Evelyn Chew is the founder of Ministry of Adventure (MOA). MOA offers different adventures like rock climbing, local and overseas hikes, kayaking and dives.
As a student in NTU, Evelyn started thinking that there must be something other than studying. She decided to join courses teaching leadership and NLP skills, where she got to know people with vastly different mindset from the usual people she was surrounded with. And her itch to become an entrepreneur got her to plan and execute her very first course – a baking class.
“That was totally out of my character!” Evelyn laughed. She pulled it off successfully and had fun, but baking was definitely not in her foreseeable future. Along the way, she helped to organise various events and eventually clocked enough hours to run events herself.
The Birth of Ministry of Adventure
When it finally came to a point where Evelyn had to decide what to do with her life, sports and adventure came to mind.
“I’ve always wanted to join ODAC! It looked so fun, but their events are very expensive.” She lamented.
So Evelyn decided to start her own meetup group called Passion Courage Fun in Oct 2014. Her very first event was a local hike along Southern Ridges and she gathered a few friends who were familiar with the route to help out.
It was almost unheard of to be charged for a local hike, but she decided to charge a little and provided food and drinks. “I didn’t expect a lot of people to turn up, but on that day, 50 people turned up!”
“The whole thing that changed for me was when after the hike, people came up to me and thank me for organising it! They said that they have never walked 10km before and were really surprised they could do it.”
“I never knew I can change people’s life like that.”
Touched by their gratitude, it encouraged Evelyn to organise more events based on suggestions from her PCF participants. More participants-turned-friends joined her in organising events, and PCF started growing bigger.
In 2015, Evelyn decided to rename PCF to Ministry of Adventure.
Evelyn’s cheerful and bubbly countenance faltered for the first time when asked about her biggest challenge so far.
As a brief background, meetup groups organising overseas hikes and travel events became so popular that Singapore Tourism Board stepped in and mandated that such groups will require a travel agent license which has a minimum financial requirement of $100k.
“At that time I had a day job and STB sent a letter to my company. The HR manager even called me down to investigate and it affected my career.
STB wanted us to close down in less than 48hours, so we did not have much time to react. We had to close down our meetup group and facebook group. Luckily facebook group can be archived, but we lost over 3000 contacts from our meetup group.
How long did Evelyn take to get MOA up and going again?
“It took me maybe a week. I never envisioned MOA to be a company and didn’t have a business plan. I could not give a clear direction and lost most of our events as we had stopped focusing on local events then. Due to my hesitance and inaction, a big part of my committee left, and I was left with just 2 members to help out.”
Getting Back on Her Feet Again
“I realised that I did not want to stop MOA. I wanted to have a platform for people to have passion, courage and fun and that did not change.”
With travel adventures out of the picture, Evelyn decided to concentrate on expanding local activities, like weekly rock climbing events, level 1 and 2 climbing courses and 1 and 2 star kayaking courses.
Fun fact: I met Jake during one of MOA’s weekly climbs =D And apparently we are not the only “MOA couple” too! *hint hint*
Along the way, she managed to resolve the license issue and restart the company operation again.
Taking a Leap of Faith
In 2017, Evelyn gathered her courage and finally quit her day job.
“I realised I could not run MOA on a part-time basis. There’s only so far that I can cope. So when there’s a change in management and people started quitting, I quit too.
But it was not an easy decision. I had to face objections from my family and they would say things like “What if you sprain your ankle? How are you going to run your events?” Which is why I like to partner different people, so that the events can go on without me.”
Precious Lessons Learnt
Note: I actually asked Evelyn for her biggest lesson learnt, but she graciously decided to share more than one important lesson.
“Always check the rules and regulation. Singapore is such a fine country and we should not have run the risk of not checking. If you don’t follow the law and policies, once the government say you must shut down, you must shut down. Always have a firewall to protect yourself.”
“Next, always have a contract. Even if it’s your family and friends. Business is business and you need to have an agreement to fall back on. It will be awkward raising this topic, but you need to do it. And there’s no such thing as 50-50. If you say yes and I say no, who will decide? Might as well not have a business. We realised we were spending more time resolving internal conflicts than planning more activities for MOA.
I’ve spent sleepless nights over these. It was a very painful lesson learnt.”
“And always have a proof of concept for your business. You may think that your idea is great and everyone will love it. But when you really go to the ground, you may realised that it’s not what people want.”
Best Moment as an Entrepreneur
“It was last year during MOA’s 3rd anniversary dinner. I couldn’t believe we’ve made it this far. We skipped the 2nd anniversary celebration because that was when all the problems with the license started and I didn’t know where it would go.
But I’m really happy I started MOA. Otherwise we all would have never met each other.”
Advice for Budding Entrepreneurs
“Go and network and meet other people. There are many events for startups and entrepreneurs. Get to know them and who knows, you may get a referral.”
But what about introverts who find it super hard to talk to people?
“Actually introverts have a huge advantage. Just start by listening. Extroverts like me can’t wait to share everything about ourselves. We don’t really listen and connect to other people. But introverts are more observant and sensitive to certain topics. Just be interested. People value connection a lot.”
Huge Vision for MOA
“Back then I didn’t want to let people know that we need money. But these days I’ve been thinking if we don’t let people know, we’ll never know if there’s actually people who would want to help us. So we’ll be launching our crowdfunding during our 4th anniversary dinner in Nov this year. With our own license, we’ll be able to cut down on costs and lower event fees for our members.”
“I’ll be sharing more about my big vision for MOA’s future during the dinner as well.”
Honestly, Evelyn shared quite a lot of details about her vision with me during the interview, and boy, are they huge! To say that I was fascinated by her plans is not, in the least, exaggerated.
But I shall not spoil her surprise!