Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Passion is the key

I wanted to be in this (younger) man’s shoes some day, and oh, to wear my own shoes by then! That would be some achievement!


Recession sees more interest in Talentpreneur Hub’s start-up programme

Tan Hui Leng



IT IS the worst of times. It is the best of times. As a pall darkens over the economy, costume designer Muhammad Razy Ibrahim thought it was an opportune time to set up his own business.

090408-Entrepreneur The 28-year-old resigned from his regular job in January to strike out on his own. Today, he runs his start-up Costume Di Amour from his parents’ four-room flat in Jurong West.

“My friends thought I had a mental disorder,” he said. “They thought it was a very risky move because there’s no safety net if something goes wrong.”

But for the fashion graduate from the University of Huddersfield, it was time to set up shop — recession or not. Thankfully, his family was supportive.

“I’ve always wanted to set up my own business in fashion and have been thinking about it for a while,” he said. “So, I finally stepped forward and did it.”

For now, Mr Muhammad Razy does everything himself, from designing to sewing.

Like many small businessmen, cash flow has been his number one problem.

Fortunately, he has been winning clients by collaborating with event management companies. He has found some corporate clients, like Standard Chartered Bank.

Mr Muhammad Razy is currently in the midst of a 10-week start-up programme with private company Talentpreneur Hub, which helps young companies develop their businesses.

Talentpreneur Hub’s founder Ken Koh has been seeing more interest in the programme, especially from 20- and 30-somethings who have been toiling as salarymen and women for years.

“In a recession, opportunity costs are lower. You have more time to plan. Overhead costs like rental and manpower are lower,” said Mr Koh, who is an entrepreneur himself.

Furthermore, people may be more willing to work for an SME when big multi-nationals tighten their headcounts and budgets.

Another start-up that has benefitted from Talentpreneur Hub’s mentorship is Optimal Online Marketing (OOM), which offers online marketing solutions like search engine optimisation.

Set up two years ago by three secondary schoolmates from Deyi Secondary School, the business is now profitable with over 50 clients. Among them are familiar names like restaurant chain Jack’s Place.

“I think we are very lucky to be living in times when you don’t need a lot of capital,” said managing director of OOM, Wayne Eo.

If aspiring Singapore entrepreneurs want some inspiration, they should perhaps take a look at David Evans who started his business Grass Roots in London in the thick of the 1980 recession.

Toiling long hours in a basement office in Oxford Street with just himself and a typist, the then-32-year-old was clear about what he wanted and where he wanted to take his firm. Today, his performance improvement firm is a multinational operating in 16 countries with over 1,000 staff worldwide. Even in the downturn, it is now expanding in Asia with Singapore as its hub.

Rolls Royce and Bentley, Toyota, Barclays and HSBC count among his clients.

“Whether you start a business in a recession or during good times, the key is passion,” Mr Evans said.


From TODAY, Enterprise – Wednesday, 08-April-2009


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