Celebrity, TV Presenter, Actress, Businesswoman and Co-Founder of Galboss Asia
Meeting Andrea DeCruz is like meeting celebrity royalty.
There, I said it.
It’s true though. I mean, I’ve seen her on TV since I was a teenager. And I do recall she was one of the most popular actresses at the time.
So of course I was quite excited to meet her in person – she is so easy to talk to! She’s also always smiling, welcoming questions and very kindly obliged when I asked her for an interview at Galboss Asia.
What were her biggest business challenges and what she did to overcome them.
It really is a privilege to meet people like Andrea and learn from her. Besides her acting and business career, I think it’s amazing how she pulled through from her liver transplant operation all those years ago.* I suppose to me, it also made her more real.
By the way, a friend of mine will be undergoing the same operation to give her dad part of her liver for his liver transplant, and Andrea and her husband, Pierre, very kindly spent some time with them, sharing their experience. I thought that was really great of them!
*For my friends who are not in the know, Andrea needed a liver transplant about 13 years ago and her then-fiancé now-husband, gave her part of his liver. It was the most romantic story ever to rock the headlines in Singapore for sure.
I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Sabrina Tan at Galboss Asia. She shared her experience with growing her local custom skin care company, Skin Inc, into a global brand. It is now in over 100 cities around the world through skin care and make up juggernaut, Sephora.
I had heard about her success before meeting her through various business associates. And since I’m in the skin care industry too, I was very curious at how she did it.
Kudos, by the way to the Galboss Asia people who scheduled her sharing right after lunch. That was a good way to keep people awake! I’m sure there was no one sleeping since it was such an interesting and inspiring sharing.
I was particularly fascinated with her story because when she was building her business, she was also raising her family. Her youngest kid was only 1 when she started. I can most certainly relate to that. It is somewhat comforting also to hear that she had many challenges too before this huge success.
Having met her and if I had to describe her in 2 words, I would use the colloquail term “chilli padi“.
For my non-Singaporean readers, a chilli padi is a chili pepper otherwise known as Bird’s Eye chilli. It is small, but extremely potent and spicy. One small bite of this chilli will send an overwhelming explosion of flavour into your mouth, and it can be so spicy that it’ll make your ears hurt, I kid you not!
In that same thread, don’t be fooled by her petite frame. She is a force to be reckoned with.
These are the questions I asked her when I got the chance to chat with her:
How did you juggle your business and your family?
What were your biggest challenges in business and how did you overcome then?
What was your inspiration for Galboss Asia?
Great insights, no?
I also asked her this one last question off-camera,”The skin care industry is so competitive. Weren’t you afraid?” She just looked at me with steely determination and shook her head as she said,”No. Don’t even think about that.”
Found of Iconic Streetwear Brand 77th Street and Serial Entrepreneur.
Recently, I had the chance to meet and interview Elim Chew, Founder of iconic streetwear brand 77th Street and serial entrepreneur. She was a panelist at Galboss Asia and shared her insights on being an entrepreneur.
Y’know having hung around the 77th Street stores in Far East Plaza as a teenager (uh-huh, I have the ear piercings to prove it), I’ve long heard hallowed whispers of her name. The boss of 77th Street is a lady, people would say. And her name is Elim Chew.
So when I finally got to meet her in person at Galboss Asia, it was a real treat. What struck me most about her was her easy manner and warm smile.
Here are 3 things she shared which stuck with me:
#1: People, People, People
It’s easy to start a business, but difficult to manage. As an entrepreneur, you need to be a good boss, then your heart and vision for the company can shine through. This is when your people will go all the way and guard and run your business for you. She has had staff who have been with her for 20 years.
#2: The Importance of Giving Back
Elim shared how she made her first $50,000 and then gave it all away to her church when it was raising funds to build churches in India because she felt it was the right thing to do. That money went into building 6 churches in India. A few years later, there was a terrible earthquake and those 6 churches were the only buildings that stood strong, so they were used as rescue centres.
This just goes to show you never know how far-reaching the consequences of your actions can be.
#3 We Must Be Driven By Purpose
“Driven By Purpose” is actually the title of her book and I couldn’t agree more with this statement.
The “how” of finding your purpose is the tricky part to me, but that’s another story for another time.
Watch her video for more of Elim Chew: Life after 77th Street, her new book and TV Channel and her biggest challenges in business.
Y’know things happen in my life a lot faster than I can write. Plus, it was Birthday Week a few weeks ago, so I’ve been a little drunk on too much Moscato D’Asti. (I have not found a Champagne that I would drink over Moscato D’Asti. Though I do appreciate the different purpose of these 2 beverages. And yes the “D’Asti” is important. A moscato without “D’Asti” is N’Asti. And now I bet you won’t ever forget that I said this LOL.)
Anyway, here’s a summary of what I’ll be posting in the next few days, not necessarily in this order:
Birthday FreakingAwesome Week
Galboss Asia where I met and learned from the best. It was also held on my birthday so that was super! Look out for interviews with:
Celebrity, actress, businesswoman and Co-Founder of Galboss Asia, Andrea De Cruz;
Beauty industry disrupter, Skin Inc Global Founder and Co-Founder of Galboss Asia, Sabrina Tan; and
Founder of iconic streetwear brand, 77th Street and serial entrepreneur, Elim Chew.
My first Meet & Greet at CRIB with Co-founders Tjin Lee and Mei Chee
Y’know how sometimes you’re minding your own business, just going about your day and then somehow, someone decides to heap a pile of negativity on you?
Whether it is intentional or not is besides the point. It might be that they needed to discuss something with you, or they used you as a sounding board, or they were just complaining or commenting about something.
After they are done, you just feel like someone let the air out of your previously light hearted and positive disposition. And then you feel like you’re covered in someone’s shit.
When I didn’t know any better, I would just take everything in and then wonder why I feel terrible later. I’ve since realised that it is so important to protect myself and find a way to deflect such negativity instead of taking it in. Otherwise my day is disrupted and the person who suffers is me.
Here are 3 fuss-free ways that work for me when I need to get rid of negativity to have more constructive and meaningful days:
#1: Body Boost: Exercise
Although it might seem like a lot of effort when I’m in the middle of work, I’ve really found exercise to be worth the trouble. It doesn’t even have to be a full-on work out. It can just be walking very quickly around a shopping mall, or doing jumping jacks for 5 minutes.
To quote Elle Woods in Legally Blonde:
“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands. They just don’t.”
Or kill anyone else, for that matter.
#2: Beats: Listen To Music You Like (& Dance It Out!)
Currently, I love The Koi Boys. I can’t enjoy music and be negative at the same time. Music has always been a soothing balm for me. Just 5 or 10 minutes with my headphones and I’ll be good as new.
#3: Breathe: Good Stuff In, Bad Stuff Out
Smell affects me very much. What I like to do is get a cup of coffee, or some deliciously aromatic tea (depending on what’s available) and sit somewhere calming with it for 4 or 5 minutes.
An alternative is breathing in lavender oil or any other oils that I like and/or have with me.
The simple act of breathing in the good smells and breathing out is a real quick pick-me-up.
Taking 11,000 child prostitutes off the streets of the U.S.
As a continuation from my previous post How To Break The Ceiling & Touch The Sky, One of the amazing women Mr. Anthony Rose has interviewed for his book Break The Ceiling Touch The Sky is Dr. Lois Lee. She has helped to take 11,000 child prostitutes off the streets of the U.S. Watch the video to find out how she did it.
This book has also evolved into an international summit of the same name. Its speakers feature senior executives from multinational corporations like Coca Cola, Walmart, Burberry, Kellogg, Spotify and so on. With opportunities to network with them and other business people, and a chance to learn from the best on how to be the best, it promises to be an amazing event!
Break The Ceiling Touch The Sky Summit details:
Venue: Shangri-La Hotel Singapore
Date: 29 August 2016, Monday
Time: 8.30am to 6pm
Ticket price: from $429.
To register, click here. By the way, I have 1 more ticket at my table going for $389. If you’re interested please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Besides what’s in the news, little is known of the people behind Phoon Huat. This is a peek into what it was like for me growing up with the business and the stories that I’ve heard.
My grandfather, Wong Chen Keng, came to Singapore in 1940 when he was 4 years old from Hainan Island to join his father, Wong Tai Fuang. He travelled with his mother and older brother by Chinese junk boat.
In those days, the conditions on the boat were far from sanitary and disease spread quickly. My grandfather fell seriously ill and nearly died.
But as good fortune would have it, my grandfather survived.
Phoon Huat would have been a very different company if he didn’t for he was the one who developed Redman flavoured concentrates that gained popularity in the 60s and 70s.
When I was in kindergarten, we had a Redman factory in Aljunied. My grandmother used to pick my sisters and I up from school and bring us there for the afternoon. As we ate lunch my grandmother packed, we would watch the factory churn out glass bottles containing concentrate in psychedelic colours. Pink, orange, red, green, yellow vials of concentrate would twirl around with timed precision as they were filled, labelled and capped by machine. The aroma of syrupy sweetness always hung in the air. I remember sitting at the supervisor’s desk, watching the finished bottles of concentrate arriving in a circular space at the end of the production line. 2 factory workers would then pack the bottles into boxes of 10, smear industrial glue on the flaps and close the boxes. Sometimes when the circular space got too full too fast, or if the factory worker who was packing was careless, glass bottles breaking were not uncommon. We did try to pack these boxes because we wanted to help but the glass bottles were quite heavy, and we were quite short and couldn’t quite reach the boxes comfortably.
If we were sleepy, we would nap on the boxes that were already packed and waiting to be shipped out. Of course, as kids, we sometimes got up to mischief when we had nothing to do or we were tired of our Carebears sticker book. More than once, one of us would push the emergency button and all machinery would come to an abrupt halt. I don’t remember being scolded for it but the factory workers were none too pleased.
Besides Redman concentrates, grandfather also successfully reverse engineered the recipe for the ever-so-popular Konnyaku jelly that Phoon Huat has sold in little blue packets since the 90s. As kids, we were always happy to be guinea pigs for him to test out the different versions of the Konnyaku jelly on. “Too chewy like chewing gum!” “Not chewy enough, it’s like agar agar*!” “Not sweet enough!” “Why no flavour?” He took our feedback seriously and would tweak the recipe accordingly. Every week, when we visited the grandparents for our weekly family lunches, we would have a different batch of Konnyaku jelly to try until he got the recipe right.
Other than these experiences, I remember Redman lorries delivering boxes and boxes of stock to our house for repacking. My grandmother would work tirelessly and we’d help too.
Growing up in a business family, I was given the privilege to watch first hand what it took to build successful businesses. I inevitably learned many business lessons by just sitting through family dinners. I had the front row seat to watching our family go through the highs of achieving great success and the lows of terrible heartbreak. Such is the nature of business. Such is the nature of life.
The heartbreaks were one of the reasons why I chose to become a lawyer. I thought I could insulate myself from disappointment and tragedy, take home a stable income and live a relatively comfortable life.
But it also meant not becoming who I was meant to be.
For someone who effortlessly sold 2 lipsticks to her principal while in kindergarten and who wanted to make cassette tapes of her father’s music (yeah, he wrote songs too) to sell when she found out he wrote songs, I would be denying a very natural and important part of me.
This family business has shaped me more than I know.
*Agar agar is a local term that refers to a gelatinous dessert with a more crunchy (as opposed to a more chewy) texture.
(By the way, congratulations to Phoon Huat and to everyone who has contributed to its success, especially our customers!)
While the details of this investment is confidential, I will provide some other morsels of information.
#1: Who started Phoon Huat and Who runs it now?
Wong Tai Fuang. He was an immigrant from Hainan Island, China. My granduncle, Wong Chen Liong, runs it now.
#2: Why did Wong Tai Fuang choose to start a baking supplies company?
After the war, many Hainanese cooks and bakers who worked for the British started their own businesses (coffeeshops, steakhouses, cakes, cookies). My great grandfather thought it would be a good idea to supply to these business owners. At that time, it was common for the different dialect groups to trade within their own circle.
#3: What does “Phoon Huat” mean?
Phoon means to “work hard and put in effort” (in Hainanese) to become prosperous (huat). The Chinese characters are “奋” (as in “奋斗”, to strive) and “财” (as in 发财, to prosper).
And no, there is nobody in my family called “Phoon Huat”. (If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me this…)
#4: How has Phoon Huat grown since 1947 when it first started out?
When Phoon Huat first started on Middle Road, there were only a handful of products that were imported from England: non-refrigerated margarine, dried fruits, baking powder, food colouring and flavouring, and baking cases. These items were all imported from England since Singapore was formerly a British colony.
Today we have 12 outlets and the company stocks 3,000 products from at least 30 countries, including marzipan from Norway, butter from France (delicious – I only ever use this butter in all my bakes) and vanilla beans from Madagascar.
#5:Part of Singapore’s History
Phoon Huat made it to the Singapore National Library Board’s Living The Singapore Story. It’s a commemorative book for Singapore’s 50th year of independence (SG50) and it features Phoon Huat since it has grown together with Singapore.
5 Lessons From a Billionaire Boss – CEO of Far East Organization.
5 Lessons From A Billionaire Boss, CEO of Property Developer Far East Organization
This week, I had the rare opportunity to attend a business breakfast with Billionaire and CEO of property developer Far East Organization, Mr. Philip Ng. According to Forbes, Philip and his brother, Robert, top Singapore’s rich list with a combined wealth of $11.5 Billion (as of Jan 2015).
He talked about his Christian faith and how it has impacted the way he conducts his business. Though I am not Christian, it was still a real privilege to listen and learn and it was like having a business mentor advising us on what to do and what not to do.
Other than his sharing, Philip also answered some questions from the floor and these are the 5 lessons I learned:
#1: Be Smart & Shrewd For What Is Right
Philip shared about The Parable of The Shrewd Manager, which can be a very confusing parable. (Google it and you will be even more confused!)
In summary, there was a dishonest manager who was looking at losing his job. He then went to his boss’ debtors and discounted what they owed his boss, so that even after he lost his job he would still be welcomed by other people around him i.e. he would still be able to find a job and/or favour with these other people. His boss commended him, this dishonest manager, because he had acted shrewdly and used his creativity and wits to survive. (Yes, I know. Confusing, right?)
In the Bible, Jesus points out that what the shrewd manager did was clearly wrong, even though the boss of this shrewd manager commended him.
In essence, the point of the parable was that we must be clear about what is right and what is wrong, even though the world may not be. Do what is right and apply your creativity in the light to really live.
#2: Integrity Is Important
Secondly, with regard to the master commending the dishonest manager for doing something dishonest and illegal, the learning point here was just because something is “the done thing to do” in business, it does not necessarily make it right.
Integrity is important and your anchor will determine your value system.
#3 If You Want To Be At The Top, You Have To Do More Than What Everyone Else Is Willing To Do
Philip mentioned that he used to work a 6-day week plus Sunday for half a day (7am to 1pm) for site visits. While he admitted that he did work his employees very hard, it was also obvious he worked extremely hard as well.
When I was a lawyer, we represented Far East Organization in some financing deals. I do remember their in-house counsel mentioning they had to work a lot, probably even more than some lawyers in private practice.
To Philip, it was important to work all day on Saturday because there would be no meetings and no phone calls to take, so it would be the best time to review what they had and what they needed to do.
I so understand this point but in relation to working late at night or early in the morning, whether it is the weekend or not. There are no kids to bother me and I have time to think, review and strategise.
#4 Management 101: Empathy
However, when Philip became Christian, he realised that he needed to be more empathetic towards his employees in regards to their need to have time with their families. He also felt he could have done better in considering the human aspect in management.
So now he has made changes to that effect, for example, he no longer has anymore Sunday site visits because he feels it’s the right thing to do.
#5 Don’t Be In A Hurry To Succeed
This really struck a chord in me and it was like someone was using a loud hailer to drive this home in me.
Philip mentioned that many of us are in too much of a hurry to succeed and we pursue very single-mindedly the material things, pushing aside the things that really matter. He would have also liked to spend more quality time with his 6 children.
If someone as successful as Philip can say that we should be mindful of the things that really matter and not be too in a hurry to succeed, then perhaps we should listen.
Life is only beautiful when you’ve had enough sleepgood quality sleep.
This is not just about not sleeping well or not sleeping enough. It’s about not sleeping enough because you have to look after your infant at night.
When I say “look after” it’s not just plugging the baby to a bottle of milk and being done with it. This is your baby, so you’d put her first before everything else i.e. making sure she’s sleeping in the correct position, checking on her when she fusses in her bed (which can be multiple times throughout the night), staying up with her for an hour or 2 when she tries to go back to sleep but can’t, etc.
(By the way, the sound of a crying baby and sleep deprivation are proven torture techniques.)
The net effect is I probably only get 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Even if I do get another 2 or 3 hours of sleep in addition to that, it is usually peppered with a night feed, baby soothing and checking on her.
And because you’re not sleeping well, falling sick is inevitable.
I am the worst at handling situations like this.
Everything becomes more prickly to handle. I am less patient and could care less about being understanding. My previously positive mindset and world view is automatically coloured and terribly negative. And when my mindset is negative, even the smallest challenge in my day can seem like a monumental task to overcome.
Then because I’m not at the top of my game, things don’t move as quickly as I want them to. And then I get frustrated and then I feel like giving up. And then I feel like telling people who tell me to slow down and smell the roses,”I already know what roses smell like! Next!”
You get the picture. I’m a grouch in such situations. Empire building while grumpy is not a good idea.
But what’s the solution to such madness?
Hack #1: Be Flexible
I’m a big list maker and planner, and for me to feel like I’ve achieved something meaningful, I would need to have accomplished tasks on the list within the stipulated deadline.
But I’ve learnt not to force it along according to plan because the end result is always a bigger mess than it was previously, if my mind is not in the right place. I need to be flexible.
Having a 3 month old baby is not something I can just gloss over and delegate at night for now. The consequences of this are big factors I need to take into consideration in all my lists and plans.
For example, instead of writing on my laptop, which is to me is easier, I have now mastered writing on my phone while I put the baby to sleep in the baby carrier. It’s a real time saver and I do love multi-tasking effectively.
Hack #2: Be Kind
I tend to forget how much energy it takes to look after an infant at night. This means me giving of myself, my sleep, my energy and my time. And that also means I need time to recharge and be kind to myself.
That is a tall order for someone who generally imposes exacting standards on herself. I don’t think there’s anyone tougher on me than me.
I’ve learnt that I need to step away and do something restful or rejuvenating first. Meditation. Exercise. Sleep. Get a massage. Go play golf. Look at things I like. Do something I like.
I have also realised that this recharging and being kind to myself thing is something I need to schedule in. Otherwise I will never have the stamina to go the distance that I want to.
Hack #3: Be Guilt-Free
Then the final thing is (and this is the toughest thing for me) to learn to stop feeling bad about these pit stops.
For this simple reason: I deserve these breaks.
I’ve learnt that feeling guilty and not taking any breaks for myself is just bad for business. I’m not as creative, I’m tired, I’m grouchy and I resent…well everything.
The application of these hacks might not be easy, but they are necessary. Let me know how they work out for you 🙂