- Where did the courage to start Ministry of Empowerment (MOE) come from?
Multiple factors influenced my decision to start Ministry of Empowerment (MOE). It wasn’t just the guts to take a risk, my entrepreneurial spirit also made running my own company easier.
I prefer to be in charge, so that I have the freedom to be myself and express my originality to the maximum. That is why I was encouraged to start MOE.
More importantly, my confidence grew when I began volunteering in a training company while I was a student at Singapore Management University (SMU). The company’s trainer mentored me and brought me to schools to share my story. The more I shared, the better I got. I also started to see how my story inspired parents and students alike. This in turn motivated me to become a professional motivational speaker.
- How did you get MOE off the ground?
With hard work and perseverance, I was extremely committed to make MOE work, especially when it became obvious that a mainstream job was not an option due to my criminal records. As such, starting my own training company was the best fit.
Skeptical of starting my own company as a fresh graduate, I partnered an acquaintance. Then I realized that the business partnership has its shades of grey and several complications. The following year, I decided to fly solo.
Singlehandedly, I developed every aspect of the business despite facing strong competition from bigger players. As a one man show, it was depressing to manage everything from curriculums, training plans and workshops, to sales, marketing and administration. Stressed and discouraged, I wanted to give up. But my wife’s support made me persevere through the stormy times, and I will always be grateful for her undying love.
- How did you get your foot through the school gates?
Because of my inspirational life story, secondary schools saw that I was well-positioned to help youths-at-risk through motivational coaching programmes. As such, I began targeting schools to boost my life and business. In a short span of four years, MOE is privileged to have worked with more than 10,000 students from schools in Singapore.
- Describe your first experience as an entrepreneur.
There is so much joy in being an entrepreneur. Getting to do what I love with the liberty of improvising is priceless. I want ownership and I got exactly that from my business.
- Four years on, do you still feel the joys of being an entrepreneur?Absolutely, owning and developing MOE is my passion and the joys are consistently growing, not fizzling out.
I am currently working on my own character development school, which hopefully can be as fun, creative, educational and successful as I want it to be. Crossing fingers that its operations will be smoothly in place by end 2015!
In addition, we hope that the company can help youths all over Asia in three years’ time, and in ten years’ time, all over the world.
- What was your most rewarding experience as a motivational trainer and coach?
Two years ago, MOE delivered a programme at Fuchun Secondary School in Woodlands. At the beginning we experienced a lot of resistance. It was expensive to get to and there were only twelve students enrolled into the year-long programme.
The youths-at-risk from broken families were cold, aloof and uninterested. But when we shared our stories, they started opening up to us. That’s when we came up with our own MTV project for National Day, and our bond eventually grew stronger. Through the whole experience of shooting around the island, we mentored, guided and taught the students values. We grew really close.
On National Day, we were so looking forward to presenting our own MTV project, that when the school changed their minds at the last minute due to programme changes, we were utterly broken! Words could not describe how devastated we were.
Surprisingly, the kids comforted us. They told us it was ok, all that mattered was doing their best to make the video. Finally, we put it up on YouTube. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBBb7Et5eIQ.
When the programme ended, we brought the kids out for pizza to celebrate our success. To my surprise, they baked us the most delicious Oreo cheesecake and filled a journal with their entire journey, including a collage of photos they had taken of their experiences, and of images they took without us noticing.
I still have the journal and it reminds me of how this experience has touched our lives in such a big, meaningful way. We still keep in touch and remind them that we are always here for them. It was the best present any motivational trainer could ever receive
- What are some common setbacks you faced in the training business?
MOE is always in need of a more committed team of trainers as well as better timelines from schools. Most projects we get are very last minute and we have to scout for trainers within short notice. Human beings being human beings, trainers could fall sick on the day of the programme or have unforeseen personal matters to attend to, and none of these are within my control.
Also, schools have a season for enrichment programmes. This means that we need more than 50 trainers at very specific times of the year, especially in the first week of January, one week before March holidays and one week before June holidays.
- How does MOE’s programmes fill the learning gaps at schools?
Although we are mostly carrying out programmes which schools are already running, MOE’s special selling points include inspirational and passionate trainers who come with life stories and the heart to guide and change the lives of youths-at-risk; our unique methodology which makes classroom learning fun and fantastic; the use of psychometric profiling tools to help students find their purpose, aid goal setting and many more.
More importantly, MOE’s programmes help youths-at-risk find their purpose, which is the most meaningful aspect of our work. Through baby steps and setting smaller goals, we help them identify the big plan, then break down their goals into smaller bits to work with. Using our unique methodology and profiling tools, we let them discover their purpose as many are clueless about their lives and purpose.
- If you had free reign, what would you like to bring into schools?
Schools shouldn’t just be avenues for students to acquire certificates in order to move forward in their careers. Closest to my heart is for every school to adopt a strong mentoring approach, which functions as supportive pillars for students. They need role models, not just teachers. It would be nice to focus on building close relationships between teachers and students, like having lunch together on certain days.
Instead of a single approach for all students, we should implement the Western practice of having teachers own the classroom. Without a doubt, teachers who make their classroom environment energetic and empowering can incentivize students’ learning retention more effectively.
When the teachers don’t own the classroom, they can’t adopt their own teaching methods in order to empower and energize the kids.
- In three words, how would we sum up MOE to help youths and people all over the world?
Inspiring, Empowering, Journeying.
Ministry Of Empowerment’s team wants toINSPIRE youths-at-risk and people all over the world.
We want to EMPOWER youths-at-risk by coaching, motivating and training them to build their character, competence and confidence.
Ministry of Empowerment’s JOURNEY with them includes mentoring, guiding and celebrating with them as they grow from a seed to a mighty Oak tree.
This article was edited by Q Communications. Photos courtesy of Ministry of Empowerment (MOE).