I was looking forward to meeting Richardo Chua of Adrenalin Group for this interview. This wasn’t my first time hearing from Ric, but it would be the first time that I’ll be sitting down with him face-to-face and hearing his story and journey.
Adrenalin Group started as a social enterprise in 2008 and can be considered a pioneer in the field of social entrepreneurship. In nine years, it has grown from events management to a full suite of offerings including design, videography, photography, audio, visual, effects, and lighting.
Other than conceptualising and executing events and campaigns that give back to the community, Adrenalin also employs people with special needs. In fact, 30% of Adrenalin’s employment includes teammates who are deaf, wheelchair-bound, and youth-at-risk.
Our meeting took place at the coffee shop opposite his office and the 40-minute conversation was an exciting one, with some real and touching stories.
Ric shared that he starting hosting since his secondary school days. He had the opportunity to hone his hosting skills in army and university. Hosting was something he enjoyed. He credited his secondary school for shaping him to be the man he is today.
Interestingly, Ric studied in Tao Nan Primary, Greenview Secondary, Temasek Junior College, and then Nanyang Technological University. To a certain extent, Greenview was the outlier. Yet, it was Greenview which shaped him. In Greenview, he learnt humility and interacted with people from all walks of life and different backgrounds. That experience was invaluable. It resulted in empathy and a greater understanding of others who were different.
“In Greenview, I had many opportunities to host, as my English was above average,” Ric said and laughed. His hosting experience in secondary school gave him a love for hosting and events, created the opportunities to develop his skill, and guided him when he wanted to start a business.
Why a social enterprise?
Ric was brutally honest in answering this question. “I wish I had a nicer story, but the truth is, I like events and doing good. And I chose to put these two together.”
“I’ve always enjoyed helping people, but I didn’t want to just do it once every six months. I wanted to help others in a systematic and sustainable way.”
In fact, when Adrenalin was rebranding itself, “social enterprise” was added to the logo so as to send a clear message about its founding purpose. “There is a good chance that we will be proven wrong and being a social enterprise may lead to our downfall. But we are still going to press on because this is the reason why we exist.”
When I heard this, I heaved a sign of relief because I don’t have a fanciful or inspiring story about why I want to do good. I simply want to do good. In the same way, while having a great story is good, sometimes, the desire to do good could be good enough. That’s the reason why The Good Movement started.
What made Ric start Adrenalin?
The decision to start Adrenalin came at a time when Ric faced a clear crossroad in his life. He had spent two years in the Economic Development Board (EDB) and was given an opportunity to become a centre director.
“That would almost be like the Singapore dream come true – a cushy job, good pay, and excellent prospects. But that would also mean that I had to commit the next 6 years to EDB. This was the window of opportunity where I could decide whether to take the comfortable route or the unconventional path. I chose to leave.”
“You started Adrenalin at 27 years old. That’s really young. Is there a right time to get started?” I asked.
“I don’t think so. You have Benny Se Teo who started Eighteen Chefs after multiple times in and out of prison. You have Koh Seng Choon who gave up a successful career to start Dignity Kitchen. So I would say that there’s no one right time, but rather a right story.”
“For example, you may have a great idea, but life may not allow you to do it at that season.”
“The journey of entrepreneurship is the best MBA out there. Nothing beats running your own thing,” Ric added.
Read more: How Adrenalin started
A typical day…
“involves at least three meetings, both internal and external. When there are hosting opportunities, I will be there. I also try to fit in meeting new clients.”
The most satisfying moment…
“is coming. The best days are ahead of us. There are many satisfying moments, such as our first sign language class, our first office, our first big project, but I believe that our best days are ahead of us. We keep trying to create wins.”
Read more: Adrenalin’s failures and lessons learnt
Favourite or inspiring books…
“‘Winning‘ by Jack Welsh talks about how he ran General Electric and the specific things that he did. I keep a copy of his book in my office and refer to it from time to time.”
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
“I don’t have one particular person who inspires me. I learn leadership from Lee Kuan Yew, design by Apple, resilience from my colleagues. I’m a naturally curious person and can be inspired by anyone.”
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
“Soccer and mahjong.”
“In all of our spaces, in all that we do, the key is getting out there and doing something. It doesn’t have to be events or a blog, like The Good Movement, but whatever you are keen to do. Because good is good.”
The Good Conversations features insights gained through interactions with social entrepreneurs, business movers, top public servants, social innovation experts, and non-profit leaders.