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Pamela Lim, an award-winning entrepreneur and SMU lecturer, is one of many professionals helping to give others a leg-up during this coronavirus season. Photo courtesy of Pamela Lim.

One idea was conceived when a mother was packing her house and taking out the trash; another was borne out of conversations between leaders.

But the thread that runs through both is the deep-seated desire for multiplication (Matthew 25:14-30).

Pamela Lim and Kenneth Kwan are two examples of individuals who are investing their natural talents and professional skills in others, by imparting experience and skills that could be put to good use this COVID-19 season.

Lim, an entrepreneur and educator, is equipping those whose livelihoods have been impacted, while Kwan, a motivational speaker, is helping pastors and leaders to deliver engaging online content. Here are their stories:

Pamela Lim: “I just want to be that servant who is found faithful.”

While panic gripped many at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pamela Lim, 54, saw business opportunities and wanted to help people act on them. 

“There are really interesting ways we can influence the world now as the world ‘resets’.” 

She took her entrepreneurship course one step beyond teaching business development principles and delved into helping her students implement viable business plans.

She certainly had the credentials for it, with multiple entrepreneurial awards to her name and having taken a company from inception to listings on both the Nasdaq and the Singapore Exchange (SGX).

Two of her students were May and Claudia Chiew, a mother-and-daughter pair who urgently needed a financial lifeline for their family. 

Last month, Lim helped them launch Claude & Clari, an online wet market grocery business, at a time when their family’s sole breadwinner, taxi driver Constant Chiew, 63, was in a coma with COVID-19 and isolated in the National Centre for Infectious Diseases’ intensive care unit. 

The family’s savings were rapidly being depleted, and there was no money incoming.

Under Lim’s tutelage, May and Claudia developed their idea of connecting consumers with wet market stallholders during the Circuit Breaker period.

Lim’s team helped them build an online ordering system similar to that used by Redmart and NTUC Online. It was up and running in a few weeks, “a fraction of the time” it would usually have taken.

Pamela Lim co-founded Ebiz Solutions with three employees in 1998. In three years, it had 400 employees in seven countries. By then, she was a mother of five as well. Pamela considers her roles as a mother, a teacher and an entrepreneur all part of her calling even if it has meant 18-hour work days. Photo courtesy of Pamela Lim.

Pamela Lim considers her multiple roles as mother, teacher and entrepreneur part of her calling even if it has meant 18-hour work days. Photo courtesy of Pamela Lim.

The idea to run her course had come to Lim while she was in her home in Brisbane, Australia, earlier in the year. Her youngest of five children was graduating from university, and Lim was preparing for the next stage of her own life.

It seemed a logical extension of her illustrious e-commerce career of the 1990s, which had included the co-founding of Ebiz Solutions in 1998. In three years, that firm grew from three employees to 400 in seven countries.

“I wanted to use my skills to give people a leg-up during this time of crisis.”

By then, she was a mother of five, and decided to switch to a teaching career. She became a lecturer at Singapore Management University, whilst homeschooling all her five children, some of whom were variously diagnosed with autism and existential depression.

About her current venture, Lim said: “There are really interesting ways we can influence the world now as the world ‘resets’.

“I wanted to use my skills to give people a leg-up during this time of crisis. I know that when God puts people in our paths and we can help, we must not turn away.” (James 4:17)

To her regret, in her younger days, she used to turn away from strangers who asked for help. “But I remember their faces and I still wonder if they were angels I failed to administer to.”

Once, while in a queue at a DBS bank in 1993, she overheard a conversation between an old woman and the bank officer behind the counter. The old woman asked for her account balance – she wanted to know if there was enough to pay her utility bill of about $10.

Yes, the bank officer said, there was $15 in the account.

“I felt really sad when I heard that,” said Lim. “So I reached into my wallet and took out $50 to give it to her, but I could not muster the courage to do so.

“I was afraid that the old woman would be angry with me and reject me. To this day, I wonder why I did not pass the cash to her.

“God has blessed me with so much – I just want to be that servant who is found faithful.”

Kenneth Kwan: “I only wish to listen and obey.”

During the Circuit Breaker, motivational speaker Kenneth Kwan found himself in a position to help pastors and church leaders – people who are more often found meeting the needs of others.

“When you are online, you have to engage the participants with what you say.”

His heart was “heavy” because of the struggles pastors and church leaders faced as more and more church activities went online due to the Stay At Home restrictions.

They were largely at a loss with regard to online presentation techniques and unable to meaningfully engage their audiences.

Knowing they could not transport pulpit-preaching strategies wholesale onto the online platform, Kwan decided to run a small workshop to share ideas on how things could be done differently.

Given Circuit Breaker restrictions, however, even he was in new territory! So, he went on a mission to glean from all the online programmes he could find and learn from presentation styles and techniques that seemed to work better than others.

He explained, laughing: “As a professional conference speaker, I get paid to deliver my thoughts and ideas in a fun, engaging way. If I am not good, I won’t be rehired!”  

"Having a spirit of excellence in all that we do is important," says Kenneth Kwan, a motivational speaker by trade. He has run nine sessions of workshops for over 3,8000 pastors and church leaders sharing practical handles on how to improve their online presentation and engagement. One such tip he gives is to have good lighting – he uses two standing lights set up at home. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Kwan.

“Having a spirit of excellence in all that we do is important,” says Kenneth Kwan, a motivational speaker. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Kwan.

What he did not realise was how widespread the need was. From the initial plan of one workshop addressing 30 people, Kwan found himself sharing ideas with over 3,720 people in nine separate video-conferences through May and June. 

Among the tips he gave were:

  • Engage: “Learning behaviours – online and offline – are different. In my opinion, when you are online, you have to engage the participants with what you say. This is what makes online learning so powerful, you can actually involve participants.”
  • Experiment: “Being experienced is not enough, since we can be experienced in delivering the same message in an uninteresting way.”
  • Enhance: Have good lighting and look at the camera, instead of at the screen.

“I stand amazed at how God took this little desire and burden, and multiplied it manifold.”

Kwan recognises his workshop is a short-term project that will “only last for this season, where everyone is still grappling with online learning”. 

As his audience becomes more practised and the need for his tutoring gradually recedes, “perhaps God will lay another burden on my heart?

“I don’t know, I only wish to listen and obey. (James 1:22)

“I stand amazed at how God took this little desire and burden, and multiplied it manifold.” 

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Waiting for a cup of tea

 

 

About the author

Tan Huey Ying

Salt&Light writer Huey Ying is a millennial with a résumé to prove it – she was a plankton-sized part of the finance industry before serving in a Christian organisation. She loves the sea and you will find her somewhere near the water during her holidays.