Former Channel News Asia journalist cum author, motivational speaker, successful matchmaker and entrepreneur, MD of It's Just Lunch - Singapore & Bangkok, Anisa HASSAN talks business, brilliance and the importance of role models in the community.
Having sent thousands of her clients on upscale lunch dates since 2004, Anisa is regarded as an expert in the field of dating, matchmaking and networking.
She has managed to successfully establish a reputation as an enterprising star by winning the prestigious Malay Woman Entrepreneur of the Year awarded by the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce & Industry in 2006.
FULL NAME: Anisa Hassan
PLACE OF BIRTH: Singapore
CITY OF RESIDENCE: Singapore
EDUCATION: Bachelor of Social Sciences (Hons) in Political Science, NUS
CAREER: Master Franchise Owner & MD, It's Just Lunch - Singapore & Bangkok
What are your three most treasured possessions?
My home library (filled with books on mindsets for success, inspiration, sales and management ~ ok, some of these have already been compressed into my iPod), my family album, my phone.
What was the clincher for doing what you do in business right now?
It was a business that my husband chose for me! I had many business options that I was looking into at one point of time. Sometimes, having too many choices can confuse you. So, I asked that my husband point me to the right direction. My husband insisted that It's Just Lunch was a business for me because it just resonates with my personality! It's a people oriented business, its loads of fun and this is something that I could take to, like duck to water! The concept was just amazing and it took my husband 15 minutes to convince me that I'll succeed in this business.
What are your personal philosophies?
To read, learn and grow every step of the way ~ a famous motivational guru once said, “A formal education gets you a job but self-education gets you rich."
What are the details of your Malay Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2006?
I was among possibly 10 other Women Entrepreneurs who have been selected to come in for an interview in Nov 2006. There was a panel of 7 judges (Mr Umar A Hamid - Chief Judge, Dr Ahmad Magad - MP Pasir Ris/Ponggol GRC, Mr Lee Peng Hon - Spring Singapore, Mr Thian Tai Chew - IE Singapore, Ms N Ratna - Chairperson, Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ms Elim Chew - MD, 77th Street, Ms Fadilah A Majid - Asst Editor Berita Harian). The objective of the award was to recognize and acknowledge outstanding local Malay/Muslim women entrepreneurs and subsequently encourage the development of entrepreneurship among the Malay/Muslim community. It was an hour long interview where the panelists took turn to ask me questions about my business, my P&L;, my vision for the business and how I see myself growing the company to the next level. A few days after the interview, I was then informed that I was 1 of the 4 women finalists vying for the Women Entrepreneur Award.
How does one get awarded this honour? What do judges look for?
Judges look for several criteria but chief among them is that all candidates must be a Malay/Muslim and a Singapore citizen. Other criteria include having an entrepreneur who is a self-starter and self made, having a non-listed company and having an annual revenue not exceeding $50 million.
I was told that the judges also look for candidates who have the potential to contribute and be a role model to the society.
What makes you a successful entrepreneur? What are the key points every business owner should know?
I see myself as work in progress. Of course, I have developed the entrepreneurial skills that are far more adept and competent than I was 4 years ago. I invest almost an hour a day to reading, learning or listening to motivational speeches. This way, I bombard my mind with what's positive and what's possible. I get uncomfortable around people who seem to know it all because to me you must be humble enough to learn and grow. Every entrepreneur whom I know tell me that they have a coach or a mentor. The way to success can be easily paved when you learn from someone who's been there, done that. This will help you to get to where you are to where you want to be faster. I have the privileged of being mentored by the President of It's Just Lunch, Irene LaCota and I've also recently become a member of an exclusive coaching program for small business owners in the US.
Who is your inspiration both personally and professionally?
There are a lot of amazing people who have inspired me and I feel so blessed that the nature of my business puts me in contact with them. Firstly, Andrea McGinty the founder of It's Just Lunch, is a strong yet fun person to be with. She's unassuming, down to earth, warm and highly skilled at dealing with people. I draw a lot of inspiration from her professionally. Personally, I am surrounded by so many friends who are smart, kind, compassionate, articulate and global in their mindsets. They hold amazing jobs in the air force, banking, legal etc and they are full of ideas, full of life and great fun to be with.
What would you consider the highlight of your career?
Back in the days when I was a journalist, the highlight of my career at that point of time was to front the daily news on Channel NewsAsia. I still remember the first day when I read the news, King Hussein of Jordan passed away. I remember having chosen my favorite bright red blazer for my first “on air" appearance but I had to change to a dark-colored one at the very last moment to show respect.
As a business owner, I also achieved another high when I was selected as one of two franchisees named as It's Just Lunch “Rising Star", just barely one year into the business. That recognition really boosted my confidence and my belief in myself.
Do you consider yourself a role model for your community?
I have assumed several roles which put me in a position of influence. In 2007, I was selected to be an Ambassador for the Go Red For Women Campaign, to promote healthy hearts and healthy lifestyles. I made sure that my all-female staff knew how important it was to stay healthy and made all of them participate in a heartwalk with me. Also, my staff and I have made a conscious effort at choosing healthier food options. I have also given incentives to staff who remain healthy and MC free. In a way, I have allowed my position to positively affect the lives of those who are closest and dearest to me.
Apart from that, I have also been held up as an example in the field of volunteerism. In my younger days I used to be very active with the Malay Youth Literary Association and used to spend lots of time with the youths. I was frequently chosen as the chairperson to facilitate inter-JC debates. That participation was a natural extension to my earlier passion for both the English and Malay debates when I was in the JC.
Looking back, I don't go out of my way to aspire to be a role model to the community. But I do know that I'm in a privileged position right now and I want to be able to use this platform to influence and move beyond just being successful to becoming significant.
How does success from your professional life translate into your personal life, since you are in the business of personal relationships?
I've learnt a lot about people and how they think and act ever since I started this business. People want to be appreciated, to be respected and to be recognized. My personal life is an area that I admit, needs working on. There are so many people whom I love dearly but have had little chance to show my love, respect and appreciation. At different parts of my life, a reordering of priorities is inevitable. Having a life that's well balanced is what I strive for and in doing so, my husband, children, parents and other family members will take centre stage in my life, more often.
What's your idea of the perfect date?
The perfect date can mean a lot of different things to different people¦ I remember my perfect date with my then boyfriend, now husband was a date when we had no money at all, back when we were 17. All we had was our prepaid bus-pass and we spent hours talking in the bus when my husband would send me back home from school. But since we had lots to talk about, we usually end up taking the bus from one bus terminal to another bus terminal and then some! Everything about that was perfect because I now know that I love my husband for who he truly is and not for what he has (because obviously, we had nothing but each other back then).
Looking to the future, where do you want to be professionally in the next ten years?
I'm enjoying this journey and would like to challenge myself taking on new business ventures in new locations. I'm so grateful that my husband has also taken the business route and I see myself traveling to many different locations with him, sourcing and building businesses. There's nothing more satisfying than to see you business reaching a new level.
For more information, visit www.itsjustlunchsingapore.com