Raise your hand if you’ve had a loved one tell you what profession you should go into, be it for the money, status, or whatnot.
On the flip side, how often is the idea of passion brought up by our elders?
It’s usually a lesson left up to ourselves to figure out, one that sometimes takes months up to years.
Ivor and Meng of HYGR fall into the latter category. After spending five years studying law, they graduated around the time of the pandemic.
In an interview with Vulcan Post, Meng revealed that they had applied to around 20 to 30 companies, but had no luck.
So, left with no other choice but to take a break, they reflected on themselves. “Maybe we can do something else during this break to find our hobbies and passion,” Ivor recalled their thoughts.
From their own personal care issues, such as Ivor’s cracked lips and Meng’s body odour, they decided to start HYGR, a personal care brand.
Selling natural lip balms and deodorants, HYGR’s products are wrapped in eco-friendly packaging. It started small from home, but then a viral five-second TikTok video changed everything for the brand.
Sales shot up to about 2,000 to 3,000 units of lip balms and 500 to 700 deodorants a month, last we spoke to them a year ago. The couple also shared then that they were close to receiving six figures in monthly sales.
They were the picture of a small business that had made it. But it had taken a lot to get here.
Those closest to you can be your biggest critics
The couple’s families found it hard to accept the fact that they were branching out from law.
“For people [not in] law, they have respect for lawyers, and they think like, ‘Oh, lawyers earn a lot of money’, wearing suits and everything,” Ivor said.
Neither her nor Meng’s families have any connections to the legal industry other than through the couple, and their families were extremely proud of their profession.
So, when they broke the news that they were trying something non-law related, both their families were shocked. However, they chose not to go into detail about what they would do.
“When we first started HYGR, we didn’t tell them anything. We just did it,” Meng said.
Of course, they couldn’t stay silent about it for long. As they continued building their brand online, family members who were aware of it were, unfortunately, less supportive than Ivor and Meng had hoped for.
“They were like, can do meh? Huh, got people want to buy meh?” Meng’s family even commented that the paper packaging they used for their products was “not even nice”.
Meng’s father also grilled them on whether they had really thought through this idea of running a business, asking if they had factored in electricity, rental, and other costs.
“Wah, if like that, then don’t need to do anything. You have to get everything so perfect at the start. I think naysayers will always be your closest friends or family,” Meng said.
Ivor added, “I was actually hoping for them to understand that passion does not generate that much money in the beginning. But I also hope that [they realise] money is not the only thing that we should focus on in our life.”
After multiple tries of explaining to their family their passion and business, they realised it wasn’t working.
“We cannot use our words to persuade them,” Meng concluded.
Actions speak louder than words
“The more they are against our business, the more we want to prove them wrong,” Ivor said.
Since their families harboured so much doubt that HYGR could take off, Ivor told them, “Give me six months and I’ll try to sell.”
This made it more credible for them to believe in HYGR, though it still took lots of time.
For HYGR, it took the entire two to three years of the pandemic for their loved ones to acknowledge their business as a serious business, and not just a hobby.
Bit by bit, doubts turned into curiosity.
“[Our families] didn’t know, like, ‘Wait, you can sell online like this? You don’t need to meet the customers?’”
“‘Customers don’t need to try it? How would they know they want it?’” Meng recollected.
Then curiosity turned into acceptance.
When their families flew from their hometown Penang to KL to visit the couple, Ivor said that they commented, “Your home office looks legit now! There are a lot of things going on. You actually have staff! You need to pay them, whoa!”
They eventually expanded the business enough to work with a manufacturer, though both remain very hands-on with HYGR, even as Meng continues his full-time career at a law firm.
Learning to trust themselves
If Ivor and Meng could turn the clock back, they’d have ignored the peer pressure that came with everyone else going to college, university, graduating, or getting a job.
“I wish we could’ve just maybe taken a year break, or even a semester break. I value the gap year because it gives you more time to try things out and understand what your passion is,” Ivor said.
“I think pursuing your passion doesn’t just give an impact—it changes your whole life. The thought of the ‘result’ is different. [It’s no longer just] ‘I want this salary’,” Meng added.
Ivor feels that running HYGR and living out her passion each day has put her in a better mental state too, making her happier. “I can’t remember the last time I cried,” she commented, recalling that she was crying daily when working in a career she didn’t like.
For others who may be feeling lost or torn between what they want for themselves and what others want for them, Ivor and Meng had some advice from their lived experiences to impart.
“You might already know your passion but you’re just afraid to pursue it because your parents or friends are saying that it’s not financially rewarding. In the beginning obviously you need a full-time job to sustain yourself.”
Ivor continued, “But keep the fire burning. Trust yourself.”
- Learn more about HYGR here.