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Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef, About Entrepreneurship Book & Many Other Interesting Reads

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Benjamin Kwan is the co-founder of TravelClef, a Singapore-based music school with a unique concept.

With a mission to bring joy to the world through music, they have diverse music courses catered mainly to adults and corporate organisations. TravelClef is one of the world’s first travelling music schools, they conduct music classes in companies, and organize team buildings with music programmes.

They also manufacture their own instruments and run an online educational platform that matches private students with music teachers. The team behind TravelClef is always on the lookout for innovative ways that can be applied in the traditional business model of music teaching.

Benjamin started the company in 2011, when he was still a freshman at the National University of Singapore, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

He was born in a lower income family, always dreaming of becoming rich enough to support his family members to live a good life. During his studies at NUS, he read a book that changed the way he looked at his life, made him decide to take control and start an online business. After taking four days to learn website building and how to work in Photoshop, his first entrepreneurial venture was born: an online tuition portal. It grew into a strong desire to build a music business company that Singaporeans could be proud of.

From those humble beginnings as an online company, giving one-on-one lessons to individuals, TravelClef grew into hosting music conventions of hundreds of participants, and also creating their own line of instruments.

Keep on reading to find out more about the books that left deep marks on Benjamin and inspired his entrepreneurial venture, led him to Eureka moments, and the titles he’d recommend to those who want to build their own business.

Estimated reading time for this interview is 8 minutes. If you'd rather listen to it, you can do it on iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher.

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

Non-Business: I used to read more fiction when I was a lot younger just like any young boy. And of course the favourite book that teens my generation love would be Harry Potter! It just gives us an avenue to be part of that fantasy world that we have always dreamt of.

Business: I have always wanted to be a banker or a businessman but my poor grades didn’t allow me to pursue a degree in business or banking. I ended up taking mechanical engineering which I found out wasn’t my calling when I was just in my first semester in the National University of Singapore (NUS). Facing financial difficulties at home, coupled with poor grades and fueled by my passion to be an entrepreneur, I decided to look for resources and books to read up to help me in my endeavour. And I found the perfect book: Internet Riches by Scott Fox that inspired me to venture into entrepreneurship.

I didn’t have any resources to start a business but thought that being an online entrepreneur might work well for me. And that was how I started my company, TravelClef Group Pte Ltd.

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?

After finishing a book, I usually scribble down a simple book summary so that I can revisit them in my free time. After 5 years in business, my company was slowly hitting a plateau and I couldn’t see how I could move towards being a million dollar company. My mentor, Dr Patrick Liew, a friend of Robert Kiyosaki, gave me an advice on how I can pursue my next growth – “Work on the business, Not in It“. And that was how I came to remember Robert Kiyosaki’s ESBI quadrant in Rich Dad, Poor Dad. And right then, I had a Eureka moment!

What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)

Rich Dad, Poor Dad. It gave me a clear overview of what financial education is and how important it is to understand the true meaning of being financially free.

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What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)

All entrepreneurs must read:

Rich Dad Poor Dad
– Basic Financial Education is really important in starting your own business. Whether your business is funded or you built it from scratch, knowing how to utilise your funds properly is the most fundamental knowledge you need to sustain and scale your business.

Think and Grow Rich
– This book gives me the desire to really fight hard to achieve what I want to achieve in life. While I created a safety net for myself (by having a University Degree), I make calculated risks and go all out in my endeavours.

I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?

I used to read at least 2 books every quarter but as work and family commitments increase, I read only when I travel during my commute to office (15 minutes a day). As an avid book lover since young, I prefer hard covers, but right now I have to read e-books for convenience sake.

How do you make time for reading?

During my commute to the office.

Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?

Yes! I take screenshots or write down notes in my iPhone.

How do you choose what books to read next?

Usually I read based on the knowledge I am seeking or an entrepreneur I’d like to learn from.

Last question: what book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?

I am currently reading “The Education of a Value Investor – Guy Spier”. I am very interested in Value Investing and I tried reading The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham but it was too difficult for me to understand. So I decided to read this first before revisiting the Holy Grail of Value Investing.

Links where you can follow Benjamin Kwan or find out more about his projects:

  • TravelClef
  • Benjamin’s Facebook account
  • Interview with Benjamin @ AsianEntrepreneur
  • TravelClef’s Facebook page (the second photo was taken from here)

  • All books mentioned by Benjamin Kwan in this interview:

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