MAKE A DATE

Violet Lim

CEO & CO-FOUNDER

LUNCH ACTUALLY PTE LTD

(Pulsar Category Winner 2017)

"Witnessing a couple’s life journey is the most rewarding part of Violet Lim’s job"

It was during her former stint at a bank that Violet Lim found herself baffled by a strange phenomenon — many of her colleagues, despite being well-groomed, successful and very eligible, were single and not seeing anyone, while friends in other social circles were getting married and having children. Lim eventually found a reason for this seemingly inexplicable situation. “Couples usually meet their other halves at university or school, and it gets increasingly difficult to find the right one later on in life,” she notes.

During this time, she also came across the concept of lunch dating, which was popular in the UK, US and Australia but had not been picked up in Singapore. The only dating services available then were offered by traditional matchmakers. “The concept really struck a chord with me and I could see my colleagues adopting it,” says Lim, who was the community service chairperson for her bank’s staff recreation club. “As employees of a bank, they work very long hours but they never miss their lunch hour. Besides, lunch provides enough time for you to meet someone and know if you want to take it further, but not long enough for it to become awkward.”

So in April 2004, at the age of 24, she started Lunch Actually. Now into its 13th year, the company has since grown beyond the confines of a conventional dating website. “Previously, we focused on just being the platform to bring people together, but now we have other services and our Lunch Actually Academy, which offers date coaching and image coaching services,” says Lim. “Date coaching is also life coaching. A lot of times, people are single because they think they have not met the right one. But finding the right one isn’t just about meeting the right one, it is also about being and choosing the right one.”

Image coaching is relatively more straightforward, the 37-year-old explains. “We help clients present themselves in the best light while remaining authentic to themselves; there is no point in trying to change a person or make him or her into someone else. We do image analyses and based on their personalities, we come up with an image personality. We take them shopping, do a wardrobe audit and ask for pictures of the clothes they have. For ladies, we also help with makeup.” By making small little tweaks, Lim adds, one can see significantly improved results.

More than just bringing people together, the goal is to give couples the right outlook and skills to maintain a meaningful relationship, Lim says hers is a business like no other. “It’s just incredible to see their life journey. In my previous corporate job, I felt trapped and could not really see the impact of my work on society. But in this line, the results are very tangible. It does come with its own set of challenges but it is also very rewarding.”

In her role as the CEO and co-founder of Lunch Actually, Lim sets the strategy and direction of the business, and works with her country heads to drive the business abroad. She is also the face of the company, speaking at engagements covering a variety of topics such as the scope of entrepreneurship, dating and relationships, and cross-gender communications.

When Lunch Actually was first established, there were only three people on the team, including Lim and her then-fiancé (and now husband) Jamie Lee. Today, the team is 106 strong, with a presence in KL, Penang, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Jakarta. Its reputation and branding is helped by extensive media coverage, coupled with advertising through digital media.
When asked what she thinks of Lunch Actually’s success today, Lim is modest about the business’ achievements, noting that the corporate culture has played a significant role in the growth of the company. “I feel we aren’t really there yet. Jamie and I make a great team as we have different strengths and leverage on each other. As we built the company, we have been blessed with great people who have stayed with us for a while – I have three associates who have been with us for 10 years, while many more have been with us for five or seven years.” To maintain a healthy and happy working environment, she implements a strict policy of zero office politics, which some have criticised as being impractical or unrealistic, but the results are clearly evident.

Outside the office, the team pays it forward by engaging in various charitable initiatives. In 2016, the company raised money for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore by making mooncakes and selling them to family and friends. The local teams in Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and Indonesia each contribute in different ways, from making regular visits to old folks’ homes and orphanages to donating bento boxes to the elderly. Lim, who is a member of the Rotary Club at Suntec City, says she is exploring more ways in which the company can give back to society.

Elaborating on the future growth of Lunch Actually, Lim notes that it is crucial for the company to innovate and set challenges for itself. At the same time, it is constantly coming up with products and services that compete with each other — this counter-intuitive move has enabled the business to stay ahead of the game.

“If people think you’re crazy, you’re probably on the right track,” Lim laughs. “You cannot go down the path that everybody has taken, or else how are you going to find the breakthrough? As long as you put one foot ahead of the other, you will eventually get there.”

AWARD JUDGE

BG (NS) Chan Wing Kai

Director

Seed Global Investment

BG (NS) Chan Wing Kai spent 29 years in the Singapore Armed Forces as a military officer. He rose up to the Army’s top leadership and held numerous key appointments.

The years in the Armed Forces provided him a strong foundation in leadership, human capital management, operational planning, training development and critical diplomatic skills.

He retired from active military service in 2016 and is currently a Director with SEED Global Investment, a real estate investment firm. He oversees the company’s portfolio and business development in the US and UK. He holds a MSc in Applied Finance from the Singapore Management University, and is no stranger to corporate finance, portfolio management, equities, bonds and derivatives.

AWARD JUDGE

TIN PEI LING

Member of Parliament
CEO

Business China

Ms Tin Pei Ling is the Chief Executive Officer of Business China, a non-profit organisation that harnesses the support of the public sector & private enterprises to strengthen the ties between Singapore and China. Prior to joining Business China, Pei Ling was the Group Director of Corporate Strategy for Jing King Group.

Pei Ling is an elected Member of Parliament in Singapore since 2011 and currently serves on the Public Accounts Committee. She also serves on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Communications & Information (from 2018, Dy Chairperson) and Health (2011 – present) and previously for Law/Home Affairs (2011-2015) and Social & Family Development (2015 – 2018, Dy Chairperson).

AWARD JUDGE

RYAN CHIOH

Managing Director

Faseastflora.com

Mr Ryan Chioh joined FEF.com in 1998 as Executive Director of Far East Flora Holdings Pte Ltd.

Always a firm advocator for technology, Ryan identified the direction for e-commerce development and saw a business opportunity to offer FEF.com’s extensive range of flowers and gifts online in 2001. Ryan blended his IT savviness and prudent business sense to steer the company’s website to become the leading portal for flowers and gifts. Ryan also brought the company to another level by spearheading the development of a CRM and ERP business solution, integrating the front-end and back-end operations so that there would be easier identification of customer base.

AWARD JUDGE

NEO SING HWEE

Asia Pacific, Asean and Singapore Internal Audit Leader, Risk Advisory Services

Ernst & Young

Mr Neo Sing Hwee sits in the EY Asean Partner Governance Council and leads the Advisory (Risk) Internal Audit Practice in Ernst & Young Asia Pacific, Asean and Singapore.

He has more than 20 years of experience in providing risk management, performance improvement, internal controls and business advisory services to clients in various industries, including organisations in the government and public sector such as ministries and statutory boards. He provides advice to Boards and Management on leading practices, insights as well as issues relating to corporate governance, risk management and internal controls.

AWARD JUDGE

DR LIM WEE KIAK, PBM

Member of Parliament
CEO

Eagle Eye Centre

Dr Lim Wee Kiak, is an elected Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC since 2015 and serves as chairman of Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth. An Ophthalmologist, Dr Lim is currently the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Eagle Eye Centre.

Dr Lim joined the Singapore Armed Forces as a medical officer in 1994 and completed subspecialty training in Ophthalmology in 1998, with a Master’s degree in Medicine and two post-graduate specialist qualifications in Ophthalmology. During his service in SAF, he led numerous humanitarian missions to neighbouring countries. He joined Singapore National Eye Centre and was awarded the MOH HMDP fellowship in 2003, doing one year of clinical and research Fellowship at the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health.

Dr Lim had been an active grassroots leader since 1998 before joining politics in 2006. For his active community involvement, he was awarded the Young Executive of the Year in 2000 and Public Service Medal (PBM) in 2003.

AWARD JUDGE

Chew Mok Lee

Assistant Chief Executive
ICM & Digitalisation
Enterprise Services & New Industries

Enterprise Singapore

Ms Chew Mok Lee is the Assistant Chief Executive in charge of ICM & Digitalisation, Enterprise Services & New Industries in Enterprise Singapore, a government agency spearheading enterprise and industry development, reporting to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore. Enterprise Singapore is also the national Standards body in Singapore.

Prior to Enterprise Singapore, Mok Lee was with National Productivity Board (NPB), PSB and SPRING Singapore. She graduated from National University of Singapore, majoring in Economics and Statistics. She has a double Masters and is well versed in the area of enterprise promotion, industry development and partnership building, having been involved in various aspects of capability development, support for local enterprises, enabling a viable enterprise eco-system and entrepreneurship for 29 years. She also served as Secretariat to the Action Community for Entrepreneurship and was responsible for working with the Minister in Charge of Entrepreneurship and private sector members to foster entrepreneurship and support start-ups in Singapore.

AWARD JUDGE

CHIA KIM HUAT

Regional Head
Corporate and Transactional Practice

Rajah & Tann Singapore

Mr Chia Kim Huat has extensive experience in capital market, public and private mergers and acquisitions, cross-border joint ventures and private equity investments, both in Singapore and the region. He travels regularly in the Asia-Pacific region advising clients on a wide range of matters, including direct investments and infrastructure projects in China, major acquisitions in Korea, joint ventures in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan and cross-border mergers and acquisitions transactions. Kim Huat also advises foreign investors on their investments in Singapore, including listings on the Singapore Exchange, privatisations, secondary and dual listings.

He has been recognised as a leading lawyer in his field by International Financial Law Review 1000, Chambers Global “Leaders in their Field”, Asia Pacific Legal 500, “Eminent Practitioner” in Chambers Asia Pacific, Who’s Who Legal: Corporate – Merger & Acquisition/Capital Markets – Debt and Equity and Merger & Acquisition, ‘Leading Lawyer’ in Asialaw Profiles and Best Lawyers, 2017 Edition.

AWARD JUDGE

TAN WEE BENG

Deputy Chief Executive (Operations)
SkillsFuture Singapore

Wee Beng is the Deputy Chief Executive (Operations) of SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG). He leads the Business Technology Group (Operations Planning Division, Capability Development Division, Operations & Support Division, Security & Infrastructure Division), the Training, Manpower & Infrastructure Group (Manpower & Infrastructure Planning Division, Office of Lifelong Learning, and Institute of Adult Learning which comprises Learning and Professional Development Division, Research and Innovation Division, Learning Services and Support Division ) as well as the Business Services Group (Shared Services Management, Integrated Business Services Division &, Corporate Services Division).

Prior to joining SSG, Wee Beng was an officer with the Singapore Armed Forces, leading both large and small teams. His last appointment was Chief-of-Staff, Republic of Singapore Navy, overseeing a range of staff departments and ground commands. Other key appointments held were Head Naval Operations, Commander of Maritime Security Task Force and Commander, Naval Diving Unit. Wee Beng holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Physics from Oxford University, UK, and a Master of Science in Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA.