From Student to Entrepreneur

by FutureLab | 8 May 2020


In the third episode of online series FutureLab Live, Jay Chong Yen Jye, the Founder cum Managing Director of Jagole made an appearance as a guest speaker and addressed how he navigated his way from being an undergraduate student, juggling university coursework while simultaneously managing his business, to finally venturing out to the world as a full-fledged entrepreneur. On top of his other remarkable feats, Jay is also the proud author of “Technology Simplicity” and was featured in Britishpedia’s 2019 edition of “Successful People in Malaysia”.

Founders Malaysia: What was it like starting off your business early on during your undergraduate years?

Jay Chong Yen Jye: Looking back, it was quite a memorable time. I actually founded my company with the winnings from a competition I had participated in at the time. After my business idea was validated, there was an overwhelming amount of support. But before that, I would say it was quite tough. I remember proposing my first commercial product as a feature in my final year project, and it was rejected a total of three times.

From my experience, I recall three main things, firstly being responsibility. When you start your own company, there may even be friends who end up as co-founders with you. Your responsibility as a leader is to ensure that it is a success as these individuals rely on your strength and leadership to provide them with a source of income.

The second element here would be discipline. I find that students are generally caught up in a honeymoon phase before setting foot into the corporate world. As a junior, I used to hear tales of the challenges and hardships of the corporate world from my graduated peers, and I could not believe my ears. But I finally understood when I joined the workforce myself. I discovered that when your actions hold a real-life impact, rather than just another mark on your assignment, that is when you realise that discipline plays a major role when you start working. My advice here would be to plan a daily schedule that you can stick to, as well as set long-term goals and plans.

Thirdly, I recall all the sleepless nights. When an initial plan does not work out, you have to come up with a solution for it to work. Oftentimes, this means that you will have to put your own needs and wants aside. This includes sleep, travel or any other pleasures in life.

Founders Malaysia: How do you create the chemistry and understanding within a team?

Jay Chong Yen Jye: It starts with charisma. When you start a business, it is always with a purpose and a goal in mind. When you find and pursue a goal in your business, the team will tag along for as long as there is a sense of confidence and reassurance that their hard work will ultimately pay off.

The second thing would be to sell a long-term vision. Your goal here is to gain the ability to share that same vision with your team. Once all of you are on the same page, your team will be a force to be reckoned with.

Thirdly, you must lead by example. More likely than not, one of your team members may not be able to complete a certain task. At this stage, you must shoulder the responsibility yourself, or find another member of the team that is able to finish the task. Once completed, you will be able to tell your whole team “It took some time, but it can be done.”

Founders Malaysia: What do you think are the typical mistakes most student entrepreneurs are guilty of, and how do you think they can fix it?

Jay Chong Yen Jye: One of the most common mistakes is to offer a product or service that does not gauge consumer demand. This is primarily due to a lack of market research prior in the earlier stage of developing the product. Before proceeding with an idea, a good practice would be to monitor consumer patterns and trends, as well as run your idea by someone else and get a second opinion.

Another common mistake here would be to celebrate a milestone too soon. Say you make a record number of sales in a single period. When this happens, they tend to get carried away and become fixated on short-term pleasure. At this stage, some may lose sight of not only the business’s long-term plan, but also their own drive and passion in making the business the best within the industry. My advice here would be to celebrate small victories and move on.

The third mistake would be that some student entrepreneurs take, but never give to the community. While a business’s main priority is to make profit, be it through deals or another, one must never forget the people that contributed to their sales and supported their business. Student entrepreneurs should take note that one of life’s greatest pleasures is to be able to give back to the community.

Founders Malaysia: Student graduates are now in a limbo due to the pandemic. What do you think they should do? Do you think now is a good time to start their entrepreneurship journey?

Jay Chong Yen Jye: I feel like no one is ever truly ready to start their entrepreneurship journey. Just do it and see how it all unfolds in time. In the midst of this pandemic, I think that it is the best time to start, as cards are being reshuffled, the industry players are changing and we have no indication of how it will all turn out after it is done and dusted. If you want to be a pioneer or leader, now is the time to step up.

Founders Malaysia: Who would be the right mentee for you, and what are the three things you look for in a mentee?

Jay Chong Yen Jye: I would look into someone that is passionate. Passion is a powerful tool, and is easily one of the best traits to have. Another thing I look out for in a mentee is optimism. Someone that will not give up halfway through, and will stay true to their goals. Lastly, I will observe a potential mentee’s level of self-awareness. This person will likely be honest and truthful to not only me, but themselves in terms of self-improvement. In short, someone who is not afraid to say that they are not perfect, and will work to better themselves in the best way they can.

We hope that the session provided you with the necessary takeaways and key insight into the current issue. Click here to watch the video.