Noretta, welcome to Marketing In Asia. Tell us all we need to know about Noretta Jacob.
Despite having a unique name for a Muslim, I was born and raised in Singapore, and I am a true blue Singapore girl. My father is a revert, and that explains my surname. I have been an early education educator (ECE) for the last 15 years working with very young children, parents, and fellow passionate ECE educators in both the commercial and community sectors. With a deep interest to excel in this industry, I decided to pursue my bachelor’s degree, under a local scholarship with SIM University in 2012, majoring in early childhood with management.
Over the years, I had the privilege of honing my ECE skills, both as an educator and a senior leader taking the role of Centre Principal for my cluster of schools. As an educator, I saw the importance of raising the awareness of early childhood education to our parents and more so among our Muslim community. I also feel there is a big potential to educate, build in-depth knowledge and instill creative and experiential teaching to our ECE educators, in particular, among the Muslim centres in Singapore and the region. With that in mind, Safar Training and Consultancy was set-up in 2019 to meet those objectives.
As the founder, I am driven by a strong passion for pedagogy and advocates teaching through experiential learning. My mission is to engage and collaborate with various stakeholders i.e., parents, educators, and the community, to develop programmes to empower and engage young minds through active and discovery play and interaction.
Besides my passion for making a difference in the early childhood sector, I am an avid floorball player (I am a goalie!) and was a former national athlete as well, having represented Singapore between 2001-2005. I am also a passionate cook (I love to feed a village, if possible), an animal lover (I worked at the Singapore Zoo before), and a modern-day hippie (singing and playing the ukulele).
You are the Founder of Safar Training & Consultancy, which specialises in the early childhood sector. Walk us through the kind of services you provide, Noretta.
Safar Training and Consultancy offers parenting workshops for both parents and educators. For parents and children, we organise literacy, motivational and personal development workshops, and short courses. For educators, we work with various stakeholders to offer training in the area of pedagogy, teaching tools, and communication skills to make them creative, motivated and inspired educators who make a difference. As an adjunct early childhood trainer and practicum supervisor for several religious and educational programmes at local mosques, I saw the potential of providing a holistic training programme for our ECE teachers and leaders.
Why early childhood?
Despite being an only child, I grew up with a ‘kampung’ of cousins and some since they were babies. I have always been intrigued by how children think ever since I was in my early teens. I chose to teach children below the age of six because that is the stage where their growth development is the most rapid, and to be able to help them discover and learn new things is just amazing.
My young children draw inspiration for me. By just observing how innocent they see the world and how vivid their imaginations are, they make you realise how silly we adults are sometimes, stressing over petty things and not worth stressing over in the first place. They make us adults reflect for a bit, take a chill pill, and ‘stop to smell the roses.’ Children are curious, and being able to be part of their journey to unearth their potential is the most rewarding part of being an educator.
As a mother of two girls and a lifetime being an educator, I have to say; children are our best life coaches. They may be little but do not underestimate their intelligence. You will be surprised how much their words and actions can impact you. You may think you are teaching them, but at times they are the ones educating the adults. Ironically, we are both learning at the same time. How ironic!
Let’s talk about the importance of positive foundation during childhood, Noretta. What three components, in your opinion, are critical in the first five years of a child’s life?
Creating a positive foundation during the early years has an impact on their overall development and eventually shaping them in the future. The first five years are critical growing years as that is the time the brain growth is most rapid. It is also the time they discover the five senses, and this helps to shape how they think, move, learn, and so on.
I would say there are actually four areas – cognitive development, social and emotional support, speech development, and fine and gross motor skills.
Cognitive development refers to the ability of the child to learn and solve problems. This could be in the form of literacy and numerical learning and engaging them to count using their fingers or reading words they recognise.
The social and emotional support refers to the child’s ability to interact socially with their families and peers. This is through expressing their feelings and learning to play with other children or taking turns.
Speech development refers to teaching the child to understand the words they read and how and when to apply them in an everyday context.
Gross and fine motor skills refer to the child’s ability to use their muscles to carry out tasks such as using the spoon, feeding themselves, writing, etc.
When we talk about marketing, what are your strategies?
I have been known as a ‘live wire’ among my friends and a ‘connector’ all my life. From being an athlete, a youth mentor, and an early childhood educator and leader, networking and connecting with others are a big part of my DNA. So, as an entrepreneur, I stepped up and used that talent to connect widely with potential clients such as teachers, leaders, early childhood centres, mosques representatives, and organisations.
Besides networking, I also invest in marketing. As a start-up, we are all bootstrapped. Still, I believe in putting aside a budget for social media marketing and traditional public relations to raise awareness of Safar and engage with potential customers. I work with a PR agency to manage my campaigns, allowing me to focus on my core business, and I am glad to say it has bore fruit.
How about branding, Noretta?
I would say branding and marketing are related, and you need both. For me, branding is beyond just having a logo and tagline. It is about creating an identity and positioning Safar differently from other competitors in the market. If our mission meets the purpose of the clients, we nailed it.
Branding in a very competitive and saturated market such as early childhood education or training consultancies, for that matter, means providing a niche that people are looking for. Safar brands itself as a provider that caters specifically to the educators and leaders in the early childhood sector who are looking for specific and unique solutions for their skills development, in particular – the Muslim early education centres and educators. We focus on ensuring that our programmes and tools meet the needs of the target market, specially curated, recognised, and memorable in the minds of our potential clients and customers.
What are your plans, going forward?
We are working with several local early childhood enrichment centres, mosques, and partners to develop programmes for both parents and educators. We are also looking forward to working and collaborating with early childhood and enrichment centres, and parents groups in our neighbouring countries to provide them with quality training and workshops.