Malaysian gets chance to feature on US reality TV, Shark Tank

Amber Leong pitching her product during the Shark Tank, entrepreneurial reality TV programme. - Photo credit: Amber Leong.

PETALING JAYA: Amber Leong is set to become the first Malaysian to be featured on American entrepreneurial reality TV programme, Shark Tank, over her innovative light therapy lamps.

Leong, who is the co-founder of Circadian Optics, founded the company with her Malaysian husband, Chew Kin Mun, back in 2016.

Circadian Optics, which is based in Minneapolis, United States, creates light therapy lamps that mimics the brightness and colour of sunlight to help maintain healthy circadian rhythms, especially during the winter months.

The 35-year-old, who left Malaysia in 2005 to pursue an undergraduate degree at Bemidji State University in Minnesota, realised – while working during the long, dark winter days – that she needed a light therapy lamp due to the lack of sunlight.

"This is a lamp that is very bright and mimics the colour and brightness of the sun.

"It helps improve mood, energy and sleep when you do not get enough sunlight," she told The Star on Saturday (Oct 5).

Leong said she received her "light bulb" moment when she noticed that the available light therapy lamps looked dull, boxy and clinical.

She wanted to produce lamps that utilised the latest in LED technology to create designs that were not available in the market.

"Our lamps have a bold, unique take on what a light therapy lamp can look like, and we have successfully revolutionised the light therapy lamp industry," she said.

Leong is set to appear on Shark Tank on Sunday (Oct 6).

The preview of the show sees Leong pitching her products to the judges, including billionaire businessman and investor, Mark Cuban.

She said she was "unbelievably excited" and at the same time, found that it was "incredibly nerve-wracking" to appear on the show.

Shark Tank gives budding entrepreneurs the opportunity to secure business deals that could propel their company to the next level.

Leong said she hoped the programme would help make Circadian Optics a recognisable brand, known for making lamps that were functional and beautiful.

"We are planning for everything that we hope will happen after the show: answering press inquiries, managing our inventory, getting our systems ready for a flood of orders.

"It’s just a crazy time. But I wouldn’t change it for the world," she said.

Leong noted that her journey to appear on the show was a long, arduous process that took 18 months.

"We were at a trade show in 2018 and participated in a Shark Tank casting call. We didn’t expect much because every year, the show gets 40,000 applications, but we decided to take the chance anyway.

"We had to wait in line for hours to pitch at an open casting call," she added.

Leong said she was excited to show the world the benefits of bright light therapy and how it could help improve sleep, mood and energy.

"With our modern lifestyle, we spend most of our time in dimly lit offices; our bodies deprived of sunlight. We want to spread the word that light is as important to our wellbeing as diet and exercise, and that getting enough light is as simple as using a lamp right at your desk.

"We want to bring light to the world," she said.

Being an entrepreneur in the United States is no easy feat, with Leong lamenting that one of her biggest challenges had been to figure out a way to stand out from the crowd.

"We had to create something that was different, something that would allow us to offer value to our customers," she said.

In the future, Leong said, they hoped to one day have a strong presence in Malaysia and to even contribute to the country's economy.

She also advised budding entrepreneurs in Malaysia to keep trying, despite failures.

"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," she said.

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