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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Timeless Message for Timeless Campaign – "This is an introduction, the rest is up to you"


About 20 years ago, the Social Development Unit (SDU) of Singapore (now, Social Development Network) encouraged singles to enlarge their social circles by being open to introduction through friends and colleagues.

SDU started organising events since 1984, use internet for online dating shortly after 1995, created campaigns like Romancing Singapore in 2003 and passed onto public sector in 2005. In 2008, they they leave the job as event organiser to the private sector and changes their role to a mere regulatory body. Till date they have accredited more than 10 dating agencies.

The message of this campaign is still relevant today. The problem may be more complicated but the solution can still be simple. All it takes is a change of mindset and willing to step out of comfort zone to brush aside social stigma.

Truly, a timeless message for a time campaign!

How many of you remember these TV ads?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-vlt99907k&fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijrTIGvOvW8&fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0]
 

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44 guests invited for 44th celebration of life, friendship and opportunities – Andrew Chow

Business and Pleasure Mixer

These 8 pictures were taken within 3 min and I myself am amazed of the different kind of hand gesture I can create :)

( The left froggy was done by the wonderful staff of Jean Tan from Aago Pte Ltd :D)

Background:

I can’t remember the last time i organised a networking event for business friends whom I know for opportunities. I can remember the last time I celebrated my birthday in a party was 23 years ago when I turned 21. I couldn’t decide what to organise and end up doing a hybrid event – Business and Pleasure Mixer on 18 Feb 2011.

Details: My email invitation in a previous post

Sponsors:

Venue : Smartspace Singapore - a multidisciplinary co-working space based in Singapore. We aim to provide a zero to launch platform in Singapore for student entrepreneurs, start ups and non-profit organizations by taking care of their work space, office furnishing and business support services for their core business at an affordable cost.

  • 3 distinct zones.
  • Infinite ideas.
  • Infinite SmartSpace.

The gentleman in white is Mr Michael Zhan, the founder of Smartspace Singapore, giving a quick overview of Vision, Mission and future direction of the company. Michael is also a lawyer by training.

Wine : Angels Share Wines Pte Ltd - Angels’ Share Wines specialises in sweet, sparkling and sophisticated wines. Ancient winemakers believe that as wines age in barrels, a magical process occurs. When some of the wine evaporates, an Angel accepts it as her share, and in return, imparts many lovely, sophisticated flavours into the remaining wine.

Theme: Business and Pleasure Mixer

This nice balloon is a gift from my friend - Rachel Lee

Some of my guests captured on photo deserve special mention :

Min Zhen – a wonderful and bubbly up and coming top agent in DTL Property Network Pte Ltd, she can be contacted at minzhen75@gmail.com. She is someone I have known for 8 years and had numerous corporate experiences with leading banks of Singapore.

David Wee – CEO & Founder at Asia Speakers Bureau (ASB), David Wee can tell you how to improve corporate entrepreneurship in the New future, create new space in a crowded market, lead by serving, and let your business achieve the highest level of growth with more vibrant workplace.

Sophia Lim & Rachel Minn Lee, are consulting managers (Executive Search) of Anverson Consulting Pte Ltd

L1 : Eric Chan, Account Manager of Nanyang Tech Pte Ltd which specialises in IT Support, PC Sales/Rental and Trade-in/repair.

L2 : Charlene Ng, Business Manager of Star Fish Net

L3 : Au Yeong Yuen Mun, Strategist in Hospitality Star, a eUniversity.

George Wong – WineMBA, Founder of Wine Lovers’ Club, often described as “God of Wine” by local media. He is one of the most sought after speaker for wine in business and social events.

Gin Wong – A Beauty and Lifestyle Blogger who enjoys and love life at the beautiful moment, staying happy and constantly looking out for beauty remedy with a mixed of FUN and APPRECIATION to gorgeous things around. She is also one of the 3 lucky winners of a bottle of Moscato. Gin is the proud owner 0f Blog – Ginevi

Left : Ezen Ho – Manager of Eroma Marketing, a business for SPA, Beauty and Wellness.

Right : Yvonne Lim – Event Manager of Smartspace Singapore, she is a highly efficient event planner and organiser.

Aaron Koh – Business Development Manager of Taggo Pte Ltd, a social media channel for facebook fan recognition.

Left : Aik Boon, CEO of Crazy Bid, a online auction business. Right : Ellen Shi Min, Founder of Smart Translation, a professional multi-language translation agency.

Left 1 : Ocean Wang, the most under-rated oil painting artist in Singapore. She produced 3 oil on canvas portrait for F1 drivers in 2010 for Charity auction. Yes! she also produced 2 oil paintings of 2 Andrew Chows

Left 2 : Valerie Song, the founder of Match Resources Pte Ltd, which does ‘match great companies with great people’ and naturally ‘great people with great companies’ on a daily basis.

Left 1 : Kim Chua, Team Manager of Walton International Group (S) Pte Ltd

Right 2 : Teck Beng, Director of Performance Leadership.

Right 1 : Kent Chan, Asst Associate Manager of PropNex

Right 1 : Gavin Choo, Business Development Director of Chris Cooper Group. Together we manage the biggest family entertainment show in Singapore – Walking with Dinosaurs in 2010.

Right 2 : Richard Chew, a volunteer in Corporate Communication for Lutheran Community Care Services (LCCS)

Left 2 : Serene Pan, Vice Director of Biz Asia, serenepan@gmail.com

Right 1 : Prasanna Srinivasan, the Senior Consultant of Skynapse, a Microsoft Technologies Solutions Provider. His company was the consultant to develop the website of Romancing Singapore.

Nazran Ahmad, is the producer of SUPER, dealing with events, productions and design. Nazran has helped me to co-organise many social events for singles including Dating@Sea in 2007

Douglas Quek, the Account Manager of Signetique IT Pte Ltd

Anita Ho, Programme Manager of Asian Women’s Welfare Association (AWWA)

Right 2 : Rina Neoh, Co-Founder and Director of Mercatus Capital

Lady at centre : Jean Tan, a lawyer by training but a Brand Consultant in practise. She is the managing director of Aago Pte Ltd.
[slideshare id=6599992&doc=romancingthemediaforbusiness-vietnam-110117082207-phpapp01&type=d]

I gave out 20 copies of my book in final draft. “Romancing the Media” is a business book written for the SME by the SME, equipping business owners with management skills and social media strategy.

The winners of Moscato : Aaron, Gin and Kent

Proudly sponsored by Angels Share Wines Pte Ltd


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Ask The Expert : The Date Coach – Andrew Chow

STUDIES have shown that late marriage is a becoming common phenomenon in modern, developed countries. Singapore, Korea, Japan are three of the worst hit countries in Asia, and Malaysia is fast becoming the infamous  4th. The more developed a country, the higher the mean age for marriage. So where do lonely hearts go? Besides the normal channels of finding love through internet and dating agencies, now there is a new opportunity to “fish” for a partner in the high seas at the upcoming Singles Cruise Asia, happening from Dec 6-10.

The five day event organised Casa de Latinos and Scasia Sdn Bhd will take participants from Singapore to Malaysia, Phuket and back with lots of fun activities and social skills workshops to help participants find their love match.

Date Coach Andrew Chow who will be speaking on social and dating skills at the cruise, said this is the first time  they are organising it for singles from 2-3 different countries. “We are confident the content of the programme will give our singles a lot of insight, skills, and knowledge to make more intelligent love decisions in the future.”

Chow who has been a dating coach for five years said it all started in 2005 when he was tasked to manage Singapore government’s campaign – Romancing Singapore. “I see my role not so much as an event organiser, but a life coach to empower people to approach relationship the right way. I was already doing a lot of corporate match making activities like exhibitions and conferences when I started Ideamart in 1994, so doing singles events just require some skills transfer for me.”

Giving frank advice on building lasting relationship, Chow said the golden key is to seek first to understand than be understood, as the qualities of a soul mate involves the connection of Mind, Will and Emotions. “The most importance truth isn’t to “Look for the Right One but Being the Right One.”

It is fair to say one must put in some effort and consistency to succeed in the dating game. Taking time to prepare yourself to be the right person is “sowing”, attracting the right one is the “reaping.” Chow said there is always a time and season for everything, “Start early in life. Meet more people even when you are not actively looking. In certain periods, some things you do will reap more easily than usual. You shouldn’t try too hard, neither should you not try at all. However, do not spend more than 2-3 years on casual dating relationship. If you feel the relationship is going nowhere, it is time to change course.“

Commenting further on the upcoming Single Cruise Asia as an effective platform for singles to meet, Chow said: “Cruise is always associated to romance and wonderful encounters. Imagine spending a few days at high sea with the sun, sand, and surf; the stars and the scent of romance all over like-minded people? With a group of fellow singletons, you get to spend quality time with almost everyone through groups, ice breakers, games, dinners, parties, workshops, etc. It is like having a quality date with so many people over just a few days,

“With an isolated environment and external communication limited, your  focus is on people through different programmes. You get the chance to learn great life skills, self-reflection and networking. It is the best possible hybrid situation of a holiday and social interaction opportunity”.

In this Q&A, we find out why Chow is passionate about helping people find their soul mates, and what are the practical steps they can improve their romantic luck.

Q: Do you believe in love  at first sight?

Chemistry is a must in any relationship even in business. There must be a certain degree of physical attraction to each other. Having said that, you still need to learn to relate, to nurture and to empower each other in every way. Match making events are just a channel. People need to take ownership of their destiny and build on the relationship. The return on investment for love is either zero or infinite. You can’t love without the risk of being hurt. There will be pain as there will be gain. No one is too old to look for love. As long as you know there is someone out there for you, you must keep searching.

Q: If there are many fishes in the ocean, why is it a challenge to find a soul mate?

The abundance of choices make decision making for a life partner difficult. Most people do not have a true objective perception of themselves. When they do not know what they want, they end up wasting time dating the wrong person over extended period of time. Another reason is the concept of comfort zone. Some people say: “When it comes, it comes!” Singles need to be more proactive or nothing much will happen in their social life.

Q: How effective are dating agencies?

There are many experts in our fields coaching singles what to do on dates, how to impress and when to ask the right questions etc. While all these are good, they only help to break the ice and create a good first impression. However, what comes after that? Many of us are not taught how to maintain a good relationship, how to communicate, how to choose a partners, how to help each other with blind spots. Most singles will quit once they experience first sign of conflict in their relationship; and this is usually after the “honeymoon” period where the real deal of a dating relationship sets in.

Q: What are the challenges faced by women in the dating scene?

Women are more motivated to improve and be upgraded in their personal and professional life. It is only natural they want to look for men on par with them. Over the last few decades, women have progressed in their thinking and motivation. Basically, no woman will want a man whom she can’t respect and be submitted to. All of us have a role to play: The role of a man is to rise up to is potential of being the Point-Man, Protector and Provider. The role of a woman is to be the best Cheer-leader, know when to be the woman behind your man and when to be the neck that turns the head.

Q: Name some criteria in finding a right partner.

Find out the person’s character rather than be attracted just to his or her personality; Make sure he or she is someone committed to personal growth; Choose someone who isn’t emotional shut-down; Integrity is importance, even over the smallest thing; Though chemistry is needed for any relationship to work, make sure chemistry isn’t the only thing that you have in common.

For more information about Singles Cruise Asia go to www.singlescruiseasia.com, and to find out more about Andrew visit his website www.andrewchow.sg

.

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Do Singles in Singapore need another Campaign to settle down?

There was a time 5 years ago, a foreign press reported a story about Singaporean being the best in the world in terms of competitiveness, efficiency and high-standard of living. The headline was “Singaporean can do anything except dating!”

My initial reaction was a rush of anger because there are plenty of dating going on, just not many of them wanting to settle down.

Singletons in Singapore must start dating early in their lives to order to have higher chance of finding a life partner. The older one a man or a woman get, the harder for him/her to be motivated just by a TV ad or a campaign. Expectation changes but the management of that expectation hardly.

Singles must realise that there is no perfect one out there. The key is not to find the right one but to be the right one when the suitable one comes along.

The first 10 years after the inception of SDU from 1984, they have enjoyed great success in pairing singles up (commonly known as success rate). That was also the time where there were no mobile phones, MSN, SMS to go along. Choices were limited, decision-making were simple.

From 1994 till 2004 with the booming of internet age, technology has made communication channels more accessible. Ironically, we didn’t communicate any better. With online dating sites, the choices are bountiful, the playing fields are bigger, more dating going on but less marriages.

Romancing Singapore came around that time hoping to use media and campaign to encourage more sparks among the singles. In 2005, with the help of the private sector, it has been a festival to be celebrated once a year. Eventually it becomes a social networking style through the emergence of a portal riding on the wave of the social media.

Social media is the new age of social interaction. We do not need another campaign, we just more encouragement to the Gen Z (1990 –onwards) to settle down early in life.

We have come a long way moving away from the government trying to do their part in solving the ageing population problem. Having another campaign now will set Singapore 5-8 years back. Is this campaign Romancing Singapore 2.0? if yes, why was Romancing Singapore obsolete in the first place?

Most singles in their 20s do not feel the sense of urgency to settle down, they only do when their friends are all married. When you are in the 20s, you are in demand, when you are in middle 30s, you join the supply curve. We are always told that singles are just too busy to socialize and they need help. Being in this line for 5 years, I find that the opposite is true. Many singles have too many opportunities meeting other singles but somehow just cannot find the right match for whatever reasons.

The private personalised dating agencies are doing a great job organising events and arranging dates based on criteria. The government should be looking into coaching social match makers to develop good advocates. Using the right social media content and conversation, the mindset can be changed hopefully in the next 5 years.

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Meeting the Star Singles – 13 Feb 2008

The day finally came on 13 Feb 2008, 3 ladies got to meet the 3 Star Guys at Bobby’s @ Chjimes

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I owe my initial success in Romancing Singapore to Miss Jodi Lee

Being the Managing Agent of Romancing Singapore Festival back in 2005 requires a lot of networks, contacts, interpersonal skills and media relations. I was fortunate to know Jodi back in 2004 and when I was awarded the job, I know I had to get Jodi on my team. She single handed helped me to gather the dating industry information, contacting more than 200 F&B and retailers to compile not one but 2 Buying Guide from 2005 to 2006. She was instrumental in writing several proposals to our business partners that resulted in many meaningful alliances serving our our singles at large.

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