Daisy: “I have always appreciated every country I have lived in, but I got to say that I really love Malaysia.” (photos courtesy of Sammie Tan).
They say necessity is the mother of invention and so it was for former investment banker Daisy Ng, a mother of two, who runs her own successful preschool because she couldn’t find one that was suitable for her kids.
Daisy hails from Singapore but has lived in other countries. She moved to Kuala Lumpur a few years ago.
“I have always appreciated every country I have lived in, but I got to say that I really love Malaysia,” she says. “Malaysia offers more diversity and people embrace cultural differences. I think this broader perspective fosters creativity. People are less predictable and I find that refreshing.”
With her investment banking experience in London and Hong Kong, it was not difficult for Daisy to get a similar job here. What she found difficult was finding a suitable nursery for her kids. “I didn’t like the assembly-line approach to caring for children,” she recalls.
So, she decided to open her own centre. As it turns out, she was qualified to do so, although opening a preschool was never part of her plans. Shortly after she got pregnant with her first child, she enrolled for a Diploma in Early Childhood Education (Montessori) and went on to get a certification to be a health coach, specialising in family nutrition and prenatal wellness.
“I wasn’t deliberately preparing for entry into the preschool business,” says Daisy (pic). “I was simply preparing myself for motherhood. It so happens that these were prerequisites to become a licensed preschool operator in Malaysia.”
Her first foray into this field was by signing up as a master franchisee for a Singapore-based baby gym which had a sound reputation for its child enrichment programmes. It did well and within six months, her business broke even.
The gym became so popular that franchising requests came pouring in. While most master franchisees would love that, for Daisy, it was actually a burden. “The HQ (in Singapore) wanted us to sign on as many franchisees as possible but that didn’t sit right with me,” says Daisy, who preferred to take her time to vet the candidates and choose the right ones.
The need to meet certain growth targets and to be accountable for compliance amongst franchisees was something Daisy did not want to deal with, especially since she had just had her second child at the time.
So, she exited the franchising business and decided to start her own preschool called Trinity Kids Malaysia.
Of course starting a business from scratch was a lot more challenging than franchising. But instead of relying on consultants or checking out what her competitors were up to, she simply asked herself: “What would I want for my own child?”
The answers she came up with became her checklist for building up her school. Her experience in investment banking also helped in an unexpected way.
“I was working in London and we found that there was plenty of interest in Asia but we weren’t closing any deals,” she recalls. Daisy’s manager tasked her with marketing in Asia and she quickly found out that being knowledgeable about the business was not enough. It was also crucial to know the local languages and cultures, as well as being able to build goodwill and foster relationships.
That experience has helped shape the philosophy of Trinity Kids. “I want to provide a rigorous multi-lingual foundation while allowing a degree of freedom for individualism,” she says. “I want to provide plenty of stimulation and challenges beyond textbooks that will enable our children to be resourceful and think outside the box.”
Daisy finds fulfilment in what she’s doing although she does find it challenging being a mumpreneur. “As my children are young, this limits how much I can work in a day or how fast I am able to grow the business,” she says. “But at the end of the day, being a mumpreneur means being a mother first and an entrepreneur second. This serves as my guiding light and has always been since day one.”
Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant.