Amber Leong: The First Malaysian To Pitch Her Idea On Reality TV Show, Shark Tank
The first Malaysian to pitch her idea on the American business reality television series Shark Tank in 2019, Amber Leong successfully acquired a US$750,000 investment for a 20 per cent stake in her company, Circadian Optics. She shares about her light-bulb moment and the early days of her startup.
Why light therapy lamps
"I was feeling sluggish and couldn’t concentrate especially when days are so short during winter. I was working long hours at a corporate job and not exercising. I never saw the sun! I found an article about seasonable depression and the benefits of light-therapy lamps and purchased the best-selling one, a big fluorescent lamp that took up a lot of my desk space. My colleagues laughed at me, but I quickly felt the benefits: I was more awake, I had more energy, and I slept better at night.
Lamps that mimic daylight—it’s so simple yet such a great mission! We design beautiful, minimalist lamps that people are happy to have on their desks. All you need to do is turn it on and you’re giving yourself therapy. It’s simple, reusable, and effective. Our mission is to put a light therapy lamp on every desk in the world. We were poor, hungry and desperate to make something work. We used our savings and sold our cars (hers and her husband’s) to fund the initial orders. We made capital investments from the get-go, put the money into our design and bought our own moulds to ensure that no one would be able to use the same designs as us."
Her Shark Tank experience
"Being on Shark Tank was a defining moment. The validation that investors were willing to part with their hard-earned money and take a chance on our business felt great and rewarding. I remember all the firsts. The first time we received an order from a customer. The first time I received an email from a customer telling me how our lamps have changed their health. I feel so lucky and grateful that we have a business that can help improve people’s lives."
Lessons as an entrepreneur
"Amazing things can happen if you’re just brave enough to try. Never wait for things to be perfect. If you have an idea, it’s 80 per cent there. Just start working on it because things change along the way. The entrepreneurial journey will be lonely, with unbelievable lows. Yet the highs are so high, and the mission too great to not do what you love.
I learned all of this through making many mistakes. I was 30 years old when the idea for Circadian Optics was first conceived, and I knew very little about entrepreneurship. No one can really do this alone; there are people who made this all possible and I’m very grateful to them—my family, friends and our team. Years of failing, striving, getting lucky, practising, and experiencing… Our journey has been a gift."
See also: 25 Entrepreneurs Who Are Shaping Our Future