Alexis Tan has been ‘staying hungry and foolish’ in his career. Now as a social entrepreneur he is putting in as much as he gets out.
What’s your story?
“Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish,” is what I’ve strived to believe because it’s all I had after numerous dismissals and rejections from several tech firms and I fought to land my dream engineering job at an MNC. Nevertheless, this eventually led me on to a career path of a real estate agent that bagged my first golden goose; a commercial property at Beauty World Centre.
Thankfully, the earnings from my illustrious career helped pave the way for an investment into a lifelong passion of mine; social entrepreneurship!
I wanted to find some way of running a business that would give back to the community hence, the idea of Simply Hamper was born from a simple act of giving.
What excites you most about your industry?
I’ve always wanted to grow the local talents in the gifting industry and this is the most stimulating aspect of working in this industry. Designing a product from its inception means that you can walk out the door in this vast dynamic city and actually see the tangible results of your labour. Collaborating with a team of very talented designers and florist has helped me meet the needs of my professional clientele. I consider myself fortunate to be able to use my creativity for the betterment of the industry and I never tire of creating new concepts for my hampers and bouquets. I know that what I do each day has an impact on the diversification of the industry’s core players making it all worthwhile.
What’s your connection to Asia?
Singapore, often referred to as the ‘Lion City,’ has emerged as one of the key start-up hubs in Asia. Having witnessed first-hand the changes in this once conservative and strict nation, I am amazed at the pace of change and the hunger with which local founders are embracing the challenge and opportunity presented by entrepreneurship. There is no doubt that the South-east Asian entrepreneurial ecosystem has entered a new and exciting era and there are strong signals that innovation is beginning to shape the economic landscape.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Among the many words used to describe Singapore, some even by expatriates now living in the country most often include “comfortably diverse,” “I love taxes here,” “safe living environment,” “cutting-edge business community” and “relaxed, stable lifestyle,” all of which are critically important to me and my business that is looking to rock the industry with a game-changing opposition. Additionally it has the benefits of being at a strategic location, excellent infrastructure and the support from local government with funding and grants that have helped seed the business and speed up its development.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best advice I received was from Jack Ma. “Once in your life, try something. Work hard at something. Try to change, nothing bad can happen.” In this industry, you have to give before you get, while knowing when to trust my instincts. With Simply Hamper I’ve had to think expansively, then bring it back to basics. I’m proud of it, though there will never be perfection. I’ve learnt to become aware of the competition, yet I’ve come to not worry about it. Finally, never lose sight of the people who are always there for you; your friends and family.
Who inspires you?
I’ve often found myself inspired by everyday people, from the unsung heroes working tirelessly cleaning our humble abodes to the corporate giants bringing I-phones to our doorsteps.
My life experiences have taught me it’s important not to let the little things get you down. You won’t hit a home-run every time, but if you bounce back you’ll come back stronger, more often than not I achieve it. It’s not to say that I never fail yet we move on from every failure without losing enthusiasm.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
On my recent trip to Alibaba’s Headquarters in Hang Zhou, China earlier this year, I was taken by surprise with the flattened hierarchy that is unusual for a business in Asia.
This allows for a strong degree of transparency with employees given the opportunity to create nicknames for themselves based on characters of mythical novels. Work produced can be challenged unequivocally because even the top guys are referred to by their nicknames, minimising the effects of structure and superiority. Suffice to say, I was impressed with how this was successfully imparted to his employees imbuing them with the virtues and strengths of these legends.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Well, nobody is always right. I do make mistakes in the course of life. But mistakes have the power to turn to you into something better than you were before. Every experience in life shapes my thoughts, which bring me to where I am now.
If I had my time again, I would probably do the same.
How do you unwind?
I’m not a workaholic, but when I’m asked this question I often find myself saying that drawing prototypes for my next design helps me switch my brain off. The doodles may not have a measurable result but is just a way of emptying my thoughts and its simple geometry helps me eventually switch off. Also, I’ve found through the years that, travelling helps me to gather my thoughts and become inspired all over again, to call it a great way to unwind is reductive — it’s far more than that. Returning home a new person, genuinely changed from experiencing so much of the world.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket. Because it’s surrounded by beautiful beaches with its soft white sand and clear blue waters.
Sometimes we just need a recharging weekend getaway to balance out our hectic lifestyle.
Everyone in business should read this book:
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Shameless plug for your business:
Tastefully curated products, impeccable craftsmanship that transforms emotion.
We don’t take a one size fits all approach to our designs as we take pride in making individually crafted designs catered to suit the needs of our customers.
A small elite team of passionate and ambitious individuals that create artistic and beautifully curated products which have a compelling story to tell every time.
Simply Hamper offers a broad range of internationally recognised products that are diverse enough to satisfy the needs of customers around the world – yet flexible enough to adapt to the needs of everyday Singaporeans!
Please visit us at: www.simplyhamper.com
How can people connect with you?
By email : [email protected]
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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