Entrepreneur Shaun Lee: “But he’s a skiver!”

I was delighted to meet Shaun during my recent visit to Singapore. He has a problem: his future mother-in-law thinks that entrepreneurs are “skivers”. “Before you get married, you need to get a proper job. Working for yourself is not acceptable!” According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a skiver is evidently someone who is absent from work without permission and in Singaporean culture has come to refer to people who are slack, or idle or who dodge the responsibilities of a real job. Even if Shaun could produce impressive balance sheets and show that he is earning a living wage, the skiver label would stick!

When Shaun finished his compulsory military service, his A levels (British system) and a tertiary diploma he started a business after he saw the exorbitant prices people were paying for bicycle spare parts. He searched the Internet and found that he can import spare parts from overseas, sell them for less than local merchants and still make a handsome profit in the process. Using his own savings, he invested in stock and quickly learned what products move quickly to provide him a quick turnover. He has been able to build up stocks worth many thousands of dollars and his business is successful enough for him to pursue a long-held dream; to study pastoral ministry while supporting himself financially. When I highlighted Shaun’s creativity, his entrepreneurial talents and his investment of capital to produce income as an excellent example of good stewardship, students were not sure how to process my enthusiasm for Shaun’s talents. Eternal bachelorhood was a distinct possibility for their friend!

But Shaun’s skills remind me of the Proverbs 31 woman. She did not have a “proper job” but she was surely not a “skiver”. When you read this passage you get to know her as a very shrewd businesswoman. She was an importer, an estate agent, a capital investor, a market researcher, and a product developer. She had a supply chain that included contingency planning for unforeseen circumstances (cold winters) and while she was making handsome profits she did not forget her social responsibility to the poor. She had an excellent work ethic and on top of all of that, she must have been an outstanding “two career woman” as well because her children and her husband were extremely proud of her. One actually wonders what the old man did while his wife was so successful! The passage doesn’t say!

I sure hope that Shaun will be able to convince his future mother-in-law of his God-given entrepreneurial talents. We need people like Shaun who think outside the box and create opportunities where none existed before. His talents reflect several of the Discipleship Outcomes that are part of our Discipleship Assessment: creativity, the dignity of labor, working for the common good, and the fact that my work adds value to the economy!

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