‘Create adversity’: CEO of startups on raising children with an entrepreneurial spirit


Ever since she was young, Cheryl Sew Hoy always knew she wanted to run her own business.

“When teachers asked what your ambition is… and many children 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 acquired by Walmart Labs in 2013.

Now she runs Tiny Health, a health technology startup that sells home gut health tests for mothers and babies ages 0-3. The CEO and founder said the test could help detect intestinal imbalances early and prevent chronic conditions.

Last week, the company raised $4.5 million in seed money and said it supports US cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, Google’s X and Dropbox.

Cheryl Sew Hoy (center) with her mother and 4-year-old daughter Charlize.

Small health

Sew Hoy, a Malaysian now living in Austin, Texas, attributes her success to her mother, who was also a businesswoman with her own marketing company in Malaysia.

“My mother had her own business and she was the boss. Before working from home was popular, she was already working from home and I always had this role model,” she added.

The circle is complete for Sew Hoy, who is now a mother to two children, ages 2 and 4, as she begins to teach them the lessons she has learned.

What tips does she have for raising enterprising children? CNBC Make It finds out.

Join the storytelling

It’s hard to teach kids what kind of business they can create at a young age, but kids “remember stories” — and that’s the best way to expose them to entrepreneurship, Sew Hoy said.

While she modeled for her mother by simply observing, Sew Hoy said she wanted to be “more intentional” about talking to her kids about running a business.

She explains to her children about her job as CEO, the ‘backstory’ of why she started Tiny Health.

I teach them why I work hard. Yes, it’s to make money, but it’s not just to buy or spend food.

Cheryl Sew Howy

CEO and Founder, 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 from that.”

By explaining to her children what she does, Sew Hoy said she also teaches them the value of money.

“I teach them why I work hard. Yes, it’s to make money, but it’s not just to buy or spend food. While making money, you have to build something of value for people. What problems do you want dissolve in the world?”

Create setbacks

Entrepreneurship is all about solving problems, and that’s something kids can learn through adversity, Hoy said.

“There’s a difference between great entrepreneurs and good entrepreneurs. The great entrepreneurs are the ones that will bounce back all the time because it’s really, really hard to run a business every day,” Sew Hoy says.

If children only have “smooth travel” where problems are always solved for them, they will never learn that value, she added.

If kids only have “smooth travels” where problems are always solved for them, they will never learn about adversity, said Cheryl Sew Hoy, pictured here with her family.

Small health

“It takes a lot of patience. My daughter would whine and say, ‘Mommy, I can’t do it.’ I will encourage her to try again, and maybe I can help her a little bit,” she said.

“If she succeeds — especially if she does it alone — she learns a lesson that ‘If you had given up sooner, you wouldn’t have achieved this.'”

Sew Hoy said she noticed “a spark” in her 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, ‘Mommy, I can do it. I am strong.'”

“So if our life becomes too easy, I would create adversity [for my kids].”

Do not miss: This millennial took a gamble during the pandemic. Now her startup has raised over $225 million

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