Life wasn’t easy for Mdm Kuah Wan Keng when she embarked on her entrepreneurship journey and started @ASKTraining Pte Ltd in 2010. She gave up the security of a full-time job and did not draw a salary for two years.
Mdm Kuah, 51, said she had benefited from an array of training programmes given by her employers, such as the American technology giant Apple, and experienced the importance of lifelong learning.
“I started to believe that training is something very important for everyone in life. It’s never too late to learn everything. Everyday, we have to learn something new,” she said. “The more we have the fear to learn and ask, the more we are getting outdated but because of my experience in Apple Computer, I believe that training is so important as part of the lifelong learning process, so I wanted to be in the training industry.”
A decade later, @ASKTraining now specialises in providing training for Microsoft Office programmes and soft skills. The company employs 30 full-time staff and has an annual turnover of $3 million.
Mdm Kuah’s entrepreneurship journey was recently recognised when she and her brother, Mr Anson Kuah, were nominated for the Spirit of Enterprise Awards 2021. The competition hopes to promote and advance entrepreneurship in Singapore by honouring local entrepreneurs operating small and medium-sized businesses.
When Mdm Kuah started @ASKTraining, the fledging company was competing against more established players, such as NTUC LearningHub and Kaplan. This did not dampen Mdm Kuah’s spirits, and instead, boosted her determination to get the business off the ground.
“We actually started our class with a very small size,” she said. “Even if I were to tell you that we had two participants, I would say go ahead. No other training provider would do that.”
When the circuit breaker was implemented in April 2020, @ASK Training saw a rise in demand for its services since many companies were sending their staff to courses for training. The company even went the extra mile by sending laptops to the homes of their customers who do not own laptops. @ASK Training did not want the customers’ learning to be hindered and sent the laptops without any charges.
When asked what does ‘spirit of enterprise’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ mean to the siblings, Mr Kuah, 46, said: “My mother always told us when we go out to work, ‘Don’t be calculative. Do more.’ You gain when you do more.”
For young people who aspire to be entrepreneurs, the Kuah siblings gave this piece of advice: Always be humble in learning but to always be thick-skinned in whatever you do. “Business is not about being passive; you need to be active,” said Mr Kuah.
Nur Irdina interviewed the entrepreneurs as part an industry project between the Republic Polytechnic’s School of Management and Communication and Spirit of Enterprise’s Student Interviewer Programme.