Startup CEO on raising kids with an entrepreneurial mind

From a young age, Cheryl Sew Hoy always knew she wanted to run her own business.

“When teachers asked what was your ambition … and a lot of kids wanted to be doctors or lawyers. My ambition was [to be] businesswoman,” she told CNBC Make It.

That childhood dream is now a reality for the 39-year-old serial entrepreneur, whose ventures include Reclip.It, a consumer software startup acquired by Walmart Labs in 2013.

Now, she runs Tiny Health, a health tech startup that sells at-home gut health tests for moms and babies ages 0 to 3. The CEO and founder said the test can help detect gut imbalances early and prevent chronic conditions.

Just last week, the company raised $4.5 million in seed money and said its backers include US cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, Google’s X, and Dropbox.

Cheryl Sew Hoy (centre) with her mum and daughter Charlize, who is now 4 years old.

Tiny Health

Sew Hoy, a Malaysian now based in Austin, Texas, attributes her success to her mother who was a businesswoman running her own marketing business in Malaysia.

“My mom she had her own business and was the boss. Before working from home was popular, she was already working from home and I’ve always had this role model,” she said.

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Things have come “full circle” for Sew Hoy, who is now a mum for two children aged 2 and 4, as she begins to give them lessons she has learned.

What are her tips for raising entrepreneurial kids? CNBC Make It finds out.

Participate in storytelling

It is difficult to teach children what business they can create at a young age, but children “remember stories” – and that is the best way to introduce them to entrepreneurship, said Sew Hoy.

Modeling after her mother In hindsight, Sew Hoy said she wanted to be “more secretive” about talking to her children about running a business.

For example, she explains to her children about her job as CEO, the “backstory” of why she started Tiny Health.

I teach them why I work hard. Yes, it is to make money but not just to buy food or spend it.

Cheryl Sew Hoy

CEO and founder, Tiny Health

“Talk to them like adults, even if you think they are too young to understand. The more you talk to them like adults, [you’ll realize] they understand a lot and learn a lot from that.”

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While explaining to her children what she does, Sew Hoy said she is also teaching them the value of money.

“I teach them why I work hard. Yes, it’s to make money but it’s not just to buy food or to spend it. When you’re making money, you need something that people value build on it. What problems do you want to solve in the world?”

Create enemies

Entrepreneurship is about problem solving and that’s something children can learn through adversity, Hoy said.

“There is a difference between great entrepreneurs and good entrepreneurs. The great entrepreneurs are the ones who will bounce back continuously because it is very difficult to run a company day to day,” said Sew Hoy.

If children only have “flat rides” where problems are always solved for them, they will never learn that value, she said.

“It requires a lot of patience. My daughter would whine and be like, ‘Mommy, I can’t do it.’ I will encourage her to try again, and maybe help her a bit,” she said.

“If she succeeds – especially if she succeeds on her own – she learns a lesson ‘If you had succeeded before, you wouldn’t have achieved this.’

Sew Hoy said she noticed a “spark” going off in her 4-year-old daughter after going through the same situation with her a few times.

“I know she’s learning for the next time [she tries to do something], she’s telling me, ‘Mommy, I can do it. I’m strong.'”

“So if our lives became too easy, I would cause trouble [for my kids].”

Clarification: This story has been updated to more clearly reflect the age of Cheryl Sew Hoy’s daughter, Charlize.

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