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Unlearn and relearn, unthink and rethink

With just a watch back in his primary school days, Freddy was already a young entrepreneur, earning money by renting games to his fellow classmates. He would charge 50 cents per game to those who wanted to play the mini games that were programmed inside the Casio watch he owned.

“This was how I got started on the whole idea of entrepreneurship. I realised that I can do something or offer a product, and in return get something I want,” he recalls.

This idea was put on hold for the bulk of his academic years and beyond. He worked for about 5 years after graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering, in which he had the opportunities to work abroad in the United States, Taiwan and most importantly, France.

“The trip that changed me the most was my time in France. I grew to love pastry a lot and when I came back to Singapore, I quitted my job to concentrate on starting my own café or bakery.”

For Freddy, French pastry is his passion! He contemplated on spending his savings to either take a culinary course in Paris, or start a bakery. Eventually, he chose the latter and set up a little bakery shop at Marine Parade – a neighbourhood town centre while acquiring his baking skills through the internet, books and whatever resources he could find.

“That was my first touch of going into a real business without a job. A lot of people started their business as a part-time venture as they are fearful that they will not have a stable income. But I have another way of thinking and I wanted to fully focus on my business.”

It was hard work for Freddy as he worked an average of 18-20 hours a day, with a steep learning curve in this venture. He wore multiple hats –business owner, baker, barista, accountant, marketer – everything! The bakery, Muffins Marvel, eventually expanded to another outlet in Clarke Quay, but shut down in 2011 due to financial crisis.

“After this experience, I always wanted to find out the answers to why my business failed. Was there anything right that I can validate, or wrong so that I can learn from it? Perhaps the MSc Technopreneurship & Innovation programme (MSc TIP) could help to validate whatever I did in the past, and relate to what went wrong with the marketing plan, the scaling up, business models, etc.”

Freddy enrolled for the part-time MSc TIP, studying and working concurrently. When asked if it was too taxing for him, he assured the programme was manageable as classes were held on Saturdays, for a period of two years. The greatest impact from the programme seems to be the like-minded people he met along the way in the MSc TIP journey. There was a diverse group of people in his class; coming from various professional backgrounds and different parts of the world–India, China, New Zealand, Egypt, etc. – and the sharing of experiences and ideas from these different cultures and fields helped him open his thought process and broaden his perspectives.

“After going through the course, I realised that my skillset is more suited towards helping entrepreneurs. I believe that if entrepreneurs are given the resources they need, they are likely to succeed sooner.”

That is why Freddy embarked on his new journey as a Senior Manager of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Department in Temasek Polytechnic, based in the Temasek Launchpad. To Freddy, entrepreneurship and innovation is also about exposure and listening to what the users need. His advice to all potential entrepreneurs would be to “see more, hear more, and do more!”

“In our society, there are many people who want to start a business. but they have a lot of fear because they do not know the know-how. Singaporeans are just not risk-takers in general. Sometimes, all you need to do is to take the first step and believe in what you want to do and just do it. Take the plunge or you will live in regret not knowing whether this path will take you to your passion. I can say that I have no regrets.”

Freddy’s role requires him to design a core curriculum for innovation and entrepreneurship, for about 5,000 students in Temasek Polytechnic per year. He mentioned that a bulk of his content, especially on design thinking, was based on the knowledge he acquired from the MSc TIP. This specific strategy he learnt throughout the programme was actually the turning point of his career, as he applies and teaches it to the polytechnic students to help them with the concept of “innovation”.

“Innovation starts off with imagination. From imagination, you can determine the creativity of the person. Then from the creativity of a person, it will move on to deciding its implementation. Once you can implement it, we will call it innovation. It always goes down the path of imagination, creativity, implementation then innovation.”

He also believes that it is never too late to invest in yourself. And pertaining specifically to the course, he heartily mentioned that “it is never too expensive to invest in anything above your shoulder. It is only expensive if you do not apply and practice whatever you learn. If you can’t even invest in yourself, how are you going to invest in your future or current company and employees?”

To Freddy, entrepreneurship and innovation is also about exposure and listening to what the users need. His advice to all potential entrepreneurs would be to “see more, hear more, and do more!”

Freddy graduated with a Master of Science in Technopreneurship and Innovation from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). He is the Senior Manager of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Department in Temasek Polytechnic. He is based at the Temasek Launchpad, a vibrant space that provides equipment, facilities and training programmes to drive the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit among students, alumni and staff.