With over 30 years’ experience, Elim Chew, 51, is no stranger to having to keep up with a fast-changing world. When her streetwear fashion chain 77th Street folded, the unyielding entrepreneur turned to other industries, opening a slew of successful Korean restaurants and developing an express delivery app, FASTFAST.

Apart from her businesses, Elim is also known for her social entrepreneurship with her Youtube series “Changemakers”, which features people from different fields making social impact through their work.


Meet The Winners Of The Great Women Of Our Time Awards 2018
Cynthia Koh To Her Younger Self: “Keep Evolving And Adapting”
How A Harvard-Educated Doctor Seamlessly Balances Work and Mum Life

So naturally, we had to pick her brain on how she continually adapts to a fast-moving world. She shares three key ways:

1. Be sensitive to what needs to change.

“Knowing how to adapt to the times becomes natural instinct when I’ve been in business for this long, but it’s become even more important now, especially with the current digital transformation,” she shares.

Beyond reacting with your senses, Elim stresses the importance of soft skills, which she terms the sensitivity quotient (SQ). “This means being sensitive to problems out there (whether in your family life, work environment or others), being able to provide a solution and taking action to improve or change things.”

Routine or repetitive work can be replaced by technology, but what cannot be replaced is our response to new things and situations. – Elim Chew

Watch her TEDx Talk here:

“The human touch is crucial. We can leverage on technology and artificial intelligence to improve things, but it takes the person to know how to respond. All jobs will be disrupted. Routine or repetitive work can be replaced by technology, but what cannot be replaced is our response to new things and situations.”

For instance, the food and beverage business was something completely unfamiliar to Elim and her team, who had spent more than two decades in the fashion industry.

READ MORE: Find Out Why Money Doesn’t Matter For Serial Entrepreneur Elim Chew

“All my senior management team from 77th Street are still running with us today. We had to transfer what we know from fashion to the food business, based on the same values we had for 77th Street where we give people good quality and value.”

“And back then, everything was done by word of mouth but today we communicate with customers through social media, so we had to learn how to go digital. With FASTFAST delivery app, I had to learn about the tech business too. It’s more than just learning how to use technology; it’s about being flexible to change that is the key.”

2. Step out of your comfort zone.

On 13 August this year, the intrepid businesswoman flew to Kazakhstan, where she climbed seven hours in subzero temperatures to reach the peak of Ong Siew May Mountain. (She had initially planned to conquer the Ong Teng Cheong Mountain, but did not manage to reach the peak this time.)

“I’m the last person who would be climbing a mountain – I used to be totally unfit. But I spent the last year fasting and eating more healthily, and began training seriously in June when I decided to commit to climbing the Ong Teng Cheong Mountain.”

READ MORE: The Best Workouts To Do At Any Age

Here’s a snapshot of Elim at the summit:

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by ChangeMakerSpeakerEntrepreneur (@elimchew77thstreet) on

“Climbing is something completely new to me, and I’ve been training by climbing 40 floors five times every other day. The thing is, you can be as prepared as you want to be – just like in business – but the only thing you can’t control is whether your body is able to adapt to the altitude. But I’ll just prepare the best I can.”

READ MORE: Clicknetwork Founder Gillian Tan Shares Her Tops Tips On Being A Good Leader  

My car is like my little university. I easily spend two to three hours driving a day, so can you image how much I can learn in a month, or even a year? – Elim Chew

Elim also encourages volunteer work, as she reveals it is how she learns and networks the most. “It’s only when you go outside of what’s familiar or comfortable do you gain fresh perspectives and learn from different angles.”


3. Learn wherever you can.

“When I drive on my own, I’ll always be listening to something that I hope to know more about, whether it’s from a podcast or Youtube video, or just something someone has put online,” she shares.

“My car is like my little university. I easily spend two to three hours driving a day, so can you image how much I can learn in a month, or even a year? Then of course, being out there and listening to people. I’m constantly learning, whether through reading or hearing about things from friends, or through my own research when the young people I mentor come to me with ideas.”

“If I’m not experienced with something, I will ask someone who’s more familiar with it. Today, communication and networking are key, so it’s very important to check with people – you can read a lot but also you need to be able to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not.”

READ MORE: Get To Know The Indian Nurse Who Learnt Hokkien For Her Patients

On her Youtube channel ElimChewTV, she interviews people stepping out to make a positive social impact through projects and enterprises. “When you hear and learn what others have done, you gain confidence to implement change in your own life too.”

“Never stop learning new things,” she advises. “Even more so now, because the minute you stop, you’ll feel that the world is moving even faster, and it’ll be harder to catch up.”

Watch this next:

How Failure Can Be Good, According To Feisty Businesswoman Karen Tok
Singapore Space Industry’s Most Powerful Woman On Why Mistakes Matter
Meet The Powerhouse Photographer Who Wowed The Nobel Peace Prize Committee