If you’ve read my previous posts on gratitude and my journey of the people who matter most to my business, you would have undoubtedly picked up on some of my thinking and beliefs.
However, I have not distilled the few important encounters and lessons on why I quit corporate life to start my own business. The skinny on this was crucial to bring all my thoughts and beliefs about my passion from the beginning.
Shattering the Status Quo
Caption : Graduation! Now find yourself a job.
Starting out wide-eyed, I graduated with a degree in Finance and Economics at the age of 20. In the two years of rigorous exams and finance coursework, I am not proud to say that I have attended classes less than 10 times in 2 years.
Although universities are at the forefront in birthing new knowledge and a quantum of ideas, I felt a strong need to resist the urge to idealise where I would be in my 20s.
I was disconnected from the traditional approach of education as my parents would heartily encourage me to follow the Asian formula to success “study hard and find a great stable job with great benefits.”
All those hours felt like a false feeling of surety.
Our parents often took life-defining career decisions without giving much thought to their skills and interests. A lot of them wanted to send their kids to business school for bright future prospects that “Brand Accounting and Finance graduates” had come to symbolise.
It was in their DNA to have practical concerns of everyday life, but this ruined the inventive spirit and curiosity I needed to thrive.
The transactional end-point of studying to get good grades is to climb the corporate ladder definitely felt too tart and sequential for my growth.
I had struggled with the need for “intrinsic values”, when one does something solely because you love it or pursuing “extrinsic values” when you chase money or status. I often stopped and ask myself: What is my true passion? What makes me excited about these business ideas?
I also constantly asked myself: “Do I do something I love, or do I chase the money?”. The answer that I came up with was: “I want both.”. I know I will not be happy if I settled for less.
At the core of it all, I knew my status quo needed to be shattered. I wanted the diversity of projects and it wasn’t just about finding my business, but what my frontier is, how to explore it, how to test waters and move beyond it.
The Heated Dive
Caption : My first ever full time job at Jack n Jill.
Post-graduation, I deep dived into a management trainee position, got my first taste in a corporate environment where I dealt with media, creative, research agencies on a holistic level. The rise of e-commerce, start-ups, making your own online empire, got me psyched.
As a teenager, you could say, I was always excited, ecstatic, or elated— the way one would feel when you are anticipating the joys the future will bring and this happy experience was in relation to starting my own business.
I made my first e-commerce sale at the age of 23, while blogging and affiliating for a programme called The Venus Factor, after attending a digital marketing course by an old school internet marketer. Hurray!
I am thirsty for knowledge. I attended and spoke at eCommerce conferences and it was an eye-opening experience to listen to other businesses and how they troubleshoot their business problems. I sought mentors and met investors who brought in great insights and ideas on how to propel forward which has inspired me to stay hungry for success. I am still looking to learn and improve myself.
Caption : Speaking at Exabytes Ecommerce Conference 2017
The bouts of entrepreneurship hit me hard when I worked at an FMCG company learning the ropes of PR and insights-driven marketing. I started building small experimental online businesses that required little to no capital outlay.
I knew that great thinkers, icons, and innovators think forward and backward and apply inversion as a powerful thinking tool. This makes way for compelling ideas and opportunities.
I had applied the same method and would think of a business idea during my daily after work showers and moments later build an online store in the next 4-5 hours, only to perform poorly at work the next day – haha.
Success is not reinventing the wheel. Just do it better than others.
There is pressure on businesses and individuals to perform and be an innovator. If you’ve heard friends tell you:”That idea has been done already!”. Unfriend that “friend” instantly. You wouldn’t have Facebook
Time and again, we see articles fronting our timelines and newsfeeds with headlines that state:
“You’ve got to be thinking like an innovator every day.”
“If there’s no idea, there’s no innovation.”
The good news is, I do not possess any of these. I do not see myself as an inventor, or game-changing innovator. I seek ideas that have masterfully worked for people and I try to understand their thought-process, their currency of success and implement my unique twist.
Am I seen as someone who started out with someone’s idea?
Am I seen as someone who just wants shortcuts in life?
The answer is NO. I believe that great innovators have this habit of actively trying out new ideas by creating prototypes and launching pilots and they’re there for a reason; for us to gain inspiration and take heed of their failures. Unless you’re building the next Apple (which is extremely unlikely), chances are meaningful innovation will not happen because innovation is a resource intensive and time consuming process, and must be ingrained in the core values of your company. You would have to live and breathe it.
Take my start-up, the Vape Club International that was launched when I was 24 years old. I had recognised that the vape market in Malaysia was just starting to grow exponentially.
The opportunity arose when it struck me that I had been vaping since 2012 and I built a strong affinity for this new lifestyle. The next great thing was that I had enrolled at the NEXT Academy programme to undertake a course in web development and used these skills to build a subscription box service for vape e-liquids. And this is how it all started – it made sense to keep working on this.
Success happens when two things collide to create a whole new idea (this being the launch of my Vape business), and insight requires that we create a new product with a new perspective (my newfound skills in web development).
I didn’t reinvent the wheel knowing that there are thousands of other vape businesses sprouting in Malaysia but I found points of intersection that matched the skills, passion, excitement to carve a business, one that has reached critical heights of success.
Incredible Things Happen With Reflection
Caption : Look how far we’ve come! The team at VC.
Once I have shattered the status quo by doing things differently and grinding in at the Vape Club, I have landed in places where things start getting a bit too comfortable. At times like this, it’s time for more reflection and some personal disruption on a mental and spiritual level.
It’s never going to stop. That’s the beauty of personal evolution. It’s often complex, non-linear and a long ongoing process. The only time I want to stop is when I die. Embrace the unknown path. If I’m going to only do easy things, I’m going to have a very hard and unfulfilled life.
As the teacher of extreme resilience, Dr. Srikumar Rao said, “Life is a university and you never graduate. Accept that whatever happens to you, no matter how terrible, is there to teach you. Your job is to learn and do what you have to.”