Melissa Lou’s true calling to start a business married with her love of food, led her to her events planning company, Delegate.
What’s your story?
The biggest thing (and my proudest achievement to date!) is an event planning tech startup that I co-founded called Delegate. Within delegate I oversee partnerships and operations. I’ve always felt that starting my own business was my true calling. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and business people. Before Delegate, I spent almost 7 years in the hospitality industry, 4 of which was as a student at the Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne (EHL) in Switzerland. I’m also a big foodie and if I weren’t in my current industry, I’d probably be in food and beverage.
What excites you most about your industry?
There are so many gaps and inefficiencies in the events market that the sky’s the limit in terms of how much value and impact we can create for the industry. It’s been so exciting finding solutions to automate the event planning process which traditionally has always been very labour intensive and requires a lot of human capital. We’ve managed to tackle some of the core issues of event planning particularly in the vendor research and communication areas and we’re planning to do much more in the coming months. We’ll be adding new features for our users and vendors so that Delegate will be an even more comprehensive event planning resource.
Personally, I really enjoy planning events. I’m that person amongst my friends and family who organises the dinners, gatherings, weddings and after parties. It comes naturally to me as I’ve always been a very process and detail-oriented person. My passion for planning events and celebrations has certainly paid off. Most day, my work doesn’t feel like work to me!
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore. My mum is Filipino-Chinese and my dad is Burmese-Singaporean. My friends always say that I’m truly a product of Southeast Asia.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, definitely! Things move very quickly and efficiently here. Business processes are fairly transparent and seamless. As an entrepreneur, I’ve benefitted from a lot of the great government schemes and grants which has been crucial especially when we first launched Delegate. A close second for favourite city has to be Hong Kong because of the massive events scene there. Hong Kong is also the next city where we’re launching Delegate.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Confidence is half the battle won. This is a mantra that I live by and something I remind myself of everyday. Life as an entrepreneur is full of many daily challenges and setbacks so it’s great to think that something as simple as appearing confident already sets me apart from others.
Who inspires you?
Entrepreneurs in general but female entrepreneurs in particular are a huge source of inspiration for me. I’m a member of this great collective called Crib Society and through them, I’ve met so many inspiring women who are able to run successful businesses while juggling their family and home lives. I’m constantly in awe of how they’re able to lean in and and contribute on so many fronts and their ability to juggle everything.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I recently watched this great TED talk called, ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ and it really shifted some of my fundamental mental perceptions. We’re always told to be strong and formidable, to never show any sign of weakness yet the talk challenges us to be vulnerable instead, in order to really experience and live life fully and passionately. That blew me away!
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’d like to think of myself as having no regrets in life but if I could do it again, I would try and be less risk averse and more fearless at the start. I was always second guessing myself but now I realise that most people go through the same thing as well. I’m also very grateful to God and my family and friends for encouraging and guiding me the whole time.
How do you unwind?
I identify as an extrovert and love surrounding myself with people! Other than spending time with my family and friends, I love meeting new people because I believe everyone has a story to tell. I also enjoy visiting new cities and trying out their local delicacies.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Hong Kong. I know it’s not exactly the first city that comes to mind for most people when they think about relaxation but I’m a big city person and I love the constant buzz and dynamism of the city. I love that there’s always so many interesting events going on – Hong Kongers really know how to live! Some of my favourite restaurants and bars are in Hong Kong so I’m always happy to be there.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Zero to One by Peter Thiel, the classic Who Moved my Cheese and I’ve been reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I’m a big fan of systems and am obsessed with doing things in the most efficient way. Ultimately, everything boils down to building good habits.
Shameless plug for your business:
The first of its kind in Singapore, Delegate is set to transform the way people plan events. We are a one-stop resource that connects anyone with an event planning need to curated high-quality vendors, including venues, caterers, entertainment, décor, A/V equipment and much more. Delegate has addressed a gap in the market for a free, efficient and user-friendly events planning platform online. Catering to both professional organizers for corporate and company events, as well as novice planners such as brides-to-be or party hosts, Delegate allows its users to discover, hire and review event vendors, all with a simple click of a button.
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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