Barnabas Huang

“I picked up new knowledge and business concepts such as strategic planning, people management and important marketing strategies. I also learned how to write a proper business proposal.”
News & Events News & Events News & Events Highlights He ran his first start-up at the age of 19. At 26, he bought his first condominium and five years later, he was raking more than a $5 million turnover in his health and supplements business. Today, Barnabas Huang (pictured above), 35, heads the flagship Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Gym in Singapore located at CityLink Mall. We sat down with the SIM-RMIT Bachelor of Business (Management) graduate to talk about his wealth of business experience and the lessons he has drawn from them. What sparked your passion to be an entrepreneur? I believe it is something that has always been in my blood. Most of my relatives used to have their own businesses. I was always envious of them as they dressed well and could get what they wanted. Hence, I always had this desire to start something on my own. In fact, my first business was in secondary school where I did ornamental fish breeding and I actually won second prize for it at a competition! Tell us about how you ventured into the health and supplements business? I was always a rebellious kid who got into fights, so I decided to go to the gym to build my muscles and to protect myself. It was there that I started to get into fitness and learned more about supplements. I chose to go into the health supplements business because fitness is my passion. But it wasn’t as smooth sailing because I didn’t have a customer database when I first bought stock, so I spent six months hunting for customers but to no avail.  Eventually, I had to come out of my shell to sell my products and the business (now known as NutriFirst) grew and expanded. It was tough but this certainly taught me the ropes of doing business. Why did you feel the need to pursue a degree in business management despite already running a business? I was a in a ‘business crisis’ at that time. I was managing a total of eight people and I didn’t know how to handle my staff that well. I told myself that I had to learn what it means to lead a team and to understand the dynamics of management. I also wanted to gain more business knowledge and insights. Did the degree help you? It certainly did. I picked up new knowledge and business concepts such as strategic planning, people management and important marketing strategies. I also learned how to write a proper business proposal. As I majored in entrepreneurship, I also got to meet many entrepreneurs and was able to form many meaningful connections. This brings us back to an age-old question. Does one really need a degree to run a business? You don’t necessarily need one but a degree is most definitely useful as you can tell from my example. Ultimately, a degree equips you with more ‘tools’ as you can gain more knowledge and practical skills. Which would you rather have, more tools or less tools? The more tools you have, the higher your chances for success. UFC President Dana White (right) left Barnabas with a positive lasting impression when they first met. Tell us about how you ventured into the UFC Gym business. Apart from the headquarters in the United States, there are UFC gyms all around the globe from Vietnam to Australia to Bahrain and Chile.  I was offered this opportunity to head the very first gym in Singapore so I headed down to Las Vegas for a convention to learn more about UFC and its business.  One of the people that I met was Dana White himself, the President of UFC. What struck me the most was that there was a certain culture of discipline and respect embedded in not just him but in every single person from the management right down to the staff. Every individual took ownership of the smallest details despite their titles and positions which was admirable. I also knew that by joining this business venture, I would be able to learn a lot from experienced and highly esteemed people and get to work in an organisation with more than 1,000 staff. It was an opportunity that I didn’t want to pass up on and so I decided to take that leap of faith and to head operations at the first UFC Gym in Singapore. What do you think sets UFC Gym apart from other gyms out there? UFC Gym combines Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) with fitness. It is more of a community where friends and family can come together, train and have fun while cultivating discipline and respect. This culture is trickled down from the staff right down to our members especially during our training sessions. What is one essential advice that budding entrepreneurs need to hear? When you own a business, the responsibility and ownership is different, your commitment level is different. This means making big sacrifices along the way and sometimes this is at the expense of spending less time with your loved ones. You have to be mentally prepared for this and persevere if you want to succeed. Read more on Barnabas’ business advice here  Learn more about the SIM-RMIT Bachelor of Business (Management) programme Posted online, 01 Jul 2019