Nothing to do with actual sharks or tanks – Shark Tank is a hit US reality series that invites aspiring entrepreneurs onto the show to pitch their ideas to a diverse group of “shark” investors.
While many entrepreneurs have left defeated, Amber Leong became the first ever Malaysian to appear on the TV show AND manage to land an RM3.36 million deal with two of Shark Tank’s most prominent investors, Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner.
According to Malay Mail, this was in exchange for a 20% stake in her company, which she said had a valuation of US$7.5 million. The show is all about how you pitch your ideas and Amber wasted no time explaining how she started light therapy lamp business – Circadian Optics with her co-founder and husband, Chew Kin Mun.
She convinced the “sharks” to help expand her company by explaining the benefits of light therapy that mimics the colour and brightness of the sun to help regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Her US-based company sells small and stylish lamps that help regulate the body’s circadian rhythm.
“Today, all of us slog away inside a dark office all day. We’re not getting enough light, and this is disrupting our body clock and making us tired and unhealthy,” she said in her business pitch to the judges on the show.
Hailing from Kuala Lumpur, Amber said the conception of the product began with her own experience of long and dark winters while she was working in Minnesota, US. But when the judges asked what her backstory was – that’s when the tear-jerking session started.
She explained how she grew up poor and at 19 years old, she was offered a scholarship to study at Bemidji State University, US. Amber’s parents cashed out their retirement savings and borrowed money from family and friends to buy her a one-way ticket to Minnesota with only enough money to get her through one semester.
After nine months in America, she was afflicted with toxic shock syndrome – a rare and potentially fatal complication of certain bacterial infections and was given a 50% chance of survival. Fortunately, the emotional story ended with how she managed to survive, got through graduate school, land a job with a six-figure salary and sent money back to her parents.
On the show, Mark Cuban told Amber, “You represent to everybody around the world who watches this show that it doesn’t matter where you come from, if you put your mind to it, anything is possible… You represent everything great about entrepreneurship and the American dream. You are freedom”.
Catch a glimpse of how it all when down, here:
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