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Olivia Lum how I sold my car to jump start a £231m company – MoneyWeek

Theonebigluxurywasknowingthatwehadsufficientresourcesforthenextfewmeals,saysLum。

Becausetheyrarelydid,youngLumranastallbetweenclassesatschool,sellingmangos,kayatoast–apopularlocalsnack–andjeansjusttomakeendsmeet。

Today,afterpayingherownwaythroughsecondaryschoolanduniversityinSingapore,sheistheCEOofoneoftheworldsmostdynamicwater-filtrationfirms。

Atrainedchemist,theself-confessedhardtaskmasterleftawell-paidjobwithGlaxoSmithKlinein1989togoitalone,believingthereweregreatopportunitiesinwaterfiltrationandrecycling。

Chinaishometo7%oftheworldsfreshwater,buthas21%oftheglobalpopulation,andevenbackthen,therapidlygrowingeconomywasputtingseverestrainonitswaterinfrastructure。

Inhindsight,itwasaleapoffaith,shesays。

Shehadnoclearbusinessplan,productorfunding。

Butthatdidntputheroff。

Ibelievemychildhoodexperienceshavegivenmethetenacityandtheself-determinationtomakethingshappen。

Andthatswhatshedid。

Sellingherapartmentandcar,Lum–then28–raisedS$20,000,andstartedsellingwatertreatmentsystemsalongtheMalaysianpeninsulaoffthebackofamotorcycle。

Realisingshewouldonlygrowthefirmifshewentintomanufacturing,shebroughtinmembranetechnology(veryfinefiltersratherthanchemicals)asameanstotreatwaterin1993。

Bythemid-1990s,withthefirmturningoverS$1m,shesetuppilotplantsinpotentialclientsfactories。

Itwasasmartmove。

Onceshownthemeritsofthetechnology,whichcleanedandfilteredwaterbeforereturningittofreshwatersupplies,companiessnappedupHyfluxsservices,withSiemensinSingaporeandHewlett-PackardinChinaamongitsfirstbigcustomers。

AfterlistinginSingaporein2001,Hyfluxsprofitrose67%toS$12。

3min2002,onthebackofa66%jumpinsalestoS$45。

3m。

ItsoonbaggedaS$250mcontracttobuildandoperateSingaporesfirstseawaterdesalinationplant,andmadeS$550m(£231m)insaleslastyear。

Withmorethan40plantsplannedacross26provinces,themoveintoChinahasprovedthewisestsofar。

AsoneoftheearlypioneersinChina,wehaveestablishedstrongmunicipalrelations。

Wefocuslargelyonthenortheasterncoastalcities,suchastheJiangsuandHebeiprovinces,wherethedemandforclean,treatedwaterishigh。

HavingbuiltChinaslargestdesalinationplant,lastyearHyfluxwonthecontracttobuildtheworldsbiggestplantinAlgeria。

Drivenandhands-onaboutherwork,Lumhassomeno-nonsenseadviceforwould-beentrepreneurs。

Havingpassionisnotenough。

Asuccessfulentrepreneuralsorequirestenacity,hardwork,andperseverancetoturndreamsintoreality。

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