Lee Yin Yen
During our interview, Lee Yin Yen displays an earnestness that seems to indicate that she is one who takes a serious view of the world. It is, however, a perception that she is quick to dismiss.
“I don’t take life too seriously,” she says with a laugh. “It is a good thing because I laugh in every situation. I try to look at things in a positive manner.”
That may be but from our conversation it is also evident that Yin Yen is someone who sees herself has having a greater purpose, which is to create an awareness on matters that are important to her. The executive director of natural health food company Lo Hong Ka believes that health is something most take for granted, particularly those of her generation.
“I want to change the mindset of how they look at natural food and traditional herbs that they grew up with,” she says “Most have no idea how to prepare it and how to incorporate it into their daily lives. Younger people can’t relate. It is more like their parents buy these things to cook for them, but they say they don’t know how.”
It is this that prompted her to create Point Free, an online portal (www.gopointfree.com) that deals with the same product – bird’s nest, ginseng, aloe vera – but repackaged to appeal to a more contemporary audience.
“Point Free was inspired by the idea to change that mindset, to make it easier to understand how to prepare,” Yin Yen explains.
She describes the response thus far as being quite surprising. That is because the products appear to appeal to a generation even younger than hers.
“The millennials seem to respond more to it,” she says. “They are more conscious these days and I am really happy about it because it shows that the generation to come are taking to the fitness and health trend.”
Given the fact that her parents were in the natural food business, Yin Yen had the opportunity to learn about the value of natural foods early on. “I experienced it, I lived it,” she says with conviction. “It really helps. I take it consistently and it really makes a difference, even when it comes to energy levels. I have more energy.”
But her awareness about health is not just limited to nutrition as she also works out consistently, a passion she shares with her fiancé Andrew Kwan, one of the founders of Revelation Republic. The couple met at church and when Yin Yen learnt that Andrew was the owner of a gym, she decided to give it a try.
“I could really see the lines and definitions on my body,” she says of her experience. Now, she works out at least three times a week.
“It is more like an activity with myself,” she explains. “I get to see what my body can do and the extent to which it can go.”
We meet on the brink of their marriage. The last few months, she says, have involved preparation for their life together. Having just completed a pre-marriage counselling course, something she advocates for all couples, she displays a stance over the “bigger” role she and Andrew will play when married.
“I want to fulfil my purpose and our purpose as a married couple,” Yin Yen states, “to help people in their lifestyle in terms of fitness and health. It is very important to the both of us.”
It was slightly over a year ago that our first interview with Chryseis Tan took place. At the time, Goxip, the fashion app, of which she is an investor, had just been launched and Greyhound, the Thai fusion restaurant, was soon to embark on expansion. Now, Goxip is about to go for its second round of funding, while Greyhound has opened its second outlet located at MidValley Megamall.
The rest, she says, has been “same old.” A rather modest response given the fact that news of her engagement to SM Faliq SM Nasimuddin in July of this year broke the Internet.
“That I really did not expect,” she says. “I posted a photo, but I really didn’t expect news to pick it up. It was a bit crazy.”
For now, she says, there isn’t very much to divulge on the wedding as the prepping had only just begun during the time of the interview. All she can say is that it is going to be quite simple, keeping the number of events to a minimum.
But the Internet has always had a fascination with Chryseis. Her more than 200,000 followers, increasing by 100,000, since news of her engagement, have been quite captivated by her jet-set lifestyle. “It is just perception,” she says. “My work is with me every single day, that’s the privilege of being in this era where everything is just a phone call or an email away.”
The CEO of Berjaya Times Square, who also sits on the board of Berjaya Land, stresses that it is important for people to know that things don’t come easy and that includes for her.
“Maybe people think I don’t have to work, that life is good, but I have to.”
Case in point is the Four Seasons in Kyoto, which was overseen by Chryseis. Having studied in Japan, Chryseis is focused on The Berjaya Group’s projects in Japan. The next project will be in Okinawa.
The term dichotomy came to mind during our interview with Melissa Sin. One minute she enlightens us with much enthusiasm about the intricacies that go into the manufacturing of doors and the next she talks of the glittering details behind the making of bags. Her passion for both is obvious despite the fact that both industries are poles apart. The diverse interests stem from the fact that she holds two very different roles; the first as executive director of SKB Shutters Corporation Bhd and the other is as founder of The Bag Atelier, which specialises in bespoke embellished minaudières.
“On some days when people ask me what I do for a living, I would say I am actually a crystal bag strass minaudières creative founder, then on other days I would say I am actually a door manufacturer and people will react ‘oh no’,” she says with a laugh.
While she spends her days working for the family business – the third generation to do so – Melissa admits that she has always had a “crafty” side to her but it was not something she explored, coming from a traditional family.
“My parents always felt that you can have the means and capacity to do it but it is something you can leave till you are older,” she explains.
But her foray into the creative world began when Melissa decided to take a sabbatical from a four-year stint at KPMG. Her initial plan was to travel but she soon felt a sense of guilt, believing that she wouldn’t be able to appreciate certain things without a proper income. Hence, she decided to create her own line of clutches
“I was not willing to tell anybody I was going to start the business,” she says. “I was afraid that my father was going to say that you are taking time away from what you are destined to do.”
Driven by her love of “bling”, and having already become a partner in a strass workshop, the budding entrepreneur decided to do a “spin-off” line of bags. Melissa gave herself three months to see if it would succeed and within that time more than 100 clutches were sold.
“It was really very surprising,” she says. “So I said I will always prioritise my family business and this can grow organically.”
It has been four years and The Bag Atelier is now fast expanding.
“It is about growing at our own pace,” she explains. “It started off as a side project but in the past one and a half years, we see more coverage in the media and see more attention in the market on our unique positioning. I look at it as an identity now.”
Melissa, nonetheless, displays the same acumen when it comes to describing her day job. Doors, she informs me, are not as simple as they seem, going beyond the function of just opening and closing.
“There are a lot of things that go into making a door, especially durability,” she explains. “As a home owner you shouldn’t have all these fixtures changed in less than five years. When we design our doors we think about how it can last 100,000 cycles; what are the things that can protect our owners from easy intrusion. The design really revolves around the end-user experience.”
It is this enthusiasm that she brings to her capacity overseeing the business development aspects of SKB Shutters. It isn’t easy being a young woman in construction but Melissa says that things are changing and there is a greater acceptance of women in the industry, particularly abroad.
“They like that fact that you are young and that you have bright ideas,” she says. “I think it is about confidence. You have to have confidence to project yourself as a person with attitude, with the capacity to do things.”
There are two things that Melissa abides by. The first is to convince others of your ability to do things and the other is to never stop learning.
“Sometimes at a site meeting, people are shocked to see a girl and someone so young so I have to show that I am confident but also willing to learn.”
Melissa too will be getting married in June next year in an intimate setting. Having been a bridesmaid numerous times, she says she doesn’t want anyone to fuss around her. Instead, her fiancé and her just want guests to enjoy themselves.