Text and Interview Pamela Choo Photography Arifah/BluInc Media
This Malaysian entrepreneur saw beyond the obvious. Cecile Thai went through trouble with traditional lenses and experienced discomfort and dryness with her contacts. That’s how she had the vision to create a better contacts and keeping up with how people’s lives are like in this screen-filled world. So she created Aveo Vision with the aim to make better eye health accessible to everyone. With affordable daily contacts and catering to all sorts of vision troubles (including astigmatism), they are produced with advanced technology, produced as sustainably as possible.
Hi Cecile! What inspired you to start your own contact lens company, Aveo Vision?
Cecile Thai (CT): I wore contacts for 15 years and through the majority of that time, had a lot of discomfort, dryness and a lot of issues with my contacts. The problem was that I was overusing my contacts. I knew that daily disposables were better for you but it’s not as easy to obtain. When I saw my ophthalmologist one day, he told me that I had some severe issues with my eyes and that I had to stop wearing contacts altogether. That experience led me to consider the traditional eye care industry and how it’s not keeping up with the needs of today’s consumers. So I knew that there was an opportunity there and something had to change to encourage people to have better eye health habits. Here, we wanted to know more about how it was like creating a business based around eye health was like, and what it takes to be your own boss.
What was it like quitting your day job as an investment consultant to pursue your own business? Was it an easy or difficult decision for you?
CT: It was actually really easy. The reason is because, as I mentioned, I wore contacts for 15 years and had all these issues [which] kind of gradually developed as I was in university. My first job was in investments and I stayed in that job for a couple of years being an investment consultant. It was during that time when this idea came to mind and in order for me to pursue that, I had to quit my job and I went to get my MBA from the University of Chicago to get the tools that I needed to be able to successfully launch this product. So it was an easy decision because wanting to pursue this was something that’s close to my heart.
What would you say are some obstacles you’ve faced since you launched your own company?
CT: I think the beauty of this is that there is a different challenge every day. But that’s the exciting part, that’s what makes it so fulfilling and so rewarding. I think part of what is making me successful is facing those obstacles and countering them. A huge part of my personality is that I’m not afraid to try different things. And I think you can see that too by the fact that this company even exists. It’s doing something completely different than what has traditionally been out there. But in order to be able to do that, you have to be OK with failing, and be OK with challenges and obstacles. So I see obstacles and failing as a path to success.
“A huge part of my personality is that I’m not afraid to try different things.”
What have you learnt about leadership, and being the CEO of your company?
CT: I think being a good leader is that you have to be willing to take risks, make bold decisions and also be open to new ideas. One of the things that I really appreciate, things that set us as a company apart, is that the people that I work with always have new ideas and they’re very willing to share it. We always engage in this very healthy debate and discussion. And I think being a good CEO or a good leader is encouraging that kind of healthy discussion to be able to continually innovate and make the business as successful as it can be.
What’s your advice for young girls who want to start their own business?
CT: I think be bold. Don’t be afraid about failure. Find something that you’re passionate about. If there’s something that you can relate to or something that’s affected you somehow. Find something that you can be super passionate about, put your heart and soul into it, and really work at it. That’s what keeps me motivated. I think that’s really important when you want to start a business, is having that motivation and staying your course.
“Find something that you can be super passionate about, put your heart and soul into it, and really work at it.”
Will you be expanding your business to other countries? If yes, which countries?
CT: We’re always thinking about expansion. Actually we’re planning on pretty rapid expansion. We launched in the US in April and we are already in Malaysia as of October. So it only took less than six months. I guess the next markets we’ll be looking at is probably somewhere where we can have an office.