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Foo Fighter

Talk about being a multi-hyphenate extraordinaire.

Karen Foo may only have graduated from the Nanyang Business School in 2016 with Bachelor of Business, but she is already a motivational speaker, financial trainer, Forex trader, and co-author.

But the teenage Karen was hardly an overachiever. In fact, with a year left to her 'O' Level examinations, she was told that the most she could expect was a string of Bs and Cs.

Viewed as a loser by her peers, she was also bullied both at school and during her tuition classes for not being able to speak confidently.

As if that was not bad enough, the onset of the 2008 global financial crisis resulted in her family "losing everything" and her parents' eventual divorce.

But instead of breaking the young Karen, this latest setback lit a spark in her - she started to dream of a place in a local university even as those around her continued to mock her.

Says Karen: "No matter what other people say about you, know that you have every right to still achieve what you want in life. That is also the one piece of advice that I'd provide to my younger self."

Knowing that time was not on her side, she "hustled like crazy" from 6am in the morning to 2am at night. Her hard work paid off as she earned herself a Public Utilities Board scholarship to read Environmental and Water Technology at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Around this time, she also enrolled in a Toastmasters club seeking to hone her public speaking skills. She won the Polytechnic's Toastmasters speech contest in 2011.

By now the once-shy youth had caught the motivational speaking bug and she began to solicit advice from veteran speakers and trainers. The former president of the National University of Singapore Toastmasters Club, Gary Guwe, was one of those who took the time to mentor her.

"The best advice that he gave me was not to be concerned about my young age - as long as I can demonstrate that I can deliver results, people will want to learn from me," she says.

This advice would come in handy when she began her journey as a motivational speaker.

Shares Karen: "When I first started out, I received a lot of rejections because I did not have any experience speaking in public. Moreover, being so young put me at a slight disadvantage as most of the motivational speakers in Singapore are at least 40 years of age."

She also had to learn to accept that, as a speaker, "there are bound to be doubters and people who disagree with the things you say, whether it is online or in public talks."

Pressing on, she found satisfaction in messages and emails from her audience members whom she had helped to overcome setbacks or find their life calling.

Indeed, by the time she joined NTU in 2013, Karen was already a successful motivational speaker and had also started to trade Forex on the side.

Karen says: "I'd be lying if I said that the journey was all smooth sailing. It was a challenge during my first undergraduate year to juggle full-time studies with running my speaking business."

"I was also trading the currency markets part-time. This meant that I needed to check the markets during my spare time after classes."

"There were also some days where I'd spend four to five hours preparing to speak at a seminar. That would mean that I could not sleep more than six hours on most days."

She persevered, sacrificing her social life and leisure time, eschewing activities like shopping and dinner dates to craft her presentation slides, study trading charts and network with entrepreneurs and speakers.

The superwoman even found time to compete in - and win - a nationwide Forex trading contest in her third year of studies. That same year, she also placed tenth out of over 3,000 registered traders from over 20 countries in a separate Forex trading competition.

That's not to say she did not devote herself to her undergraduate studies.

"The best memories are definitely those shared with my classmates. We put in many late nights and early mornings to rush for deadlines and project submissions. There was even a marketing module where we literally pulled an all-nighter and made our submission five minutes before the deadline," recalls Karen fondly.

Having already been inspired by Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad Poor Dad and her own family's financial crisis "to help others to increase their financial IQ", it was also her time reading Banking & Finance at NBS that cemented her decision to become a financial trainer.

"It further sparked my interest in finance and gave me more confidence to impart financial knowledge to others," reveals Karen.

"I took a lot of modules related to financial assets such as equities, futures, options, and index. It helped me to see the financial markets in a more holistic manner even though I’m mainly focusing on currencies."

She has since put the knowledge acquired over the years to further use by contributing to two books: Your Cash Moves and Turning Ideas into Profit.

Little wonder then that Karen's achievements have led to her being featured in a Channel NewsAsia feature on young investors.

But the short-cropped young lady is far from finished. "Right now, I'm working with a team to expand my speaking business to other countries. I'll continue to grow as a motivational speaker and financial trainer. I'll also be writing my own book aimed at helping people find their life calling."

"The other dream that I have is to start a hedge fund to help wealthy clients grow their funds. After
I've achieved it, I'll donate a portion of the profits to a charity that I'm passionate about."

Written by Christopher Ong

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