The broader economy may be in the doldrums, but that has not stopped the pre-school sector from flourishing. Just ask David Chiem, founder, chairman and group CEO of education services provider MindChamps Holdings. His company sold 22 franchises for its pre-school – even before it had a school to show.

At a price of $65,000 – not including set-up costs like rental and teachers’ salaries that each franchisee has to fork out – the feat is not to be sneezed at. ‘Even though we didn’t have a model, we had an incredible curriculum,’ says Mr Chiem. ‘And with the branding we already have, I think people trusted us.’

Mr Chiem is no stranger to overcoming long odds. Listening to his story, you cannot help but marvel at his life experiences, which could be the plot for an inspirational drama.

At the age of nine, he fled Vietnam with his family when the country was being overtaken by the communists. Through sheer luck, the boat they were in evaded a pirate attack because of a passing Singapore container ship, whose staff later gave the refugees so much chicken rice they had leftovers when they landed in Malaysia.

‘This is why Singapore always has a special place in my heart,’ says Mr Chiem.

The family ended up in Australia. And even though Mr Chiem could not speak a word of English at first, he topped his class in six months. Later, in senior high school, he graduated top of his cohort in English, art and maths. Full article.