Womenlines takes pleasure to share about Ms Li-Anne Sia, Director of Two by Two Schoolhouse in the ‘Entrepreneur of the Month’ section of Womenlines. What is special at Two by Two Schoolhouse playgroup is that here children are exposed to the Mandarin language about 80 per cent of the time which is not happening at other Kindergartens. Li-Anne Sia came up with the idea of opening such schoolhouse when she saw her young kids not developing a liking for their mother tongue in their kindergarten. Then she decided to open up such kindergarten where kids can develop a liking for the Mandarin language from the beginning which can help them later in primary and secondary schools in Singapore. The journey to start this school had its own ups and downs. Listen and read Li-Anne Sia’s journey in her own words-
- Please share with our reader’s little bit about yourself.
I am a single mum with two children aged 11 and 14, we live together with our 2 rescue dogs Potato and Lola. I own and manage Two by Two Schoolhouse, a bilingual kindergarten with a Mandarin emphasis. I find great joy teaching 2 legged animals aged 3 – 99, and I earn extra keep by lecturing and writing for magazines and other publications. In my spare time, I enjoy extreme sports like trail racing.
2. So when did you started working in your field and what inspired or motivated you to take a plunge into this venture?
I have always been in the field of education; I taught biology and chemistry at secondary schools early in my career and wrote for educational publications. As we are a predominantly English speaking family, my children were resistant to the Mandarin language. When they were preschoolers, they came home from school lamenting that they hated the language. Being an educator myself, I decided to do something radical by creating a Mandarin-based kindergarten which made the learning of Mandarin fun for all children. The main medium of instruction is Mandarin, which is the opposite of typical preschools in Singapore that mainly teaches in English.
- Can you share with us some of the challenges you faced during your initial days?
It was difficult trying to get investors to buy into my idea as most people thought this concept of a Mandarin-based kindergarten would not take off. Even when we did find some investors, they did not fully believe in the idea and were very sceptical and critical whenever we tried to implement new ideas into the curriculum. In the end, we had to buy out our initial group of investors as they proved unsupportive of the implementation of many of our ideas.
- So how do you balance your personal and professional life?
I destress by running. It gives me an avenue to clear out my brain because pounding the asphalt is a mindless activity. I run whenever I’m stressed, tired, upset, angry; and I always feel better after that. I also try to travel as much as possible during the school holidays as I always believe in paying for experiences rather than material items. Sometimes I combine my love for running and travelling by participating in trail races overseas.
- What would you suggest to other aspiring women who want to venture out on their own?
Don’t do it! haha… there have been countless times when I wished that I never left my teaching position. At least then the hours were fixed and the pay was reasonably good. The first few years of starting the business, we did not take home any pay at all. In fact, we put almost all of our savings into the business as well. So it really made or break. So my advice would be, do it only if you believe with all your heart that your product or service will succeed. And then go and it with all that you’ve got.
- Is there any person who has mentored/supported/inspired you?
I count my business partner, Yiling as the one person who has been a constant in this journey. She is calm and levels headed while I can be impulsive and easily excitable. As a result, she is the ultimate foil to my harebrained ideas or misplaced exuberance sometimes and is the perfect person to bounce ideas off of. We have gone through many ups and downs during this journey of running Two by Two and without her, I don’t think we would have come so far today.
- What do you have in the pipeline for your venture’s future development?
We are in the midst of digitizing our content so as to cater to the overseas market. A lot of our clients are expats who send their children to us to learn Mandarin. When they leave for their own countries, they always lament that their children would lose all that they have learnt and achieved with regards to the language and wish that they could continue their learning even while back home. That gave us the idea to digitize our lessons so that these children, and others as well, would be able to benefit from our curriculum.
Do visit School website http://twobytwo.sg/
and fb page to know more details about the school- https://www.facebook.com/twobytwo.sg/
Here are some links to media features on Two by Two
Womenlines wishes success to Ms Li-Anne Sia for her all future endeavours in the field of education!
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