hope I have instilled a good work ethic in my children and that they know that they can achieve anything they want to if they put their mind to it. They know that running their own business is a viable option. The key is to find their passion.” 118 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss


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Set a clear direction

While there is a lot of advice Angela could give to young entrepreneurs taking their first steps into building a business, she can break her advice into two points. Firstly, love what you do as you are going to be spending much of your waking hours doing it. Secondly, have a vision for where you want to go and treat your business as a large entity right from the get go so that when it grows, you have done all the work to systemize most of the routine. “Be clear on your vision and mission statement; have scripts written out for how you will present your business to others in different situations; identify all future positions in the company and write clear position contracts for every position, even if it doesn’t exist yet; put easy-to-follow systems in place to collect your payments, and manage projects workflows and job responsibilities – a flowchart for each position and task; hire on attitude as well as aptitude; and make use of cloud solutions to automate as much of the business as you can.” For Angela, it’s certainly been a journey, and a lot of hard work, but one she would never have made if not for the driving passion to succeed.

She would never have made if not for the driving passion to succeed.

Proof Perfect 171 Tras Street, #02-181 Union Building, Singapore 079025 Tel: +65 6333 4138 Fax: +65 6336 7191

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The Professional Raconteur Marine Lim Director, absolute PR

Growing up constantly locked in insightful conversations with adults, Ms Marine Lim certainly built up her PR skills at a very young age. Noticing her ability to communicate easily with people from varied backgrounds, her parents enrolled her in story-telling competitions to encourage her further. And boy was she good at it. She won all the competitions she entered.

Growing ‘Pains’

Life was never meant to be a bed of roses.

As the youngest in the family, Marine quipped that she got away with things “most of the time”. Thanking her family for their support and unending belief in her, she stated that her parents gave her their blessings for her decision to marry an Indian man even though it was rare to enter into mixed marriages at that point in time. Marine gained many life values from listening to her father, who was her greatest inspiration. He taught her that life will never be a bed or roses and that’s how life will be and should be. But he also taught her that nothing is impossible. This positive lady views life challenges as reality checks that teach her to appreciate the finer things in life.

Before absolute PR

Marine first cut her teeth as a Project Facilitator at SAFRA National Service Association, which enabled her to hone her PR and event management skills. Having spent four fruitful years at SAFRA, she then moved onto an elite business club in Singapore. While there, she learnt how to perfect her communication skills through dealing with elite socialites, high-end lifestyle retailers and international business and political leaders. Prior to starting absolute PR in 2005, she worked her last PR and marketing corporate job in the beauty industry. This allowed her to build up her networks and contacts. The constant urge for recognition spurred her to better herself and work harder.

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absolute Establishment

The birth of absolute PR was driven by the fact that Marine found it hard to find a reliable PR agency that could empathise with clients. She relished the challenge of starting up her very own PR agency. “To be able to lead, advise, conceptualise and undertake branding, marketing and PR campaigns was something that suited me down to the ground,” she recalls. Additionally, running her own business allowed her to spend more time with her then new-born son. “My hubby fully supported my business idea and was able to share the work load of taking care of the children as they grow; and I am thankful for that,” she added. Her husband, himself a businessman, was able to give her valuable insights into running a business capably. However, she concedes that as a woman she is more attuned to her emotional side and her weaknesses were that she would tend to trust people readily and give them second chances. “I used to think that people could change, but so far they have proven me wrong”, she added. On the flip side, being a woman in business gives her added advantages. “I am able to deal with people with an open mind. I think that it is important to treat a person with respect even if they are holding a junior position”, she says. Reflecting on her experience as a lady boss, Marine says she hasn’t had any based on her gender, but has had to deal with insecurities around her being “too young”.

Disconnect for better work-life balance

Marine sees both her family and work as equally important aspects of her life. She tends to disconnect from her mobile phone and any work-related materials when spending time with her family. This allows her to give her family her full attention and revel in precious moments together. “My hubby will videotape milestone events that I miss and I will do the same for him too,” she says of the times when she really has to be away for work. Marine acknowledges that as a business owner, wife and mother, she cannot have it all. “Compromises and sacrifices are an inevitable part of running a successful business,” Marine advises. “Support from everyone – be it family or colleagues – is crucial for me not to become burnt out.”

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Build your network

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The importance of creating a good impression and having a strong network to call upon is evidenced in the success of absolute PR, as Marine explains: “All of our business comes through referrals from our clients, suppliers and working partners whom are all our satisfied clients turned good friends.” It’s handy to have friends on hand to do your PR for you!

Follow your dream

Marine advises young women not to procrastinate. Repeating her mantra, “Life was never meant to be a bed of roses”, she throws down the gauntlet to aspiring entrepreneurs to put their dream into action and go achieve it. “When the going gets tough, persevere and see challenges as speed bumps that you learn to avoid in the future” she adds. Marine regards absolute PR as her greatest achievement. She is particularly proud of the fact that the business is stronger now. “Riding through all the economic crises, we are still standing here stronger than ever,” she says with pride. Having survived so far, she now intends to grow and expand internationally. It is apt that this once-budding raconteur is now is telling stories for her own clients now. Not too shabby for a talkative girl.

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Mount Sapola

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The actions of our parents often leave indelible impressions on our lives. This could not have been more true for Cheryl, founder and Managing Director of Mount Sapola. When her father abandoned the family to pursue his business overseas, her world fell apart. The most significant memory she has is the struggles her family had to go through. She knew then that she would never follow in her father’s footsteps and would always be self-reliant so that she would not be at the mercy of others.

A vow to succeed

“Growing up without a father was hard on our family both financially and emotionally,” Cheryl recalls. With the sole breadwinner gone, her mother, a housewife, had to bring up the children herself. To make matters worse, her father didn’t send back any money and the family struggled to make ends meet. “Those times were hard, but something good came out of it. Seeing the plight of my mother only made me more determined to make a name for myself and to never rely on anyone,” she shares. As a result, Cheryl learnt how to be independent from a very young age, never asking her mother for money. She became extremely self-reliant, working part time to earn her own pocket money and putting herself through school. Her desire to be selfsufficient and successful was so strong that she gave up her passion and interest in beauty to study computer engineering in university, a career path that she knew would pay very well.

Don’t be afraid of failing and learn from your mistakes as they will only make you stronger.

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Striving for her dreams

Cheryl’s hard work and determination paid off when she graduated with a degree at the peak of the dot.com boom. With multiple opportunities available, she quickly landed a job as a programmer. However, she soon realised that it wasn’t her cup of tea. “Meeting with clients made me realise that I preferred something more business-oriented,” she explains. With that realisation, Cheryl spoke to her boss and made the switch to business development and marketing. But though she had found her niche, she never forgot her love for beauty. Even as she was working full-time, she took up beauty courses, learning the different techniques involved in facial therapy and massage. It was hard work, balancing her job with her hobby, but she was happy. As Cheryl continued in her pursuit of her passion, she found that the more she learnt, the more she was enthralled by the world of beauty. She began experimenting with different products on the market, and it was then that she met her future business partner OEM Solution. Having tried their products, Cheryl was amazed at their effectiveness and sought to find out more. Arranging for a meeting with the founder of OEM Solution, she quickly discovered that they shared the same philosophy of beauty – to truly bring quality to the clients. “It was like something clicked and I knew that this was the chance I had been waiting for,” she says. Throwing caution to the wind, she resigned. In December 2007, Mount Sapola was born.

Building her brand

With no prior experience in running a business, Cheryl knew it wasn’t going to be easy. “I already knew that it would be an uphill battle from the negative comments and opinions I received even before I made the decision to start my own company,” she recalls. But she was determined to prove her detractors wrong. With a focus on quality, Cheryl began to research the different ways she could develop her products to deliver the best results for her clients. Day and night, she worked with her product development team, tweaking formulas and their compositions. When she wasn’t improving her merchandise,

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she was conducting R&D and overseeing the manufacturing and packaging processes. It was very hard work but to Cheryl it was worth it. Her determination to succeed bore fruit when her clients began to multiply. Today, Mount Sapola is known for its quality aromatherapy products, having 11 outlets in Singapore and two in Malaysia, with plans for expansion into Taiwan.

Having it all

Cheryl believes that every woman can have her cake and eat it but that only happens with balance. “Anything is possible in the world. The key is to be able to prioritise. It’s not easy and you’ll have to work at it but it can be done,” she says. She cites herself as the perfect example, juggling her work and her three children. Despite being the lady boss of her company, she is still very involved in every aspect of the business. “When you run a business, there’s always something to be done. Work is never ending, but you must know where to draw the line,” she explains. Having witnessed first-hand how neglect can destroy a family, Cheryl is careful to always put time aside for her family. She ensures that she leaves her weekends for them no matter how busy she is, and spends all her spare time with her children even if it means taking them to work with her and teaching them about basic business concepts.

No fear of failure

Cheryl credits her success today to her unflagging perseverance. By being true to her dreams, she has overcome the adversities in her life to build her business into the success it is today. Her advice to female entrepreneurs is simple: Don’t be afraid of failing and learn from your mistakes as they will only make you stronger. Never be afraid to fail and always have the courage and determination to stand up and walk again. She also believes that having a philosophy in life to drive you is important too. For Cheryl, it was her conviction to be self-reliant. Though she has inadvertently followed in the footsteps of her father to set up her own business, she has never once nor will she ever make the same mistake of neglecting her family for her work. Mount Sapola HQ (R&D and production centre) address: 19 Tai Seng Ave, #06-10, Home-Fix Building, Singapore 534054 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 127


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As Sweet as Candy

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Sunaina Gill When Sunaina first left the shores of Singapore at the age of 17, a whole new world opened up to her. The memory that has the most impact for her is standing in the middle of a candy store in the States absolutely in awe of the variety of candy that lay on the shelves before her. She knew then that one day she would just have to have her own candy store.

Nothing is impossible if you believe it is so. No limits

“Growing up, my parents taught me that nothing was impossible,” Sunaina recalls. As a result, she had no boundaries placed on her, no limitations. “There was never a sense from my parents that my brother was better than me or could achieve more than me just because I was a girl,” she confirms. So Sunaina grew up confident in her own abilities. She did well in school and learnt a lot about business from her father, who was at the time running Royal Sporting House. “I was immersed in business talk at the dinner table from an early age,” she reminisces, “and retail was second nature to me by the time I left school.”

Putting in the hours

She continued her tertiary studies in the US and stayed on to work for financial giants such as Lehmann Brothers. “My time in these companies taught me a lot and gave me the foundation for what was to come,” she explains. The working hours were tough, with Sunaina spending as much as 20 hours a day working at some points. “It was worth the sacrifice,” she says. “I was young, I had no commitments and I knew that if I really applied myself, it would pay off for me later, and it did.” Sunaina credits her father with her work ethic. He taught her that if something was worth doing, it was worth doing well, and that you only got out of something as much as you were willing to put into it. Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss 129


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When she finally returned to Singapore, it was to join her father, JS Gill, in his business. He had since sold Royal Sporting House and had set up Gill Capital, where the family business is responsible for bringing to Asia renowned brands such as Indian fine-dining outlet Yantra, Italian café Brunetti Café, Garrett’s Popcorn, Hershey’s Chocolate, Candylicious as well as houseware fashion chain iwannagohome! and sports and fashion retail giants Reebok, Lacoste, Zara, Mango and Ted Baker to name a few in his previous company, Royal Sporting House.

Making a sweet dream a sweet reality

Joining Gill Capital, Sunaina was soon caught up in the family passion and began scouting around for names she could add to the already established stable of brands, and to make her own mark on the company. Gill Capital was already dealing in F&B in addition to fashion retail, so Sunaina thought it would be ideal to combine the two.

And so, Candylicious, the world’s largest candy store offering 5,000 different types of candy, was added to the fold. “This one was my baby I guess,” says Sunaina. “I never forgot the thrill I felt standing in that candy store in the US for the first time. I wanted kids and adults in Asia to have the same experience. It’s truly magical.” Recognising a niche market that Candylicious could fill as a one-of-a-kind brand in Asia, especially as so many Western candy treats were not readily available in the East, Sunaina went all out to bring her first entrepreneurial dream to reality. She is now expanding the concept already established in Singapore and Malaysia out across the Asia region. The company’s biggest win, however, was securing franchise rights from Swedish clothing retail giant Hennes & Mauritz AB to operate H&M clothing stores in Thailand, where Sunaina now spends most of her time as the Country Manager. 130 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss


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Making time for family

Believe you can

“As a woman, no, I don’t think you can have it all,” Her advice to young women hoping Sunaina says. “There has to be compromise.” She gives to make it in business is simple: don’t the example of her early days working in the US after let anyone tell you “you can’t”. If graduation. She worked long hours and sacrificed you believe you can, you can make friendships, time socialising and relationships. Now it happen. It’s all about having the that she has had time to reflect, she truly values confidence to believe in yourself, the importance of family. “I draw on my father for surrounding yourself with people who that,” she says. “He was a successful businessman will enable you, having the right mentor and incredibly busy with his work growing his to guide you (OK I was lucky there!) and business, but he always made time for his family, just getting out there and doing it. and I truly appreciate that, especially now that I understand the stresses and strains of running a Of course having a vision to drive company myself. It makes me appreciate my father you is important too. For Sunaina, it even more.” was standing in that US candy store, mesmerised by what was possible and As a result of this valuable hindsight, Sunaina is making it so. “As my dad always said careful to balance her lifestyle where she can. “I’m to me, ‘Nothing is impossible if you still working on achieving an acceptable work life believe it is so’”. balance,” she says, “but at least I am aware that I need to put aside time for family and friends Sunaina has proven that is possible and that and do what I can to keep the balance.” success is indeed as sweet as candy. Gill Capital Pte Ltd One Temasek Avenue, #21-01 Millenia Tower, Singapore 039192 Tel: 6887 5888 Fax: 6309 3250 Email: corporate@gillcapital.com.sg

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2am: dessertbar

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Genius, virtuoso, prodigy. These are words synonymous with Janice Wong, Founder and Director of 2am: dessertbar. With “Dare to dream, never look back” as her personal mantra, she has embarked on a culinary adventure of a lifetime to create a business designed to revolutionise the culinary world.

A culinary affair

Janice’s love affair with food started when she was just a young child. Her father was a banker who was often stationed overseas. As such, she grew up in different countries and cities, which exposed her to a diversity of cuisines, flavours and ingredients. This childhood exposure to the culinary world instilled in her a love for food and trained her to develop a sophisticated and discerning palate – a talent that would one day form the basis of her business. Despite her passion for food, Janice decided to follow in her parents’ footsteps and pursue a career in finance, enrolling for a banking degree in Melbourne. But her love for food was too great to be ignored, and she would spend her study breaks at various farms picking fresh produce. It was on one of these occasions that it suddenly hit her – she truly loved everything there was to do with food. With this epiphany, Janice found her calling and knew that someday she would have a restaurant to call her own. After years of thinking she would be in the finance sector like her parents, she finally realised that she was meant to have a career in food.

The art of good food

Upon receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Economics, Janice made the bold move to study pastry at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, much to her parents’ astonishment. They had always thought that her love for food was nothing more than a hobby. Despite their initial surprise, her parents quickly showed their support and encouragement, so she made the move to France to follow her passion for food. In the months that followed, Janice worked hard to perfect her craft, displaying the discipline she had acquired from her earlier days as a national squash player. Her aptitude and natural talent shone through, and it wasn’t long before she graduated with a Diploma in Cuisine and Pâtisserie. With such impressive credentials under her belt, Janice could have found work as a chef in any number of restaurants, but she wanted more. Eager to expand her repertoire, she embarked on a frenetic culinary grand tour, working at kitchens in New York, Melbourne and Singapore, where she learned from some of the best chefs in the world. When she finally returned to Singapore, she was more than ready.

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Serving up edible art

Eager to share her culinary gifts, Janice scouted around for a location where she could freely express her skills. But it wasn’t easy. Most of the prime sites were already taken up and those that were left were either unsuitable for a restaurant or extremely pricey. Refusing to give up, Janice pushed on. Her hard work paid off when she found the perfect spot for her restaurant, nestled in a corner of Holland Village. Besides its convenient proximity to the city centre, Holland Village is also one of Singapore’s principal F&B hubs, making it the perfect location for her restaurant. “I fell in love with the space. The location was great, the design was great. I knew I had to have it,” she shares. Just like that, 2am:dessertbar was born. Today, 2am:dessertbar is arguably Singapore’s most elegant dessert restaurant, serving up carefully researched high-tech culinary creations that push the boundaries of conventional food. Besides the gastronomic delights on offer, Janice’s impressive resume and hunger for continuous innovation have added to the allure of her restaurant, making it an undisputed favourite among sweet-toothed Singaporeans.

Dare to dream, never look back.

Dreaming up new culinary creations

With the success of 2am: dessertbar, Janice has since gone on to set up 2am: lab, a culinary think tank of sorts, and the first of its kind in Asia, that enables her to create new techniques, textures and flavours for present and future generations. Her dedication to her craft has not gone unnoticed. She has received worldwide recognition and numerous accolades for her cutting-edge creations and is a regular on the global pop-up circuit. In the six years since she made her decision to pursue her passion, she is finally living her dream. 134 Singapore Business Gurus 2013: Lady Boss


The ingredients for success

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But the success she now enjoys has not come easy. “When I was 24, I had a hard time finding people to work for me as, not only was I young, I was a woman, and they were worried that the business would not last,” she shares. To deal with the problem, she worked doubly hard to make her business a success to give her employees a sense of security and show them that she was here to stay. Recalling her route to success, she believes that it was her determination and discipline that have enabled her to accomplish what she has today. These qualities she attributes to the trainings she underwent when she was a national squash player. “Back when I represented Singapore, I used to train 11 times a week. It was extremely tiring but it really instilled a sense of discipline in me, which is the reason for my success today,” she says. Janice also draws her inspiration from famed fashion designer Coco Chanel. “I really admire her and her level of dedication to her craft. She was so focussed, and she used that focus to singlehandedly build up a brand that changed the world of fashion. That is what I hope to achieve – to revolutionise the culinary world,” she shares. On a last note, she dishes out some advice for those looking to pursue their dreams, saying: “Passion is crucial to starting a business, but it is also important to have your passion grow with your company. That way, there will be a balance and you’ll feel fulfilled both in life and business.”

2am: Dessert Bar Address: 21A Lorong Liput, Singapore 277733 Phone: 6291 9727 2amdessertbar@gmail.com

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