Ying Han Cheng (Hani) has always had a passion for helping others. Her own personal journey of overcoming a long-term illness, along with an entrepreneurial drive, led her to launch Y-Age, a professional coaching company with a focus on holistic lifestyle goals.
Gaining a Master of Science in Innovation (MSc in Innovation) at Singapore Management University Lee Kong Chian School of Business (SMU LKCSB) set the wheels in motion, and gave Hani the skills and determination she needed to finally launch her business.
Two years after graduating, she left a job at Ogilvy— a leading marketing agency— to pursue her ambition of being her own boss. Today, she helps leaders around the world unveil and achieve their personal and professional goals.
Building confidence for entrepreneurship
Hani began her career in marketing after graduating with a bachelor’s in economics, politics, and environment from California’s Claremont McKenna College.
She had always planned to start a business of her own, but did not have the confidence, or the broader business skills to succeed.
Attending business school seemed like the ideal way to build the knowledge she would need to launch a venture. When searching for the right program, she was drawn to the MSc in Innovation at SMU.
“I went to an information session and liked the focus on practical skills,” she notes. The school’s location in bustling central Singapore, and its diverse network of leaders, cemented Hani’s decision.
The MSc in Innovation program attracts executives and managers from a broad range of backgrounds, including technology, education, and financial services. Connecting with these like-minded professionals in the classroom was a program highlight, she says, and the catalyst for the motivation and breadth of business acumen she needed to launch Y-Age.
“I still keep in touch with many of my classmates, and their positivity, open mindedness, and support are invaluable. I did not have the commitment to execute [my vision for Y-Age] until SMU gave me the platform to.”
The roots of Y-Age
Hani’s experience with overcoming personal hurdles inspired her to build a business that would help others grow.
The years she spent battling a long-term illness had exposed her to various healing practices, from mindfulness to Shamanism, which planted the seeds of a deep understanding of how to help people overcome personal challenges and transform their life for the better.
“My passion for making a difference to leaders in the world while leveraging my strengths, insights, experience, and inner wisdom has always been ablaze,” she reflects.
At SMU, Hani was required to complete a capstone project as part of her program. The project gives students a chance to oversee a project that will hone their innovation skills while creating value, and past projects have ranged from digital marketing platforms to mobile apps.
Hani's own capstone project evolved into an international coaching business, Y-Age.
“I took everything I learned from my undergraduate degree, personal life and SMU to create a unique transformational experience,” she explains.
The experience combines the holistic healing methods she discovered through her personal journey with business insights gleaned at SMU, to offer leaders a unique transformational journey that encompasses both strategic leadership advice and emotional empowerment.
Y-Age offers leaders one-to-one or group coaching, helping them find happiness in both their personal and professional lives.
How SMU prepared me to overcome business challenges
Building a company from the ground up came with plenty of challenges, Hani recalls. One of the most significant was creating a virtual business, unrestricted by geography.
“I decided to build the business online so its impact can reach beyond Singapore. The challenge was finding the leaders we support from five different continents, while maintaining Singapore as our happy home base.”
Managing cash flow and scheduling across five different time zones also raised several organizational difficulties, such as maintaining team morale remotely, and ensuring accountability. The skills that Hani learned during her MSc in Innovation helped her overcome these hurdles.
“SMU’s classes taught me how to think ahead when creating contracts and agreements, and also apply design thinking to every part of our product launch process,” she explains.
The MSc in Innovation is designed to help students like Hani to develop the skills they need at every step of founding and growing a business.
Modules ranging from Opportunity Recognition, Ideation and Innovation Management to Business Acceleration and Growth Strategy ensure that graduates leave with a far-reaching plan for their own companies.
Achieving global growth
Since it was founded in 2015, Y-Age has gone from strength to strength.
Hani has added talks and events to her offerings, and even condensed her coaching wisdom into an Amazon best-selling book—You Only Live Once: Life and Business Innovation Style.
Today, she runs Y-Age from Paris, along with six team members around the world. Hani credits much of her success to the MSc in Innovation at SMU.
“SMU helped me gain momentum in the foundations of running a business, and supported me with a network of outstanding peers to tap into whenever I was facing challenges,” she concludes.
“The program contributed to my well-rounded understanding of business and entrepreneurship.”
For more information about Hani’s work:
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Singapore Management University - Lee Kong Chian School of Business
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