Even while in college Lu Wee was already dreaming of doing business
Everybody knows that focus is crucial to business success. However, before you can find that focus, sometimes it pays to try a few different things to see which ideas have legs. And this is exactly what young engineer Tang Lu Wee is doing.
The Miri-based chemical engineering graduate first got a taste of entrepreneurship watching her mother do business after her father’s construction business went bust in the early 2000’s. To make ends meet, Lu Wee’s mother took on several part-time jobs and sewed baju kurung from home. Money from her part-time work and sales of the baju kurung allowed her to invest in the stock market and eventually to invest in some property.
Watching her mother transform from a housewife to a businesswoman inspired the young Lu Wee. While in her third year in college Lu Wee’s mind was already buzzing with business ideas but upon graduation she decided to look for a job to gain some experience and also to build up some capital.
She joined an engineering firm based in Miri which offered integrated services to oil and gas companies, including skilled manpower for electrical, electronics, instruments and flow measurement services.
Every evening after work, Lu Wee would return home and work on business ideas that she could one day embark on. “I knew I wouldn’t be an employee for long though,” she recalls. “Working for people was just a temporary thing.”
After two years of working as an engineer, Lu Wee decided it was time for her to leave. She was doing well in the company so her decision to quit mystified her boss, who asked her if salary was the main reason.
She explained that it had nothing to do with the pay cheque and that it was because she felt the company was not growing in the way that it could and should. “He understood what I was saying and asked me to propose some ideas,” she recalls. “So I gave him a list of things I felt the company should do, most notably expand its business beyond Miri’s shores.”
Her idea called for business expansion that entailed going to Kuala Lumpur to explore business development opportunities. Since nobody in the company had done that before, she would be the one to do it.
“KL was very foreign to me about two years ago, and at the time I didn’t know a lot of people there,” she says. “But she was determined and did a lot of cold calling to find new clients and potential collaborators.” Her efforts have started to bear fruit and she has been rewarded with some small stakes in the business.
Lu Wee’s aggressive networking in Kuala Lumpur has also paid off in other ways, resulting in business collaborations in two other areas.
One of them is a fashion business portal, FABCo, which reports on the business of Asian fashion. It was not something she started but it’s a venture she was invited to participate in by website co-founders Jon and Jan Wong whom she met through her various networking efforts. “I handle the content on the site,” she says. “I write the interviews with fashion icons in Asia as well as articles covering marketing and start-ups. I hope that FABCo will become one of the top go-to business and fashion magazines in Asia because of its reputation for excellence in analyses and aesthetics.”
She is also developing an online entrepreneurial resource portal called Entrepreneur Campfire with MAD Incubator Andrew Wong. “Quite simply, it is a website for people who want to learn more about business,” she says. “My biggest goal for Campfire is to get 10,000 active subscribers. I hope that people will see Campfire as the community they lean back on when they need support, inspiration and guidance in their business development and growth.”
Lu Wee is not certain which of the three ventures she is involved – engineering, fashion business website, business resource portal – in will pay off in the long run so for now, she is busily involved in all three.
“I am aware of the danger of spreading myself too thin,” she says. “However, at this stage I’m willing to take on interesting projects and see how far they can go. I’m sure when the time comes I will know which one to focus on.”
They say that life’s a journey, not a destination. Perhaps career is that way too. For Lu Wee, it certainly has been. “It has been almost two years since I started doing this. Since then, I’ve been able to start three partnerships and become acquainted with many interesting people from all walks of life. It has been a rewarding journey. I love what I do and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”