by Derek Choo Tze Hai (Singapore)
“The World is Your Campus.” This SMU advertisement tagline was proven right in Prof. Pamela Lim’s Technological Entrepreneurship course. Lessons on every Tuesday morning were to prepare students for the ultimate objective of setting up a business. Time spent outside these lessons with project mates – who are also business partners – was to exercise that objective. Reaching the end of the term, I realized how true it is that while I learnt a lot during class, the learning environment is much more far-reaching then the physical boundaries of the school compounds. I’ve benefitted tremendously, which really is not an overstatement, through interactions and experiences with external parties whom I’ve met throughout the 15 weeks of implementing the business idea.
Our brainchild, PrintMyDezign.com – a t-shirt design and voting website – requires us to meet suppliers and manufacturers. After listening to their insights, I gained a deeper understanding of the intricacies in the t-shirt industry. As for some wise words on making a business successful, there is a piece of advice from one of the suppliers that’s embedded in my mind: “What is the uniqueness about your business?” Several thoughts raced through my mind but none deemed suitable as an answer. After which, I could only mutter, “Price?” To which he retorted, “Price is NOT a uniqueness of a business. Anyone can set up a business then if they just charge lower prices.” That set me off thinking of ways to make our product special and appealing, not by virtue of its price.
Having said that, within the walls and the glass windows of the seminar room, it has been an enriching learning journey as well. It’s very helpful that Prof. Lim is a successful entrepreneur herself. All her work experiences and ideas that she shared openly in class were impactful and also applicable in the real world. In particular, I’m impressed with how she could come up with ways to help us develop our business idea and bring up to our attention other opportunities that we can explore into. Being able to present our ideas to the class also enabled us to test the reaction of the market, and gain feedback to improve on our exploits.
Not many students can boast that they have started a business in a university module. As a student there is simply nothing to lose. Whether the business carries on being profitable or not, I’m not expected to succeed in the first place – it’s just a learning process. However, when the next business opportunity or eureka moment arises, I’ll be in a better position to exploit it to the fullest. And, I’ll like to think that this course has been a refreshing hands-on experience where I’m taught ‘how to fish’.