Dato’ Calvin Khiu is one of the most notable and influential figures in the Malaysian business landscape. He is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of MK Curtain Group of Companies (MK), a leading company in the curtain industry with more than 20 outlets throughout Malaysia. Dato’ Calvin Khiu’s story from humble beginnings to being an extremely influential figure has inspired many people. By founding Outstanding Entrepreneurs (OE) about two years ago, he has been able to turn this inspiration into guidance and help for young and budding entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams. In the recent interview with Top 10 of Asia, Khiu shares more about Outstanding Entrepreneurs (OE) and his role as Chief Lecturer.
It was not obvious from the beginning that Dato’ Calvin Khiu would achieve the great success he enjoys today. Born into poverty in the small town of Bukit Gambir, Johor, he was raised in a single-parent family. This helped Khiu to form his strong character and taught him to be independent and responsible from a very early age. By the age of 12, he was already working several part-time jobs and running various errands.
His 70 year old grandmother was a big influence on him when he was 18 years old. After graduating from school at the age of 18, Khiu worked in his first full-time job as a curtain salesperson in a local textile store. Using this experience in the industry, the ambitious Khiu decided in 2005 to start his own curtain business, MK Curtain Group. A leader in fashion curtains, it has also ventured into other products such as sheets, wallpapers, cushions, carpets, home decorations and even handbags.
Khiu established Outstanding Entrepreneurs (OE) Business School in October 2016. “When I started OE, I thought that I needed to take the challenges I faced to be a learning example for youths in Malaysia. I didn’t expect it to have such a good reception and many students joining the college every semester. I never expected to earn money from OE and it has led me to a wonderful improvement of my life,” says Khiu when asked why he started OE.
Khiu wanted to inspire people who were unclear about their own position in life and what they wanted to achieve in their business. He wanted to share his experience of the various challenges he faced in the past 13 years of his entrepreneurial journey and believed in delivering the right message. “Everyone could be outstanding entrepreneurs,” says Khiu.
As a successful entrepreneur, Khiu certainly understands the need to offer something unique and stand out. In a world full of business schools, Khiu elaborates on the unique offerings of OE which makes it stand out. “What is special about OE is that our teaching subjects start from culture, then it goes to the business model and then it focuses on working with the correct people. I then guide my students to the top management which is to cultivate an entrepreneur team. After all, having a good business model requires a good team. Not only is trust in the leader vital for success in an organisation, but an organisation also needs to have a team of employees who yearn for improvement. So a good leader, good business model and a group of employees who have dreams to improve will determine a company’s success. The next step, we need to learn to have a good tolerance. That is the system of our syllabus.”
OE Business School provides six courses. OE for Entrepreneurship (Thoughts) trains entrepreneurs to have the right mode of thinking to unleash their enterprise’s potential. OE for Entrepreneurship (Practical) emphasises on strategic thinking. OE for Top Management (Team) focuses on how an entrepreneur can build a management team to run business operations and face challenges together. OE for Business Model (Strategy) goes through how entrepreneurs can form business partnerships, secure financing and run capital operation. OE for CEO (Pitching) focuses on two crucial aspects of being a CEO—making decisions and giving presentations or talks. It trains entrepreneurs in public speaking, including how to draw attention from the audience. Khiu believes that all successful CEOs are capable of standing on stage to share their brand and enterprise story. Lastly, OE for WWW Model (Profit) focuses on the profit aspect of running an enterprise.
Khiu explains that the courses were designed to help four types of people. The first is for those who are hardworking but with no experience in the market and do not know how to create their own value. The second is those with experience in the market but with no management experience. “Many entrepreneurs with market experience know how to gain profits but do not know how to be prudent and keep the main bulk of their profits,” says Khiu. “They also lack knowledge on how to manage their team.” The third is those with management skills but no experience in the market. These people possess management skills but do not know how to generate sales and hit sales targets. And lastly, there are those with management skills and market experience, but do not have their own team.
Khiu’s work has earned him plenty of awards. The 2014 EY Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year, 2017 McMillan Woods Global Awards and 2018 Sin Chew Business CSR Excellence Award are just some of the awards he has received. One of the awards that have made him proud is the 2013 Ten Outstanding Young Malaysian Award in Asia. “I’m very grateful and touched by the awards and I’m grateful to my team and students for their support,” says Khiu. “Success didn’t come easily. I’m thankful for people who have assisted us, our team members who supported us and also the production companies and students. I wish that my business will spread from Asia to around the world and influence more people who have dreams to be outstanding entrepreneurs. There would be no awards recognition without my team and students and because of them, OE has developed quickly in a short period of time. I still think that my greatest achievement is the respect I get from my students. This is my greatest satisfaction in the educational field I’m pursuing.”
On what the future holds for OE, it is no surprise as with his other projects, Khiu has ambitious plans and convictions. “OE has spread its branches to Indonesia, Macau, Guangzhou, Beijing and we have shared about OE in these countries and also spread the news of our entrepreneurial culture and values,’ reveals Khiu. “We have achieved a high degree of recognition. I believe that in the next 10 years, OE will be one of the most influential business colleges in Asia.”
Khiu is currently investing in some small and medium enterprises involved in hotels, technology and products and he hopes he can invest in more of them in the future. He hopes by doing this he can build closer ties with the younger generation (those born in the 90s) and nurture those who are willing to become outstanding young entrepreneurs.
On sharing his knowledge and advice to young and budding entrepreneurs, Khiu is generous. “Young and budding entrepreneurs should walk the talk,” he advises. “For example, if you hold the value of being thankful in high regard, you should first learn and practise being thankful to others. Also, success comes with hard work, dedication and determination. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth and through these values, I have been able to lift myself to a higher station in life.”