SME community 'needs a shot in the arm'

SME community 'needs a shot in the arm'
In an example of how successful entrepreneurs can help new ones, Mr Teo recounted how Charles & Keith co-founder Charles Wong (above) got back to him with a solution after he sought the firm's help for a footwear start-up.

Although Singapore already has a good foundation of schemes and funds to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Action Community for Entrepreneurship (Ace) chairman Teo Ser Luck believes the SME community needs an injection of new life as Singapore's economy shifts towards higher value-add activities.

Mr Teo, who is also Minister of State for Trade and Industry, is looking at various ways to do this, such as taking lessons on entrepreneurship to schools and simplifying the application processes of existing support schemes for SMEs.

Encouraging young people to start their own businesses is one direct way to lead a revival of the SME community, said Mr Teo in an exclusive interview with The Straits Times last Thursday.

Mr Teo, who assumed chairmanship of Ace mid-last year, said he has a plan to create greater awareness of entrepreneurship among students.

Details will be available soon but one aspect of his plan will be to let students hear the stories of entrepreneurs.

"They hear about Google and Facebook and other start-ups, how their founders became multimillionaires," he said.

"But 99 per cent of start-ups also fail. So I also want them to hear these stories, how they picked themselves up and started again."

These students will likely be an enthusiastic audience, as studies show a growing interest in entrepreneurship among young people.

In a Global University Entrepreneurial Spirit Students' Survey completed earlier this year, four out of five tertiary students in Singapore said they were interested in starting their own business.

"Today, more people want to chart their own life and do something they are passionate in. Starting their own business lets them do this," Mr Teo said.

Ace's job is to help people who are taking that risk of striking out on their own by ensuring that the roadblocks to founding start-ups are removed, he added.

So another area he is looking into is simplifying and broadening rules. For example, the Young Entrepreneurs Scheme for Start-ups under Spring Singapore had an age cap of 26.

But entrepreneurs come in all ages, so he removed the age cap to open up the scheme, now known as Ace Start-ups and administered by Ace.

"Another pet peeve of start-ups is documentation for government schemes and the lengthy approval time. I'm looking into this now, (to) see how we can make it simpler and get approval quicker," he said.

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