Jayce, tell us about your first brush with entrepreneurship.
I had previously won a Star Wars toy through a magazine contest. I was eleven — this was the pre-Internet banking days. I decided to list it on eBay, and within an hour I was able to close the transaction. I started looking around my room for things that I could sell, and I found stuff like Gameboy cartridges. Later in life, my girlfriends and I were hooked on a popular Taiwanese variety show, and I had a thought: ‘Why not import the beauty products that the hosts were recommending?’ So, I began procuring products from Taiwan, as well as Japan, as I was fluent in Japanese. I listed these products on eBay as well.
What did you learn from these early ventures?
The skill to set up a website. It’s a far cry from the options you have today where you can construct a website using pre-made templates. Back in those days, I had to build a website from scratch, and I had to learn HTML coding. And then there’re the product shots. I bought basic light equipment, a diffuser and set up the shots myself. And then came the editing of the photos, such as removing the background. It was laborious, but it was worth it when I saw the finished product, and that all the links worked.
Were there any experiences during your formative years that planted the seed of grilling and cooking?
During my Girl Guides days, I was exposed to outdoor survival skills and outdoor cooking. My mates and I participated in quite a few competitions and we strove for the President’s Guide Award. It was a really fun time. We had many camps over at the Sarimbun Scout Camp site. We had to dig our own pits in the ground and start fires, which were needed for boiling water. These were the things we were not taught in the classroom. Even when it’s raining, and we were soaked from head to toe, even when our shoes were muddy and we smelt, we still had to get the work done. If we didn’t pitch the tents in time, we wouldn’t have any shelter. These experiences toughened me up.
It was during this time that I learnt the art of solar cooking. We would take cardboards, wrap them with aluminium foil, and position them under the hot sun. Then, we would place a pot of food in the middle and with that, we got to cooking. Sometimes, we’d prepare and affix a chicken to a clothes hanger, wrap it with aluminium foil to prevent the heat from radiating. It would take us over six hours to cook the meat over embers.
We would be so thankful for the sun, because that meant we could cook our food. It made us appreciate nature, and to respect it. We always had to do contingency planning as well: when it rained, we’d switch to using the burner and cook on the mass tin. This in a way has prepared me for real life. When it comes to work, we always have to be prepared for what is to come and what can go wrong. Girl Guides trained me to be prepared; it’s one of our mottos.