The cold, hard truths of founding startups


The founder of Komuniti Tukang Jahit, Yap (pictured) is one of the mentors under the Taylor’s Camp of Leaders mentorship programme that gives students the opportunity to connect with industry leaders – File pic.

A STARTUP business, be it one with ambitions to change the world or a small project of humble beginnings, is a responsibility. This has been one of my biggest learnings in my experiences of founding startups.

The journey of founding startups is often a trial by fire, and there are realities of developing a business that everyone should accept as they step foot into this world.

It is truly wonderful to see more and more startups following the footsteps of already established companies, innovating new products and solutions that they believe will help society and economy progress further.

However, it is important that startup founders understand the difference between approaching their position like a big role versus it being a big responsibility.

The moment you lay the foundation for a startup, you must dispense with all grandiose and take off your rose-tinted glasses, as developing your business is a tough journey that requires resilience, patience and hard work.

This is what I plan to drive home to my mentees in my role as a mentor for Taylor’s University’s Camp of Leaders programme.

Through this programme, I see a chance at imparting what I have learnt throughout my experiences and help students gain a better chance at succeeding in their projects.

Very often, I see startups striving for a degree of perfection that is unattainable, and this approach can sometimes eat away at precious time and resources, resulting in startups being unable to recoup the costs spent in chasing the perfect product or service.

To prevent this, I encourage my mentees to find a way to bring their ideas to life through the most affordable and quickest way possible.

There are a lot of benefits to cutting down wasted resources as nothing needs to be perfected immediately, and everything can be refined over time. I believe this lesson would serve my mentees well in developing their projects into later stages.

In another aspect of startups, I see a lot of people with good intentions trying to build a social enterprise which benefits the underserved or less privileged.

Having founded the Komuniti Tukang Jahit Malaysia (KTJ), the simple truth is that at the end of the day, it is still a business and it will not continue operating if there is no income.

While KTJ is helping local seamstresses make a living, the funds are also required to continue keeping the company afloat.

Having a startup is a beautiful dream, but if there is no income which keeps you standing, it will not mean anything in the long run. This is something I wished a mentor had guided me on during my early days as a founder.

Having a mentor can be a life changing experience for many, it certainly is for me.

Prior to KTJ, I had a startup which stagnated for the better part of three years.

But eventually I found an incredible mentor, who also ended up becoming my business partner, that helped me pivot and find the right rhythm.

But make no mistake, the right mentors who can walk the talk will help us find the extra push we need, but it is the founders who must do the heavy lifting if they want their business to succeed.

Yap Sue Yii is the founder of Komuniti Tukang Jahit Malaysia and a Camp of Leaders mentor at Taylor’s University. Camp of Leaders is a mentorship programme that connects students with industry leaders to inspire and facilitate the success of their startups. The programme is part of Taylor’sphere, a well-balanced ecosystem that nurtures the intellect, creativity, and practical wisdom of students.

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