SINGAPORE- He was a "soft, weak and introverted" student with a modest family background who felt stifled by the rigid structure of the school system.
But George Quek later struck it out on his own in the competitive food and beverage industry in Taiwan, eventually launching the well-known local brands Food Junction and BreadTalk.
Other stories that capture this spirit of resilience are featured in a book which includes interviews with the chief executive officers of local companies like SK Jewellery and NTUC Fairprice.
The book project is led by Influential Brands, a think-tank, research and brand recognition platform formed under Brand Alliance Group.
Twenty thousand dollars have been raised so far through book sales supported by 20 homegrown companies, with all proceeds going to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.
For Temasek Polytechnic student Malcom Lau, 18, the $120 that he receives from the fund every month eases the financial burden that his mother, a sales promoter, has to bear as the sole breadwinner of his family.
Malcom is president of his school's Digital Media Crew society, which provides photography and videography services for school events. He is proud of the fact that it has progressed from a society that "was going to fail" to an organisation that is now "quite well-known".
Despite the odds, he hopes to do well enough to make it into chemical engineering at the National University of Singapore, and work in the petroleum industry after graduation.
"The competition to pursue that path will definitely be high, but I will keep an open mind and continue to try my best."