In the mid-1990’s, I had many exciting times playing with my son, niece and three other nephews, who were then in primary school.
One thing we enjoyed was building sandcastles. We had great ideas, but not the tools for making them. So we invented (and eventually patented) our own set of tools for building better sandcastles. The children were inspired to create the ‘LEGO of sandcastle toys’, so that all the children of the world could build better sandcastles. We made 150 prototypes in one year and created a new product — and a business idea. But getting Singapore excited about it was not so easy.
I went around asking for support and direction for this wannabe business project, and got 25 rejections. There was no toy or toy plastic industry in Singapore; and it was such a simple design, no one thought anything could come out of it. The main response I got was “stop dreaming”.
When everything looked dim, my late father, who passed away 10 years ago, appeared in a dream one night and said to me in Teochew, “What is the use of your education and your experience if you cannot do such a simple thing?”
I woke up humbled by it. Although I have an engineering degree, an MBA education, and some years experience as general manager of an electronics manufacturing plant, I was unable to do such a simple thing!
Re-energised by his words, I went to Chicago, USA, to find a partner. Within six weeks of visiting trade fairs and companies, I found Eagle Affiliates, which invested US$1.5 million in the project. We went to the world’s largest toy Fair, the New York Toy Fair, in 1997 and won the highest accolades there. Beachworks, the sandcastle construction set, was born — and it launched a business (www.castlebeach.org).
That dream of my father helped me realise to never, never give up on your dreams. Our job is to look for purpose and joy in our lives. Follow your heart — there is more to life than just living day to day!