Kristie Lim is the founder of one of the most popular education centres in Singapore. To say that they are successful is an understatement. The 13 year old business has 22 centres island wide, and two centres in Shenyang, China, with the newest opening in April this year.
Kristie was the youngest of six children. Her father was a taxi driver with only a primary school education, while her mother was a housewife and illiterate. Her childhood experiences drove her to be prudent by saving part of her daily allowance and then her weekly allowance when she was older. As she grew up, she read voraciously on financial planning and believes in earning and saving enough before you spend.
Mind Stretcher itself had an unconventional start. Ms Lim revealed that when she was 35, her marriage hit the rocks. She was left a divorcee with 4 children in tow, with her youngest only eight months old. Despite being formally trained in law and accountancy, starting a business in education was something that she believed she could accomplish successfully. This came from not being able to meet the learning needs of her eldest child – who was bright and learned quickly – and was not able to find more challenging resources locally. She sourced overseas for more challenging learning resources and amassed them for her son.
Needing a way to earn a living after her divorce along with the belief that she could be a good educator with the knowledge she had gained, Ms Lim decided to start up Mind Stretcher together with her business partner. She decided that starting the business would also provide her with much desired flexibility and control over her time between work and her children.
She says that starting Mind Stretcher was an uphill task as they had limited financial resources and manpower. Nevertheless, she forged on with help from her children, relatives, and friends by engaging them to distribute flyers and going door-to-door to promote the business. She said that it has become a morning ritual for her to begin her day at the top floor of a HDB block handing out flyers and subsequently working her way down, floor by floor.
Although Mind Stretcher is now one of the more recognized private education centres, Ms Lim says that there is no time to rest on one’s laurels. Her advice to fellow entrepreneurs is to always take some time off to re-examine the situation and improve on the company, even if you are at the forefront of the competition. She believes that meeting the ever-changing demands of society should push one to keep evolving to stay ahead.
Her philosophy for Mind Stretcher is to provide a holistic, well-rounded education for youths instead of focusing solely on academics. For example, they offer lessons on public speaking and interviewing skills, so that their students can improve in the area of social and communication skills. Ms Lim says that while we all have different strengths and come from different backgrounds, it is important to stretch oneself and maximize one’s potential within the limits of your own abilities.
Reflecting on the youth today, she notes that they need be more respectful and gracious and not take things for granted, especially since they are reaping the benefits of the previous generations’ work. Furthermore, her advice to youths is to be open-minded and go after their passion instead of just doing what is safe and socially accepted. Her fundamental principles are simple yet resonate with many: do your best for yourself and give your best to others in whatever we do.