TL;DR – We speak to COO and Co-Founder at Toucan, Loh Zheng Rong.
I was asked this question when speaking to Loh Zheng Rong, COO and Co-Founder at Toucan, a Singaporean venture backed startup that allows people without credit history to be able to purchase anything on credit online.
To put things in context, we were at Todo Todo, a Skills Marketplace career support initiative jointly organised by the People’s Association (PA) and National Trades Union Congress (NTUC). This two-day pilot for fresh graduates, young professionals, managers and executives was held over the weekend of 30 April to 1 May at Our Tampines Hub where there were engaging workshops by industry experts, networking opportunities, sharing sessions by established entrepreneurs and career coaching sessions by youth career guides.
32-year-old Zheng Rong is one such volunteer youth career guide with NTUC’S youth career network, a programme that aims to allow experienced more working adults (by that I don’t mean 70-year-old Uncles. Most of the mentors are in their 30s to 40s) to guide young adults into growing their own employment and career paths.
It is natural for young people to look up to the serial entrepreneur for advice.
“The first thing I tell them is not to think about how to start a business. But WHY they want to do it.”
“Then I ask them what do they want to do with their lives.”
He goes on to explain.
“I was recently introduced to the Kairos Society K50 Companies Fellowship will have come to realise how different first world countries look at life. People – even high school students – in the US are constantly asking themselves of how they can help humanity. They are always thinking about how they can cure cancer, how they can go to the moon… I believe youths need to be challenged with such thoughts and wish these questions were posed to me when I was younger.”
A banking and finance grad from the Singapore Management University (SMU), Zheng Rong took the tried and tested route of joining the banking industry after he graduated. He spend one year in the Wealth Management Department at OCBC before discovering his passion for entrepreneurship, embarked on several startups before settling in the FinTech scene with Toucon. The app helps those in developing countries such as Philippines and Indonesia with no banking relationship create e-wallets that they can use to purchase things online by working with micro-finance institutions and cooperatives.
With his vast experience in entrepreneurship; starting and ending various businesses from F&B, electrical and job matching industry, Zheng Rong is a firm believer that it doesn’t matter which route you take – as long as you know how to get there. And that is the advice he passes on to his mentees.
“My focus as a mentor is to work on changing their lives and mentality,” he says. “I want them to think about the kind of questions they ask themselves every day – the bigger questions. Questions like if you’re going to die in on month, what will you do?”
Mentors like Zheng Rong are in short supply- those that provoke thought, broaden horizons and offer real world experience to their mentees. With short-term cyclical forces and technological disruption becoming more common place, it’s all the more invaluable to have seasoned mentors journey with the younger generation and help them navigate the ever-changing job landscape.
The Todo Todo initiative leverages on the network of the Labour Movement, businesses, grassroots and industry professionals to further propel the younger generation in their career and the onus very much falls on the individual to make good use of all the resources available to their advantage. After all, the old adage that “the best way to predict your future is to create it” certainly rings true.
Todo Todo is an ongoing initiative. Check out www.todotodo.sg for their upcoming events, career fairs, workshops and more!