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Starting a business in Singapore: Technology entrepreneur Karen reveals her journey

Name: Karen Cariss
Age: 40
Nationality: Australian
Position: CEO PageUp People (talent management solutions)

Hi Karen! 

There are opportunities to make a difference all around us. Being an entrepreneur provides an environment where you can pursue some of these opportunities, and that inspires me.

I grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and for much of my childhood my father ran his own company and my aunties also ran their own businesses, so entrepreneurialism is in my genes.

I worked for my Dad when I was really young. He grew flowers for florists, so I spent hours de-budding carnations in the hot houses.

I worked with a racehorse trainer when I was 14. I was responsible for taking care of all the stabled horses. I actually wanted to become a vet.

Starting the business straight from university with no capital, no property to mortgage and no experience running a business was incredibly tough. I learnt everything from accounts through to project management, marketing and sales.

I thought my science degrees weren’t useful at first in business, but they taught me about research. I set about doing research on best business practices, tried lots of things and kept what worked.

I don’t believe in failures as long as you learn from each of your mistakes. That said, I have made plenty of mistakes! There were times when the business would start to grow, but then something wouldn’t be working with the business model, so I would take a step back and head in a different direction.

We came close to having to shut the business down several times during the early years as it was difficult to sustain momentum. But by 2003 (we started in 1997) it became truly viable.

Our business provides web-based technology that underpins HR processes. It is an exciting area to be in as we are seeing a revolution in how companies manage people. As such, our technology needs to continue to evolve rapidly.

I set up our operations here in Southeast Asia around a year ago, so in the short term we are focussed on building our presence and client base across the region. We also have offices in London, across the US, Australia and Shanghai.

My determination and passion are large keys to my success. Many people have told me I couldn’t achieve certain things over the years. When you believe in yourself and keep passionately pursuing what you believe in, then you will succeed.

I love to read books by inspirational people. Richard Branson is so creative, so passionate, but I also look up to people like Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, who has done some inspiring work in Human Rights and equal opportunities.

“Give it a go: one of two things will happen”. This reminds me to take risks and keep moving forward; it will either work or it won’t and if it doesn’t then you just make a correction and at least you have learnt. One of the biggest risks in being an entrepreneur is to not make a decision.

I set myself goals regularly. It helps to continue to stretch me and to balance what I am focussed on over the year.

Doing business in Singapore is easy once you get your bearings. Everybody is helpful and friendly, it’s a great place to build business relationships and network. More broadly speaking, across Southeast Asia there are many nuances to learn in each different country, which makes doing business in the region very interesting.

There are some amazing holiday destinations in Southeast Asia, so many places right on the doorstep here. We are really very lucky that Singapore is a fabulous hub for business and pleasure.

I like most sports, I love being outdoors, exploring new destinations and eating nice food, which is a great thing to enjoy while living in Singapore! 

 

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