Edward Chia, the co-founder of the popular music bar shares the secret behind the sustainability of his business.
Contributed By Raymond Tan
Edward Chia—a youthful 27—is the co-founder and manager of the well-known Timbre live music bar franchise. But as he revealed during his speech at the U@live forum, held at the Shaw Alumni House, National University of Singapore on June 29, it was not business genius which led to Timbre’s expansion from a humble bar-cum-bistro to a strong entertainment brand with a music academy to boot, but a grounded approach toward education and a clear-cut business mission.
When Chia first started the business back in 2005 with his friend, he was still an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore, studying Economics and Political Science. The business took off after two years, but Chia stayed the course and completed his studies. When asked why he did not drop out of school to focus on his business, Chia mentioned candidly that he had made a promise with his parents—in return for their support, he assured them he would stay in school to finish his degree.
Chia also does not believe in deliberately going the school-dropout route, a choice that has, in recent years, been made popular by the likes of Bill Gates. To him, the essence of school—a sturdy education—has allowed him to be much better at his business. “What I learned in school really helped in my business. The economic and political theories I have learned have been really applicable to my business, and just learning to analyze things so much better has helped me out a lot,” he shared.
Besides embracing education, Chia exhibits a down-to-earth approach towards his business. “Money is important; without any profit or revenue, people will not be willing to invest in your company, and that will hinder your company from accomplishing what it wants to do,” he said.
He then proceeded to clarify that Timbre is not a social enterprise. The company does not use a part of its profits for any charitable cause. Despite his very measured approach to his business, it is ultimately idealism that drives Chia: he believes unequivocally that companies do not need to give a part of its profits to a charitable cause in order to create social impact. At the same time, giving back to society should not be constrained merely to social enterprises.
While Timbre does not contribute monetarily to altruistic causes, Chia stated that at the core, it is the desire to nurture talents and develop the local music scene that steers the company. He aspires to play a part in the founding and nurturing of the Singaporean soul through the company’s contributions to the local music industry. It was with this vision of helping musicians that Timbre was started.
This belief in encouraging home talent has become Timbre’s trump card. Chia explains that because business in Singapore is so competitive, every company must have a very clear niche in order to survive. As an extension of its vision, Timbre has started a music academy to groom musicians. When young musicians rise through the ranks with the right combination of talent and attitude—and Chia is a stickler for good attitude—they are eventually given a chance to perform on Timbre’s stage.
U@live (pronounced “U-alive”) is a monthly forum showcasing members of the NUS community who are championing causes for the betterment of society. Log on to www.nus.edu.sg/ualive for video recaps and other information.