Chong Jean Ju is the founder of Emote Media, a company which promotes and organizes live training events in Malaysia and Singapore. In 2021, her company launched the Emote Breakthrough Institute (E.B.I.) e-learning platform to bring high quality online courses by experts to passionate learners at affordable prices.
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Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Chong Jean Ju: Hi, I’m Chong Jean Ju, or you can call me Jean. I’m Chinese, born and living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Sometime in 2012, I left my job as a copywriter in an advertising agency because I didn’t feel it was my life’s calling. So I left, and have never been back in employment ever since. I started from making a decent income as a freelancer to set up a sole proprietorship where I provided digital and content marketing services to some MNCs and brands for several years. In 2016, I shifted my business to become an organizer of live training events. Two years later, I set up a company, Emote Media Pte Ltd, and expanded my business to organize training events across Malaysia and Singapore. When the pandemic suddenly hit in 2020, my plans to scale up the business were halted, and I had to scale down instead and let go of staff.
After another year of lockdowns and canceled events, I had to seriously re-evaluate my business and figure out how to move forward. Which I feel now, in hindsight, was probably a blessing in disguise, because the pandemic forced me to take a step back and look at what wasn’t working and how to serve the current market’s needs better. Several months of planning later, we launched our e-learning platform, Emote Breakthrough Institute (E.B.I.), which provides a range of online courses by highly qualified trainers at affordable prices.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your viewpoint, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Chong Jean Ju: I believe entrepreneurs can be born or made. Some entrepreneurs are born with a natural talent or inclination towards business, for example, Warren Buffett or Grab founder, Anthony Tan, both started hustling at a young age and knew somewhat that they were going to be successful entrepreneurs. However, natural talent will never be enough, because the road to building a successful business is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s achieved through continuous learning, improvement, problem-solving, discipline, and relentless dedication to excellence for years, even if there is no immediate financial success.
I come from the second category, and I believe the majority of entrepreneurs fall under this category. I never thought I would be an entrepreneur. I’m an introvert by nature and having to lead a team was one of the scariest things I could imagine. But over the years, one thing led to another, I grew into the role and one day, I realized I could manage a team, and I could run a business. It was through small steps and little successes that I slowly gained confidence in my abilities as an entrepreneur.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Chong Jean Ju: I would say that my business has pivoted three times over the years. Even though I only established my Pte Ltd company in 2018, my business started in 2014. My business has changed from a digital and content marketing service provider to a training event organizer, and then this year, we launched our e-learning platform. How I made the shift into the training industry was when I was attending a business program and I met my would-be partner who was a training event organizer. I, myself, have always been someone who was passionate about self-development and I would regularly read books or attend workshops on business, investments, and personal growth. Not long later, we started running projects together and that was how I moved into the training industry. Although the partnership did not last, I found my passion in education and set up my own company as a training event organizer in 2018. Due to the pandemic in early 2020, the company had to pivot once again and shift our training events online. But a lot of people were affected by the pandemic, many had lost their jobs and reduced their spending. The E.B.I. online learning platform was our answer to this problem because it enabled us to collaborate with highly qualified experts to produce online courses and provide them to learners at a fraction of the cost of live training.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Chong Jean Ju: When starting a business, an entrepreneur must assume that there will not be much revenue or profits coming in for a while, and even if there is, you would need to put it back into the business to grow it. So either make sure you have enough savings to last you for a while or have some side income coming in. Assume that you will be cutting back on your date nights, weekend hobbies, and TV time. Having a business is going to be a lot of effort for a long time; you will work late into the evening, and on weekends, you’ll have to work harder than when you were employed.
Also when you’re just starting, you’re probably bootstrapping so you won’t have money to hire staff. Be prepared to play the role of CEO, accountant, marketer, salesperson, customer service, and admin. Getting a partner or outsourcing may be an alternative, but you would still need to have a good working knowledge of all of these functions.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Chong Jean Ju: I’ve made assumptions that paying more, meant getting better service or product from my suppliers, or from people I outsourced work to. This ended up with me having huge expenses while not getting the results that I expected. I realized that by putting in more effort in the researching and interviewing phase, I was able to find the right suppliers or hires that could give solid results without burning a hole in the pocket.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Chong Jean Ju: I would have advised myself to find a good business mentor as soon as possible because the fastest way to succeed is to follow the footsteps of someone who has succeeded.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Chong Jean Ju: The worst advice I heard was “Why don’t you just go back to being an employee, then you’ll have fewer problems”. It may be good to ask advice from different people to get more perspective, but always be mindful of who is the person you are talking to and what is his/her background? Nobody understands an entrepreneur like another entrepreneur. Talking to people who have never been in business could demoralize you and worse, it might cause you to quit your business altogether, especially during your first few years.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Chong Jean Ju: Covid has shown us the risks we face if our business is not digitalized. Today’s entrepreneurs should ensure that their businesses can run both online and offline. What hasn’t changed is the fact that the business environment is always changing, and as entrepreneurs, we need to have the agility to adapt to any situation and have the resilience to start all over again, if we have to.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Chong Jean Ju: A common myth about entrepreneurship today is that you can make a lot of money, in a very short time. The truth is it takes years of hard work and commitment to grow a company into a sustainable profit-generating business. I would advise them to read up on biographies or articles on how successful entrepreneurs got to where they are, or join business associations and talk to experienced entrepreneurs to understand what they are getting into before they leap.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Chong Jean Ju: An entrepreneur needs to be willing to take calculated risks, be resourceful, continuously learn and keep improving. Also, an entrepreneur needs to be resilient mentally, emotionally, and physically to weather all the highs and lows of business.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Chong Jean Ju: A video (based on a book) that inspired me very early on in life was the Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. While it wasn’t about entrepreneurship, it inspired me a lot about how to make the best of our time, no matter how much (we think) we have of it left, to pursue our dreams and spend it with the people who matter most to us. I also follow, read articles or watch videos from successful entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk, Tom Bilyeu, Lynda Weinman, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates, among others.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Chong Jean Ju: Perhaps I would be an author. Or a wildlife conservationist.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Chong Jean Ju: Jane Goodall. First, it would be nice to have a face to represent women leaders. Also, I wanted to choose someone who could remind us that no matter what we pursue in life, we need to uphold our responsibility to care for our wildlife and environment.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Chong Jean Ju for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Chong Jean Ju or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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