Growing up, I wasn’t the smartest kid in my class but I was the most eager one to explore my interests and hobbies. I only paid attention to the things that excited me or were somewhat fun.
During my VCE days, I did an assignment on the movie Gattaca (1997). The story was about “a genetically inferior man who assumes the identity of a superior one in order to pursue his lifelong dream of space travel (chasing his dream).” This resonated with me deeply because at a young age I was diagnosed with Thalassemia, a red blood disorder which causes excessive tiredness and fatigue which led to doctors advising that I had a mild learning disability. Maybe that's why I was more interested in catching insects than reading books.
Knowing this did not anchor my curiosity and motivation, but instead, it drove me forward - wanting to beat all odds.During my last high school years, I figured that university was just not for me although I was accepted into Electrical Engineering. I wanted to get a job and start from the bottom. Any job that was practical and taught me about interpersonal skills would tick the box. Before my 8-year career run at the bank, I held a number of different roles which included: sales consultant, customer service advisor, hospitality work, personal trainer, landscaping apprentice, telecommunications assistant, retail assistant, shop assistant and factory line worker. All these past jobs played a critical part in my life's journey and more importantly it has lead me to where I am today.
When my parents came to Australia from Vietnam as immigrants, I remembered them struggling to get a stable job and constantly mulling over money. The day when I first got a permanent full-time job at the bank, I was thinking “I bloody made it! Now I can take care of mum and this will be my ticket to happiness!” My family was over the moon, in their mind I had made something of myself by finding a stable white collar job - not to mention the great benefits that came with it. I recalled one of my uncles saying, “You better stick with this job, it will be good for you”. I am not going to lie, being accepted to a major financial institution without any formal qualifications under my belt, felt pretty awesome. I felt like this was my calling and I was going to go places.
My time at the bank was fun and enjoyable, I was on a comfortable salary, met a lot of weird yet amazing people by working in different departments, made some lifetime friends who I now proudly call my family. However, I worked to live and lived for the weekends. I was enjoying the rewards but I was just enduring the journey and I soon realised that my joys and passion were outside of work. It was getting harder and harder to wake up everyday as I was miserable and it affected my ability to work productively. Looking back, I can say that it’s about the journey not the destination.
The night that Tony and I created the brand, we were having drinks on his apartment balcony. It happened so fast that I wasn’t even sure if he was serious about it. Within a week we had met with a graphic designer - came up with a name, logo and the rest was history. Saibu started out as a passion project, the idea was to re-spark the minds of our community to think, to imagine, create and interact. We strongly believed that this was slowly dying in our society and we felt others would have the same view and support us by making our brand a voice for positive change. I’ll never forget that time in our first year of starting up, how one of your clients had told us how our story had inspired him to take a risk. He quit his corporate job, started his own business and all this happened just before his second fitting! That was the time when I realised that we truly had something special and Saibu was bigger than yourselves.
My ‘why’ had completely changed from the first day I started Saibu. It’s taken me 4 years to gather the courage to make the jump and quit my corporate job. Although my business partners and girlfriend believed in me before that, I wasn’t sure I was ready for the commitment. I didn't know if i was worthy enough...I didn't know if I was good enough. What would people think of me if I failed? Those were the excuses I constantly told myself. Every weekend I would come into Saibu and Geoff would ask me, “How was your week?”, I would respond with how much I hated myself for being trapped working for a fortnightly paycheck and how it put the cap on my creativity and growth as a person.
The excuses were getting old and I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself and take action. If I was feeling this way how many other people out there were feeling the same way? Imagine yourself walking onto the highest diving board to the very edge and looking down. At that moment you have two choices: either you turn around and walk back down those stairs the way you came or you suck it up and jump into unknown waters, somewhere you have never been before. I believed that I had unfulfilled potential waiting to be untapped. What I was doing was against everything we stand for as a movement. So the choice for me was clear, I wouldn't been able to live with myself if I didn’t do it. To me, life has never been about being comfortable, increasing your annual income, buying things and living happily ever after. Life is short and exciting, full of mystery. Take risks, learn from your mistakes and move forward unlock your best self. The day I jumped, I made it my mission to become a role model and inspire others.
The financial challenges I initially faced were tough but it was a trade for sanity. It was scary but once I put my foot down and made the decision, I did not look back. I acknowledged the fear and it pushed me forward. Others who also made the leap told me they should have done it sooner and they were right. Almost 6 months later doing this full-time, I finally feel I have gained a sense of direction. Living and breathing every single day as if it will be my last.
To be able to fully experience entrepreneurship, you need to have the courage and passion to push through tough times. I guess that's why you hear entrepreneurs say, “Do what you love”. Because you’ll be facing many challenges, dark days, many late nights, lack of sleep and early mornings. If you love what you do, you’ll just brush it off, get up and do it all again. It doesn’t get easier, you just get better.
I am in this for the long haul. I followed my heart and trust in the process. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine but I love every minute of it. I am responsible for my own actions and my team. I share my teachings and challenges with like-minded people and express myself through love and gratitude. Don't be stuck feeling miserable, if there’s something that you’ve always wanted to do or become, gather up your courage and take that one step. Nothing happens overnight so be patient and keep working, you are stronger than you think and as each days passes you will improve from the last!
- Time waits for no man
- You must love what you doing because if you don’t you won’t be able to give it your all
- Persistence and patience is key to success
- Believe in yourself
- Listen to your people and customers
- Be on top of your craft and educations, don't stop learning