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Celebrating the Teochew business spirit

The inaugural Teochew Entrepreneur Award honours the best of Teochew entrepreneurs and their values.

(Front row, 4th from left onwards): Organising chairman Kenny Sim; president of Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan George Quek; Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam; Honorary Award winner Eng Liat Kiang; Henry Tan and Derek Goh (who are both part of the judging panel); and the 28 winners of the inaugural Teochew Entrepreneur Award 2016.

There are many awards in Singapore these days that confer recognition on established businessmen, aspiring entrepreneurs and well regarded professionals. The inaugural Teochew Entrepreneur Award, however, is different: it is the first business award by a dialect group in Singapore.

Organised by the Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan, Local International Affairs Committee, the Teochew Entrepreneur Award (TEA) celebrates the businessmen and women's entrepreneurship and their contributions to the business community and society.

Being an award organised by the Teochew clan umbrella body, the TEA also seeks to foster a greater sense of community among Teochew businessmen and women.

Poit Ip refers to the eight districts in the Teochew dialects in Guangdong province, China. The Teochew clan is the second biggest among the Chinese in Singapore, after the Hokkien clan. There are three categories under TEA:

Honorary Award: The highest honour, it is conferred on a prominent Teochew businessman nominated by Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan.

Prestige Award: The entrepreneur must have been operating the business for at least five years. The company must have a minimum S$10 million turnover, with at least three years of audited financial statements.

Promising Award: The entrepreneur must have been operating the business for at least three years, with a minimum turnover of S$1 million but not exceeding S$10 million.

Participants must demonstrate outstanding entrepreneurship in developing the business.

In all, more than 40 participants took part, a response which organising chairman Kenny Sim described as overwhelming.

"We were very surprised and encouraged by the response. From the age profile, we have a good mixture of participants from 30 to 60 years. Female entrepreneurs comprised 20 per cent of the participants."

They came from different industries and backgrounds, a reflection of the enterprising spirit of the Teochews. Medical, healthcare, professional services, property development, F&B, manufacturing, retail, international trading, IT services and logistics were among the industries represented by the participants.

In the end, the field was narrowed down to 28 winners, of whom 16 received the Prestige Award and the remaining 12 won the Promising Award.

Chief judge of the TEA, Derek Goh, commenting on the competition, said: "It was a tough decision. The judging panel and myself encountered remarkable candidates who were all well-deserving and of high calibre. Each of them holds an excellent track record that made our decision even harder.

"We were very selective in choosing our winners as this is an inaugural award without any precedence. We decided to set the bar high, so as to ensure that the benchmark is established, right from the very first award."

Mr Goh led an eight-member judging panel which comprised leading businessmen and senior government officials. Held once in two years, the next TEA will be in 2018.

"All the winners encompassed what it means to be a true Teochew entrepreneur. Each of them has an exemplary character, leading their team with honesty and integrity, passion and empathy, effectively and decisively. They also have a strong will to succeed," he said.

A businessman himself - Mr Goh is chairman and CEO of Serial System - pointed out: "As the Chinese saying goes chi de ku zhong ku, fang wei ren shang ren (One cannot achieve glory and wealth without having been through trials and tribulations). Perseverance through hardship and difficulties allows one to build his or her character and that is what really differentiates each and every individual.

"These 28 winners have definitely had their fair share of hardship and yet managed to emerge from their battles, blooming in glory. These winners possess the exact same traits of determination and resilience as our pioneer Teochew entrepreneurs."

Congratulating the winners, president of Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan, George Quek, said: "They will serve as an inspiration and act as role models to businessmen and women, promoting the Teochew businessman's values of courage, perseverance, determination, diligence and innovation, not just to the Teochews but to anyone on their entrepreneurship journey."

Also a businessman - Mr Quek is chairman of the BreakTalk Group - said: "It is a fantastic achievement to see the success of these successful entrepreneurs and they must be encouraged. We hope they will continue to inspire and carry through the core values of Teochew businessmen."

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