Karl Chong is a great success story in the corporate world – a legally-trained Asset Manager who was born in Singapore, bred in Australia and gainfully employed in the United States. To make the story sweeter, Karl was working at international names like Proctor & Gamble and Macquarie Bank.
However, his affinity for entrepreneurship came knocking when he stumbled upon a website selling vouchers for a month of indoor climbing during the recession years. Though one of the few lucky survivors during the retrenchment, Karl was soon overworked and tired of the 9-to-5.
The month of indoor climbing gave him the opportunity to get out and make lasting friendships, and revived him of his exhaustion. So he thought, “this is exactly what busy executives need: a service which sources out what the city has to offer for them.”
Still, Karl bided his time, did his research and in January this year, he and his brother Christopher decided to drop their careers in US and Australia respectively – settling midway in Singapore to set up Beeconomic.
There is good reason for the brothers’ return here. Beeconomic’s concept of buying power in numbers is relatively unknown in Singapore, which gives them a first mover advantage. In comparison, the concept has already taken off in US and Australia.
And if you were wondering – yes, Beeconomic does mean “be economic”, which Karl says represent their keenness in helping consumers indulge without breaking the bank. Also, the ‘bee’ in the name represents their adage: buying power in numbers. Karl shares, “Bees are powerless alone, but when they work together in a hive, there’s power.”
With a great concept, quirky representations in their name and a first mover advantage, Beeconomic seem ready to take on the world, Singapore first. So the rest, as they say, is history – or is it?
“First, we need to educate the market about our concept, both the merchants and the customers. Also, it is important for us to maintain a standard of quality. We had to say no to a lot of people (because of it),” said Karl.
One good case in point: the Beeconomic team is very thorough when sussing out a dining place to feature. They screen through everything they deem important, from the yummy factor of the food and the décor, right down to bathroom hygiene.
And it seems that this standard of quality is what made Beeconomic the Number One choice, with 100% of their featured merchants wanting to come onboard again. Beeconomic has also recently been awarded Site of the Week by TODAY and 8 Days.
However, Karl attributed their success also to the team’s personality. “We don’t sound like we’re pitching to 100 merchants and they’re our 99th choice. I think that was what convinced the merchants to work with us.”
But with competitors very hot on their heels – springing up only a week or two after their launch – does Beeconomic worry about losing their lead?
“The competition is a challenge, but one that I am happy to take,” Karl shares. “It keeps me on my feet.”
This frank answer comes with no surprises. After all, Karl actually dropped his Masters program at INSEAD for Beeconomic despite being just a few modules away from graduation.
The reason was, he wanted to be quick in introducing the buying in power concept. Such passion and faith in his business is very impressive.
“It is important to be passionate about the products and services you’re selling. Be innovative – sure, you can copy but try to be different.” Karl stresses, when asked to give advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.
With a laugh, he piques “Have a lot of energy, because you are not going to have much of a social life!”
But the greatest advice, the best piece that I thought was lacking perhaps in other budding entrepreneurs or other businesses was “being kind”.
Karl explains this all-important kindness, “Replying immediately to consumers, rewarding your employees and fostering your relationship with your merchants.”
Perhaps with a little kindness, a lot of passion and a great business idea, we can all be successful entrepreneurs, just like Karl.Related links: Beeconomic, Shop Review: Beeconomic