1. Let’s begin with telling us about yourself. What is MilkADeal and the man behind it, Shaun Lee?
Our group of companies currently run 2 e-commerce websites in Malaysia, MilkADeal.com and HiShop.my. MilkADeal.com is a discount store whilst HiShop.my is a health and beauty e-store. We have been in operations since Dec 2010 and this year, we aim to launch 3 new ventures under our Innovation arm.
Before starting out in business, I trained and qualified as a Chartered Accountant (CA) in Ernst & Young London, specialising in the audits of property funds and construction companies. I left Ernst & Young the same day I qualified as a Chartered Accountant which coincidentally fell on Merdeka Day, 31 August. MERDEKA! I graduated from the London School of Economics with a BSc Accounting and Finance degree.
2. Why did you decide to venture into entrepreneurship?
As a kid I have always wanted to build my own business. I have always had the contrarian view that being in employment is riskier than starting up a business because you could be playing chess at work for 20 years but one day, you could walk into the office only to realise that the game has changed and the company is now playing checkers!
3. Who do you count as your role model in the entrepreneurship world?
I have a lot of respect for Chuck Feeney. Though most people would not have ever heard of this person.
He’s an Irish-American businessman who co-founded Duty Free Shoppers, more commonly known as DFS today. After selling off his business to Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) in a multi-billion dollar deal back in the 90s, he used almost all of his personal wealth to help people through education.
Personally, I believe that education is the equaliser in today’s world and having been blessed with good quality education throughout my life thus far, I aspire to follow his footsteps one day.
5. How did you start your venture? Did you set out to change something?
I like solving problems for a profit. That’s how it started and that ethos hasn’t changed.
6. What were among your three main challenges?
Hiring. (Sorry, I could only think of one)
7. How did you overcome it?
As a strong believer of two adages – “What does not kill you makes you stronger” and “Tough times don’t last, tough people do,” I derive great satisfaction from rising above the storm.
One of the greatest challenges I have had to overcome was starting a business from scratch. I remember when I was interviewing my first employee, I felt as if I was being interviewed instead and having to constantly ‘sell’ the job to the interviewee was certainly not easy.
Having grown the team from 2 staff members to a team of 25 today is definitely fulfilling. But now, it’s about growing the team further and keeping and developing the right people. That’s a whole new set of challenges altogether!
8. Who do you turn to when you run into problems?
My team. My friends. My business partner. My wife. My parents. My dog.
9. How did Cradle Fund help you on your journey?
Receiving the Cradle Fund grant back in 2012 has helped us tremendously with our marketing campaigns. As a result, we were able to acquire new users and also reward our loyal customers to keep them loyal to our home-grown MilkADeal brand. All this translated to better morale for the MilkADeal team. And for this, we are most grateful.
10. When you were younger, did you ever dream of being in business or was that the last thing on your mind?
As a kid, I have always enjoyed imagining things before I sleep. I believe that was my inner child at play and I don’t think I have completely lost that habit.
I think it’s important to keep a person’s inner child happy. My inner child regularly pushes me further to new heights, to do things differently and he’s one that is not shy to new challenges, adventures or failures. I guess he keeps me going. And I mean this in the least schizophrenic way possible.
With that in mind, I must say that I am grateful to have a very supportive family that tolerates my inner child and truly accepting me for me with no questions asked.
11. Are you enjoying your entrepreneurship journey so far?
I can’t think of anything else that I’d rather do.
12. How does your idea make the world a better place?
I’d like to think of ourselves as match makers of the business world. We help businesses generate business through our competitive platform whilst getting consumers the best deals, always!
13. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hope to have built a recognisable consumer brand in South East Asia.
14. We know running a business can be stressful. What do you do to relax?
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Maybe, I am Jack (laughs).
During my free time, I enjoy catching up with people to discuss ideas and the discussion can range from social issues to business ideas. I can’t say it’s relaxing as I am easily excitable with fresh new ideas.
Aside from that, I enjoy swimming and taking walks with my grandma during weekends at the park in Taman Tun Dr Ismail.
15. If you weren’t running a business, what would you be doing instead?
I’d be running a business.