Entrepreneur who was once a troubled teen helps at-risk youths by sharing experiences

Mr Jasper Yap had started five ventures, which all failed, before setting up his present company Eezee.sg. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Mr Jasper Yap's current life as a successful entrepreneur is far removed from his past in secondary school, when he joined a gang and later abused drugs.

The 27-year-old, who is co-founder of Eezee.sg, an online marketplace where businesses can buy and sell items, got involved in a gang as a teenager, which caused him to stray from his studies.

"When I started secondary school in 2007, there was a lot of bullying by the older students, which left me feeling unsafe.

"I got into a clique with a few friends and we all eventually joined a gang," Mr Yap said.

In 2009, Mr Yap was caught for vehicle theft and robbery and sent to the Singapore Boys' Home for two years. He was 15.

"I felt like my world had stopped spinning but the world outside still went on. I began reading as a way to escape my reality and took up physical training," he said.

Returning to school after his time in the Boys' Home, Mr Yap completed his N-level exams and worked at a recruitment agency before joining a polytechnic. There, he found a mentor who helped him develop business sense and encouraged him to pursue his ideas.

Putting aside the fear of failure, Mr Yap started five ventures, which all failed. But he learnt from the mistakes and, in 2017, set up his present company as a 23-year-old.

Despite his busy schedule now, he has made time over the last few years to join initiatives reaching out to at-risk youths.

He previously volunteered with Youth GO!, a youth outreach programme that reaches out to youths at risk on the streets to engage and support them. He often shared his past with them, telling those in need to not be afraid to seek help.

He is currently one of the 14 members in the Youth Advisory Group (YAG). Formed in August 2017, it provides policymakers with the youth perspective.

Through his experience, which he calls a mixture of luck and hard work, he hopes to inspire others to return to the right path.

Mr Yap said: "I have always wanted to give back to the community after leaving the Home. It is encouraging to see how these youths light up when they see that someone understands them.

"This way, I get to contribute to the community that has helped me out of the mess."

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