Ever since she was young, Cheryl Sew Hoy always knew she wanted to run her own business.
“When the teachers asked what your ambition was…and a lot of kids wanted to be doctors or lawyers. My ambition was [to be] a businesswoman,” she told CNBC Make It.
That childhood dream is now a reality for the 39-year-old serial entrepreneur, whose ventures include Reclip.It, a consumer software startup that was acquired by Walmart Labs in 2013.
Now she runs Tiny Health, a health tech startup that sells at-home gut health tests for moms and babies ages 0-3. The CEO and founder said the test can help detect gut imbalances early and prevent chronic disease.
Just last week, the company raised $4.5 million in seed capital and said its backers include US cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, Google’s X and Dropbox.
Sew Hoy, a Malaysian now based in Austin, Texas, attributes her success to her mother who was also a businesswoman who ran her own marketing business in Malaysia.
“My mother owned her own business and she was the boss. Before working from home was popular, she was already working from home and I’ve always had that pattern,” she added.
It’s come full circle for Sew Hoy, who is now a mom to two children aged 2 and 4, as she begins to pass on to them the lessons she has learned.
What advice does she have for raising child entrepreneurs? CNBC Make It finds out.
Engage in storytelling
It’s hard to teach kids what businesses they can start at a young age, but kids “remember stories” — and that’s the best way to expose them to entrepreneurship, Sew Hoy said.
As she modeled after her mother just watching, Sew Hoy said she wants to be “more intentional” about talking to her kids about running a business.
For example, she tells her kids about her job as CEO, the “backstory” of why she started Tiny Health.
“Talk to them like adults, even if you think they’re too young to understand. The more you talk to them like adults, [you’ll realize] they actually understand a lot and they learn a lot.”
By explaining to her children what she does, Sew Hoy said she was also teaching them the value of money.
“I teach them why I work hard. Yes, it’s to earn money, but it’s not just to buy food or to spend it. While earning money, you have to build something something of value to people. What problems do you want to solve in the world?”
Entrepreneurship is about solving problems and it’s something kids can learn through adversity, Hoy said.
“There’s a difference between great entrepreneurs and good entrepreneurs. Great entrepreneurs are the ones who will continually bounce back because it’s really, really hard to run a business every day,” Sew Hoy said.
If children only have “smooth journeys” where problems are always solved for them, they will never learn this value, she added.
“It takes a lot of patience. My daughter was whining and saying, ‘Mom, I can’t do this.’ I’m going to encourage him to try again, and maybe help him out a bit,” she said.
“If she succeeds, especially if she succeeds on her own, she learns a lesson: ‘If you had given up before, you wouldn’t have accomplished this.'”
Sew Hoy said he noticed “a spark” in his 4-year-old daughter after going through the same scenario with her a few times.
“I know she’s learning because next time [she tries to do something], she says to me: ‘Mom, I can do it. I am strong.'”
“So if our life gets too easy, I’ll create adversity [for my kids].”
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