Spirit of Enterprise 2008 interview (Part 1) – Andrew Chow

This series of posts are repost from my long interview for Spirit of Enterprise Award in 2008

http://www.soe.org.sg/files/interview2008.php?i=256&a=&c=&year=2008

Andrew’s extensive experience in the MICE industry enabled him to have huge networks from people of all industries which helped him when he entered the dating and matchmaking industry. In 2005, he was appointed the role of Managing Agent for Romancing Singapore by SDU, to lead a new era of private-led initiative in this industry.

Company: IDEAMART (S) PTE LTD
Address: 140 Robinson Road, #06-06 Chow House
Website: http://www.romancingsingapore.com/

Interview with Mr Andrew Chow
by Victor Tan Suan Howe on 21-May-2008. Student can be reached at VICT0003@ntu.edu.sg
Business Profile:
Since 1994, IdeaMart(S) has been the leading exhibition service provider for exhibition project management services, from conceptualization to installation using portable architecture and technology. In 2005, IdeaMart won the first ever tender to manage Romancing Singapore as a lifestyle platform solely embraced by the private sector.
Interviewer’s Comments:
Andrew strikes me as a passionate, visionary and philosophical entrepreneur, who is dead-set to create a new thrilling era for the dating industry, which has been a taboo subject for a long time. I could feel his excitement and sincerity as he shares his vision and mission and charts a roadmap of true love for any single that looks for him.
1. What is the nature of your business?
The name of my company is Ideamart Pte Ltd, and my business started 14 years ago(1994) and I was then in the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibition) industry. The company was founded by my partner, Mr Andy Lai whom I regarded as my mentor and me. We created a platform, a business marketplace, where we facilitated business transaction and business networking. In Feb 2005, I started to spin off into other areas, to dating and social networking. In a sense, my dating and matchmaking business is similar to my MICE business, as we can be regarded as a corporate facilitator and matchmaker.. Today, I am more involved in my dating and matchmaking business, and spend 85% of my time in my dating and matchmaking business, and 15% in my MICE business 

2. When and why did you decide to become an entrepreneur / take over your family business? NOTE: If it is not a family business, ask: Do your parents have their own businesses too? Have they inspired you in one way or another? (Select appropriate question according to the entrepreneur being interviewed.)
I decided to become one when I was 26, finishing my first term as an army regular. My parents own a small shoe business. They have taught me some good values in doing business like integrity and on-time delivery.
3. What are your reasons for choosing to do business in this particular industry?
MICE is a very interesting industry which can link to all industries. The networking opportunities are plentiful and experiences that I have accumulated are very diverse and complete. In 2005, we venture into dating industry business using our lessons learned from “corporate match-making” in our MICE industry. The concept is about the same, but the approach will have to be more of a personal human touch. We were awarded to manage Romancing Singapore as a private sector initiative which created originally as a government campaign. We have successfully transformed the campaign into a private-sector brand which singles at large can identify our unique service with. In my dating and matchmaking business, you can say it was initially an unintentional foray, as I initially took a project in the dating and matchmaking industry in my MICE business, but when I saw such huge potential and excitement in this industry, I decided to spin off to this industry and I never look back since then. In fact, I have a huge calling for this sector, and I also believe that the market potential is still largely untapped. As long as you are single and available, preferentially of age group 21-55, if you are earnest about looking for a partner, you can be my customer
4. How did you put together all the resources needed to start your business? For example: getting the start-up capital, hiring staff, doing sales and marketing, advertising, etc.
I take over the business from my first business mentor where I work as a staff and later promoted to become a director. It was already an on-going business and I simply take it to the next level. I use my family saving to buy out my mentor’s shares. For my dating business, I do not need a lot of staff. The actual running of the event itself is not very resource straining. One people can handle 40-50 customers The actual work is little compared to the marketing and preparation you need to do. For example, in your wedding, you can plan for one year for only one day for your wedding. Most importantly, we had to bring in the right people.
5. You mentioned earlier you were in the MICE industry, and later you penetrated into the Dating and Romance industry. Are they related?
In my MICE business, we deal with corporate clients, as corporate facilitators and matchmakers. In my dating and matchmaking business, I am now dealing with singles, retail clients as a retail facilitator and matchmaker. In fact, I would say that being in the dating and matchmaking business is more challenging as now I have to deal with personal expectation and emotions. In the past, in MICE, I deal with relations with vendors, suppliers, and partners. Now, in the dating and matchmaking industry, I have to deal with human emotions as well as media. Dealing with the media is a huge challenge, as you cannot control them. However, media is a very powerful tool to business if you can manage carefully. The mileage gained from the media is stretched further than any advertising dollar can give you. In addition, in my dating and matchmaking business, I place more emphasis on branding and managing Public Relations, especially when the media is involved, whereas for MICE, the equivalent emphasis is more towards marketing. When I mean branding, I mean creating brands, or services mainly targeted at the various types of groups, such as Good Looking singles, Religious singles, etc where these brands are only for their respective niches. In fact, today I am better known as a matchmaker than a MICE businessman. Although I am still well known in the MICE industry, people do not care how you start well but rather how well you are doing now.
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