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EY ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR - EDUCATION: NG GIM CHOO

Driving EtonHouse with 4Ps

From just one school in 1995, the pre-school operator has expanded to 120 campuses worldwide under Ng Gim Choo's leadership.

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Mrs Ng has led the business for the past 24 years is now happy to pass the baton to her son Ng Yi Xian.

PRE-SCHOOL operator EtonHouse International Education Group founder and managing director Ng Gim Choo has led the business for the past 24 years but is now happy to pass the baton to her son.

"We are very happy that my son, Ng Yi Xian, joined the company to lead the charge into the future," said the 67-year-old Mrs Ng, who is an avid golfer and a Chinese art and calligraphy enthusiast.

Mr Ng, 34, quit a hedge fund job in the US to join the family business in 2014.

He had been working at North Run Capital in Boston - reportedly earning a six-figure annual salary - and before that, Credit Suisse in New York.

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Now, Mr Ng is the executive director of EtonHouse and has "done a splendid job of taking over the reins of the company".

Mrs Ng, formerly an audit manager at Ernst & Young and then a partner of an audit firm, set up EtonHouse in 1995, inspired by her daughter's experience at a pre-school called Pembridge Hall in London. "She enjoyed her experience so much that on the weekends she would put on her uniform and wait for me to bring her to school," said Mrs Ng.

"I couldn't help but compare this to learning in Singapore where, more than 20 years ago, it was stressful for children," she said.

EtonHouse started out as one school on Broadrick Road. Today, it has 6,000 students in Singapore and more than 12,000 globally across 12 countries. The business now employs over 4,000 people worldwide across 120 campuses.

Asked what drives her as an entrepreneur, Mrs Ng cited her belief in "4Ps": passion, perseverance, people and professional development.

For instance, "there will be difficulties and challenges no matter which path you take," she explained. "With passion, you have the perseverance to keep going and overcome challenges head-on."

Hiring the right people - those with not only the skills, but the same passion and commitment - is also crucial to any organisation's success, she believes.

Finding new talent is one of EtonHouse's biggest challenges today, Mrs Ng added. "For international talent, we have to compete on a global scale. It is also a challenge to attract talent, train and retain them."

EtonHouse has thus set up a team to develop training and professional development programmes for teaching staff. The programmes are not only developed for the company's own staff, but also for teachers from other schools. This comes as the group continues to expand in other parts of the world.

EtonHouse is among some 25 promising local companies which will be groomed to become future global powerhouses under Enterprise Singapore's Scale-up SG programme.

The two-and-a-half-year programme aims to help aspiring, high-growth companies to scale rapidly and expand abroad.

Next year, EtonHouse will also continue expanding in China, where it opened its first school in Suzhou in 2003. Last December, the group opened its 40th campus. In addition, the group will focus on developing its through-train K-12 programmes in its schools in Singapore and China.


Ng Gim Choo, founder and managing director, EtonHouse International Education Group

On receiving the category award:

"As a former housewife from a Chinese-educated background, I never expected that one day I would win this honour. It is especially meaningful, because I was once an auditor in EY. My experience there gave me the necessary foundation to start my entrepreneurship journey. I hope this inspires other women to do something extraordinary for the community."

On learnings as an entrepreneur:

"I learnt that the key elements to success are the '4Ps'. They stand for Passion, Perseverance, People and Professional development.

"Passion. Having a passion for education gave me the drive to always put children's interest at the heart of everything we do. This has guided us to make sound decisions.

"Perseverance. There will be difficulties and challenges no matter which path you take. With passion, you will have the perseverance to keep going, and overcome challenges head-on.

"People. People play a critical part in any organisation's success. I hired the very best people, who not only have the skills but who also share the same passion and commitment.

"Professional development. At EtonHouse, we invest heavily on training and professional development."