Tuesday, August 2, 2016

3 months of Sabbatical, I am ready for the new phase for Heaven's Gift!

It is 12:22am, and I have not been sleeping, as we prepare to launch our new face for 2016, I am as excited and grateful, as we compile the past photos, videos and notes from our couples. Reading through the notes, and each video, my heart tugged, and I am truly grateful to the Lord for the past 12 years of blessings.

Right at this moment as I am preparing to have a midnight prayer meeting in church, I am prompted to write down my thoughts and learnings  of the last 3 months of Sabbatical leave. There are so much to share, but it will take a life time to share my experiences.
Many asked : wow 3 months of Sabbatical leave! You are so lucky. I dont think it was luck, I know it was needful for me to take a step of faith, and leave the company to get refreshed and be ready for the next phase of the company. In fact, I knew very well that the 3 months of rest, will instill in me principles and reminders that I need to consolidate to go forth for the next 5 years.

Right after an eventful conference we have launched in Siem Reap in Jan 2016, followed by an intensive 1.5 planning for a 1300 pax wedding in March, everything went by so fast, that my team has not really rested since early 2015. As much as everyone was telling me 2016 is going to be economic crisis, is better to do as much work and get sales... my heart just refused to accept that. I know if I continue to run a business without reflection, we will not move far.

These 3 months were a test of stretching my faith, relearning the ropes of being a leader and an entrepreneur, and learning to let go and step forth into the unknown. I went about in the region, from Jakarta, to Surabaya, to Bali, to Shanghai and ended up in Hong Kong, learning to live like a resident in each city, and speaking and sharing my heart to my mentor, and pals that God has led me to come into contact with.

In the midst of all the travelling, I did some of the strangest thing :
  1. I renovated our office
  2. I gave 2 weeks of sabbatical leave in end April for all my team
  3. I left taking a big risk that sales may not come during my absence (especially the big accounts are usually handled by me), and the possibility of facing cash flow concerns.
  4. I think I was taking a dare to hear the cry within my heart - Where is the Lord leading me next? Am I ready for the next leap?

So what do I learn at the end of the 3 months :
  1. Business challenges are very real, but God is even more real. He provides you faith and tenacity that is beyond what you can imagine of yourself.
  2. I have more pals than I can actually realise. There are people that God surprises you with everyday, the grace and generosity that extends to you. I learn about one truth, you will reap what you sow. If you sow generosity, you will reap generosity.
  3. Don't be afraid to start all over again. A team that is complacent is not a team that will grow. So allow your team to plunge with you. If you want to see success, train your people to be winners and not managers.
  4. Finally, I am reminded about His awesomeness and ever faithfulness. There are so many incidents as I travelled, that I was just thinking of a desire, and not even uttering in a prayer to God, and next I knew the very thing I have thought of, was provided right before my eyes. These evidence of His goodness was so needful for me for the next era of Heaven's Gift.
 To God Be the Glory!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Vision for 2016

This week is pretty eventful, bcos so much has happened in one weekend break.

31 Dec -Countdown to 2016!
A dear pal of mine called me up to join her for countdown at Marina. I decided to get my bro and cousins along for dinner. And then before you knew, it was drizzling at Marina. We were so fortunate to get thru the security gantry before they decided to close the lane for further crowd entering. Despite the rain, we continued and in my heart I was really praying : Lord, give me a memorable countdown, can you help to stop the rain?

And of course He is always faithful. The rain stopped, the wind blew the clouds so fast, that I marvelled at the wonder of Nature and His creations.

One hour before the clock struck 0001 - Clouds were heavy, and it was still drizzling...
Half hour the rain stopped, and the clouds parted. I am reminded always God answers prayers
Happy New Year !

1 Jan - 2016 is finally here !
1 Jan is dawned. I said a little prayer to the Lord - make 2016 counts each and every day.
And We have our annual get together with my favourite group of planners. I couldnt sleep long, maybe I wanted to do something different, so I ended up waking early, buying pies for my beloved, and getting even more items to decorate the first meal for the day... ya, some will call me crazy, but I think something is stirring within me to make every moment beautiful for the people that matters to me.

The Planners Who know you your heart and stand by you

I didnt want 1 Jan - The first day of New Year to end so fast, ended up having dinner with one of them, and before we knew it, we talked till midnight encouraging each other.

2 Jan - The beginning of counting down each blessing, each memory!
Woke up early to prepare my house again. This time, my church cell leader was coming to my place for house anointing. It was so funny, I never planned this, but since the church wanted to do something special, so I ended up blessed to open my place for it. The moment we pray - The Lord touched me, and I knew without a shadow of doubt, this year is going to be very special.
I remembered clearly after the quick house blessing, I shared my heartbeat with my leader - my struggles in starting Leap Inspire, and sometimes my doubts of what's to come. Never would I expect, God would prepare a message for me on 3 Jan to address that fear.

2 Jan ended with a night of celebration of one of my ex-designers' wedding. And I bumped into one of my favourite sunday school kids whom I taught and led worship with when he was 12, and 12 years has passed, now he is a fine young man and royal jeweller designer, and he still calls me: Auntie Hannah.

3 Jan morning - My Destiny
I was actually very tired, but I ended waking up at 6am... and I know somehow today's service was different.
Pastor Khong has not preached for 4 months...and then he shared the prophetic word :

Yesterday I was praying : Lord pls confirm again my reason of Leap Inspire and the vision of 2016.
And Pastor shared about this year vision : Fulfilling God's Destiny
1) To the World, Shine yr light
2) To the devil, Siege the kingdom of darkness
3) To God, we surrender to one and only King

When he was sharing a verse and a picture about a place in ancient Israel... my heart was tugged...
Now I am certain I didn't hear God wrongly when He directed me to Cambodia. Siem Reap was intentionally chosen as the venue for the first conference and it has never been a mistake! Whenever I want to do something big for the industry, I will go thru many series of stretching... and yet at the same time, I will start seeing signs and signs of wonders again and again.. and now I know why.

3 Jan afternoon - The Fact of Life - Life is Precious, so dont waste it!
After an anointed service, I rushed down with a pal to a wake. One of our florist partners' bro has passed away at sudden death. I knew I have to be there, not to say much, but simply to stand by them.
I watched the ritual performed, and the no. of relatives and staffs of this family has... I marvelled.
At the end of the day, what really matters - is the people that we have touched, and have become a part of us. Beyond work, life is short, and is so precious. I dont want to waste my life running the rat race, or trying to make more money... bcos that doesn't last. But the relationships, the people we have loved and fostered over time is all that matters.
And at the end of the day, when I meet God face to face, what will He say about me?
I wondered, but I do know what I want to say to Him : Thank You for everything, You have been with me all these years, since the day I was born! I am destined for Greatness!

Tomorrow, I am preparing to pack my bag and leave for Siem reap for the finalisation of the conference. And I learnt to ask again : God, make every moment count for me - bcos I am recording my testament of Your Amazing Grace and Love!

Friday, October 30, 2015

The journey of making a new wave...

I should be sleeping especially I have not slept for 24 hours. The constant thinking, and refining and working kinda take over me, and at the end of the day, my mind is even more active than my physical body. Had a long a church meeting, rushed home to get a concept proposal done for a last min event, when I have literally not slept since yesterday, and tomorrow I have to do a blood test.  Instead of resting, I am now reading my old blogs, and my very blog gives me a surge of energy that I really need now. A part of me is v tired, and a part of me is saying .... press on, bcos the walls of Jericho is about to fall.

And a voice within spoke : Hannah, this is the journey of making a new wave.
I pondered and wondered : so how do waves come about? So here is what I found.

As winds blow across the surface of the sea, they pass their energy to water particles, causing them to move. As the particles below are not moving this creates a circular motion within the water, the top of which we see as a wave. The faster the wind blows, the faster these waves get, and out at sea they begin to merge together and create several larger waves, collectively referred to as a swell. This swell causes the sea level in one area to be lower than another area, and so the swell begins to move to the lower part of the ocean. As the swell approaches the shore, the gradient of the beach causes the swell to rise vertically, creating steeper waves. When this height increases, the wave reaches a point where it can no longer support itself, and breaks. This is the point at which white foam is visible on the edge of the wave, and the optimum time to catch a wave. 


The above sounds so abstract but I was reminded : Hannah, this is exactly what is happening to you right now. You are going thru the formation of creating a new wave. It is strong, it is powerful and sometimes you are moving faster than you can imagine. Just as I thought I am going to breakdown, I believe I am already forming swells with the people around me... and we are creating a new surge of energy, and it is brewing, growing and seemingly breaking apart.  Just as we thought we no longer can support ourselves, the new wave is formed. And the vision is dawn!

Counting down 2.5 months, it is a wind that is beyond me, yet it is a powerful force that is carrying me.. I can't wait for Jan 19 to come.. bcos I am seriously waiting to see how this new wave of empowerment will be birthing forth, starting from myself, my team and eventually the community we are building.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A day in the life of a wedding planner in Heaven's Gift Wedding Concierge.

This weekend is very special to every Singaporean, bcos it is the day we celebrate Singapore's independence for the last 50 yrs. While every one is celebrating at home, a team of us from Heaven's Gift Concierge, and our beloved partners were working really hard to create the magical wedding of a life time for our lovely couple who loves to travel.
At the end of the day, the party was a blast, and every process was an awesome experience. I think the enormous task to transform a ballroom in 3 hrs still amazes everyone and that fulfilment itself lingers. It has once again proven to us, that with precised planning and a great vision, all things are possible, bcos there is one leadership, one vision, one heart and one people!
And interestingly, the emcee of last night - Donna Daniels reminded me : Hannah , you must blog this experience, otherwise no one actually realises all the hard work. And I thought to myself : yes, I should do that, not for myself, but at least for the faithful team that has stood by me all these years.

For those who wonder about what we do, or who dream to be in our team, I want to say :          
Wedding planners are never never a glamorous vocation, but I must admit, it has been one lifetime experience that has changed my life, and many in our team. So here is a glimpse of what we do on the actual wedding day :

1150pm on 8 Aug outside St Regis hotel - Supervision begins
Our Operations Director - Kim Tay & our Wedding Specialist Max had arrived. This is their first time staying overnight to supervise an unloading. Usually I would be the one handling with my designer, but I decided it's time to let go and hand over the baton. Besides, our couple's wedding  schedule would start at 6am the next day.

1.00am on 9 Aug - Workers are trying their best to carry the customised props thru the narrow gate without damaging them 
The unloading begins. It is one extensive process. You would have assumed we have the ballroom to transform from midnight. But this was not the case. There was a lunch wedding in the same ballroom from 12pm to 3.30pm, and we were not allowed to unload the big props from the main hotel lobby. So everything was precisely cut into small parts to fit the narrow loading door of 1.8m via the fire escape route up to level 2 John Jacob Ballroom. Yes, it is unbelievable tedious job.

This is a replica of the Genghis Khan Status, which is especially meaningful to this wedding, bcos the father of the couple built this actual status in the country Mongolia. Yes, when I knew that, I said "Wow"

At 2.45am - We packed as much props in that small banquet storage room. I have to really say this : The support from St Regis Singapore is amazing and it is always a joy to have them as venue owner. I simply love to work with this hotel. Bcos they truly will stand by us. We would not have made it if we have no storage area to release to us. Those who know St Regis Hotel Singapore well, there is no function room at level 2 or besides the main ballroom, so literally we have to think out of the box to find hidden storage. God gave us a great team including St Regis Singapore to make this happen.

Can you imagine that's how we stack the customised props? All remain in tact despite the stacking.

Even the stage hidden corners are stacked with our panels for the 22m stage..
We really know how to think out of the box!

3am onwards, Floral arrangements began

7am we started to focus on the morning ceremony area. And it was one magical setup
We always love our trees... they are symbols of Heaven's Gift!

11.30am - Completed our Wedding Ceremony for our lovely couple

1.45pm - We finally had our lunch.
2.30pm - We have our final briefing with the banquet team.

3pm - every one was waiting at loading bay for the massive unloading and transformation await. I am one planner that is very particular about having seamless process and coordination with every vendor. No one is supposed to fight or conflict with each other as a result of rush time or limited space.

We have multiples floral and contractors companies, 1 sound & lights crew and all hired separate artists, following one direction to make things work. Once again, we believe - One Vision, One Heart!

3.30pm - Finally the lunch wedding before us was over, and we could begin our turn around.
It was a mad rush and crazy experience. I am glad we went thru this, bcos it taught us in the chaos of things, God still sits on the throne.
The previous wedding before us was using white linens, and our couple would be using bronze linens, yes the turnover begins, and some guests still refuse to leave :)

That's how fast St Regis Team works. I really love them!
The stage was torn down to make way for the 22m long X 6m high stage!
 4.00pm - The Stage panel was on its way up!
Finally at 4pm, we manage to get the stage panel laid down to be ready to put up
One, Two, Three Move.... One Two Three Move.... this project has almost 40 workers of the entire crew from contractors to planners.
Foyer Photo Backdrop begins, we are building our Love Cottage for the couple - their Carmel House
At 4.30pm, second group of contractors began the installation on the truss! This is the part I fear most, bcos it would prove if our calculation of our weight of all the flowers, crystals and fairylights can stay on the truss.
Even as planner, I at times don't sleep bcos I am dreaming of this setup process.

All the fairylights were personally ordered by myself to ensure it is as precise to my dream.
Yes, we don't leave even the little details to our contractors. Otherwise it will not be called our design. 

5.30pm - The Vision of our design is getting clearer into final deliverables.. I was literally counting down the clock

I am so proud of Nichelle, one of my designers. Her ability to detailing has leaped much. When the photographer and video crew from Moo Media asked me, so who designs the stage. My immediate response was : Of course, Heaven's Gift! We envision, we photoshop and the first artwork must come from us first! Then we tweaked with the contractors.
One cannot claims her works, if she is not involved. And yes, we are very involved in every stage of designing.
That's what concept planners are for, we don't just dream, we put feet to craft our dream!
6.45pm - While I am briefing the emcee, this was the first look...
My Groom walked in, and first words that came from his mouth was : Well done Hannah, I am Impressed!
The Main Gate to Nycky & Diane's Wonderland.

Even the men loves our photo booth! The Carmel House!
Guests can literally stand inside the house looking out thru the window
This is what I love best : Directing the final lightings to ensure my vision is perfected!
 And thank God for my faithful lightings and sound crew, they are my corner stones!

Groom's Dad is very happy, I bet he never expect our replica to be as real as his original. 

Our first time working with Donna Daniels, and she is such a spirited emcee.
cDonna, thank you for encouraging me to blog this experience

Finally our wedding cake - every tier was specifically crafted to what I have envisioned. A bit of Nycky & Diane, A bit of Singapore since it is National Day holiday, and a bit of all the places they have fall in love with.
Chef Joey completed this just before she flew out of Singapore.

So what have I learnt and appreciated  in this entire process?

  1. Nothing is impossible. When a leader has a vision, she has to perfect this vision to make it work for her teams i.e even those that are not her employees
  2. When a challenge is posed, or a desire is given to you, as a leader, you learn to take this challenge and internalise the process to make that dream come true, no matter how much trust the client may or may not give you.
  3. Believe in your team, bcos they can rise up to take up the leadership you have empowered them. Bcos they are not just managers, they are your next generation of leaders
  4. Don't give up perfecting your vision, even when no one sees what you see, you have already seen it. Hannah, you just need to press on!
  5. The above lessons are even more precious, bcos on National Day, I realise, some of the above principles apply to how Singapore was also built.
  6. Finally, one thing I will always remind myself : I am blessed bcos I have known a God that is always faithful, not once has He failed me. He brought me leaps and bounds beyond my wildest dreams. If I choose again to live one life, I will still choose to be Hannah Chong!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

When you know who is your soure of strength, you can leap in faith!

These 2 weeks are very unexpected. After having done 12 events, you thought you would be on your high, and then unexpectedly, I felt into a low of having to do so many things even when there is only 1 more event to go. Is this a sign for me to take a break?

But somehow something within me tells you, you just have to press forward.
Thank God for sending me passionate entrepreneurs who inspire and encourage me for last 1 week.
I always know He has all interest good for me.
This morning, I was about to submit an article that I have procrastinated for a week, nothing came out of me for a long time... and in my quiet moments with the Lord, interestingly the words came forth so beautifully, and in the end I wrote 2 articles instead.

And while I was writing, there were 2 background song that were playing that tugged my heart :

Good morning sunshine, where have you been
What took so long, it’s good to see you again
Good morning sunshine, you feel like a dream
I have been waiting for the promise you bring

It’s been a long time… good morning sunshine

Everyday you find a new way to open up my eyes
Mercy and grace shine down on my face
like sunlight from the sky

Good morning sunshine, where will you take me
There’s mountains to climb and so much to see
A new adventure is waiting ahead
I’m so excited just to get out of bed

Let’s see what we find… my sweet sunshine
Today is a new day, tomorrow’s behind us and 
we have been so blessed
Whatever’s before us, I know that with His help
we’ll surely pass any test
Good morning sunshine, good morning sunshine

I used to think that I’d be better off
If I could only know the end result
I used to ask you why, and hang my head and cry
As if you never catch me when I fall

Everyone’s afraid
When the winds start blowing
But they’re just winds of change

All I need to know
Is you’re in control
And you know just what to do
I don’t need to see
What I really need
Is a little more trust in you

It’s hard to face my fear and let it go
When these seeds of faith have turned to stone
If I could just believe, I’d throw this mountain to the sea
And on this path I never walk alone

Everyone’s afraid
When the wind starts blowing
But you’re always the same

I’m reaching out, take my hand
Savior please rescue me
I’ll make it through and follow you
And I will believe
All I can do is trust in you...

Friday, July 24, 2015

Renewing your vision is a daily step of faith!

These past few days I was actually pretty tired, especially after having realised we have actually done 12 events in last 1.5 months together with my team of planners and designers. Yes, it was crazy, and yet I marvelled at the fact God's empowerment in each of them. Do I desire to do another 12 events in another 1.5 months, my immediate answer is No.

However, this 1.5 month has taught me and Kim that nothing is really impossible if you really are determined and have faith to do each well. And true enough,  in every of the 12 events, we are blessed with success and achievements and most importantly the appreciation from the couples and families that matter most to us.  That's the only reason that keep us doing what we do.

Interestingly, I am reminded this morning by the Almighty that I did ever shared with my team, when Leap Inspire was launched 3 months ago, that we would go thru a steep learning of growth and empowerment, and when I now look back, I am comforted that the last 1.5 month was the process to sharpen us, to get us ready for the next big thing in the company - Leap Inspire Conference.

These 2 weeks, I started meeting up with the various partners and speakers for the conference. I am so happy I have met them. Bcos often when you are in the midst of busy doing your very own things, the faith and energy in like-minded people recharge you and make you focus on what you should really do. It is also funny, it is through like-minded people, they remind you about the principles you hold dearly when running the business. It was also thru them they reminded you : why you need to continue to do what you do best - to envision and set the pace for the next generation of leaders.

I was talking to Don from Nanyang, and David from Axioo on separate occasions past 1 week, and two things they have taught me and reminded me to continue :
  1. Hannah, you are doing the right thing. Don't stop, continue to believe, bcos God will empower you and the team that is meant to be under you.
  2. Hannah, you should start your blog again, bcos people want to hear true stories, real life examples as an entrepreneur. These days people dont write anymore, they only instagram. But life is not made up of just pictures, there are stories to be shared.
  3. Hannah, remember God has a bigger plan than what you assume, so don't retire, there are so much more you can do.
 It is so encouraging to hear from people who are passionate, but at the same time, godly, who understood life is really a journey of adventures that allowed us to learn to never give up, but to always move forward. These are the people I want to hang out with, bcos regardless of our achievements, life is more than that. And I am reminded of a quote that sets my foundation in all these decades : "Today well-lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope"

So having said all, this is our first video for our Vision for Leap Inspire :

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Birth of Leap Inspire - the Bold Voice of Hannah has once again spoken!

These days, I noticed whenever I blog, is often a result of what I observed in the market and what I wish I can change within my own means. And today is one such day.

Myself and my business partner, Kim Tay have been very busy since the beginning of the year. Amidst all the weddings and last min corporate events we are handling, we are also coaching a few of our partners on how to run their businesses. These past 2.5 years, I am so grateful that I have someone like Kim to share my thoughts, my vision and dream, and sometimes my own frustrations about being in the industry. But we both knew very well, we really love the industry. Over past 12 years (and for Kim, it is now her 14th year), we have grown in what we do, and we have also loved the industry more and more, amidst the fierce competitions and bad sentiments arising from the market.

Why do we love this industry - Special Events and Creative Retail industry?
We love simply because we have met real people - Artisans and entrepreneurs who actually gave up everything not because there's a lot of money in this industry, but simply bcos they do believe in what they do, and they are very passionate in what they do.
I used to be in the corporate life for a decade, and to have the same decade of experience in a wedding industry made me realised wedding artisans are very unique, and we are very special people. We do what we do, bcos we truly believe one day, our couples and our clients will embrace what we aspire to create and become. And to a large extent, many of us have somewhat achieved that.

Why we feel sad about this industry at the same time?
Like any industry, there is always competition , especially for an industry like a wedding industry, the entry of barrier is literally ZERO!! Everyone who has a camera can claim to be a photographer, anyone who can arrange flowers become a floral designer, everyone who does a mood board becomes a wedding planner, and anyone who can sketch or sew becomes a gown designer. Yet the main challenge about this intense competition is also very emotional, bcos like I said earlier, we are real people. When passionate people come together to compete, they don't compete by mere best deals or lowest quotation, they compete purely with their works. At least I can say majority of us do. Yet in recent years, both Kim and myself have also observed, both old and new players have also started to compromise the integrity of this competition, applying undercutting strategies and copycats are birthed.. and that to me is very very sad!!
Bcos if we continue to have this carried on, the industry will eventually made up of short term goal getters and not legendary visionaries. And literally I believe our future clients or couples will have NO RESPECT in what we do - WHY? Bcos we no longer believe in what we do! And we will have no pride in passing any legacy. It is almost like what Founder Lee Kuan Yew said in his time of leading the country : “My colleagues and I are of that generation of young men who went through the Second World War and the Japanese Occupation and emerged determined that no one–neither Japanese nor British–had the right to push and kick us around.  We determined that we could govern ourselves and bring up our children in a country where we can be proud to be self-respecting people.” 
I felt our Jap & British we have to fight is the wave of market changes and the uncertainty of the next generation of consumers/players, but our destiny is determined by our own governance of how we live our passion and pass on our legacy.

So what should we do now?
This is why after so many years, I decided to take a plunge and do the next leap - creating an Asian platform for creative entrepreneurs to seriously talk and maintain the integrity of the industry, and most importantly to grow our business respectfully (if I may use that word) and profitably. I was the first planner in Singapore to invest money travelling around the world since I have started my business.  I have had attended conferences after conferences and back then, I wished I have these people back home. I don't mean the American wedding planners are perfect, but I crave for the mutual sharing and integrity they protect for their industry. Everyone doesn't play poorly by the rules, bcos you will get sued if you ever do that :)

Leap Inspire was hence birthed in June 2014 (though the idea has been in discussion since Jan 2014), and we formally registered in Jan 2015. We decide to empower and groom the next generation of creative entrepreneurs towards excellence and success. we believe most of all, to cultivate in all creative entrepreneurs the right attitudes and attributes within ourselves if we truly want success and legacy for the next generation. 

Past few weeks, many players have written to us to applaud what we do, some made remarks : that we are doing a BOLD step, and HUGE endeavour". But with every email we received, this was our reply : "Thank you, we are not doing this because we can boast how well we do... bcos if there is the reason, we have better plans and projects to embark on. We do this, bcos we believe in the industry." Yes, the investment for this is HUGE, some have tried to do but failed. So we know the stake is actually very risky, but we took this step of faith to leap and invest much, bcos we really want to see a change of attitudes in the next generation of entrepreneurs, as well as a growth of more respect from the next generation of clients.

So will we succeed? I only believe in this : 
Legacy is not what's left tomorrow when you're gone.
It is what you give, create, impact and contribute today while you're here than then happens to live on" by Rasheed Oguniaru.