Standing under a row of colourful shop houses along Joo Chiat road, I found myself searching for what should have been wedged between a Chinese restaurant and a laundromat. I had pictured a typical tuition centre with a glass door and a huge signboard. Instead, I saw a small sign with TUAN’s logo and an arrow pointing towards a flight of stairs behind a secured metal gate.
As I climbed the dimly lit stairway, I wondered about what to expect until I saw someone pop out from behind a door on my right with kind eyes and a bright smile plastered on her face.
TUAN wasn’t very spacious but the combination of a wooden floor, a warm colour palette across the walls and furniture as well as large windows, the place felt like a second home to me.
Living her Dream
“That was the thing, like I’ve always loved kids and I’ve always loved teaching kids. So, it was a childhood dream of mine to actually open a preschool.”
She said with a twinkle in her eyes and a big grin on her face.
However, having worked at a preschool after graduating from University, she felt disappointed and discouraged to pursue her dream.
She told me that she had an observation session where her employers reviewed her work. During which she was told that she had done perfectly and to continue what she had been doing. But that was not enough for her as even though she got her dream job with the mindset to learn more, she wasn’t given the opportunity to do so.
“At that point of time, it was a bit of a disappointment for me, because I felt that, going into a different organization was to learn.”
She then decided to pursue what she learnt in University and landed a job at a bank and did corporate banking. She laughed heartily and admitted that It was not a very enjoyable job, so she left that line of work to teach mathematics at an enrichment centre.
Work Life Balance
While working at the enrichment centre, she was pregnant with her daughter. It was difficult but at the same time, she said that she felt privileged as she was in an environment where the women supported each other.
“If I had back to back classes, they would buy food for me. They ensure that I eat and that kids don’t bully me. So I would say I was lucky to be in a good situation”
Despite doing what she loves, she left the enrichment centre after being there for about 4 years.
She told me that there wasn’t a specific reason as to why she left but rather several pushing factors that helped her make her decision to leave.
Even though she loved the job, she felt that she was stagnating as looking back she thought that she wasn’t growing much in the enrichment centre. She even joked, saying that teaching in an enrichment centre was her “retirement job” as she was happy, but she wanted more.
Another reason was spending time with her family. Although her schedule was very comfortable (as she only needed to work two weekdays and two weekends) she still didn’t have as much time for her family as she wanted.
“I was working two weekends, and It wasn’t very good as I have a daughter. So I couldn’t see her on the weekdays, when she goes to school and we don’t get to spend time with her on weekends either.”
A Space for Educators
After working at the enrichment centre Geraldine wanted to try starting a business. This led to her first project, Beforethree which is a website targeted at sharing knowledge to expectant parents.
After that, a friend and her came up with the idea of wanting to rent out spaces like rooms that are not being utilized by companies to people.
As they developed it, they realized that, what they actually wanted to do wasn’t really just to rent out the spaces. It was to be a kind of incubator for entrepreneurs such as educators who wants to start up their own education business and try out holding up their classes there.
Now, TUAN provides spaces for educators to rent out instead of them needing to handle the administrative and financial burden of leasing a long-term space.
The vision of TUAN is to build a culture of lifelong learning by redefining the use of space.
“We’ve spoken to some of these people who hold their classes here. They tell us that their regular jobs are very boring. And they are very happy to come out and see something that they have never seen before.”
Geraldine gushes about how meeting other educators and understanding what they are doing and why they are doing it can be very different. Treasuring her relationships with other educators, she thinks that helping them and bringing them together can be very meaningful.
“Never think any lesser of what you have to offer to the world when it comes to your dreams. A successful business is not about the numbers, high profits or social media following. As long as you have touched another person’s life with what you do, it is worth it.”