Friday, November 1, 2013

Raniel Lee: From EM3 to an Inspiring Entrepreneur with a Big Heart!

He was an EM3 and Normal (Technical) student. However, recent NYP graduate Raniel Lee believed in himself and never stopped aspiring to do better! Now, he has acted in several MediaCorp dramas, started a successful video blog – SLF TV – on YouTube and launched his new media solutions InspireARTS last year.  We were fortunate to have the opportunity to interview him to find out more!

Why did you choose your course and why NYP?
The reason why I chose the Diploma in Business Informatics (DBI) was because I wanted to learn more about using IT to create a profitable business. I always had a passion for entrepreneurship and I was certain that the IT industry had a niche for me. I was sure that I could make a difference in this area.

As to why I chose NYP, it’s because NYP is a well-known polytechnic for IT.  I was confident that my studies at NYP would help me in my future.

What are the ups and downs of being a student? And how do you juggle your work, studies, and social life?
Studying in DBI, there were a lot of lecturers supporting me in what I did. They are very motivational lecturers who knew very well what I was trying to achieve. Because of my work commitments, I would say I needed a very good sense of time management and of course, self-discipline. That is why I used my calendar to keep track of my assignments so that I was aware of what I am supposed to do. With self-discipline, I was able to accomplished most of my work.

The challenges I faced included juggling my work, and managing my studies, especially projects that had tight deadlines. With supportive friends, I was able to pull through most of the obstacles without much of a struggle. There were times when I didn't do so well for a few of my modules due to my busy schedule. When this happened, my best friends actually got me back on track and on my feet again. By working and studying closely with them, I managed to pass my exams.

I would say that despite the stress, managing my studies, my business, and my social life was kind of fun. It was a challenge. But being a positive person, I looked at it from  a different perspective and I found it thrilling at times. When the end results are good, I feel super satisfied.

Are you in any CCA? Or are you active in school activities or events?
Yes I am in the Entrepreneurship Development Club, which was set up by me and my like-minded entrepreneurs. I have also participated in SIT club events such as Heartzout, Open House 2012, PeRUNakan race and Microsoft seminars.

Tell us more about your business venture.
InspireARTS LLP is a new media solutions business I set up myself in 2012. InspireARTS leverages on using different IT services to develop a robust one-stop service to help businesses grow in the fast-moving IT world. With technology moving so quickly, businesses will have to catch up with new media trends. My team of people use their specialized expertise to help clients in this aspect.

We also provide Internet services and sales training courses to teach clients how to create profitable web pages for their businesses and/or personal endeavours. Our workshops are specially designed so that anyone can learn how to create their own websites or blogs to market their products or services without any programming language know-how!

Right now the company is doing better than expected. My inspirational sales training workshops are really taking off and I’m generating five digit revenues for every few workshops.

What made you decide to start your own new media solutions business?
Well, my parents started their own business years ago Although the business closed down, it got me inspired to start my own enterprise. I also started my own business because I love facing challenges and every time I strive to resolve certain problems, I keep learning new things.

When I was 19 years old, I started my first online business with a friend. We had this crazy idea to build the best job-search engine on the Internet. Our ambitions were high and we had a lot of support from friends and family. However, we lacked the experience and skills to make this brilliant business idea a reality. We learnt from our mistakes and that gave me a lot of knowledge on what was needed to carry out a business idea.

What motivates you in your business?
I don’t know about other entrepreneurs, but I have never been motivated by the lack of something, like not having money or a job. If anything, these fears have a paralysing effect on me.

Whenever I face a challenge, my best source of motivation is to look back on my past successes (even the small successes) and thrive on that feeling. I also get encouragement and support from my friends and family, and that helps me move towards my goals.

Often, when we read about entrepreneurs who have staged a successful enterprising comeback after a failed attempt, we read about how they “never stopped believing” or “just took it one step at a time”. That really resonates with me. Success is truly motivating.

What are some of your personal achievements in your businesses?
It would be completing my clients’ projects on time and seeing that they get satisfaction from the end result. For me, I think being able to bring out the smile of a client is absolutely priceless.

What is unique about your business?
We are a one-stop platform offering different services such as website development, sales training, design, audio-video and print materials. In this way, clients save on the hassle of searching for many companies for different services.

Any future goals or plans for your business?
Businesses and consumers are always on the lookout for new IT applications and media solutions. Our strategy is to be constantly in-tune with the consumer environment, news, and user behaviours. We are reducing our own carbon footprint, engaging customers, partners and employees in our efforts to manage our impact on the environment. We are also developing web solutions to help address climate change. We also hope to provide more technological conveniences to start-up companies.

InspireARTS will continue to be an ever-evolving business that helps new start-ups and existing businesses get their presence felt on the web.

What are the things you wished you knew before starting the business?
It would be having the financial knowledge to manage our business cash flow and understand the competitiveness in our industry.

How was your experience with your Industrial Placement Programme and Final Year Project? Was it challenging and did you find difficulties adapting?
During the 12 weeks of my Industrial Placement Programme (IPP) at Inspire-Tech, a mobile applications developer, I learnt to work independently, have self-discipline, self-motivation, and determination, which was extremely beneficial when it came to my current ventures.

Understanding, planning and implementing a new project in Inspire-Tech, was  a journey that was not as easy as it seemed. It may have seemed like a simple project but looking at the project deeper in a different perspective, it was not an easy assignment. Research and technical skills were also required of me.

During my placement, I tried to understand the Inspire-Tech goals, project methodology and planned each step carefully until the implementation of the project I was tasked to carry out. It allowed me to leverage on what I have learnt in NYP.

I feel that throughout the 12 weeks, I had learnt many skills such as research skills, technical skills, presentation skills and also developed personal willpower to be a confident and independent individual with a positive perspective.

More on the casual side, tell us about yourself, e.g. your hobbies and what do you do on your free time?
During my casual time, I hang out with my close friends. I enjoy watching movies and window shopping. Sometimes we will go for swimming, cycling, bowling, golfing, and boating. If we have time we will travel to nearby countries just to relax from the busy schedule we have.

During my relaxation time, I always keep myself busy by thinking of how to develop business ideas that I have. Sometimes when I hang out with friends, I am able to think of new ideas to improve existing ideas.

Aside from casual outings, you mentioned spending time to think of more ideas. Do you use music to keep you company? What do you listen to?
Yes! Music is important to me. I enjoy sentimental, jazz, inspirational and classical pieces.

Well, it has been a very interesting interview. We have a final question for you. Do you have any inspirational words for aspiring entrepreneurs like yourself?
Before embarking on our decisions, we must always think about the repercussions of the decisions. And on top of that, you must also be very clear and firm in your convictions! Do not procrastinate! That's very important! And of course you must have faith it will work out.

Another thing would be the people you pick as partners must have the same interest and goals as you. Once you pick the wrong person, you are bound to have big problems in the future! However, every entrepreneur must take risks,  just make sure your risks are carefully thought through.

The key enterprising skills I used when first starting out are the very same ones I use today: using the art of delegation, risk-taking, and having a great team to work on projects you really believe in.

One more important piece of advice is to focus on serving customers and meeting their needs first, then growing your product base. Most entrepreneurs are so narrowly set on building products that they lose sight of the real goal - to help customers.

Words of wisdom from Raniel! We have come to the conclusion of the interview. Thank you for your time.

Watch Raniel Lee in action here:

By Chua Sii Inn, Year 2 Diploma in Business Enterprise IT, and
Ho Khin Wai, Year 3, Diploma in Banking & Financial Services

Sii Inn enjoys detective fiction and mystery novels. She enjoys picking up new skills,learning new things and feels that food is the most primitive form of comfort. She also loves to indulge in the best entertainment and appreciates idiosyncracies, theatre performances, martial arts and piano melodies. Her dream is to go on a backpacking journey around the world to meet people from all walks of life and understand their cultures.

Khin Wai started writing for NYP Portal in 2011 out of interest and was soon "addicted" to it. He has also written book reviews for Straits Times YA Classified. Besides writing, he loves singing and has performed for various events in NYP under NYP Soundcard.

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