Bullied at school for not being able to speak confidently, Karen Foo came through her personal trials to become a confident motivational speaker.
What’s your story?
I was always the quietest student in school and bullied because of it. Some teachers and relatives wondered what was wrong with me because I was just so quiet. I was also really bad at my studies. Fast forward to today, I’m a full-time trader and have spoken at multiple financial conferences and events, helping others become successful traders.
What excites you most about your industry?
The financial industry is growing every single year with new ways of investing being introduced. Recently, with the hype of cryptocurrencies, I constantly have to learn new things so that I can keep up with the latest investment opportunities. Every day is a different ball game and that’s what I like about being in my industry. I also love the topic of finance so the learning process itself is already exciting to me.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Asia with Asian parents being brought up with Asian values. Getting into a career as a trader and speaker is not a conventional business so it was a hard start for me. I’m really grateful to have supportive parents and friends who are always there to give me the much-needed encouragements.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore! It’s a financial hub and being a financial trader and educator myself, this is almost equivalent to being in heaven. I also have a lot of supportive mentors in Singapore who helped me in my speaking journey and business. There are also a lot of resources and support systems to help new entrepreneurs launch their business. My favourite aspect is the amount of co-working spaces available here in Singapore.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
My favourite advice has always been from my public speaking mentor. He taught me a lot of lessons on how to become an effective speaker but there was one piece of advice that stuck with me forever. “People will do business with you as long as you produce results. Your age and gender will not matter as long as you can deliver.” I had doubts because of my young age when I started out as a speaker and this advice helped me greatly.
Who inspires you?
Aside from my mentor, Gary Guwe, whom I mentioned in the previous question, I was always inspired by Adam Khoo, who is a friend of mine. His story of coming from a divorced family and going from bad grades to scholar really resonated with me a lot because I went through the same thing. Without him, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now. He is like a father figure to me.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I spoke with a friend recently, he shared with me an incident where he wrongly applied something that he read from a book. He taught me one very important lesson. When you read a book, you need to understand the context in which the author wrote the book. Instead of blindly applying the principles that the author penned down, it’s good to think about what the author is thinking at the time he wrote that tip.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would start learning how to trade and invest earlier. I only started to get serious about it when I was 21 years old. I would also strive to overcome my fear of public speaking when I was in primary school because I only overcame it when I was 19, by that time I had already graduated from high school. I would tell myself to just pluck up the courage and make the speech. Even though I might fail, at least I can look back and tell myself that I tried.
How do you unwind?
I swim everyday so that really helps me to get my mind away from work. I go for a spa at least 3 times a week. I also meditate at the same time. I find that it helps me with my productivity the next day. A lot of entrepreneurs neglect working out and meditation. What I find is that the top CEOs and hedge fund managers would find time to meditate and workout everyday. So if they can do it, there is no reason I couldn’t find time to do it.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Malaysia, especially east Malaysia. There is just something about the mountains, island and ocean view that helps me relax and get my mind away from the hustle and bustle of the city life in Singapore. Not to mention, the food there is absolutely amazing.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Crushing it by Gary Vaynerchuk.
Shameless plug for your business:
You may find more about my story and what I do as a speaker and trader at www.karen-foo.com
How can people connect with you?
They can find me on Facebook, Instagram or Youtube. Just search for Karen Foo and they’ll find it. Otherwise, I can be reached via email ([email protected])
P.S. I’m more active on Facebook, Youtube & Instagram than Twitter.
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.