‘Create Adversity': Startup CEO on Raising Kids With an Entrepreneurial Mind

Tiny Health

Ever since she was young, Cheryl Sew Hoy always knew she wanted to run her own business.

"When teachers asked what's your ambition … and a lot of kids wanted to be doctors or lawyers. My ambition was [to be] a 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 that was 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 from 0 to 3 years old. The CEO and founder said the test can help detect gut imbalances early on and reduce risk for chronic conditions.

Just last week, the company announced it has raised $4.5 million in seed money and said its backers include former operators from U.S. cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, Google's X, and Dropbox

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

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

"My mom owned her own business and she was the boss. Before work-from-home was popular, she was already working from home and I always had this role model," she added. 

Things have come "full circle" for Sew Hoy, who is now a mom to two kids aged 2 and 4, as she begins imparting lessons she has learned to them. 

What tips does she have in raising entrepreneurial kids? CNBC Make It finds out. 

Engage in storytelling

It's hard to teach children what business they can create at a young age, but kids "remember stories" — and that's the best way to expose them to entrepreneurship, said Sew Hoy.

While she modelled after her mother by simply observing, Sew Hoy said she wanted to be "more intentional" about speaking to her children about running a business. 

For example, she explains to her children about her job as a CEO, the "backstory" of why she started 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 actually understand a lot and they learn a lot from that." 

By explaining to her children what she does, Sew Hoy said she's also teaching them the value of money. 

"I teach them why I'm working hard. Yes, it's to make money but it's not just to buy food or to spend it. While making money, you need to build something of value to people. What problems do you want to solve in the world?"

Create adversities

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

"There's a difference between great entrepreneurs and good entrepreneurs. The great entrepreneurs are the ones who will bounce back continuously because it's really freaking hard running a company everyday," said Sew Hoy. 

If children have only "smooth journeys" where problems are always solved for them, they will never learn that value, she added. 

Tiny Health
If children have only "smooth journeys" where problems are always solved for them, they will never learn about adversity, said Cheryl Sew Hoy, pictured here with her family.

"It requires a lot of patience. My daughter would whine and be like, 'Mommy, I can't do it.' I'll encourage her to try again, and maybe help her a little bit," she said.

"If she succeeds — especially if she succeeds on her own — she learns a lesson that 'If you had given up before, you wouldn't have accomplished this.'"

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

"I know she's learning because the next time [she tries to do something], she's telling me, 'Mommy, I can do it. I'm strong.'" 

"So if our life gets too easy, I would create adversity [for my kids]."

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

Don't miss: This millennial took a gamble during the pandemic. Now her startup has raised over $225 million

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