Malaysian Wins RM3.36 Million In 'Shark Tank' For Her Business That Helps You Sleep Better
Meet Amber Leong, an entrepreneur who designs and sells desktop light therapy lamps that mimic the colour and brightness of the sun to help regulate the body's sleep-wake cycle
She hails from Salak South, Kuala Lumpur and went to the United States after receiving her diploma from Tunku Abdul Rahman College.
A few years ago, she decided to quit her corporate job and start a light therapy lamp business called Circadian Optics with her co-founder and husband, Chew Kin Mun.
Over the weekend, Leong became the first Malaysian to be featured on the hit American entrepreneurial reality TV series 'Shark Tank'
She was picked from thousands of applicants across America to compete against other entrepreneurs for investment from the show's panel of 'Sharks'.
In an impressive development yesterday, 8 October, Leong went on to land a USD800,000 (RM3.36 million) deal with the ABC programme's two prominent investors, Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner, in exchange for a 20% stake in her company, according to Malay Mail.
She convinced the investors to help expand her company by explaining the benefits of light therapy
"Today, all of us slog away inside a dark office all day. We're not getting enough light, and this is disrupting our body clock and making us tired and unhealthy," she said in her business pitch to the judges on the show.
The conception of the product began with her own experience of long and dark winters while she was working in Minnesota, United States
"I was feeling tired and had trouble concentrating. The lack of light was getting me down," Leong told SAYS, when asked about what inspired her to start the company.
She then read about the important effects of sunlight on the body clock and bought the best-selling model therapy lamp which was a huge, boxy device. After only a few days of using the lamp, she reported feeling more energetic and focused.
"It was amazing. Just simple light could change the way I felt so much. But there was a problem," she continued.
"Because of how the lamp looked, my co-workers teased me endlessly about the contraption on my desk. I thought to myself, there has to be a way to make good-looking light therapy lamps. So I did!"
Since 2016, Leong and her husband have grown the company but have more plans to expand the business
"We have supported each other when times are tough and celebrated together when things are going well. I am extremely thankful that we are in this together," said Leong.
Last year, she made USD4 million (RM16.8 million) in sales, according to Star Tribune. This year, she is projected to sell USD5.6 million (RM23.5 million).
She plans to use the investment to incorporate advances in LED technology into her designs, increase production, and expand into brick-and-mortar retail locations.
While she has proven her business prowess, it was Leong's personal story that captured the hearts of the 'Shark Tank' business moguls, moving one of them to tears on the show
According to Leong, she grew up poor and without indoor plumbing in Salak South, Kuala Lumpur.
At 19 years old, she was offered a scholarship to study at Bemidji State University that her parents were determined to see through, reported Pioneer Press.
They cashed out their retirement savings, borrowed money from family and friends, and sent their daughter on a one-way ticket to Minnesota in 2003.
Only nine months after she arrived, she was afflicted with toxic shock syndrome - a rare and potentially fatal complication of certain bacterial infections, she said as quoted by Inc. She was given a 50% chance of survival.
However, Leong pulled through, went to graduate school, got a six-figure job, and sent money home to her family, she told the misty-eyed Sharks.
When she built enough savings, she decided to choose "creativity over certainty" and launched her company.
One of the judges, Mark Cuban, told Leong that she represents the "American dream"
"You represent to everybody around the world who watches this show that it doesn't matter where you come from, if you put your mind to it, anything is possible," Cuban told her.
"You represent everything great about entrepreneurship and the American dream. You are freedom."
Leong has now patented five styles of the lamps that are only available online
The Circadian Optics light therapy product range comes in five different variants:
"My favourite is the Lampu, it always reminds me of the sun. We named it Lampu because we wanted to give one of our lamp models a Malay name," Leong told SAYS.The lamps are priced from anywhere between USD44.99 (RM189) to USD69.99 (RM294).
While busy growing her business in the US, Leong has definitely not forgotten her home country
"Yes, we would consider expanding our business in Malaysia! I do think Malaysians can benefit from light therapy, especially those who work in dark offices," she said when asked if the lamps would help in our country of eternal summer.
Finally, we asked her to give some advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs.
"You have to believe and you have to keep trying," she said, adding, "Nine in 10 startups fail, and the odds of your first, second, or third company failing is relatively high. But all you need is one success."