City College’s first Entrepreneurship Forum blazed the trail for building up the next generation of business people.
On May 13 and 14, City College ran its inaugural Entrepreneurship Forum at its campus in Bukit Merah. Entrepreneurs from different industries sowed their time into inspiring the students of City College and Assumption English School with their success (and failure) stories.
The speaking panel including Bernie Utchenik, owner of Botak Jones; Melvin Wong, a professional trader and coach; Charlie Lay, lecturer at James Cook University and a Forex trader; Ee Boon Kiat, an entrepreneur in the building materials industry, and designer Priscilla Lim of Chalk Pte. Ltd., a homegrown fashion line.
Before the sessions began, students were already anticipating a lively time of learning. Lu Hui Ying, 17, a City College student, told City News: “I want to find out how [these entrepreneurs] set up and manage their businesses, and maybe take away some tips. I think it will offer me insight, in case I want to go into entrepreneurship in future.”
The brainchild of City College CEO, Kenny Low, the Forum had two aims: one, to inspire its attendees, and two, to encourage them to put to use the communication skills that they have learned in the classroom.
“It’s one thing for us to tell them they can do it, but another thing for a man—who has started a business, failed, then started another one and brought it to 400 times the growth—to say it to them,” explained Low.
“In the past, you had a time of preparation for the world—six years of primary school, four years of secondary school, then tertiary education. Now, the world invades children from a young age. I’ve been thinking a lot about the curriculum we teach at City College; it really needs to be relevant to today’s world. Such events as this are where they can put what they learn in the classroom to use in the real world.”
City College students recently applied their classroom knowledge in an English-lesson-turned-business project, where they had their first taste of social entrepreneurship setting up a stall at PaTH Market held at VivoCity.
Low hopes that eventually, students will take the lead in organizing this forum, which he intends to become a flagship event for the school.
“I hope they will eventually chair this event. Ideally, within a few years they will run the event, and the teachers will just supervise.”
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But for today, the students were purely the audience. The attendees warmed up easily to American Utchenik, with his straight talk and Southern humor.
“I’m going to say something that makes sense, and doesn’t make sense at the same time. In life, you gotta listen to everybody and don’t listen to anybody,” he said. “What this means, is you hear everything that’s out there, but you also gotta hear yourself.
“Sometimes, in here,” he pointed to his heart, “you just got a good feeling about something. This is something almost all entrepreneurs have. You go investigate it, you figure out your risk, and then you take action on it.”
Trader Wong also had the crowd enraptured with his participatory style of speaking.
“What’s important is living life to the fullest. Agree? Or disagree? What do you think?”
“Agree!” the crowd answered.
He encouraged the students to set challenges for themselves, to motivate themselves. “Living to the fullest means continuing to grow every day. You only have one life to live. Challenge yourself, so you continue to grow. Agree?”
“It was very productive,” said Georgina Tan, 17, a City College student. “I’ve picked up many tips from the speakers. Running a business is not easy—you can’t just have an idea and rush out to do it.”
Both afternoons, attendees played a financial simulation game, where they learned the basics of the stock market by “trading” in one. Through well-prepared notes and fun-filled activities, they learned things such as what shares are, and how the stock market works.
Low said he was motivated to hold this forum to “fill a vacuum in the secondary school area”.
“Most entrepreneurship forums target polytechnic university students and above. I feel that students should be exposed to these skills at a younger age.
“Entrepreneurial skills will be useful for the rest of your life. Being an entrepreneur is about solving problems, about using limited resources to maximize yield. Our teachers can’t teach these skills, but we can get great entrepreneurs to share their stories with us.”