“When I came out and started this on my own, the learning curve was steeper than when I was in banking."
What happens when you couple a passion for education and a gap in the market? You get Lim Ee Ling and SmarterMe, a platform for parents to find educators and classes for their kids (and themselves!).
It all started when Ee Ling was growing up. Her mum was a teacher and this inspired her to also become a teacher for a short stint before she became an investment banker.
The Bachelor of Commerce graduate from The University of Queensland Business School clearly ticked off all the right boxes to become an investment banker. But it wasn’t enough. She quit her job as an investment banker after ten years.
Today, Ee Ling is an entrepreneur and founder of SmarterMe, a platform which links parents up to qualified educators and relevant classes for their kids. It also serves as a place where adults can find classes for themselves too!
“When I was in investment banking, I covered technology and I looked at what my kids were learning in school and what was actually happening in the world,” Ee Ling explains.
“There was a huge mismatch,” she says. The education system had not changed much from when Ee Ling herself was a schoolgirl.
“They are not learning the hard skills needed for them to thrive in the future economy,” she points out. It resonated strongly with her and she felt that this was a problem that needed solving — quick.
When she quit her banking job, she decided that this was what she needed to do. There was so much more to be done for the cause she felt so passionate about.
“I was doing advisory in the bank, but I felt I wasn’t making a real difference in anyone’s lives. It made me think, ‘what is my purpose of being here?’,” she recalls.
That thought, coupled with her interested in education AND the gap in the market convinced her that is was time to change the way things worked.
“I started SmarterMe to inspire kids to discover, live and grow their passion outside of school. Beyond just academics, we want to prepare their mind, body and soul. At the same time, it is to equip them with hard skills for the future economy and ensure they have the right soft skills to understand themselves,” Ee Ling explains.
Through running the business, Ee Ling has realised that there are many fulfilling moments.
“We ran two DiscoverMe camps last year. Two months after we ran the first camp, we had kids coming back to us asking us when the next camp would be,” she says. This, to her, is one of the most fulfilling responses.
The DiscoverMe camp Ee Ling refers to is a 5-day camp where kids participate in 8 different types of activities. This includes activities such as learning how to code, engaging in art, delving into illustration and even dabbling in a spot of cooking.
“These are activities kids typically don’t get to try out at home or at school. But coding, for example, is an essential future language for them to learn. Parents might think their kids are too young for coding, but that isn’t the case,” Ee Ling says.
In fact, they love it, she adds.
“Take my 8-year-old daughter for example. Through the camp, she can now build websites on Wix, play Minecraft, create animations and games from scratch. I can really see her starting to bloom.”
“She used to be a consumer, now has become a creator,” says Ee Ling.
Of course, the journey to get to where SmarterMe is now has not been easy. “When I came out and started this on my own, the learning curve was steeper than when I was in banking,” she admits.
“I had to handle every aspect of the organisation -- from hiring to marketing to the business development. Most of these things, I had no background in. But what kept me going what understanding my ‘why’ and the ‘why’ of the business,” she says.
Ee Ling’s go-to guru at the time was Simon Sinek. “I read the book ‘Start With Why’ by Simon Sinek, which got me asking why my business exists, why anyone should care about it,” she shares.
To Ee Ling, her ‘why’ isn’t about profit. It is a deeply rooted belief she strongly holds onto. But every step of the way, she clings onto her ‘why’. Every business decision made must be aligned with her ‘why’.
For women who want to start businesses, Ee Ling leaves with this parting advice: just do it. “Just start your business. Don’t wait to find the right partner or the right timing. If you’re able to find the right business partner off the bat, great. If not, then just go ahead and do it,” she elaborates.
As a mum herself, balancing work and her kids can leave a mum with some degree of guilt, she admits.
But be happy with the choices you make, she says. “If I know why I am doing what I am doing, my kids will see me as a confident woman. I am empowered in making the choices I am making. In turn, they will be empowered to make the choices they choose to make in the future.”
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