Company Profile - Mind Stretcher
Established in 2002 by co-founders Kristie Lim and Alvin Kuek, Mind Stretcher is a tuition and enrichment centre offering educational courses for pre-school, primary and secondary school students. Since its inception, over 250,000 students have enrolled in the centre. To cater to its large customer base, from a single centre, Mind Stretcher has since expanded to 22 locations islandwide including three regional campuses at Toa Payoh, Tampines and Clementi, with an additional branch in China. The centres are well-equipped, with large touch-screens in classrooms, science labs and 100 to 200 capacity seminar rooms at the regional campuses. In addition to onsite classes, Mind Stretcher also offers online lessons which students can attend from the comfort of their homes.
Co-founders Kristie Lim and Alvin Kuek
Founding Principal Kristie Lim rose to success from humble beginnings. The youngest of 6 children, her father was a taxi-driver, while her mother was a housewife. The family initially lived in a kampong in Lorong Halus before relocating to a four-room flat in Hougang. Lim was a late bloomer in terms of understanding the value of education and only read her first storybook in Secondary three. The first in her family to attend university, Lim holds accountancy and law degrees from the National University of Singapore and the University of London. She also has a Certificate in Early Childhood Education. Formerly a practicing lawyer, Lim made a mid-career switch in her 30s and embarked on a new career in the private education sector. In her own words, “I became a single mum at the age of 33. On hindsight, this was probably the best thing to happen to me - as it taught me the key lessons of always needing to be financially independent, resilience, perseverance, and the need to always look forward, and not dwell in the unhappy past”.
According to Lim, “My chief motivation for starting Mind Stretcher was to provide a roof over our heads, and put meals on the table for my kids, and it was also something I liked doing. Education was my passion. So when I had to decide what to do after my marriage broke up, I decided on setting up a tuition and enrichment centre. I thought that such a business would enable me to have more flexibility when it came to taking care of my four young children as well as educating them along the way”. The name behind Mind Stretcher reflected Lim’s desire to stretch the minds of every child, based on his or her abilities.
Unlike other tuition centres operating at the time which rented out spaces to part-time teachers and operated on a profit-sharing basis, Lim’s unique concept of a tuition centre offers a standardised curriculum based on the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) guidelines. Through her research in effective learning resources, Lim realized that ‘a one-size-fits-all curriculum’ would not work. This led to the introduction of class banding two years after the centre opened - “Achievers” class and “High Achievers” class (for fast learners). In 2011, it also introduced the Primary 3 Gifted Education Programme (GEP) preparatory classes.
Lim helped to develop the start-up curricula for the Science and Mathematics programmes and currently oversees the enrichment centre’s business operations. Her eldest son, Moses Soh, bears testimony to the effectiveness of Lim’s teaching methodology. He was awarded the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) scholarship and President’s Scholarship in 2012, graduated summa cum laude from the prestigious Wharton Business School of the University of Pennysylvania and went on to complete his master’s degree in finance from Princeton University.
Co-founder of Mind Stretcher, Alvin Kuek, doubles up as the English Master teacher at the centre, heading the English programmes taught at the primary and secondary school levels.
Mind Stretcher – Origins and evolution
Due to the cheap rental, the tuition centre was first set up in a 1,800 sq ft bomb shelter below a HDB flat at Bishan. Lim poured her savings into the centre to get the business up-and-running and the loan of $50,000 from her sister enabled her to create classrooms within the limited enclosed area. Due to the lack of funds for advertising, during the early years, Lim’s sister and Lim’s two eldest children were roped-in to distribute flyers door-to-door to neighbouring flats to generate publicity about the centre.
Lim found out, that “running a fledgling business was an 18-hour, 7 days a week affair, especially for the first 6 to 7 years”.
Enrollment was slow in the beginning. Things picked up when parents started to take an interest in Mind Stretcher’s structured MOE-based syllabus. Four years after the centre was launched, a second branch opened in Jurong West and within 15 years, the centre’s staff strength has grown to over 300, comprising experienced teachers and curriculum writers.
Mind Stretcher has consistently churned out students with laudable PSLE (a national examination taken in the final year of primary school) scores over the past 5 years.
Besides academic programmes, Mind Stretcher also offers a wide variety of programmes ranging from public speaking and creativity workshops to drama and creative writing camps.
Lim constantly challenges herself and is driven to innovate and improve. For instance, with the aim to make lessons more fun and engaging, in 2012, Lim replaced all the whiteboards in classrooms with touchscreen smart boards, enabling the playing of videos and interactive graphics. An interactive reading app, Reading Oceans was launched a few years later to help children learn to read. In 2015, Lim invested $1 million to launch the Mind Stretcher e-Study Buddy app in partnership with local education consultancy firm, Amdon Consulting. This multimedia e-learning platform contains the entire range of lesson plans interwoven with videos, audio and interactive graphics and was developed to ensure consistency in standards of teaching across all centres. The app also facilitates students to complete self-marking e-worksheets at home and enables parents to keep track of their children’s learning progress.
Lim believes that what makes Mind Stretcher different from others in the market is the culture of constant innovation to discover new ways of providing an enriched learning experience for their students.
||- Singapore Heartland Enterprise Star Award
- SME One Asia Awards Top 3 Winner (Notable Category)
- Top Entrepreneur
||- Promising SME500 2012 Platinum Award Category
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