Although Grace comes from a poor family, she has never let that stop her from achieving her goals. Besides managing Supreme Floors Pte Ltd with her husband Jonathan, she also runs Eagle Success Pte Ltd and aims to list the company in the near future.
Eagle Success Pte Ltd teaches entrepreneurs how to manipulate capital and IPO their companies within 3 years. They also connect them to venture capital funding.
1) Could you start off with sharing a little bit about yourself? What was your growing up years like?
Ans: I came from a poor family so it trained my independence and I had to take care of things on my own. Since secondary 1, I had to buy my own textbooks. My father only gave me living expenses and I had to pay the rest myself. I have been very independent since I was young and I am good at problem solving. For example, when I was secondary 1, I had no money and I cannot work so how did I get my textbook? I went to every class that is one year senior and I told them that I had no money to buy textbook and if they could donate theirs to me. I managed to get many textbooks and that is how I got my textbooks throughout the 4 years. I actually started work when I was 14 years old in secondary 2. I worked at Burger King even though I was underage because I pleaded with the manager and since I was quite tall for my age, they accepted me. That is how I grew up, earning every single cent since young.
2) Which university did you go to and what did you study? What was your first job out of college?
Ans: I did not go to university because when I started school, my father told me that there is no chance of me going to university. However, that did not deter me from getting my degree because I planned another route. I told him that I must at least finish my polytechnic studies because with a diploma, you can go out to work and get night classes at the same time. When I received my O Level results, I could have gone to junior college but I knew that if I went to junior college, I will not be given a chance to study in university so I decided to enroll in polytechnic. After Polytechnic, I came out to work and I managed to obtain my degree from Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).
3) Moving on, could you tell me more about the nature of your business?
Ans: Eagle Success is a corporate training company specializing in capital mechanism.
4) Why do you choose to do business in this particular industry?
Ans: In our years of entrepreneurship, we realized that we would never have enough of skills and knowledge, especially if the company is growing, because you need different skills, knowledge and wisdom at different stages so learning has to be a continuous process. We recognized this from the day we started our business so every year, we will make an effort to spend time and money on courses. Initially, it started as a necessity. Subsequently, it turned into a hobby because in learning, you will have a close circle of friends, and finally it became a business. In 2011, we decided we could be quite serious with our hobby when we were offered to be the agent in Singapore for the training course that we attended in China. In addition, my husband Jonathan, runs Supreme Floors Pte Ltd, which has hundred over staff and his staff also need training so I thought I can bring the course to Singapore instead of sending them to China for training.
5) How did you put together all the resources needed to start your business? For example: getting the start-up capital, hiring staff, doing sales and marketing, advertising, etc.
Ans: It is not difficult to start the business given our background in learning. The only difficulty is sustaining it after 6 months to 1 year because you would have exhausted all your contacts and networks. It was difficult after the first year because I had to hard sell and convince people that my product is good and I had to pull in more customers because my business costs was increasing.
6) How did you overcome that?
Ans: I am a fighter because I came from a poor family and I can also come down to do all the groundwork. I have been doing all the groundwork myself including sales and admin operations.
7) Do you remember any interesting stories or incidents in the early years?
Ans: I was quite happy that Sheng Shiong's CEO stayed with us as a loyal customer and it was the first time I met a listed boss in my programme. I was with him in a group so we did the activities together. That inspired me a lot and gave me a lot of strength.
8) What is your company’s vision and mission?
Ans: My vision for Eagle Success is to be the next JP Morgan in Asia. By doing this, my mission is to incubate all the SMEs in Asia and turn them into listed companies or at least on the track of capital mechanism.
9) How do you convey these to your company staff and team members?
Ans: Since 10 years ago, Jonathan and myself will always have weekly meetings with all the staff without fail. During these weekly meetings we do not touch anything about work. Instead, we do more on the company's mission, vision, and values and through this meeting we build our culture.
10) Can you share some of the lessons you learnt from overcoming your own business challenges that you think will help other businesses?
Ans: Be adaptable to changes, especially in a new company. In recent years, our economy has been quite tough and competitive so nothing is permanent except changes. Although everybody knows this, it is very hard for one to accept changes and flow. During the last 3 years managing eagle success, I had many people who come and go because it is quite tough in the training industry. Last year, I did 3 courses every month so there was a lot of Overtimes, and the staff had to come in early in the morning. The turnover rate for a training company is high and Jonathan and myself pressed too hard so I have to accept the flow and change.
11) What are some of your proudest business achievements to date? And why are they so important and meaningful to you?
Ans: I managed to bring in bosses of listed companies and get them to stay loyal. Whenever I have classes, they will come and they include Sheng Siong and BH Global. I am still bringing more bosses of listed companies to my platform.
12) Can you describe the company culture that you have?
Ans: It is changing right now. In the past, it used to be very Chinese-oriented because we started with a Chinese course from China so I brought in many Chinese people. However this year, I decided to focus on Dr Wong's class so the culture is changing to a more Singaporean style.
13) What are the learning and training opportunities that you provide your staff?
Ans: Of course. Whenever I have courses, all the staff has to attend. I focus on training so much so that I will arrange for some of my staff to attend courses overseas and not here because here, they cannot attend the course wholeheartedly due to certain duties they have to perform.
14) What do you see for your business in the next 5 years, and does it include any plans for expansion?
Ans: I will be a listed company myself. For expansion, I am going to expand it regionally by the end of this year. I am going to use the Miracles of Capital method to do fund raising and in my first round, I am thinking of raising 7 million dollars. With this money, I can expand regionally and I am planting the seeds right now. We always have pre-preparation work so I am doing my pre-preparation work right now and next year, it will be full force.
15) In your opinion, what is a good and ethical business? How do you think this helps you in your company/business?
Ans: A good and ethical business means when you take and earn people's money, you can earn good profits but you also give back the value and it helps them. It is like an ecosystem and it is a two-way thing.
16) How will you describe your working relationship with your customers, suppliers and service providers?
Ans: I am quite a demanding boss. Staff-wise, I would not say I am a good boss to them because of my demanding nature but I am still very confident that what I am doing is good for them because many people hate people who train them. They only love people who love them but I am not going to shift my role because I treat my company as a training ground for every staff who enters. I am a teacher at work. I am not a teacher in the course. However, there are some people who see what I am doing and they are the top management.
Customer-wise, I am not very in touch with customers because I usually execute through my staff.
17) Do you have any competitors?
Ans: if you say training, there are plenty but if you say specific like capital mechanism, there is none. Even if there is, I am not affected by competitors. I work with competitors. If there are any conflicts, I rather work with them