Mompreneur series: Yen of Science Bridge Academy

Today we talk to Yen Chua, mum of two, who started Science Bridge Academy to help kids learn science in a fun way. She has some great tips for anyone thinking of starting a business:

Can you give us a brief description of your business and when it started?

Science Bridge is a science education company, that opened its doors at the School in Jaya One in 2015. We provide science programmes for children from preschool up to secondary. We also run extracurricular programmes and topical workshops at schools, parties and any science related events. Our lab is fully equipped for chemistry and biology and we have a mobile planetarium with an interactive show.  We also have our own STEM products for schools and teachers.

What made you decide to turn your interest into a business?

My own experience of going through school was a case of not really knowing why we were learning what we were learning. Relating theory and concepts of science to real life was really missing in schools here. Even now, our education system is very much text book and class room based, and the kids don’t understand why they are learning. Only when I went to university did I get that Eureka moment and understood how all these ideas are applied.

science bridge events - Happy Go KL
Photo: Science Bridge

I am engineer by education, but after spending two years in the industry I realised it wasn’t for me and moved to consulting. I have always wanted to be entrepreneur so was looking for something interesting to get involved in. I came across a company in Singapore that was doing cool stuff with secondary kids combining drama and science. I thought it would be great to introduce something like that in Malaysia. We validated the market by running workshops in international schools and for the general public and response was good, so we went ahead with the idea.

science bridge the school - Happy Go KL
Photo: Science Bridge

How do you balance your time between the other aspects of your life (i.e. being a mum) and being an entrepreneur?

There is no balance! I have a lot of help, my parents live nearby and I have a helper. I console myself saying that my kids are still little. I would say to anyone starting a business that you need to realise the first few years will be work, work and work. Hopefully the business takes off in 4-5 years and you have more time. Of course, running your own business allows for flexibility, you can pick up the kids from school but there is not much extra time to spend with them.

What challenges did you face getting your business started?

Getting investors onboard was hard. As they say: “friends, family and fools” – that’s where we started. We had some friends on board, but it wasn’t enough, and we started talking to investors. After that it was getting students to sign up, with time and traffic our enemies.

We quickly found out that this is a location-based business. Also, the programmes we were offering were interesting enough for fun and holiday activities, but for regular students we needed to make it more academic. We changed our model and started approaching international schools.

Science bridge Kuala Lumpur - Happy Go KL
Photo: Science Bridge

Marketing was another challenge: how do people find out about us. Social media is the biggest channel, and referrals work in this business. We also found that targeted events work: we now run science events and fairs every quarter. We are also working with schools more now, with our centre the flagship outlet.

What tips do you have for others who are thinking about setting up their own business?

  • Think hard how the business would scale before starting.
  • Talk to lots of people before starting out.
  • Try not do it all by yourself. It’s tough on your own when you have to make all the decisions.  Starting a business is a lot easier with a co-founder.
  • When you can hire more people, it’s all about delegating. If you can’t let go and want to do everything yourself you will be in trouble. Think about the bigger picture and stay away from micro things. Whether your team can manage independently is a good test, if the team can’t function without you, there is something wrong.

Find out more about Science Bridge Academy here. You can read the previous mompreneur interviews here.

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