Helpr’s Chun Min Ma shares how she deals with the daily challenges of working in a startup – one of them involves a tiger
Chun Min Ma, Head of Operations at Helpr, is not exactly a newbie in the tech industry.
Prior to joining the Kuala Lumpur-based startup, she had experience working for three years in e-commerce marketplace for merchants Groupon. But the desire for new challenges encouraged her to accept the offer from the co-founders of the online concierge service company.
“I want to go through things where you can build something from a scratch, because when you are joining an established company, everything is set up for you … It is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she says.
Working closely with customers from different backgrounds and with different needs, she has dealt with many surprising twists and turns while running this business. Some of them might surprise you.
Here is the edited excerpt of the interview:
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What’s the best thing about startup life? How about the worst?
You can set your own way of doing things, how you want the culture and the processes to be, as long as it makes sense and is agreed upon by the all the other colleagues… You don’t need to follow too many procedures to get things done. You can challenge yourself more, and explore more things.
Joining startups allow you to realise that you actually have more potential.
The bad thing? It’s very, very tiring. You need to have lots of patients and be willing to sacrifice … sacrifice time with family and friends, because, basically, you have to devote time and energy to the business.
Startups often don’t have enough manpower, so one person has to do many things.
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Tell me a memorable experience!
When we just started, we had customers who texted us to ask, “Can I adopt a tiger in Malaysia?” or “Can you find me a boyfriend?”
Okay, how do you deal with that?
Google is our best friend here. We learned that there is a tiger adoption programme in the US, where customers can sign up.
So, basically, you don’t have to keep the tiger with you, you’re adopting him by funding his life. So, we ended up giving the customer information that while you can’t actually adopt the tiger at home, you can join a plan to fund the tiger.
We also had a promotion where customers only have to pay for the cost of the service, not the delivery cost.
We usually receive orders that we can deliver by the next day. But what happened that day is that we received so many that we had to close down shop for three hours.
We really did not want to disappoint our customers, so we spent the whole day running around, purchasing drinks for our customers.
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Do you have any advice for fresh graduates who want to go into a startup?
There are three things that you need to bear in mind.
First, sacrifices. Before you join a startup, think if you are willing to sacrifice your boyfriend, your friends, your weekends.
Second, perseverance. You need a lot of patience for [it]. Things are moving fast, you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, so you need mental preparation to be able to accept the stress level. Because the stress level is actually very high.
The third thing would be greed, in the sense of the hunger to learn. Greed to add more knowledge and know the things around you.
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