From down-and-out to owner of three successful businesses, Welson Ang is proof that there is never a dead end with God.
Born into a lower income family mired in bankruptcy and disharmony, Welson Ang grew up determined to break the chain of poverty he grew up in. While he performed reasonably well in school, he mixed with bad company and got into a lifestyle of gambling. After losing most of his money earned through his job as a banquet waiter, he accepted a Joint Diploma Scheme from the SAF which would give him another shot at his studies while providing him with a steady stream of study allowance as he studied.
Upon graduation, Ang again found himself living in the fast lane during his days of serving in the Navy, gambling, womanizing and drinking himself into a debt of S$30,000. Things came to a head in 2004 when his power supply got cut off due to repeated defaults on utility bill payments. When one of his ex-lecturers, wanting to tide him over, lent him several thousand dollars to help him settle his outstanding debt, he used some of it to start a business.
By rationalizing that the one crucial tool a business needs is a stack of business cards, Ang started Expressprint, a business card printing company, in 2005. The rapid expansion of the business into multiple outlets saw him being awarded the Merit Award in the Biennial Shell LiveWIRE Awards, which gives recognition to both aspiring and successful young entrepreneurs.
His marriage and family life, on the other hand, started spiraling downhill. “I was under tremendous pressure all the time. My temper would flare up and my wife and I often got into heated arguments over the smallest matter.” When their young sons took their cue and started mouthing vulgarities, Ang knew they needed help in disciplining their children the right way.
The Turning Point
Discovering that one of his staff was a member of City Harvest Church, he asked her to bring the family to church. The turning point, however, came when Ang found himself on the wrong side of law. He was in the midst of suing several competitors and suppliers for copyright issues as well as delays in project completion, when greed got the better of him and he created false evidence in order to increase the amount of damages. He was very frightened, and with nowhere to turn to, pleaded with God, “If You see me through this situation and the defendant pays me the rightful damages, I will surrender to You.
“That Friday, my lawyer called me to say that he received a letter from the defendant asking for an out-of-court settlement. They will pay me for what I asked for and close the episode. God did His part. It was my turn now to fulfill my promise to God. That very Sunday, my wife and I responded to the altar call and committed our lives to Jesus.
“Through God’s grace, I also managed to quit smoking completely. I have not smoked since January 2008 until now.” It was also at church where Ang learned the principles of good stewardship and subsequently gave up gambling. The Angs’ marriage also improved tremendously after they applied the teachings they learned at church.
Ang then decided to set up another printing business under the name Printpal, to cater to a different segment of the market. When the recent global financial crisis struck, however, the company was badly hit. To add insult to injury, one of the staff embezzled the company’s funds, and yet another, the company’s longest serving employee, left and set up shop right above it, bringing with her all the business’ contacts.
It was a low point in Ang’s life, but he persevered. The good business practices he cultivated earlier, like investing into company branding and maintaining good credit rating with his suppliers paid off, and he was able to prevent the company from caving in. He also faithfully fulfilled his building funds despite being strapped in debt. In early 2009, his company achieved record sales, and today sees frequent queues snaking out from the shop—not bad at all for a printing shop. He was also able to gradually pay off his credit card debts. “Now I am debt-free. Our God is really a debt-cancelling God.”
What is his approach to doing business? “How you do business should be like how you treat your baby—and how you want your baby to grow up depends on how you feed, teach and nurture him,” says Ang. Of course, a keen eye for business opportunities helps too.
A New Venture
In May 2009, Ang made arrangements to attend a printing exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, but at the last minute the exhibition was cancelled. As he had already bought the air ticket, he made the trip anyway, intending to turn it into a shopping holiday. He had no idea that it would eventually lead to one of his career and financial breakthroughs.
At the Suria KLCC shopping complex, he chanced upon a gift exhibition, where a figurine display caught his eye and his interest. After several rounds of pitching and business plan presentation, he secured the sole distributorship of the figurine business, but while elated, he suddenly felt helpless as he had no experience in the retail business.
Having invested heavily into this new venture, he cried out to God for help. “During a prayer meeting, I clearly heard God saying to me, ‘Just go.’ Thus, I began to visualize the launching of the business, and my confidence rebounded.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF WELSON ANG
“That was not all. I witnessed firsthand that when God gives a vision, He gives the provision as well.” Apart from clinching a strategic location at Plaza Singapura, he also received a sponsorship of display cabinets from the landlord which would have otherwise cost him S$10,000. Ang took up the offer and iGongZai opened its first kiosk in Singapore at Plaza Singapura in August 2009.
Made of polymer clay and high-grade polyester resin, the iGongZai figurines, which take about a week to complete, are made by eight dedicated crafters in China upon receipt of orders from customers. Akin to 3D caricatures, they are modeled and molded according to photo prints of an individual, thus making ideal personalized gifts. Being very well-received, the business expanded into five kiosks and push carts within five months. Recently, the business went through an upgrade, consolidating itself under one roof at a permanent shop lot at Suntec City Mall. He intends to bring the franchise overseas in the near future.
Ang believes in the principle of paying it forward. His companies make it a point to donate a portion of profits to worthy causes, having given away tens of thousands of dollars in donation to World Vision Singapore just last year. In collaboration with the Singapore Red Cross Society and the Red Cross Humanitarian Network, it also sponsored the Project R.I.C.E 2009, a nationwide rice collection event.
A client, also an owner of a floundering café business, inadvertently became a beneficiary when Ang took on the facelift of the café free of charge, having been impressed upon by God to be a blessing. Literally overnight, Ang and his cell group members jazzed up the café with new wallpaper and signboards. Since then, it has enjoyed a 50 percent increase in revenue.
It is this spontaneity and godly obedience that has seen Ang from his lowest point in life to becoming a blessing unto others. The father of three, two boys and one girl, will be graduating from the School Of Theology this August. He is looking to start two more businesses, one dealing in baby’s products and another in renovation.