Frank and Lawrence: Capturing the Sun

Frank Phuan and Lawrence Wu, co-founders and directors of Sunseap Group Pte Ltd, have a love-hate relationship with their job.

What they love – knowing the positive contributions they make to the environment that leads to the transformation of Singapore’s solar scene. "We always imagine seeing trees on Singapore's rooftops. It is rewarding to see this number grow."

But what they dislike, is having too little time with their respective families. "We often spend a lot of time away from our families due to work obligations."

Like many new entrepreneurs, Frank and Lawrence's life is a combination of long working hours, plenty of risks and an endless stream of challenges. Driven by their passion for the solar energy industry, they devote a considerable amount of time to their business, occupying themselves with the day-to-day needs of the company.

"From searching for projects, to finalising terms with our contractors and hiring staff, hardly a day can be considered typical," Lawrence explains.

While they relish the benefits and glory of their entrepreneurial endeavours such as their recent New Entrepreneur win in the Entrepreneur of the Year Award last year, both Frank and Lawrence remain mindful that they make time for their family members.

"There will always be work to do and deals to close, but nothing beats quality family time," Frank says.

Diverse Backgrounds, One Dream

The two of them met through a group of common friends back then during their university days. While Frank took an engineering degree, Lawrence was into accounting. Upon graduation, they went their separate ways - Frank started an online consumer electronics distribution business while Lawrence pursued a career in the finance industry – yet their friendship stayed strong.

It was only in 2009 when they came together and conceptualised the business model for their enterprise. Right from the start, they identified the growing renewable energy trend.

"People are always talking about going green. But buying a solar system is like paying up to years of power consumption upfront. It is not a realistic option for most people," Frank says.

"We wanted to remove the financial burden and technicality of maintaining and operating a solar system. While looking for a more feasible solution, we discovered solar leasing. This allows solar energy adopters to pay their solar bills like electrical bills on a monthly basis."

With the mission to provide affordable and clean energy to Singaporeans, Sunseap Leasing Pte Ltd was established in 2011.

Starting out, they had a fear that solar leasing would not pick up in the local market.

"We spent a lot of time explaining our business model to financial institutions, seeking funding and assistance. It was very challenging in the early years," Lawrence explains.

However, despite the initial difficulties, they persevered all the way - a trait they learnt from their respective parents who were entrepreneurs themselves.

"My father was an inventor for solar applications. Back then, there were no incentives in Singapore for the clean energy business. Instead of giving up, my father persevered, waiting for 30 years for the solar revolution to take place in Singapore," Frank says.

On the other hand, Lawrence gained his persevering qualities from his mother. "My mum's dream was to own and manage a salon and she did not quit until her dream was realised. This has served me well in my entrepreneurial journey," he adds.

Friendship to Business Partners

There is a saying in the business world that one should "never do business with friends". However, both the 40-year old businessmen pay little heed to it. "Being friends for a long time, our friendship is the foundation that builds trust and synergy of this partnership," they explain.

This resonates strongly with Frank, who has experienced bad partnerships and betrayal in his previous business.

"As business partners, it is critical to be able to trust each other. With trust, we can each focus on our own responsibilities," Frank says.

While Frank is more optimistic and open to explore new ideas, Lawrence takes a more conservative approach, placing higher emphasis on numbers.

"This difference helps us to balance the decision making process, often leading to a more holistic approach for the company's direction."

With an innovative business model and a firm partnership, Frank and Lawrence continue to push Sunseap to new heights, retaining its dominant position in the solar energy scene in Singapore.