Impossible Is Nothing
Helping entrepreneurs turn their ideas into profit-making ventures is an exciting endeavour, as Beatrice Wong from SPRING Singapore will tell you.
By Yvette Lim
The world of entrepreneurship is, at once, full of barriers and possibilities. Given that there's so much to learn and do, being in the department of New Business Support in SPRING Singapore is definitely an enriching experience. Beatrice Wong joined the organisation after graduating from the National University of Singapore (NUS), and has been with SPRING for close to three years now. Yet the Senior Manager with a degree in Geography still feels that the company has so much more to offer her.
“We work hard and are happy doing so, knowing the significance of what we do,” she says about her work with the division of New Business Support.
SPRING Singapore is an enterprise development agency that looks at growing innovative companies and fostering a competitive SME sector. Beatrice had been attracted to the job from day one. “The job description had caught my attention and I felt that this was something that I wanted to do: making a difference to start-ups and enterprises,” she says.
Growing with the job
Given the business-friendly climate in Singapore, one can imagine how busy Beatrice gets. Indeed, her days are never the same, and it is this varied nature of her work that keeps her on her toes and also constantly interested in what she does.
Mostly, she spends her time dishing out advice to young entrepreneurs, giving them information about funding options. She also travels to their offices sometimes to “see how they've been doing”. Keeping abreast of trends is important too. “I attend talks, networking sessions, conferences, exhibitions, and competitions to keep myself connected to the ground and stay relevant to start-up trends that are constantly shifting”, she elaborates.
Beyond the daily grind of work, there are also ad-hoc projects that challenge her to rise up to the tasks. One such example would be her involvement in the conceptualisation of the entire Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES). “I had to devise the scope of three new initiatives: YES! Schools, ideas.inc. Business Challenge and YES! Start-ups right from the start. With that came the responsibility of securing the necessary resources and partners’ support, this was an arduous task as we had to strike a balance with different partners who had different needs and wants and sometimes we had to say no to their demands,” Beatrice describes.
While she is based in Singapore, there is still some work-related travelling to be done. To date, she's been on at least two overseas work trips, to locations in the United States and China. At the Global Entrepreneurship Congress held in Kansas City, she met people with similar interests, and these dynamics sparked something new.
“With the ideas and contacts that we had, we started the Asia-Pacific Enterprise Experience, which tapped on the network of people we met to bring a business challenge to youths in Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Australia to work on case studies mooted by companies such as Sakae Sushi,” she shares.
Recently, she also organised a learning trip to Beijing to interact with the start-ups there. What she saw had a lasting impact on her. “We visited a start-up that housed 25 staff in a tiny three-room apartment which looked like a warzone. This was a company that was recently valued at US$50 million and had raised US$10 million from investors. It was indeed a humbling experience and I’m inspired to do more to develop the entrepreneurship landscape here,” Beatrice says.
From zero to hero
These travelling opportunities have widened her horizons and made her more aware of how her work could potentially have an impact on young aspiring entrepreneurs. The idea of helping someone fulfil their dreams is an incredibly satisfying one.
However, while it is fulfilling to play a part in someone else's success, it is also challenging to deal out the harsher cards of reality. Managing expectations is always tough, when you have to point out to entrepreneurs the weaknesses of their ideas. “We meet a lot of young people who want to be entrepreneurs, but it was a tough call as we had to take into consideration the unique selling point, feasible business model, and potential market of each proposal before we can support them under our schemes,” she explains.
The future looks bright
On a more personal level, Beatrice has certainly come some way from a fresh graduate who's new in the job market, to now being on mentorship programmes to be groomed for bigger roles. Beatrice is grateful to SPRING for the room for growth. “Officers are given the chance to hold a dual portfolio under the International Partnership Office where they may be sent to the US or Europe. On a shorter term basis, there are cross-functional activities within the organisation that officers can volunteer to participate in,” she shares.
As business trends ebb and flow, there are many new ideas today that might become reality tomorrow, and this makes Beatrice excited. Hence, she advises fresh graduates, “Keep an open mind, what is unthinkable today may become tomorrow’s technology; what you see as a road block may just be a detour!”