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In Conversation with Adrian Mok: Lessons from a Multi-Business Entrepreneur

Updated: Nov 1, 2023


Founder of Curious Squirrels, Adrian Mok
Founder of Curious Squirrels, Adrian Mok

In a world that's increasingly reliant on technology, science, and innovation, there's a pressing need for an educational approach that goes beyond textbooks and traditional academia. That's where Curious Squirrels, an innovative and perceptive educational company, comes into play. Founded with a mission to inspire young minds through the magic of LEGO, this company is all about promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. But it's not just about teaching the technical aspects; it's about fostering creativity, problem-solving, and personal growth.

Adrian, the driving force behind Curious Squirrels, is a true visionary with a growth-focused mindset. He has a track record of trailblazing several projects and is known for motivating and bringing value to all he engages. His passion for the sports and wellness space led him to establish Polar as a leader in health/fitness wearables in the APAC region. He's also turned his love for triathlons into a successful business, organizing the Aviva Ironman 70.3 and the Sundown Marathon.

Sundown Marathon founder Adrian Mok (left) with Ron Sim, Osim’s founder, chairman and chief executive officer, at a press conference held at the Singapore Sports Institute on Oct 14, 2016 (Photo Source: The Straits Times)
Sundown Marathon founder Adrian Mok (left) with Ron Sim, Osim’s founder, chairman and chief executive officer, at a press conference held at the Singapore Sports Institute on Oct 14, 2016 (Photo Source: The Straits Times)

Beyond sports, Adrian is deeply involved in design thinking, coaching, change management, and innovation. He leads workshops for commercial innovation projects and actively pursues a coaching accreditation to be a more effective change agent. But what truly sets him apart is his commitment to delivering social impact. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Adrian led employment initiatives and fundraising efforts at MINDS, introducing LEGO Play into the special needs school program with the support of LEGO. His dedication to introducing fun and meaningful play engagement for special needs students has been truly remarkable.


We had the chance to chat with Adrian, who provided us with some deep insights on his journey as a multi-business entrepreneur.


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What inspired you to become an entrepreneur, and what was the initial spark that led you to start your own business?

I always have many ideas in my head. While I never set out to pursue entrepreneurship, it was clear at one point that to follow those ideas more seriously, I would need to start a business. There were some experiments at the starting phase, but the passion and the drive eventually pushed you to run a business to bring your ideas to fruition.


How did you come up with your business idea, and what research or validation did you conduct before diving into the venture?

The most natural thing for me was always starting with my passion. I was an active age-group athlete, and I wanted to deliver a better experience event in Singapore and focus my attention on that. The first event we held was a large-scale sporting event which involved massive road closures. It took us almost two years to develop the operational plans and convince the authorities how to implement them. There were two years of complex research before launching the first event.

Max Phua (extreme left), Managing Director of World Scientific Publishing, National Marathoners Ashley Liew (second from left) and Mok Ying Ren (third from left) and Former Minister of State for Manpower, Teo Ser Luck (second from right) at the official launch of Runnerdotes, a new book by Adrian to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Sundown Marathon in 2017 (Photo Source: Today Online)
Max Phua, Ashley Liew, Mok Ying Ren and Former Minister of State for Manpower, Teo Ser Luck at the official launch of Runnerdotes, a new book by Adrian to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Sundown Marathon in 2017 (Photo Source: Today Online)

What were your biggest challenges when starting your business, and how did you overcome them?

Having access to funds was the biggest challenge. When I first started the event management company, we pitched and obtained the license to run one of Singapore's most significant triathlon events. The initial cost to get things started was huge. The risk was also relatively high; thus, those were my biggest challenges.

What lessons have you learned along the way that you wish you knew before starting your entrepreneurial journey?

All the lessons I learnt in business school were well-used! If there is one thing that genuinely tested me, it was problem-solving. The unique situation pushes me to seek solutions. I strongly encourage aspiring start-up entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas or concepts to someone who can give you honest opinions. It will toughen you up and stress test your thought process. You will likely create many iterations from the original idea, but it will teach you how to be creative and solve your problems.

Curious Squirrels in action at MINDS
Curious Squirrels in action at MINDS

Can you share some of your most memorable successes and failures? How did they shape your approach to business?

The most memorable success was creating and launching the Sundown Marathon in the first year. In Sundown Marathon, we always seek and implement unique features (from showers to mid-night movies). However, in one of the years, we implemented an onsite bib printing service, which was a disaster, causing long delays in the race pack collection. The lessons learnt sufficiently tested the new ideas. Since then, I picked up Design Thinking as a process to always look through that you should adequately try your ideas through the lens of a customer/user to approach a problem.

How do you stay motivated during tough times or when facing obstacles?

I read widely and draw references to people or stories that I can relate to. There is always a way out or a solution to every problem.

Persistence and resilience are two attributes that you cultivate over time. My pursuit gives me an edge as I know how to intrinsically drive myself and stay motivated.
Adrian shares his thoughts at Consulus on the crucial role of networks in pioneering a successful event (Photo Source: Consulus)
Adrian shares his thoughts at Consulus on the crucial role of networks in pioneering a successful event (Photo Source: Consulus)

Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who are just starting their journey? 

Entrepreneur is only for some. Have a psychological profile done and some assessment and checklist to your current state of life and immediate (3 years) future state to assess your risk appetite. That is when all else fails; you are ok to move on. Once you have made peace with your decision as an entrepreneur, go with your heart and enjoy the roller coaster ride. There will be gains, and there will be losses.


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Our engaging conversation with Adrian Mok took us on a profound journey into the intricate realm of a shrewd entrepreneur. We explored various facets of his career, from his remarkable business acumen to the unwavering determination that has defined his path. Through this enlightening exchange, we unveiled the compelling driving force behind his entrepreneurial ventures and the truly inspiring narrative that culminated in the establishment of Curious Squirrels. As we draw this conversation to a close, it becomes evident that the wisdom derived from this dynamic individual transcends the confines of entrepreneurship, presenting invaluable insights for those with aspirations in the world of business.

 

Stay tuned for more inspirational stories on local entrepreneurs and businesses!


To get featured on our blog or reach out to the entrepreneurs featured, drop us an email at info@ubesg.com

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