A year ago, Sherlyn Tan who founded popular Malaysian fashion label Twenty3, announced that she would be ceasing operations for the brand to focus on her mental health. She later sold off the brand to a third party and is no longer involved in the business.
Sherlyn has always been very open about her depression and outspoken about mental health. She’s observed that while the media has begun discussing the topic of mental health at work, school and during pregnancy, there’s still a lack of mental health discussion in the entrepreneurial sphere.
“It is still very less talked about by entrepreneurs as I believe that they didn’t want to ruin their reputation as although it’s been talked about, it is still not really as acceptable as what we want,” she said.
Many of her followers have also looked to her for advice on disclosing their mental health status to their employers, to which she advised them not to. “Although people can say that they understand, but acceptance is another level and also another issue. Many would be judged immediately once they disclosed.”
Her Pets Helped With Her Depression
Sherlyn has had depression since young, and there were factors in her entrepreneurial journey that worsened her mental health. She was in a competitive industry, managing 5 outlets in 2 countries, and she said that because Twenty3 is a local brand, they had to work harder than bigger brands to attract and retain consumers.
“I’ve once heard people saying that your pricing is similar to Zara, I might as well buy Zara,” Sherlyn recalled. “We worked really hard behind the scene, making sure that all our clothing fits Malaysian sizes and also make the buying process easy and comfortable for the consumers so that they would choose us instead of putting us in competition with bigger overseas brand.”
Sherlyn and her team’s hard work with Twenty3 paid off when they were consistently reaching RM1 million in sales per month in 2018. Giving up the successful business wasn’t easy, and she said, “It actually topped on my already severe depression and anxiety.”
What has helped her through her depression has been her pets, and she highlighted the role her adopted dog played in her life. Her dog also had a tough life before Sherlyn adopted her, which made Sherlyn feel understood and less alone.
Having pets has helped Sherlyn follow a routine, which is important for depressed patients. “I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t shower, I couldn’t eat,” she said, “But with my dog, I was able to get up just to feed her and also when I shower, she is always there with me. I have to wake up on time to feed, and also walk my dog.”
When Sherlyn gets panic attacks, her dog would lie on top of her chest to help her slow down her heartbeat and help her breathe. On what benefits animal companionship had over human companionship, she said that pets show her unconditional love, don’t judge, listen when needed, and would always accompany her without complaint.
Giving Strays New Homes
Her care for animals is extended towards strays as well, and while she’s unable to adopt them all, she still makes an effort to improve their lives and find them homes. There were once 18 cats who lived in her apartment carpark and she managed to catch 12 of them for neutering.
Focusing on her desire to help animals has helped her overcome the limitations her mental health may place on her. “With anxiety I wasn’t able to drive at all. But for the stray cats, I was able to drive an hour back and forth for weeks just to get them neutered.”
In further efforts to promote adoption and to celebrate her birthday, Sherlyn will be hosting a Caticorn Party at pet-friendly coworking space Common Ground, Jaya One on 21 September in collaboration with independent rescuers like AZ Animal Clinic & Pet Hotel, PawgwartsKL, Allergic Rescuers, and TNVR One Life At A Time. From 11AM to 2PM, 30 cats will be up for adoption, most of which will be neutered (unless they’re too young), vaccinated, dewormed and de-flead.
Attendees needn’t bring any documents but may be required to pay an adoption fee and a deposit for neutering and spaying if the cat they’ve chosen hasn’t undergone the procedures. There will also be interviews with the independent rescuers in charge of rehoming the cats and kittens for interested adopters.
Bringing your own pets to the event is welcomed, and there will also be vaccination services for dogs and cats at a special price as Sherlyn is subsidising the prices to encourage vaccination of pets and strays. “We will also have vendors who would donate 10% of the proceeds to help the independent rescuers,” she added.
Adopt, Don’t Shop
Sherlyn is a firm believer of the phrase “adopt, don’t shop” and has even stopped working with two of her sponsors who purchased dogs. “There’s no prejudice or bias towards people who purchase an animal but I’m pretty clear on my social media that I will not be friends nor work with anyone who still purchases animals in 2019,” she said.
She also criticised irresponsible owners who refuse to spay and neuter their pets, allow them to roam freely without supervision or keep them in cages 24/7. When it comes to educating and informing Malaysians on the importance of adoption, she’s personally tried and succeeded in doing that. “I started talking to younger students and expose them by showing them my pets. I’ve had a student that I spoke to who has grown into an adult now and adopts pets, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Besides, animals really help kids to build their social skill, responsibility, and is especially good for kids with special needs.
Even though her Caticorn Party hasn’t happened yet, Sherlyn is confident that she wants to host more similar events in the future. “I hope that we can be successful this time so that I can replicate and do more and so more organisers or sponsors are willing to come in and help.”
- If you’re interested in attending Sherlyn’s Caticorn Party, you can learn more and RSVP here.
- You can read more about what we’ve written about Sherlyn Tan here.
Featured Image Credit: Sherlyn Tan