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Category Stories of Entrepreneurs

Dr Claudine Pang, Asia Retina Eye Centre

Bringing awareness of eye diseases through an app

Dr Claudine Pang is a veteran specialist of the eye aka ophthalmologist at the Asia Retina Eye Surgery Centre, which she founded earlier this year.

Her passion for caring for people’s eyes motivated her to become a retinal eye specialist and that same passion also encouraged her to develop an app.

The app by the Asia Retina Eye Centre walks users through some simple questionnaires to determine if they have an eye condition that requires to see an ophthalmologist.

For that, we spoke to Dr Claudine Pang to find out more.

When was the Asia Retina Eye Surgery Centre founded and why did you decide to set up your private practice?

Asia Retina Eye Surgery Centre was founded officially in March 2018, although it was conceptualised one year before that. I wanted to set up a retinal-centric eye clinic because as a retinal eye specialist, I have a great passion for retinal diseases, retinal surgery and educating people about retinal awareness. I’ve discovered in my 15 years as an ophthalmologist that many people are not aware of the importance of our retina as the house of our visual receptors. Motivated to educate people about the retina and its critical role in our visual pathway, I created Asia Retina as a one-stop Centre to treat all eye diseases, with a special focus on the retina. I hoped to be able to provide patients with truly customised and attentive eye care, in addition to empowering them with simple tips to maintain their eye wellness.

Dr Claudine Pang, Asia Retina Eye Surgery Centre

Dr Claudine Pang, Asia Retina Eye Surgery Centre

Were your loved ones supportive of you exiting the public health care system because it’s perceived to be more stable though busier?

Yes, I had the support of my family and friends, because they understand my passion for doctoring, which to me embodies the idealism of treating patients both medically and emotionally. I thrive on building unique relationships with my patients, which takes time and is not always possible in a public hospital setting. My decision to leave the public sector was not based on how stable or busy it was. Mainly I wanted to be able to afford quality time with every patient so that they could experience truly personalised and holistic care from their eye doctor; the way doctoring was meant to be. In fact, contrary to what most people think, the private sector is even busier than public sector because I’m fully committed to seeing patients even after office hours, and there is no handing off to another doctor as in the public sector. Even when I’m on leave, I’m still responsible for all my patients, and I always come back to see them if they have any urgent issues.

For every new business, the start is always turbulent. What was it like for you when you started your centre?

Starting the new business, the biggest challenge was having to invest in all the eye equipment. In the field of ophthalmology, having state-of-the-art equipment is so vital because better machines allow us to make more accurate diagnoses and administer better treatments. I wanted my one-stop centre to be able to provide patients with such cutting-edge technology so that they have access to all the necessary treatment options at their convenience.

Another challenge was finding the perfect team of dedicated and competent individuals who share my vision of providing fully committed and conscientious eye care to all patients. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to work with some of the best nurses and optometrists who were happy to start this clinic together.

What are the differences between being a specialist in the public and private sector? Also, as a doctor becoming an entrepreneur?

In the public sector, there is very little time to get to know patients or delve into their lifestyle, habits and personal issues. Very often, I find these emotional aspects affect a patient’s health, well-being and also affects their surgical outcome. In private practice, I can afford the time to understand my patients, their concerns and solve their issues at the root of their problem.

I think being an entrepreneur, it is easy to get caught up in the financial constraints and worries, which could potentially be a source of conflict for a doctor. When I started this company, I enforced on myself stringent rules that I must never let such issues affect my doctoring. As such, I invested in a financial and operations team for my company so that I can leave all of the financial decisions to someone else and concentrate 100% on my patients’ wellbeing.

We often see health materials in the media on diabetes, dementia and cancer but we don’t see much of eye. So business-wise, it might seem as though there’s no demand for knowing the eye. So what triggered the idea of developing a mobile application for The Eye (may wish to talk about the common eye conditions prevalent in Singaporeans)?

Everyone seems to have heard about going for regular dental check-ups to clean their teeth, routine general health screening to detect diabetes, regular cancer screening etc., however, there are little words about going for regular eye screening. My objective of creating the Asia Retina App is to make people more aware about the need to go for routine eye screening (at least once a year). Most people are unaware that cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and myopia-related retinal diseases are the leading causes of blindness in Singapore. Many of these eye conditions have little to no symptoms at their early state and tend to progress in the late stage to irreversible visual loss. It is thus imperative to detect them early at regular eye check-ups so that they can be treated early to prevent blindness.

What were the challenges you faced when developing the Asia Retina Eye Surgery Centre’s app?

During development of the Asia Retina App, there were some expected technical issues including slow download speeds that required multiple fixes and updates. We also wanted to be able to set phone reminder alerts to remind patients to put their eye drops as prescribed, a feature that required multiple tweaks in the eyedrop dropdown options. Currently, we are at our tenth updated app, and it has been functioning smoothly without problems.

Asia Retina Eye Surgery Centre app

Asia Retina Eye Surgery Centre app

Can you share with us the tests that people can by themselves using the mobile app and if there’s an issue, how can they seek medical consultation?

The App has four self-assessment eye tests including testing of visual acuity, colour vision, macular function and dry eye questionnaire. The visual acuity test allows the user to assess whether they can read small letters. The colour vision assesses for the red-green colour deficiency. The macular grid assesses for metamorphopsia (which is abnormal waviness of usually straight lines). And lastly, the dry eye questionnaire assesses the users’ likelihood of having dry eyes through a series of dry-eye related symptoms and questions. If at any point, the user feels that his/her vision might be compromised, they can immediately schedule an appointment to see an eye doctor through the app easily.

What’s next for Asia Retina Eye Surgery Centre and the app?

I hope to roll out new features for the Asia Retina App including additional eye tests and chatbot functions in future. As for Asia Retina Eye Surgery Centre, it has always been a personal dream to be able to reach out to other less privileged communities and provide eye care services catered to their needs. This year in June 2018, our entire Asia Retina Team travelled to Cambodia to provide vision screening, eyedrops and spectacles to the needy villagers. By doing such yearly missions, I hope to make humanitarian work a recurrent theme as part of our goal to provide quality eye care to local as well as foreign communities.

The Asia Retina app is already available for download on the App Store and Google Play Store. Do the test today!

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Teh Jo Ey - Co-founder of Broken Hearts

She mends her broken heart by turning it into a game

A heartbreak inspired 23-year-old Teh Jo Ey to start her entrepreneurial journey. Though the unlikeliest of cause and effect, it gave her the positive energy she needed to rise above the painful relationship she had.

Her venture is called Broken Hearts, which is a card game that aims to help people regain their confidence to love again.

In this interview, Joey shares with us the story on her past relationship and how it spurred her on to start Broken Hearts.

Broken Hearts

Broken Hearts Game Set

Do you mind sharing the story of your break-up? How bad was it?

Honestly, my break up wasn’t an epic, tragic story. Our relationship ended due to a widening gap between us, and we just weren’t good together. However, the part that particularly stung was the nature of the break-up. He left without a word, and it was a hard time for me as I couldn’t get any closure.

I’m sure that there are people who have experiences worse than me but regardless of how the relationship ended, it’s always going to be painful, isn’t it?

How did it turn from a personal experience into a card game?

Broken Hearts

I decided to turn pain into positive energy and suggested to my two colleagues who became co-creators of the relationship card game that would encourage broken-hearted people in the world to be brave and believe in love again!

I was a timid and insecure girl before the break-up. During the lowest point, I learned how to face my broken hearts, be comfortable with all the uncomfortable situations, and I took up the courage to embark on something meaningful: to spread love to the world.

Why did you not turn it into an app but a physical game?

Because we realised nowadays most of the people do not know how to express love at the same time lack of it. People tend to hide their emotion and do not want to face their broken hearts. We hope through this game by doing all of the interactive action it can eventually allow others to take their first step to be brave and love again. Did you ever blow a kiss to your friends? Did you ever make a pinky promise with your family? We hope Broken Hearts game can increase the quality time with your loved ones, friends and even with family.

How did your family and friends react to your idea?

I am very grateful to receive countless encouragements from my family and friends. I am very close with my family. They showered me with their love and care when I was depressed. They make me realised no matter how sad you are, know that it is not going to last forever – no matter how happy you are or how great things might seem. Because of this I started to cherish every moment and be present.

You said that you faced rejections when creating this game. What did these people say about your idea?

“Why do we insist on using “Broken Hearts” as the name of our card game, despite many people asking us to change the name as it sounds negative?”

Knowing that everyone would have their heart broken at some point in life, we hope that people can be brave to face their “Broken Hearts” and fall in love with life again.

How did you overcome the rejections and challenges you faced during your journey?

I am grateful for all the rejections and challenges that I’ve faced because it makes me feel that I’m not alone. Broken Hearts is impactful enough for people to voice out their opinion. In life, we will all eventually face rejections, failures and in general “broken hearts”, but these are the lessons that open doors of opportunities.

How’s the feedback from people who played your game?

Overall, they enjoyed the game session. This is also what we hope to see, the smile and joy even if it is just a short 15-minute game session. We hope that they can enjoy the moment, be brave and love again!

We know that you will be launching a Kickstarter Campaign on 24 October 2018. How much do you intend to raise and what’s in it for the crowd?

We hope to raise S$15,000 from our Kickstarter campaign yet we would love to see the game become the most exciting game of 2018 to spread the love around the world. Relationships are part of everyone’s life, and there will be times when our hearts are broken. I hope that through our Broken Hearts game, we will help to heal these wounds so that people will be brave and believe in love again, in a fun way!

For more information about Broken Hearts, check out www.playbrokenhearts.com


Chef Rio Neo_Head Chef of TOKIDON and Kabuke

Making people smile through his dishes is his greatest reward

Chef Rio Neo started his interest in the culinary industry at a very young age. He grew up helping out his parents with their economic bee hoon stall and continued the tradition of making good food for the people to enjoy only in a different type of cuisine, Japanese.

Currently, Chef Neo is the Head Chef of two restaurants, which both opened within a year after another. First, it was Kabuke in August 2017 with his co-founder Keiji Heng, and in July this year, TOKIDON.

In this interview, we find out what inspired Chef Neo to become a Japanese chef, the challenges he faces, his advice for aspiring chefs and his favourite food.

Your family owns an economic bee hoon store. It would seem like a more natural transition for you to go into Chinese cuisine. Instead, you chose Japanese cuisine. Why?

To be honest, I stumbled into Japanese cuisine by chance. My first job in the kitchen was at a Japanese Restaurant and I worked in several other Japanese restaurants after that. And now I am the head chef at Kabuke and TOKIDON.

What does cooking mean to you?

Cooking for me means using different cooking methods to best amplify each ingredient’s flavours and textures. It also means cooking the stuff I like to eat. One of the greatest rewards is seeing my customers enjoy the dishes that I personally love as well. Ha!

What were the challenges you faced when you were learning culinary skills?

The main challenge is definitely the long working hours and often missing out on family and friends gatherings.

Have you thought of giving up after you encountered these challenges?

Thoughts of giving up did come up but cooking is something I enjoy doing.

If not a chef, what would you be?

Racing motorcycles. Haha. Most probably in the motorcycle trade because motorcycles are one of my favourite things.

There are a lot of competitors out there in the F&B market especially, Japanese food. Where do you get your inspiration to create new dishes for Kabuke and the newly launched TOKIDON?

I get most of my inspiration from watching cooking and travel shows on TV, as well as constantly trying out new combinations of traditional cooking and ingredients that will appeal to local taste buds.

What’s the must-try dish in Kabuke and TOKIDON? Why?

Shiso tempura in Kabuke – colourful, flavourful and “textureful”

Truffle wagyu don in Tokidon – most affordable gourmet beef bowl in Singapore

We see the rise and fall of many F&B establishments. What do you think is the possible cause of them failing?

Most probably poor management of staffs, food costings (wastage control) and more importantly; insincere preparation of food. Putting your best efforts into each plate you serve is very important, customers can feel it when they see and eat the food.

What makes a good chef?

Someone who never stops learning and willing to share everything he had learned to younger chefs

What is your advice for people looking to become chefs or opening their own F&B establishments?

Follow your passion if it makes you happy. As for those planning to set up their own establishments, proper planning and treat your staff well. And always invest in training your staff, they are the ones who can make or break the whole establishment.

Fun question: What is your favourite food other than Japanese food?

Singapore hawker food, of course. Chicken rice!


Shavonne Wong

Shooting her way to the top in the world of photography

Five months into her job scooping ice-cream, Shavonne Wong decided to trade-in the scoop for a camera. A decision that went on to win her numerous recognitions and awards for her fashion photography.

Her excellent photography skills also caught the eye of the producers for the reality television show, Asia’s Next Top Model, where Shavonne was invited to be the guest photographer last season, and for Season 6 this year.

In this interview, we check in with Shavonne to find out her story behind her successful career in photography and what she thinks makes a good photographer.

Shavonne Wong

What made you fall in love with photography?

I have always been a creative since young. Used to study 3D animation in school and as much as I loved it, it took months to come up with a 15s clip. Photography was a lot more instantaneous, plus I got to play a bigger role on how I wanted the end result to look. It also gave me the opportunity to work with amazing talents to create some beautiful work.

What was the most significant break of your photography career?

Getting to shoot for Asia’s Next Top Model gave me the biggest boost in exposure, credibility and industry validation.

What were the challenges you encountered starting up?

Like most freelancers, especially creative ones, the money was very inconsistent. It was quite difficult financially and made it hard to appreciate any non-monetary achievements.

Were your loved ones supportive of your decision to become a photographer?

I have been very blessed in that aspect! I’m sure my parents were worried in the beginning, but they were still very supportive. It was important especially during the months when the income wasn’t great, and I knew I still had a bed to sleep in and food in the fridge.

What do you think makes a good photographer and a good photo?

Someone who loves to create and does it out of passion. Honestly, gear has improved so much over the years. To stand out, you need to have good ideas and intention behind what you shoot.

You’ve done so much photography work but if you have to choose, what’s that one photo that you would call it your best work?

Shavonne Wong's favourite photo

I chose this image not because I think it’s my best work but because of how it came about. I was setting up my lighting and sunlight was shining through the windows. I considered closing the windows so it would not affect the lighting too much but was a little too lazy so I wanted to see how it’ll look. And ta-dah! I guess in a way I was experimenting… through laziness.

Gears! What are your must-have gears when you go for shoots?

Honestly, I’m not a technical person. I have a 6-year-old camera (5Dmk2) and just three basic lenses (35mm, 50mm, 85mm). They’re also all second hand.

Do you lug all your gears when you travel for leisure? If not, what do you bring along for your travel photos?

I don’t usually lug my gear around for travel photos, but when I do travel even on holidays, I do try to plan photoshoots while I’m there so, in a sense, I bring my gear. But not for the usual travel photos.

You’ve travelled around the world to do shoots. What’s your absolute favourite place to shoot and why?

I loved shooting in NYC. There’s just so many fantastic talents to work with and locations to shoot. The air just oozes with creativity. Plus they also have beautiful natural light.

You are the guest photographer for Asia’s Next Top Model 2018. How’s the experience like?

Shavonne Wong on AsNTM set

Amazing. It was amazing the first time they got me to shoot for them last season but for them getting me again this year and flying me over to Bangkok to shoot was a real validation. It’s fun, working with the girls and people like Cindy Bishop and Yu Tsai. Also interesting to see me actually on TV.

You have achieved so much over the years. What’s next for you?

I hope to get into videography. The world is changing, and technology is just getting more and more advanced. I feel like as long as I am not too stuck in my old ways and continuously experimenting and having fun, it should be good.

What’s your advice for aspiring photographers?

Be yourself, don’t be a second-grade version of anybody else. And find yourself a mentor or be an assistant. You’ll learn faster.


Amalina Naser - co-founder of PINDEMIC

Pinning her passion onto the world map

Thirty-one-year-old Amalina Naser is the co-founder of PINDEMIC, which specialises in making customised lapel pins. Started its operations in 2015, PINDEMIC has turned lapel pins into a fashion statement, giving those who pin them on a subtle amplification of their real identity. Each lapel pin is original and the quality is impeccable.

PINDEMIC Lapel Pins

In her interview with entrée, Amalina shares how she got PINDEMIC started and the challenges she faced in building a brand that reaches customers worldwide, and more.

“…creatives are very stubborn people.”

What were you doing before starting PINDEMIC?

Three years ago, I was in my first year studying Communication Design offered by The Glasgow School of Art Singapore when I started PINDEMIC. It was an outlet for excess creative thoughts and a great way to apply what I have learnt in school. Before that, I was working as a designer and it was during the break in my career to further my studies which afforded me an opportunity to start something as fun as PINDEMIC.

Can you share with us what is PINDEMIC and how did the idea come about?

I remember my penchant for collecting badges and lapel pins or patterned collar pins whenever I am travelling overseas and when I was engaging in activities in the Book Club in primary school. Perhaps this childhood interest has planted the seed of starting PINDEMIC.

PINDEMIC is the alternative voice. It is the rebel in all of us. It was born of restless minds and an insatiable need to accessorise. There were many ideas and that popped into our heads that needed to take physical form. We decided to work with a product that is very versatile – lapel pins.

What were the reactions from your loved ones when you told them that you are starting your business?

They are quite supportive now and they even help out when they can.

What were the initial challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

There isn’t a market for pins in Singapore. The pin culture is really strong overseas especially in the States but just not in Singapore. It went beyond making what we like to educate the market.

Have you ever thought of giving up?

No, creatives are very stubborn people.

How long does it take for you, on average, to make a pin and which pin took you the longest?

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The design process, like all creative processes, is not a fixed one. There are many things that influence and inspire us and we draw from a collective memory bank. The idea for a pin design can come from something as simple as a word that resonates with us or from a drawn-out brain-storming session where we attempt to formulate and capture our thoughts on a little 30mm space. While we are inspired by love and life and certainly pop culture, not all designs translate well into pins and we have had to abandon a few ideas that we were excited about. Once we are satisfied with the final artwork, we send it into production which takes about 2-3 weeks.

What’s your favourite pin and why?

PINDEMIC

My favourite pin is the statement pin that declares The Future is Female because I feel that if the tide should change, there is no better moment than the present.

What’s your advice to aspiring artistpreneurs?

Persevere. Young people who are talented in the field of design should have a positive spirit in creating new ideas and works of art that can be used by the community. Do not be easily discouraged by people’s criticisms.


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