Here are a couple of interviews that were captured on video:
An adventurer in life, Cheryl Yeoh is a resourceful and versatile entrepreneur who looks to create meaningful impact with her products and is also passionate about helping other entrepreneurs.
She co-founded Reclip.It, a personalized shopping list app that was acquired by Walmart Labs in 2013. Named by Mashable as one of the top 44 female founders every entrepreneur should know, Cheryl won notable accolades yet decided to bid goodbye to her comfort zone in San Francisco.
She returned to her home country Malaysia after being appointed to run MaGIC (Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Center), a government-funded company to build great entrepreneurs. To us, that would mean a crazy load of commitment, work, and time!
As the CEO of MaGIC, Cheryl believes that it is of utmost importance for a person to have a healthy mind, body and relationships to contribute to the community. With a heavy load of commitment on her end, we were curious how she made it.
Today, she shares her real life experience on how she manages to live healthy and stay active.
HealthWorks: Tell us more about yourself and what do you do?
Cheryl: I’m an adventurer, an entrepreneur, and a person seeking to live a meaningful life and make an impact in this world, in the time that I have left. At the moment, my contribution manifests in the form of leading MaGIC and helping entrepreneurs.
HealthWorks: Do you believe that taking care of your health helps you to be more productive in life?
Cheryl: Yes, most definitely. You can only be a good person, do good work and contribute if you have a healthy mind, body and relationships. Everything good starts from the heart and mind. So mindfulness and having the right motivation and attitude is the beginning to our life’s work. A healthy body helps support our mind, good relationships help support our heart, and keeps us grateful. Happiness is only real when shared with the people we care about, and who care for us.
HealthWorks: Many people use “busy schedules” as a reason for not living healthy. Seeing that your schedule is pretty hectic, how do you make time to commit to a healthy lifestyle?
Cheryl: It was admittedly tough at the beginning, as I was transitioning into a new environment, new job, and being put in high-pressured situations. I’m the kind of person who commits entirely into something I’m deeply passionate about, so I sometimes neglect certain aspects of my physical and mental health. However, I’m aware of the neglect and gave myself 6-8 months to adjust and made plans to get to equilibrium. In the new year, I started on that plan and have been making small steps toward a healthier lifestyle.
HealthWorks: What is your favourite workout routine to get you in the groove?
Cheryl: I’ve always been a very active person, and preferred high intensity routines (squash, spinning, kickboxing, sparring, dancing, etc). These days, in my quest to achieving more mindfulness and to slow myself down in this fast-paced environment, I like to practice yoga, go on long hikes, and try to meditate 10 mins every other night. I also like to take long walks after dinner if I can. On weekends, I golf, dance or go rock climbing.
HealthWorks: What’s a typical day like in terms of food?
Cheryl: I have a pretty big appetite so I tend to eat small meals throughout the day. I rarely skip breakfast, as I think it’s the most important meal in the day, and I tend to eat a smaller dinner with fewer carbs. I’m trying to eat less meat and rarely buy meat to cook, unless I eat out. I’m also very conscious about eating sustainable, responsible and locally grown or bred foods where possible, and try to stay away from processed foods as much as I can.
HealthWorks: You recently had an Ayurvedic detox program! What inspired you to do it and how was it?
Cheryl: I’ve been doing an 8-day Ayurvedic detox program to start the year, every January for the past 4 years. My friend Kevin joined an Ayurvedic program in New York City in 2012 and shared his routine with me at dinner one night. I was so inspired by the discipline it required and the rationale behind every dietary routine throughout the 8 days. For example, you drink carrot juice with extra virgin olive oil and ginger to cleanse your liver. You eat a fresh clove of crushed garlic every morning to boost your immunity. You take a spoon of flaxseed oil or coconut oil to line your digestive track, so food goes down easier. You do a 6-min hot-cold hydrotherapy to expand and contract your blood capillaries to reduce headaches.
The principle is that our digestive system works all year round non-stop to serve our dietary functions. It’s healthy to give it a break to refresh and unclog, so you omit these food groups: meat, carbs, dairy, sugar, alcohol, caffeine. I also like that during our juice fast, we realize that our bodies actually don’t need that much to survive. We end up eating excessively because we’re lured by the marketing calls of packaging and branding. This annual routine keeps me mindful about what I put into my body and also helps reset a lot of cravings that I used to have for carbs, sweets, and caffeine.
All in all, it’s a great mindfulness practice. I enjoy it more when I have a group of people doing it with me, because I always believe in the collective spirit of a community, rather than doing it alone. Happiness is only real when shared.
HealthWorks: You deal with many entrepreneurs every day. What do you think an entrepreneur’s healthy lifestyle should be like? What advice would you like to share with them?
Cheryl: As mentioned above, (being obsessed entrepreneurs) I think it’s perfectly fine when we’re just starting out to sacrifice certain aspects of our health. However, at a certain point, we should be aware that neglecting our health becomes detrimental to everything that we’ve just worked so hard for. Ultimately, all the success we gain is useless if we don’t have our health to enjoy it, or good people around us to enjoy it with. It’s also useless if we’re not self-aware and happy with our lives, because we’ll not have the right state of mind to be an internally content or grateful person.
My best advice is to make a gradual plan for how we would slowly regain control over those aspects of our life. For example, start with getting at least 7-8 hours sleep and drinking enough water. Then work on eating a balanced diet and getting enough vitamins. Next, exercise 1-2 a week at least or try to walk a little more each week. Finally, try to journal, confide our thoughts and feelings with a close friend, and meditate, if possible.
Go on a retreat once a quarter to recharge. Try not to work on weekends and get a massage once in a while. Being entrepreneurs, it’s sometimes very tough to ever stop working, but I believe it can be done if we try to alternate days where we work like crazy and give ourselves days where we just take our minds completely off work. It’s as important to recharge our minds, the same way I recharge my body with the Ayurvedic cleanse.
HealthWorks: What are your views on the health and fitness scene/culture in Malaysia?
Cheryl: Compared to 13 years ago when I first left Malaysia, I think Malaysians are actually increasingly more health conscious and fitter. For example, I see a lot more juice bars and healthy eating options. People are also jogging more and running marathons. I was surprised to find the largest indoor climbing gym in Asia at One Utama.
The Ministry of Youth & Sports is also playing a big role in encouraging young people to get fit with their Fit Malaysia campaign, which is great. At MaGIC, our team is starting up a weekly yoga class and basketball sessions with entrepreneurs in our coworking space, and will expand into more options soon. As employers, we’re also responsible to encourage our employees to be fit and healthy.
HealthWorks: How do you view success in life?
Cheryl: I think of two things every day when I live life – one is my wedding day, and the other is my death bed. For the first, if I can visualize who are my 5 bridesmaids and closest friends that I’d want to invite to my eventual wedding, then I know I’ve made enough meaningful friendships. If not, then I should continue working on being a good friend until I can fill a wedding hall with people I care about and know well enough to invite. It’s not the quantity that counts, but the quality of the friendships I’ve built.
My second philosophy in life is determined by how people would react on the day I die. It sounds morbid but it’s realistic. What would people say about me and my contributions to the world or how have I impacted their lives personally? Would people be sad, indifferent or happy that I’d passed? Have I made a difference in the little time that I’ve been alive, and if so, how does that contribution define me beyond my life?
Our lives are very fragile, and we how we define success will lead the decisions we make in life. So I believe in making them wisely, for we are only temporary beings passing through this world, and we are bound to leave many things behind.
HealthWorks: What’s your daily inspiration to get you going?
Cheryl: My daily inspiration is: what can I do today that would change someone’s life or trajectory for the better?
HealthWorks: If you own a huge billboard and you have to paint one advice on it – what will it be?
I’d rather regret doing something, than regret not doing it at all.
In her free time, Cheryl love massages and can never pass up a good one. She also loves cozying up at home with a good movie, some warm tea (or scotch) and home-cooked dinner.
First, tell us about your workwear style.
I try to visually communicate that I’m a strong, contemporary professional, but not too corporate. Since I’m heading up a big government agency at a relatively young age, I have to dress to convey that I’m in a position of respect and power, but also keep a down-to-earth and friendly tone.
I like styles that are classic but youthful, with a hint of startup identity. I tend to wear a lot of dresses or skirts that have solid colors and clean cuts, and I like to pair them with bold accessories. When I wear jeans, I pair them with a silk blouse to balance out the casual denim.
Why is image such an important part of your professional identity?
It conveys that I take my profession and the people I work with seriously. In today’s diverse workplace, people tend to judge you at face value, so I would rather not be mistaken at first impression. I want to visually project my personality, competence, and commitment, because that establishes trust quicker. If I don’t manage my image myself, others will.
What’s been the biggest challenge with your professional image?
I tend to look younger than I actually am, and sometimes people don’t believe I’m the CEO. Hence, my biggest challenge is to look my age and appear to be someone in power. But I don’t like wearing suits and jackets because it feels too stuffy for me. I also don’t carry designer bags or wear designer shoes or watches, even though I can afford it.
I want to stay true to my personality and character. Unfortunately, sometimes people judge me for that, especially in Asia. But it’s something I’m willing to compromise because I want my image to convey my values.
Tell us about a fashion faux pas you made and what you learned.
I once wore suit shorts to speak on a panel, and I would never do that again. Always wear long pants or a knee-length dress and closed toe shoes when speaking on stage. I’ve also started investing in a professional blowout whenever I speak at an event or attend an interview with photographers or reporters. I used to do it myself, but you’ll never look as professional, and yes it does make a difference when the photos come out.
Have you ever had an aha moment about your style?
When I discovered the casual wool-flannel blazer at Uniqlo that’s really comfortable but looks professional. I can wear it on top of most outfits and it instantly makes me office-ready, but isn’t stiff like a suit jacket. Adding a scarf to an outfit also gives it an elegant boost.
Can you give us one piece of advice on dressing professionally?
Dare to be yourself first, and then figure out how to tweak it and present yourself to best suit your environment. You’ll perform best when you feel comfortable in your own skin, but you’ll perform even better when you supplement that with being dressed in a way that demands respect.
Over thanksgiving in 2012, I was invited by the Founder Institute in Zagreb, Croatia to mentor at one of the Autumn 2012 sessions. I thought a class on Finding Co-Founders, Hiring & Firing Your First Employees (I will try to put up my slides soon).
Since I flew all the way to Croatia to teach a class, the Hekovnik Startup School, which is equivalent to the YCombinator in Slovenia invited me to come by to speak to their entrepreneurs too. I invited my friend Justin Ip, who runs product at AllTrails (another 500Startups company) to come and speak with me.
We talked about what the startup ecosystem is like in Silicon Valley, the pros and cons of accelerators, our fundraising experience, being a female entrepreneur, challenges as an entrepreneur, and more.
“First-time CEO Cheryl Yeoh launched her website CityPockets earlier this year. The business is growing 35 percent month over month, but Yeoh would like to see even more growth. Laurel Touby, founder of mediabistro.com, and Jennifer Hill, startup lawyer, have identified four steps Cheryl can take to achieve her goal.”
In October 2011, I was invited to interview with Laurel Tobey and Jennifer Hill to talk about the “secrets of successful startups.”