Serial Entrepreneur Datin Sri Joanna Lim: “One Business at a Time”

For International Women’s Day, we celebrate just a few of the many Malaysian women who are in careers of passion, rather than tradition. We interviewed Penang-born Datin Sri Joanne Lim, a successful serial entrepreneur, now into her third “ad-venture” in 12 years.

Mar 05, 2018 | By Zoe Phoon

Serial entrepreneur, Datin Seri Joanna Lim, is now on her third ad-venture. Photo by Karen Sim.

One definition of serial entrepreneur is, the person often comes up with an idea and gets things started but gives responsibility to someone else, and then moves on to a new idea and new venture. It’s essentially one business at a time.

In her serial entrepreneurial pursuits, Penang-born Datin Sri Joanna Lim has launched businesses in industries of which she knew nothing and she learns along the way.

She manages to capture those “aha” moments when they happen.

When opportunity knocks, she opens the door, takes significant leaps of faith to believe that she can succeed, is not afraid to take chances, and thinks one’s never too cool to learn something new.

Datin Sri Joanna Lim’s first enterprise in Penang in 2006, in the bead and jewellery industry, was only the start of a promising and successful future as a serial entrepreneur.

The thrill of her serial entrepreneurial journey has not diminished one iota over time, evident in her third “ad-venture” embarked on, just recently.

Life may not be boring with multiple businesses as you’re building knowledge, marketing experience, networks and other resources but there are challenges and stress as well.

There can’t be a rainbow without a little rain, she says, revealing that sometimes it does rain pretty hard on her side.

According to the experienced, the first time you do anything, you’re barely hanging on. The second time you do it, you get a little bit better. The third time, you’re starting to develop confidence. By the fourth and fifth time, you feel like you’re getting the hang of it.

How does that sound to her?

In an email interview with Luxuo, she shares what it’s like to be a serial entrepreneur, the lessons learnt, the key takeaways and her latest project.

Your courage to change course from dealing with beads, crystals and costume jewellery to setting up an automobile business engaged in selling cars and car accessories, which is an entirely different industry, is inspiring. Tell us more.

Joanna Lim: In all honesty, everything came by as a chance and I just took a leap of faith. If you don’t take chances, you’ll never know how far you can go. I’ve been in the bead and jewellery industry since 2006. This year is my 12th year since it all started. It has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride on that journey as I started from not knowing how to string a bead to flying around the world picking up ideas and lessons to make jewellery. Now 12 years on, I’ve trained some really good help in store who does most of the designing and jewellery making.

As a mother of three now, I can’t really be in store all the time to create pieces of my own, so I’m truly glad having creative people around me. As for the automobile industry, I’ve my husband to be thankful for. Without him, I probably would not have said yes when the chance was offered to us.

What are the lessons learnt?

JL: To quote Richard Branson, “if somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later”.

You’ll never truly know how far you can go unless you take a leap of faith and push yourself towards that direction. There is never failure in learning to do things right; only lost opportunity if you don’t try.

In business, there are ups and downs, and some thrills. How do you control the ride?

JL: I’m all about going with the flow and learning from mistakes. Nobody is perfect. Why judge a mistake made? Learn from it and move on. Why dwell on the downs when there’s limited time on earth to do things right?

How do you motivate yourself to reach beyond yourself and live life that’s successful and meaningful?

JL: Live today like there’s no tomorrow. If today was your last day on earth, at least you know you’ve done something right today. Don’t wait for the moment to make it right because every moment is the moment, it’s just how you take it. Or your so-called right moment might not even come if you think it isn’t the moment.

Success is subjective to a person’s belief. Never settle for anything less but always appreciate the present moment. I might now see what there is coming tomorrow, for I think tomorrow when I wake up it might not be as what I thought it would be.

So seize the moment to do things right. If it isn’t, learn from it and do it right again.

What are your expectations?

JL: I live by the moment. I just want to see people around me happy.

There’s no point in making millions of dollars and have three business ventures while the family is falling apart. To me, having a balanced life is important. Time for myself, time for family and time for business. If one is able to feel “enough” with these things, life would be less stressful. I’m still trying to achieve that.

There won’t be rainbows without a little bit of rain. Sometimes it rains pretty hard on my side but such is life. I’m just hoping to cut the rainy moments by living more positively.

What’s your third business endeavour?

JL: I’ve just ventured into a retail business of a Swiss-made product with 80 years of history, selling essential oil-based spa and wellness products including herbal creams, hair care, beauty care, oral care and body care.

What inspires you to venture into that?

JL: This is a joint — I’d call it “ad-venture” — which my sister and I got into when we chanced upon this amazing product brought in by a mutual friend. We were “guinea pigs” who ended up loving the product so much that we decided to start selling it.

It appears that there’s no stopping at three enterprises for you. What is it like to be a serial entrepreneur?

JL: You wish for 48 hours in a day, three bodies and six hands.

Do share with us tips and principles you live by in order to succeed.

JL: Trust. Having people around you who you can trust is important. You can’t do everything alone. Letting go and don’t be too harsh on yourself. Learn from mistakes and move on.

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