Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Speech at Ngee Ann Polytechnic Book Prize Ceremony on 12th November 2013

What prompted you to take on this road (Of Social Entrepreneurship) very early in your career although you were trained to be accountant?

Like many social entrepreneurs, the reason why I started Envisage was a very personal one. Prior to starting Envisage, I was already heavily involved in social entrepreneurial projects through Enactus (Or formerly known as SIFE) for over 6 years. Discovering that I have the talent and ability to change people’s lives through the positive power of business in a much more sustainable way, truly inspired me to expand the possibilities of my own potential to be an individual of influence.

Nonetheless, it did not take me long before I realized that trying to change a world by my lonely self, was indeed too lofty a goal. I am but a man, with limitations no matter my past accomplisments. It was then that I thought to myself, “Why not attempt to motivate others to do the same? Was the responsibility of making a difference a job of my own?”

As such, I soon decided to shift myself away from being the person who does everything, and to instead learn to motivate others to be involved and empowered to effect positive change! The famous “fishing analogy” is rather fitting in this context and that’s what I am trying to achieve. If everyone strives to do something positive for their society, no matter how small the scale, we can all live in a better one.

Defining Success

Success, does this mean obtaining vast sums of wealth? Does it mean leaving behind a legacy? Or gaining the best academic results and achievements for one’s own personal prestige? Perhaps it is the tingling feeling one gets when he or she helps someone in whatever shape or form? The list goes on and that’s the wonderful thing.

Success can manifest itself in a myriad of shapes and forms. I have come to realize that the definition of “success” comes down to relativity and what one’s personal dreams and aspirations are.
If you haven’t put together a mental picture of how you endeavour your life to be, it is paramount that you take a step back and do some serious soul searching. You do not want to end up with a death-bed regret of living in someone else’s dream instead of yours.

Do not force yourself to live in other people’s measure of success. Instead decide for yourself, “What motivates you? What makes you tick? What makes you happy and satisfied?” For whatever you decide, someone will surely disagree with you. But have the confidence to realize that “It’s ok!” to think for yourself.

It can often be mistaken to assume that the CEO of a MNC has achieved more “success” over a worker at a barista or has done better than a social entrepreneur (wink wink). However, it would probably be a surprise to you that he might be much less satisfied than the common man. I have met many high achievers in life who quickly realize that after all the wealth they have accumulated; they have learnt a few lessons about themselves:

1. It was never about the wealth, as it will never “Be enough”
2. It was always about what they were truly passionate about that drove them to do soooo well it what they have set out to accomplish!

Many of you here are high achievers too, well, at least academically. I applaud you for that, and there is no shame to give yourself a pat on your back for what you have accomplished. But one must remember to not stick his or her head in the clouds for too long. There are those that you have relied on for you to get this far. Your parents, your lecturers, your friends and probably many others. It is through their fervent support that you have achieved so much, for no man is an island. Hence, do remember that when you get the chance, go to those who have helped you and Thank them for what they have done for you! Nonetheless, remember this life-long lesson that only after I’ve experienced countless set-backs to realize, “Being humble is not about making yourself lesser as an individual, but making things less about you.”

The Courage to Do it!

On the note of accomplishments. An extremely memorable advice given to me by my mentor, Jack Wang, an extremely successful entrepreneur, was this…. “Stanley, due to your courage to defy the impossible, you will soon realize that the entire universe will come together to conspire in helping you succeed.”
Back then when he first said this, my immediate reaction was “Why?!”

His answer was simple. “Just experience it and get back to me when you have found the answer.”

Remarkably, the answer quickly emerged within the first few months of my endeavours. It is in the midst of all the drama…

1. Attempting to reach out to 3 thousand youths in Singapore towards effecting social change over the last 3 years
2. Being selected to represent the youth voices in the Our Singapore Conversations
3. Nominated to represent Singapore in the 7th UNESCO youth forum in 2011

That I came to realize that despite my own constant feeling of inadequacy standing shoulder to shoulder with illustrious youth leaders from all over the world, or discussing national issues with ministers, did I discover that it was the mere “courage” to take on increasingly seemingly insurmountable challenges which allowed me to keep growing from both my failures and successes.

It was the courage to envision what our society should look like, and the greater courage to pursue that vision, as well as the radical enthusiasm I have in imparting my vision to others that I have managed to inspire many others to follow and serve the community in the way which I’ve attempted to.

So I come with this message, to ask you to keep the courage in your hearts alight.

Dare to dream big and have the guts to do what you have the passion and desire for.

As Plato once said “Courage is knowing what not to fear”. Fear not the possibilities of failing, instead focus on what you can achieve!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tuition a definite necessity in Singapore?

Referring to the article I read on Today's newspaper: http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/why-parents-need-tutors-do-job-parents

I felt that the writer has put up some really pertinent points regarding why tuition is often seen as a almost definite necessity for Singaporean kids.

Having taught in a tuition center before, many parents do subscribe to such services, partially so that we can act as a 'day care' or homework supervision services. This is to 'outsource' the need for themselves to worry or lecture their kids on whether they have finished their homework.

Such situations are commonly observed and mostly seen as a necessary evil;

  • Regardless of how good the tutor actually is at teaching
  • Regardless of whether the kid is effectively learning (Being exhausted from an entire day of class)
  • Regardless of how much it cost!
  • Regardless of whether the kid is learning what he should, or is he simply downloading content which will only be useful for the exams, which might be forgotten a few weeks later...
As these debates on the necessity of tuition or call for greater regulations of private tuition arises, a higher-level of consideration should perhaps be about how we as a society can disassociate 'academic performance' with 'the potential for success'. This is because even if a student does fantastically well in primary or secondary school, if they have never learnt how to learn or acquired a higher purpose/motivation to learn, they will never really become self-motivated to succeed. Instead, a generation of youths that dreads the local education system will be bred, fueled with the misconception that their academic achievements will provide them the sure chance of success.

Truth be told, 'Yes' technical/academic knowledge or specialized skills are required for someone to succeed in the earlier parts of his career. However, a person who has ability to be creative and innovative, the social emotional skills to manage one's own state of mind/emotions and that of others, as well as the leadership skills and courage to lead and serve are character attributes that takes a life-time to develop. Of which, I have utilized within my business and community work to outperform that of my peers in their respective careers. Even during my polytechnic and university days, these soft-skills and understanding of how the real world works, enabled me to differentiate myself from that of my peers and excel in other ways, and scored comparatively well in academic projects or even exam answers.

Although some might argue that you can have your kids get engaged in tuition and at the same time put them through enrichment classes or camps to acquire soft-skills/the right character, being an educator/coach of non-academic programs in schools have made me realized how students naturally prioritize the learning of academic content over these much more important life-skills! And this is not the fault of the students, but that of an education system and parents who made them feel that doing well in exams is everything..!

An entire shift in the educational approach of our nation has to occur, if we are to have the confidence of nurturing a truly competitive workforce of the future.
Higher level management positions and many future careers that might arise, will require much more soft-skills rather than the hard-skills gained from textbooks. If we keep harping on the need to maintain our 'academic competitiveness', we will definitely lose sight of the purpose of a robust education system. That is to ensure that our youths grow up to become persons of good character, equipped with the skills to succeed in their careers and become positive contributors to our society.

To re-emphasize my point, Academic success does NOT equate to Career success. Nonetheless, I am not saying that tuition is not necessary. However, for the sake of your child, please be careful not to over do it.

If your kids are not doing well in their studies, DON'T worry, encourage him to excel in other areas, help him gain his confidence and he will be self-driven to succeed in his own unique way! 
That's the responsibility of loving parents...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

IdeasInc StartUp2013! How Venture Capitalists value your business?

It has been 3 months since I have posted my reflections as I was really swamped with waves of challenges that kept hitting both Envisage and Collegify. I will perhaps share some of those in later posts so that aspiring entrepreneurs can learn from my pitfalls too, but well... That's just the common journey which all entrepreneurs have to face!

Nonetheless, I will like to share with you some key lessons learnt from the StartUp2013 conference which I just attended last Saturday @ *SCAPE!

As spoken by Mr Leslie Loh from Red Dot Ventures, how enterprises are valued by a Venture Capitalists are through the following elements:

1. Market validity of the product/services - If your product/services has a proven market segment with paying clients, then you will have a much stronger pitch. If you are simply still fondling with an idea or prototype with non-paying clients, your business is still too early for venture stage funding.

2. Maturity of founders or board members/advisers - The wisdom and expert knowledge/background of the founders/advisers matters. This provides the investors the confidence on the probability of success of your business. However, this might not be impeded by your age (If you are too young), what matters is that you show the level of maturity in understanding what will feasibly allow your business to succeed. But that being said, please do also retain your passion and idealism to succeed. (Perhaps a good mix of personalities displayed within your team will assist in portraying this to your investors)

3. Stage of the enterprise - A growth stage venture with proven track record will always garner a better deal than an earlier stage business. Hence, you have to be really realistic with your expectations on how you value your business. To put it simply, if you have a business with a proven revenue stream and working product that shows demand, you will definitely be able to negotiate for a better valuation. And that's what venture stage fund providers will be requiring.

In addition, you have to understand that return of investment expectations of VCs, are actually on the level of 10x to 30x. Hence, if you are unable to convince them of such profit potential, you will likely not be able to attract their investments. Thus, availability and growth plans beyond the shores of Singapore is critically important!

Alright guys, all the best to your enterprise journey! :)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

*Scape presents 'Hear Me Out!' (In conjunction with Envisage's Gen.SEs workshops)

Thinking of starting your own Social Enterprise while attending our workshops? Need a place to pitch and get funds to kick start your business? Consider joining Hear Me Out - a pitching competition organised by *SCAPE! 

"Got a brilliant idea that is itching your brain? Tell us, we’re all ears!
No doubt, we have gaps in our society. The marginalised can definitely do more with our help. Like the saying goes – if not you, then who?
If you have an idea that can better the community, tell us, we can support you with seed funds of up to $7,000!"

Join us tomorrow at *SCAPE, 7:30pm, to find out more! (alternatively you can PM us for further inquiries)

Visit Gen.SEs FB for more information: http://www.facebook.com/EnvisageGen.SEs
Sign up for our FREE Social Entrepreneurship training at: Sign up here! 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


For all who might be interested about Youths-related issues, here is the survey results and action plan just recently shared with me by UN:


Over 13,500 respondents from 186 countries participated in the survey. So it might provide you with some interesting perspectives on the variety of issues which are currently being discussed internationally.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Youth For Social Entrepreneurship Interview on Envisage

Heh all

Have you all visited this awesome blog "Youths For Social Entrepreneurship"?

They just wrote an awesomely comprehensive article about Envisage start-up journey, my personal views  on the landscape, and some tips I have for people who wish to start their own SEs. Link to article is provided below! Click it, Read it! It's long, but I believe you will learn a thing or two from it.


Some excerpts:

Here’s what he thinks:

- “Start small – don’t be afraid to start small, and don’t be afraid to fail. And when it fails – which it will, it definitely will, regular enterprises fail 90% of the time – you must create space for it, and not drag others down, especially your beneficiaries.”

- “Youth entrepreneurs must start somewhere. If they don’t start, they’ll never know whether it works, and if they don’t start, it will never happen, basically. Do a trial run, do research, see if there’s a market, do prototyping, have a great sensitivity of what’s happening…. Don’t just think about it, or you’ll never know whether it’ll work.”

- “Figure out who you want to help. You don’t start a social enterprise just because you feel like it.”

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Social Entrepreneurship, “What is it and why should you get involved?”

Social entrepreneurship is an increasingly popular term in Singapore, often widely defined as social oriented organizations that sustainably create social and/or environmental impact, while ensuring that it is economically viable (Double or triple bottom –lines).

As written on the Social Enterprise Association (SEAssociation) website, Social Enterprises operate in the form of 4 commonly known business models:
1. Plough-back model: Ploughs all/part of their profits into a non-profit cause/organization.
2. Subsidies model: Sells its products in the market at normal or higher prices, and transfer all/part
of its profits to a specific beneficiary community by selling to them at large discounts.
3. Work-integration model: Aims to provide employment to the marginalized.
4. Social needs model: Creates sustainable solutions towards a social cause.

Additionally, non-profit and for-profit organizations with mentioned attributes are both till date acceptable forms of social enterprises.

Upon researching into the reasons why youths commonly get involved in social entrepreneurship, I have observered the following:
1. The idea of doing “good” sustainably, with the project’s financial feasibility under consideration, has increasingly been viewed as a more ideal way to create social change.
2. Social entrepreneurship provides youths the ability to exercise their creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial skills for the benefit of a social cause which they are equally passionate about.
3. The process of starting a social enterprise provides the founders the opportunity to acquire entrepreneurial skills, experiences and networks which will help them in future start-ups.
4. They simply just want to do “good”! By helping their beneficiaries achieve better quality of life or standard of living through their social enterprise.

However, beyond all the lofty ambitions and motivations, every social entrepreneur wanna-be should take important note that the route to creating a successful social enterprise is no easier than a for- profit one. Hence, similar to the statistics of 9 in 10 start-ups failing, social enterprises are no different!

Therefore, prior to starting a social enterprise, please beware of the risk of failing, and even worse, the risk you are potentially exposing to the beneficiaries you are helping in the event that you fail. There have already been a few cases, where many disadvantaged after giving up their previous jobs to join a social enterprise ended up becoming unemployed as enterprise went bankrupt within just a few months of starting up.

Nonetheless, I still do encourage youths to get into the business of social entrepreneurship. Despite the risk, the extensive rewards of social problems being resolved sustainably through successful social enterprises should not be undermined. In addition, even if one fails, the entire start-up experience will definitely transform every founder into a person of great character and entrepreneurial spirit.

- Written by Stanley Chia, Managing Director of Envisage Education Pte Ltd, a registered social enterprise of the Social Enterprise Association

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

First day in Brunei (Before the Eco Socio Entrepreneurship Seminar)

It was a good first day in Brunei, seeing that so much has changed! The airport is much more well furnished, with further renovations going on, and there is a fantastic hotel just 10mins away from the airport called Times Hotel (Established just 3 years ago)!
At the hotel, there were many familiar stalls like Each a Cup and even Pasta Mania, and some other Makan and shopping palces near-by.

But of course, we went to none of those! Haha Why go to these places, when you can have a good taste of authentic local food at the Tamu Selera Pasamalam! Crab, Big Fish, Calamari, Prawns and more at just $70 for a meal that fed 8 people (And still had left overs for take away)!

Nonetheless, what I appreciated the most is of course the company of Fatin, Khai and their volunteers! We had a good mix of casual conversations, but I also managed to learn plenty about the youths in Brunei, and the state of the people's mentality on their personal motivations to achieve and the civic movement there.

It was interesting to find out that due to the huge amount of welfare given by the government to the people, many youths have grown to become complacent and expects the government to continuously provide indefinitely, often expecting that opportunities will be provided to them without them needing to work hard for it. Coupled with no requirement of compulsory social service (Unlike in Singapore), most youths are generally disengaged from civic movements, and does not have the inner drive to achieve and give back to society.

As such, it has been observed that the youths have been passionately conversing about change and progress, but not many actually have the drive and enterprising spirit to turn ideas into reality.

Nonetheless, after a short interaction with the youths, some of them showed true passion for what Green Brunei stands for, and their vision to empower youths with the positive motivation to do good for themselves and the society! As such, similar to what Green Brunei's believes, I think that if given a push in the right direction and also a stronger emphasis in action-oriented initiatives, more youths in Brunei should be willing to step-up, and become a positive contributor to their society!

I just pray that I would be of good service to them tomorrow, and hopefully I too can help motivate one or two youths towards the possibility of leaving a legacy for their country!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Must everything be automated to build a scalable business? Well let Derek tell you his experience.

Must everything be automated to build a scalable business? Well let Derek tell you his experience.

How true that we are constantly advised to automate everything in tech. business so that it can scale. However, consumer appreciation of human interaction in the sales process should not be undermined.

Computers still lack the ability to listen and feel. And may for a while not be able to do so. Cheers! give it a read! Seriously...


Social Enterprise Association Toolkit

Hi all!

I can't believe I totally missed out this comprehensive toolkit done by the Social Enterprise Association of Singapore!

But better late than never right?!

Download here!

This guide will be a great read for whoever is truly keen on starting a social enterprise! Read it if you are also a wanna-be like me!

Monday, March 18, 2013

"Changing your operating systems!" - By Derek Sivers

Must read! Article written by one of the most inspiring speaker, writer and entrepreneur I've chanced upon...


Excellent article about "Changing your operating systems!" - Making deep changes in your life. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"Our Singapore Conversation" with the Youths at Hougang Student Service Center

As I made my way from Hougang Mrt to the Student Service Center, I was filled with anticipation about the National Conversation which we will soon be having with a number of youths. I've participated in more than 3 public conversations, where there were diverse crowds sharing various views on what we desire Singapore to become, but this was the first youth-centered conversation which I have participated in.

Hence, as expected, I was positively surprised by the perspectives and the directions of conversations shared by them! Their inputs were extremely positive and full of optimism. Throughout the short 2+ hours, they shared great aspirations they have for our country; about how our nation will continue to progress and prosper, and most of them portrayed a healthy respect and understanding for the value foreign talents bring to our country, and to top it off, a self-imposed duty about “What I can do for the nation, instead of what the nation can do for me?”.

At the conclusion of the conversation, many youths shared how they treasured the opportunity to discuss the dreams and aspirations they have for themselves and the country. A few mentioned that they were rarely (and for some, never) asked about their opinion on such matters.

Upon reflecting these "thanksgiving" messages, I realized how important it is, for us to work even harder in giving a voice to the “unheard or marginalized”, so to ensure that as the society progresses, we do not leave anyone behind!

It was sincerely the most rewarding and enjoyable “conversation” which I have attended. The ideas and comments made by the youths were truly inspirational and motivating. I would be lying, if I denied that their Hope for Singapore also created a positively enduring effect on my optimism for Singapore’s future too! 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Social Entrepreneurship in Singapore

Dear all Happy New Year!

Let me start with the new year with a reflection of the SE scene in Singapore


Youth in Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship is a fast growing field in Singapore, given this generation optimism and passion to create a better society which we can find joy living in! As oppose to looking for typical career paths that just fill our pockets, more individuals are stepping up to seek what they can do for society.

However, what differentiates social entrepreneurial movements to non-profit movements, is that in social entrepreneurship, we seek to create a sustainable business model to ensure that individuals involved and benefiting from the organization will be able to do so in a sustainable way. Highly successful social enterprises will take a step even further and seek to create scalable models that attempts to expand the social impact they wish to create.

However, such attempts to create sustainable businesses are easier said than done. It requires much more enterprising and innovation than even traditional businesses, and hence, is also the reason why man youths find appealing!
The challenging lure that baits our curious minds to find solutions for the problems around us, is many a times one of the reasons why youths get attracted to it. 

Social Entrepreneurship Scene in Singapore

Simply put it in layman terms, a Social Enterprise is a business like any other profit-making business, but instead seek to not just make profits, but ensures that creating social impact stays within the central purpose of the organization. As such, they are active in measuring the social impact they create, and is generally much more favourable of making altruistic decisions, than traditional extremely profit-oriented businesses.

However, some may differ with this definition of social entrepreneurship, such as non-profits that wish to be more "enterprising" and create business units that attempts to raise funds beyond traditional donations.

As such, the actual definition has yet been well scoped and established, to the extent that it may be used abusively by profit-oriented company that claims to be a social enterprise just to gain publicity for itself, or by non-profit organizations that still relies on charity yet claiming to be a social enterprise thus taking risks which traditionally was not allowed by their stakeholders.

Nonetheless, I believe that definition wise, should clear up in years to come, when our generation a successful social entrepreneurs come together to define it. This has yet to be the case, because, we have yet had sufficient local case studies to look up to, and for more successful individuals to help direct the field and to guide the newer generation of work-in-progress social entrepreneurs. 

However, that being said, a number of incubators, mentors and fellowship programs have just risen in the pass few years, such as Singapore Social enterprise Association that provides great directions to youths who aspires to explore this field, or The Hub which is creating a fellowship and co-working space for social entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs to gather and collaborate, or education organizations such as Envisage Education, Syinc, Social Change by Children, Enactus (Previously known as SIFE) and others, which aims to promote social entrepreneurship or social innovation among youths in Singapore.

I am optimistic about how the field will morph, and how we as a country will grow to have many social entrepreneurs and innovators that seek to be active citizens with a genuine concern about what we can do for the less fortunate.

Resources for SEs

Resource: Click here