Oliver Houchin and his high-end, bilingual child care centre, complete with it’s own chef.
What’s your story?
I came from your typical high-octane corporate strategy consulting and commodities environment. But it all changed when we had our daughter. My wife was also working so we signed her up for pre-school. We started to feel guilty dropping her off, especially with what they served her to eat (luncheon meat, for example) vs. the nice breakfast and lunches we had at work. So we wanted to move her, but there was nowhere offering the quality care we would expect with a well-balanced P1-ready curriculum. So I left my job and set up what we view to be the best quality pre-school in Singapore. Most other pre-schools are a business that happen to be a pre-school. For us, we are a quality pre-school first and a business second.
What excites you most about your industry?
We take great comfort in knowing that we are helping an entire family unit. The parents know they have nothing to worry about when they drop off their kids who are at one of the most important learning stages in their life. We also love that we’re helping an important government agenda and also companies with working parents being able to return to the workforce with confidence.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was brought up in Asia – my father started up a company in Malaysia when I was an infant, then subsequently moved his operations to Singapore. Since then I’ve lived and worked in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand with short stints in Australia, UK and Sweden.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I have a preference for Singapore thanks to the clarity it provides startups in the sector. You can start up a business such as childcare without sector experience, and are provided the right balance of rules and support to allow you to be successful.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Don’t wait for everything to be perfect or the opportunity is lost… do first, apologise later.
Who inspires you?
My four year old daughter – I never thought I’d learn so much about myself as I did when she became part of our family. She is my inspiration for our business, and for the many other parents we help every day and for years to come.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Did you ever notice there is a little arrow next to the fuel gauge symbol on your car’s dashboard? It indicates which side your filler cap is on – great for rental cars. For years I never noticed until it was pointed out to me! Sometimes we can look at the same thing for years, and still not notice the details.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Take larger risks earlier on in life. You may be wiser and have financial capability later in life, but the opportunity cost is typically too high to then take on the risk and make big a big change. I would also pay myself a salary from day 1 of the startup (rather than a token amount), so that accessing personal debt during start-up phase is easier.
How do you unwind?
I’m a big car nut, so I try to spend some of my spare time lapping the Sepang F1 circuit, watching the much better F1 drivers on TV, or building some Lego Technic cars (I’m currently working on the GT3 RS set).
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok. Great food, value everywhere you look, and genuinely warm locals without a hidden agenda. I also have some of my school friends there, one of which has a great beer and burger joint.
Everyone in business should read this book:
The Four Hour Work-Week – rethinking how you work to set you up for retirement.
Shameless plug for your business:
We are a high-quality bilingual infant and childcare centre in the CBD. We have a well-balanced and holistic P1-ready curriculum, and our own in-house chef making amazing food every day.
No twitter, but we’re on Facebook 🙂 https://www.facebook.com/totsandteddies/
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.
Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>