Janus Education’s vision is simple: to break boundaries in education. How? One: to be the premier creative education portal for 8 to 18 year olds. Two, to be the leading publisher of media created by 8 to 18 year olds. Our strategy is two-pronged. First, 8 to 18 year olds must learn to create. Through our proven methodology developed by media practitioners and educators, the young achiever sees the purpose of creative education principles. He wants to be part of the creative process. He creates his masterpiece. What next? We publish his work, either in our magazine, or paperback or digitally. Our message is clear: we teach you how to create, and we sell your creation to the world!

Driving Janus Education

What makes Janus Education tick? Is there a secret to its unique best-seller, the Young Author Scheme? It’s all about belief and a never-say-die attitude, say Ms Catherine Khoo, its managing director and creator of The Unique Classroom. Follow her interview as she shares her love for the written word and how it drove her to create a business she is passionate about.
Read her interview here »

Address 261 Waterloo Street #03-08 Waterloo Centre Singapore 180261
Tel:6336-8985 Fax:6348-8375
Email: books@catherinekhoo.sg

Careers

Creative Educators

Janus Education, specialising in Creative Education is looking for Creative Educators to embark on a teaching learning journey with us. Requisites are a love to work with 7 to 16 year olds, a keen interest in writing, a friendly interest in computer communications software, and of course, meeting people. You could be 25 or 40 or even 50! It doesn’t matter. What’s important is enthusiasm, dynamism and a never-say-die spirit! We pay a decent hourly salary, with interesting perks, so if you think you’ll like to nurture the next generation of thinkers and writers, we’d like to hear from you. Send us your CV and your personal statement on why you’d make a good creative educator.

Marketing Communications Executive

You love meeting people. You love the written word, and you know how to make it work for you! You have the 4Ds: drive, determination, discipline, dynamism. And you have just earned your degree or looking for a mid-career change.

Janus Education is looking for interns, specifically with a good knowledge of social media marketing. We are nurturing the next generation of thinkers and writers and are on the lookout for like-minded people who share our passion.

Send us your CV and yes, do share with us why you deserve this opportunity!.

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Interview with Ms Catherine Khoo by Nguyen Bao Khanh, Kelsie on 13-Jun-2011.
Student can be reached at kelsienguyen@gmail.com

Business Profile:
The company provides creative education programmes for children from 8-18. It prides itself on the unique combination of education and publishing that sees its young writers through a holistic process from developing their creativity and writing skills, to producing their own creation, to getting their books or movie scripts going to awards and being published.

Interviewer’s Comments:
Catherine’s love for what she does is what gives me a lot of respect for her. She took the risk and overcame tremendous challenges to start her business. Her passion and ‘never say die’ attitude are essential to her success throughout the years, and I believe would lead her to greater heights in the future.

1. What is the nature of your business?
Our business is essentially a combination of education and publishing. Creative education is under Janus Education and publishing is under Experiences and Experiments. We aim to nurture young writers age 8-18 to develop their creativity and writing skills from the very beginning. For education, our company offers creative education programs in which children learn and make use of the English that they learn and apply the skills into writing. Through the process, children produce their own creation, basically a book. Then they go for the award, after that we put their works together into an anthology or a series. This is where the publishing comes in. In short, we build the next generation of thinkers and writers from learning, recognition, they then join Young Author club community where they give back by mentoring younger ones. This becomes the full circle rather than for them just to stop there.

2. When and why did you decide to become an entrepreneur / take over your family business?

NOTE: If it is not a family business, ask: Do your parents have their own businesses too? Have they inspired you in one way or another? (Select appropriate question according to the entrepreneur being interviewed.)

 
I was not an entrepreneur; I was in media, and I loved writing and reading books. I was in media from up until 2002, when I was the Editor-in-chief of two Japanese publications, and this was during a financial crisis. I was told in not-so-many-a-good term that they needed an editor-in-chief in Tokyo. They offered to relocate me to Japan. Being a mother of three young children, I couldn’t take this move and decided to leave the company. At that time, I decided to take over the education company, Janus Education, the owners then were planning to go back to Australia due to higher operation cost in Singapore. I then started to create the Young Author Scheme, using my media skills to work on educating children. I had good authors so I thought that their work could be published. I approached some publishers but they did not believe that the kids could write. So in 2005, I started Experiences & Experiments to assist them with publishing. With this journey, I consider myself to be an accidental entrepreneur. My family was not in business; they worked for others. I think a lot of entrepreneurs come into it accidentally. Like me, it was borne out of necessity.

3. What are your reasons for choosing to do business in this particular industry?
I love writing and reading books. I had my first story published when I was 13 years old. I love everything that has to do with books. My passion has brought me to get into this business to empower children to write and create and then publish their books in a well-designed and well-edited manner.

4. How did you put together all the resources needed to start your business? For example: getting the start-up capital, hiring staff, doing sales and marketing, advertising, etc.
N/A

5. What are some interesting stories you have about your first few customers/first few years in business?
In 2003 I started the Young Author Scheme through an English head of department who told me that his kids could write, but that he wanted them to do something different. He queried if I could mentor them to write a book? As an author, I’ve always believed that nothing is impossible. So I said, ‘why not?’ Without thinking twice, I took the challenge. Sometimes as an entrepreneur you need to take the leap of faith to start building your wings. It was important for me to ask, ‘Why not?’ and ‘Why can’t it be done?’ You focus on solutions, not on problems.

6. What are some of the challenges you faced when you first went into business?
Suddenly in 2002-2003, I was in education and I had to find the missing pieces of my puzzle, as I was never in business. This was so new to me and that was when I had to build my own brand, find my own customers and create my own programmes. It was tough especially when it was all happening during the SARS outbreak in 2003. I was dealing mostly with the schools at that time. As a preventive measure, the schools cancelled all the appointments with external educators to prevent further spread of SARS. As a result, all bookings went down to zero and I was not allowed to enter the school premises for the programmes.

7. How did you overcome these challenges? Please share some specific examples of the action you took to overcome the challenges.
It was tough but I think that if you stuck to it as I did and believed in what I did as I still do, things will eventually pick up. Although I don’t have experience in business, I pick them up along the way. I know some people think it’s a long walk, but I believe that when you believe in the company’s ideals, we will get there.

8. Can you remember your worst day in business or a time when you felt like giving up? What happened that made you feel that way and how did you triumph over it?
The period of 2002-2003 was an extremely difficult time, with my mother-in-laws illness, my brother’s death in an accident and my mother, who lived with him plunging into depression as a result. In 2003, SARS struck and it really hit me hard. I had to decide whether I should leave the business behind and take care of my loved ones or whether I should hold onto the new business that I was forging. This is the toughest decision I had to make in my life. At that point, I told myself that I had to believe in the business: I had to believe that nothing was impossible and that I was doing something that I was passionate about. My belief helped me to persist and move forward with the business.

9. Can you share some of the lessons you learnt from overcoming your own business challenges that you think will help other businesses?
When I started without any experience, it was challenging to fully understand where I was heading. I realized that at the start, I wanted to do so many things but I needed to sacrifice the effectiveness of other things as a result. Besides, as a woman you have a lot of concerns ‘ the family, children and family events you need to attend to as part of your responsibility ‘ so it is always a challenge for woman entrepreneurs. So, it’s important to ask yourself: why are you doing this? Why are you in this business? I asked myself this question many many times in the past eight years ….. and the answer always has been: because I believe in what I am doing. I build the next generation of thinkers and writers through what I do. And, then, only then, can you grow, and your business grow with you.

10. When was the moment you realised the business would work and support you?
It was in 2005: while I was putting together the first batch of books to be published and we had a launch for the books. It was a one-man show Me and myself! I had to do everything: I had to invite the media, get the guests, work on the launch ceremony with 2 young authors aged 13 who will host the event, yes, everything! To prepare for the launch and going through this experience, I realized that it was not so difficult after all. During the launch, listening to the students share their thoughts about writing and their passion was refreshing. One young author told the guest-of-honour that he wanted to keep the book because he knew when he became famous, the book would cost a lot! It made me feel that I did right, motivating the kids to learn. When their books are published, our young authors have a sense of achievement, so you bring joy to other people. The launch made me feel that I was doing something that helps other people and that made me happy.

11. What are some of your proudest business achievements to date? And why are they so important and meaningful to you?
Our two young authors came to us when they were 11 and wrote their stories and got published. For both of them, after 6 years, their stories were made into a tele-movie by Okto Channel. When I contacted animation companies as early as 2006 to persuade them to look at the children’s work, a lot of people were skeptical. But I believe that what children create can be taken to a higher level. Finally, in 2010, I brought this concept to a new production company, which pitched to Okto who then made the stories into movies. Seeing the fruition of these stories, yes, after 6 long years, made me really happy. Second, it was my outreach programme to get our young authors to meet their friends from other countries such as Cambodia, as well as underprivileged children here. I believe that as they learn, they should give back. Seeing how they could talk the same language with the same great enthusiasm and enjoyed working together on a book which was eventually used to help build confidence in other kids, was something that I am quite proud of.

12. How do you differentiate your business from your competitors? Please provide specific examples.
I label what I do as creative education; the programmes that we do are developed in-house and what we do is really a niche. Unlike other companies, which just tap on one phase of creative development, we go all the way to build the child and even help them to gain recognition and awards, and to get published. However it was not easy editing books. When I first edited the book, I was near to crying. It is a process of learning to achievement, to building the child’s confidence and to developing the love for writing. In fact, the education business is a long-term business…. your rewards come in more than financial ways! Also, we have working partnerships with government organisations that deal with books: the National Library Board, Media Development Authority, National Book Development Council of Singapore and the Singapore Book Publishers Association. Having endorsement from these authorities give credibility to our efforts.

13. What are some business ideas you have implemented that created great results in your business?
Some of the ideas that we have created include the Young Reader Club magazine, which is now circulated to all schools in Singapore. Our Young Author Club nurtures young authors’ work, which is hosted in the National Library. Besides these, we are proud to introduce the audio books, which facilitate reading by combining an interesting storyline with a familiar voice of the authors. We are also started introducing more e-books on new platforms such as the iPad.

14. What do you see for your business in the next 5 years, and does it include any plans for expansion?
Over the years, we have crafted our business under The Unique Classroom learning suite. This comprises 50 programmes under 5 categories: English, Literature, Media Skills, Champion Programmes and Educator’s Skills. We are going to license the programs overseas to countries in Asia very soon and train the teachers overseas to teach our programmes. As the publisher, I have the connection with education. What is happening now is that a lot of schools are going to international book fairs to buy books. So we can link our programmes together with the books as a package. The beauty of my programmes is that schools can keep their curriculum and take us in as an add-on suite of programmes.

15. How much have your business grown since you have started? In terms of $ revenue, customers base, number of employees and number of branches? (rate of growth in percentage or numbers)
I started in 2003 with one person, myself. Now we are 5-man strong, all of us handling two different portfolios. What this says is that it’s not the size, but the commitment of the team to a company’s success.

16. What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
Business is about enabling others; it’s not all about money. Of course, the money aspect would have to come in. But for me that is just the starting point; it’s about doing what you love and are passionate about, and to be willing to work hard for it.

17. What are some entrepreneurship qualities that you have which has helped you come this far?
Starting a business does not you an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur takes her business to another level, you inject what I believe are the core values into the business. You have to have a never-say-die attitude. I consider myself as an incurable optimist. You need to think positive, there always ups-and-downs but you have to believe in yourself and the good in the world. To me, my business is like my baby. You love your baby, you fret when she’s not doing well, you’re happy when she is happy ‘.. in every sense of the word.

18. In your opinion, what other qualities does a person need in order to be successful in business? And why? (eg. Educational qualification, work experience, family influence, attitude, etc)
You have to be creative and think of new ways to do things; you must learn to be innovative during this climate where things are outdated very fast. Always believe in yourself and be willing to believe in other people. You must build a team. Entrepreneurship is about putting a group of like-minded people together and then you can really see the business go ahead. Educational qualifications are just the starting point, you have to rely on grit and gumption and hang on despite the naysayers. You must build alliances. And, the most crucial, give more than you receive. Sounds crazy? But if you think about it, every entrepreneur gives more than necessary. Effort, time, sacrifices ‘.

19. In your opinion, what does it mean to have the ‘spirit of enterprise’?
To be willing to take risks and do what you are passionate about and all the while, bringing value to people. And when you fail, to get up, and ask yourself, what did I learn from this? Then to move on and not look back.

20. Who or what motivates and inspires you?
Mr. Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of the PHP institute and his many business philosophies have inspired my work. Among his many thoughts, here are a few I believe in: Focus on what people can do, not what they can’t do. Good service springs from a sense of gratitude. Everyone has talent, it needs only to be uncovered. Youth is a state of mind. Cheer the success of others but walk your own path. My family is also my source of motivation. My husband believed in me when we bought into Janus Education. If not for him, I would not be in this fulfilling business. My three daughters, now 20, 23 and 26, mean the world to me and I want to leave a legacy to them

21. What are some of your business values and what would you like to pass down to others, particularly the younger generation?
What is important is to believe in what you do and go all the way for it. Making losses doesn’t mean that you are not good; it means that you are yet to get there. You have to look hard to see other ways to find your path. It is also important to find what you are passionate about and start from there. Take pride in your work and don’t just do it for the monetary reward. Be willing to work hard. Help and empower others. The meaning of life is to give back, to bring joy to other people. You’ll find that life is much brighter this way.

22. Can you share some of the more significant events / incidents that affected or shaped your business philosophy and the way you conduct your business? i.e. SARS, new competition or shifts in market behaviour and trends, etc.
Like other mothers, holding your child’s creation in terms of a book or a DVD, is a very wonderful feeling; that is what keeps me believing in the value that I am creating. Education is so much a part of us that sometimes we fail to recognise that it also helps us to grow, not in terms of more knowledge, but also as a person. Because I am always aware that what I teach my 8 to 18 year olds will shape the way they grow emotionally (EQ) and compassionately (AQ), a big factor of my creative education principles look at developing them in their Emotional Quotient (EQ) and Adversity Quotient (AQ). Once firmly grounded in our principles, we can slowly steer any ship through any situation. So yes, there are changes in trends and philosophies, but as long as you adhere to your principles, you business will grow.

23. With the changes in the market today, do you think it has become harder or easier to succeed in business? Why do you say so?
It is important you define the business model well and see how to get there. I believe in every era, it can be easy or difficult depending on how you see it. Whether it is now or 10 years before, people can always say that doing business is difficult. You need to find your niche and work like hell to get it.

24. What advice would you give young people who want to start their own business?
Starting either young or old, I think, is not a crucial issue. It’s a matter of what is your value and what you passionately believe in, and how much work you are willing to put in to be successful.