Fear of retrenchment pushed him into business

Five years ago, Mr Joseph Tan was working in the trading department of a financial institution when it decided to shut down the department.

"Many of my colleagues were retrenched, but I was lucky and got transferred to another department," said Mr Tan, 55.

The event pushed him to plan for a career after stockbroking.

About three years later, in June 2016, he took the plunge and set up Intelligent Minds Learning Centre, a tuition centre.

He did so at the age of 53, with his wife Fiona, a childcare teacher who was then 49.

"I did not want to wait until I was retrenched and too old to start any business," he said.

They rented a space about the size of a three-room Housing Board flat, on the second storey of a shophouse in Yishun Ring Road, and ploughed in about $100,000 of their savings.

The sum covered expenses including renovation and the development of a curriculum, as well as a website and online learning tools for parents and students.

"We did not take any grant from the Government," he said.

The hardest part for Mr Tan was having to learn things he was unfamiliar with, such as computer coding and developing the website.


But he felt that his age gave him an edge too.

"Maturity definitely helps, such as being able to connect better with parents. Some of the parents knew we have grown-up kids and came to us for parenting advice," he said with a laugh.

The couple have two daughters, aged 21 and 24. The younger one is studying law in university and the other is an interior designer.

Mr Tan said the tuition centre broke even after the first year and has remained profitable.

"We are expanding next month. A franchised centre is opening up in Holland Road this month," he said with pride.

Besides running the tuition centre, Mr Tan also teaches finance and insurance courses at the Singapore University of Social Sciences and the Institute of Banking and Finance.

On why he multi-tasks, he said: "For those with salaries, they wake up in the morning and there is money (from work) going into their bank accounts. For entrepreneurs, we wake up with a deficit because we have to cover the overheads."

He added: "What we do, we do as a matter of survival."