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A ‘Business Challenge’ event was recently held at our Malaysia centre – attendees included current MBA students, alumni and local business people and entrepreneurs along with Dr Ron Bradfield, Dr Michael Marck and Marianne Nimmo from our MBA Management Team. We discovered that one of our current MBA students in KL, Alicia Furze and her siblings Dominic and Emma are involved in a wonderful entrepreneurial activity – they have set up a school, Honsbridge Academy, providing IGCSE and O level education – the first of its kind in Malaysia. Emma Furze tells us more:
It is interesting how life plans out when you do not give up. Since my parents sent my siblings and I to study O Levels in Singapore, I always dreamt about the day that Malaysia will offer the programme in Malaysia. When I graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2001, my dream got bigger as I figured that I could attempt to establish an education provider for O Levels in Malaysia. I was however told many many times by my peers that O Level education will not be feasible in Malaysia. This was because the national education curriculum is not O Level international syllabus. With hope of building a reasonable capital for the business venture and unfazed by the uncertainty of the business, I gave it all when opportunities to be a teacher in St Francis Methodist School, Singapore came, as a Citibanker in Citibank, Malaysia and finally as a Crystallisation Chemist in GlaxoSmithKline, United Kingdom until 2008.
I still remember vividly when I told my siblings in 2007 that they should be prepared with their capital to start the school in 2008 when we reunited. It was hard for all of us to give up a permanent and stable job. It still came as a surprise to me when I returned to Malaysia to learn that my siblings did not give up their stable jobs. My siblings however were prepared to contribute to the capital. While adjusting my lifestyle from Britain to Malaysia, I found my calling when my brother advised me to create a blog for the school in Oct 2008. He gave the school the name, Honsbridge and even designed the logo. It was my first blog and I discussed everything about education opportunity in Malaysia. It was named honsbridge.blogspot.com. Writing about what I love and share information and experiences came quite naturally. I was so delighted when the blog became very popular. It will be listed on the first page of a google search when you type in key words such as O Level Malaysia. That sense of achievement was quite incredible and along with it came successful counselling. Within a month, my siblings and I have achieved the first tuition assignment.
The first tuition assignment indicated that the information on the internet interests students and there is certainly demand for the O Level services in Malaysia. We started to scout for a suitable shop lot and market area for the O Level services. It was by sheer luck that my brother had rented his first shop in Dataran Sunway, Kota Damansara, did we started to look at this area closely and eventually placed a huge deposit for a shop in Dec 2008. It was the biggest step as next came the paper work for education license, renovation, signboard, opening of bank account and marketing the various O Level programmes. After we have designed the programme, we felt that it was the biggest achievement. This is because we were very excited to learn how the students and teachers will cope with the express O Level programme.
It did not take long for my siblings to realise how serious i was to get the school started. My siblings, Alicia and Dominic eventually quitted their job to join me hand in hand in April 2009. The first O Level programme kicked off as planned on the 10 Mar 2009 with just one student, Lauren Tan. On the first day of her class, we had breakfast together with her parents along with my siblings. It felt like an extended family gathering and I could not have been more happy that the program has finally started after 8 years of anticipation. My parents were overjoyed and pleased that Honsbridge has brought everyone together under one roof. It was not an easy partnership as there was not a month and sometimes a week that will go by without disagreement. Storms and rain would come and go, at the same time we are uplifted to know that we have built Honsbridge together. As many as 140 students and teachers have come to call Honsbridge their second home.
For all the joy and challenges that I have faced as the Principal of Honsbridge in the last 5 years, I am most proud of the strong Cambridge O Level/ IGCSE average results of As and Bs, that we continue to achieve for consecutive seven classes of graduates. Come Jan 2014, I look forward very much to join all my students aged 12 to 18 years old and teachers to learn and have fun in the brand new premise.
To all budding entrepreneurs, just believe and do all necessary to make your dream come true.
I wish all readers success in the new year & a merry christmas!
I dedicate this post to my parents, Siew Sin and Dr Alistair Furze.