Baby Sleep Coach

One of the challenges young parents face is getting enough rest when newborns arrive. Sarah binti Haris Ong found that coping lack of sleep extremely challenging when her second daughter arrived. After much research she tried a baby sleeping program by an American consultant and found that it worked like a charm.

Inspired by this, Sarah left her job in TV broadcasting and got the necessary certifications to become a baby sleep coach herself.

Sarah talks to Savvy about what it means to be a baby sleep coach, the common mistakes parents make when it comes to getting their kids to fall asleep and her views on entrepreneurship. 

What motivated you to become a baby sleep coach?

It was out of my own experience of severe sleep deprivation with baby number two who was waking up five or six times a night. She needed to be breastfed back to sleep until she was 16 months old. I knew it was an issue that wouldn't go away on its own. I ended up using a program by a sleep consultant in the US. It worked like a charm on my baby and that got me inspired. I became very interested in the topic of baby sleep. Since there wasn't any sleep consultants in the country at the time, I decided to get certified as one so I could help educate other parents on how to encourage independent sleepers from a young age without sacrificing the secure attachment that their baby needs. 

What does it means to be a Certified Baby Sleep Coach?

It means being able to offer a service to solve and support what many parents struggle with – their baby's sleep. Sleep can get complicated when it comes to the little ones and being empowered with the tools and knowledge about sleep can be immensely helpful for parents. I was the first to be certified for this service in Malaysia but I understand there are now other baby sleep consultants around as well.

How do you differentiate yourself from the other baby sleep consultants?
I’d say it’s the way I approach sleep. I take a very holistic approach and I take into consideration every aspect of the baby's background including birth experience, early life experience, feeding, relationship with siblings if any, parents' lifestyle, medical history, current sleep habits and most importantly their emotional wellbeing. I don't use a specific sleep training behavioural method like what most books out there advise. I'm also open to work with their paediatricians, for those who have medical issues, so that we are aligned to the child's needs. Parents who have worked with me would summarise my approach to be gentle and respectful to their baby. Also the fact that I'm Asian is a plus point for some parents who prefer someone who can understand and support their cultural sleep habits especially with their choice to co-sleep with their baby. A lot of my Asian clients in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand choose to work with me because of this. I also include bedtime play as part of my sleep strategy which is counterintuitive but the secret sauce in my approach to great sleep.

How do you keep up to date on developments in your field?

I am constantly reading the latest research and findings online. I also attend continuing education classes with the International Association of Sleep Consultants and I enrol in courses in child development. Lastly, I read lots of books. 

Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?

Yes I consider myself a full-fledged entrepreneur because I've created a business that can support my family financially. And I'm always looking for ways to improve my business to serve my clients better. 

Was it easy to step away from your full-time job to become a baby sleep coach?
It was not easy at all. I was used to getting a steady flow of income for years before that. I had to work on my mindset and personal growth a lot during the first two years of business. I'm still investing in myself to be better and this journey has been nothing but valuable to me. After going through such hardship building a business from the ground up, I can safely say I am meant to be an entrepreneur. My life purpose is very clear to me and I feel very blessed to be in alignment with it. My job allows me to be home and be there for our kids. 

How do you market your services?

I provide free talks at parenting groups, webinars, free weekly videos answering sleep questions on my Facebook Page. Facebook is pretty important as that’s where my target audience hangs out. These days a lot of my clients hear about me through word of mouth – basically recommendations from past clients. There is a pretty high demand for the services I provide. 


How do you service clients outside of the Klang Valley?

I do video consultations which work quite well. I have a paid online baby sleep program called Easy Peasy Sleepytime which contains video lessons that guide and show moms how to help their baby to stop relying on breastfeeding or rocking. I created this program because after having done this this work for a few years already, I find that a lot of parents ask the same questions. This program is designed to solve those common issues. It’s meant for parents who would like to learn DIY style instead of going for private consultations.

What are the common mistakes parents make when trying to get their babies to sleep?

They use heavy sleep associations to help their baby sleep such as nursing, rocking, using a pacifier, when their baby can be encouraged to sleep without such associations from a young age. Most parents think their babies need to be trained to sleep. This is simply not true. Sleep is a natural process and by trusting their child's natural mechanisms to sleep, they can sleep peacefully at a long stretch in the night. The single most important thing to get a baby to sleep well is by connecting with their child's emotional needs fully at bedtime. Each baby is different and would show their parents what they need. When parents can recognize that, and are able to provide a feeling of emotional safety for their child, great sleep happens.

Are there ways for you to expand and scale your business? Do you plan to do so?

Currently with the business model I'm adopting, offering one-to-one sessions, the opportunity to scale is limited. But I like working privately with families and I intend to continue this for some time. I have thought of creating training programs to teach others to become sleep consultants but maybe not right now. This could be something for the future. 


Art Educator

Teachers play a big role in our lives, some obviously more so than others. For artist Tung Yan Ning, a particular secondary school teacher had influenced her so much that not only did he give her the confidence to pursue an arts education, it also made her decide to found her own art academy so that she too could help mould a future generation of artists.

Like many young students who did well academically, Ning was encouraged by her parents and relatives to pursue a science stream education. This is generally what “smart” students are supposed to do. But by the time she had to make such a decision, Ning already knew that she wanted to pursue the arts. It’s a decision she hasn’t regretted.

Ning talks to Savvy about her passion for art, why she set up her own academy and her future plans.


How did you first discover your talent for art?

I liked drawing for as long as I can remember. Even at a very young age, my exercise books were full of drawings that I’d done. And I couldn’t help but notice that I was better at it than my friend and classmates. I didn’t think of it as a talent at the time. It was just something I enjoyed doing.


At what point then did you realise this was your talent?

There were no proper art classes in my school as art was not a subject in primary school. So, I didn’t really have any sense of whether this was a talent I possessed until in secondary school when an art teacher encouraged me to pursue art.


How did that art teacher make a difference in your life?

I was 14 at the time when an art teacher told me I had a talent in art. He got me to join the art society and put me through a hard core art training programme. That’s when I first started to learn how to draw properly. I wouldn’t say that we were very close but he was the one who discovered my talent and guided me towards an arts path. If it wasn’t for him, I think I’d have ended up going into the science stream and I would have never realised my true potential.


What was your parents’ reaction to your interest in art?

They didn’t really think it was something that I could seriously pursue for my career until I started winning awards in national and international competitions. I still remember the very first award that I won. I was 14 at the time and it was my very first competition. I got second prize for an art competition in Perak.


How did your parents’ support for you manifest itself?

My parents were not very expressive vocally so they didn’t say much. But they showed their support through their actions. They attended all the art competitions I took part in and cheered for me when I won awards.


How did competing and winning make you feel?

At first it helped validate my confidence in myself as an artist. Then I treated each new competition as a challenge for me to further improve myself, to push harder, to achieve something greater. It wasn’t the trophies that excited me so much as the growth I could see happening in myself as an artist.


What were your ambitions when starting your own art academy?

After I graduated, I taught art in a local art college. After a few years of that I felt I could do better in providing an educational platform for today’s young artists. It wasn’t easy building up Claz’room Academy as neither I nor my business partner had any experience in business. But we both had a passion in art and wanted to help students develop a career out of it. We felt it wasn’t enough teaching them academic stuff. It was also important to teach them about life and soft skills that they’d need in order for them to shine in the work environment and ultimately to build a better life for themselves.


What is an ideal art student to you?

An ideal student is someone who has a positive attitude towards learning, and who’ll ask questions if they don’t understand something. It’s someone who realises that great work requires hard work.


What are your plans for Claz’room Academy?

I’m quite ambitious. I want Claz’room Academy to become a college that is the most impactful multimedia art institution in the country. Eventually I want it to become a regional player. I want to make a positive impact on students and on the industry.


Do you still have time to do art yourself?

I don’t have that much time as I’m running an art school but as my passion is art, there’s no way I can completely do without it. I try to slot in some time for artistic pursuits in my daily life, whether it’s doing an oil painting when I’m on a business trip or doodling while flying in a plane. My office is full of painting material so I can just paint whenever I can spare the time. I’d say about 30 per cent of my daily routine is spent doing some form of art. It’s not as much as I’d like but it’s better than nothing.


What’s your favourite medium for art?

I’ve done all kinds of paintings and drawings but currently I like thick colours such as oil painting and acrylic. I’ve also recently picked up sculpturing and pottery. I like all kinds of art, actually.


How do you keep up to date with the world of art?

I make a lot of business trips and wherever I am, I always make the time to pay a visit to the local art galleries there. I’m also quite well connected in the arts scene so that helps me know what’s new in the world of art.


What’s your personal life philosophy?

I think it’s important to continue to grow, gain new knowledge and undergo new experiences. It’s also important to share what you know. I think a lot of that comes from my late father who always encouraged me to be helpful to others. That’s why I started my academy ­— to help others.


Online market place for offline ads

Online marketplaces have made it so much easier to book things. The one most people are familiar with would be AirBnB for booking homes and apartments. In the past, we have featured entrepreneurs who’ve created online marketplaces for renting designers (graphic designers, web designers, product designers) and for booking offline lessons (academic tutoring, piano lessons, swimming lessons).

AdEasy is a home-grown online marketplace for offline ads — for print, radio, television, cinema, billboards, etc. It’s a simple way for companies to book offline ad spaces. “Our goal is to provide a platform that makes advertising easy, accessible and transparent for businesses,” says founder Melissa Sim.

When Sim first put together a concept paper for this idea, she had had 12 years of work experience in the ad and media industry, so she knew very well the ins-and-outs of the sector as well as the challenges companies have in booking offline ads.


Sim talks to Savvy about her company, how she raised funding for it, why this new service is ideal for SMEs in this country and how start-up life has been treating her.

What’s the genesis of AdEasy?

I had many brainstorming sessions with my co-founder Therine Goh, who’s now the COO of the company, before we decided to take part in the Alliance Bank SME Innovation Challenge in 2013. At the time, all we had was a concept paper but it was good enough for us to be one of the 13 finalists out of 200 applicants. In the end, we didn’t win but it was a good experience.

You’ve just launched this year. Why has it taken four years to get ready?

It took a bit of time to figure out how to simplify and automate the offline ad booking process and since it’s our first time building an online marketplace platform, there was a lot of trial and error involved. The website that you see today ( is actually the fourth version of our website. We didn’t want to launch it until we felt it was good enough. It was only earlier this year that we felt it was finally ready.

How did you develop the platform since neither of you is a programmer?

I had mentioned that our current website is the fourth version. The first three versions were outsourced to developers from overseas. We worked with people from India and Russia and it just didn’t work out well. They couldn’t really see the big picture. They couldn’t understand what we wanted to achieve in terms of the front end and the back end. Communication was also a challenge because of the time difference. In the end, instead of saving money, I think we ended up spending more money. Our fourth version was done with our own in-house tech guy. He used to work for an agency but now he’s with us.

What convinced you that there was a need for something like AdEasy?

Many people might not be aware of this but it’s actually not that easy to book offline ads. Price and information are not easily accessible and it’s quite troublesome to book offline ad space directly from media owners. It can take from days to weeks just to find the right ad space. We felt that offering an online marketplace for this would be good for the industry and good for advertisers, in particular the small and medium enterprises.

Why “in particular the small and medium enterprises”?

Therine and I have a lot of experience in the media buying-and-selling process. We both felt there was a huge market gap for underserved small advertisers. Most SMEs have small advertising budgets — sometimes as small as RM5,000 — and they’re under the impression that offline advertising is too expensive and troublesome for them to do. Through AdEasy, they’ll find that some kinds of offline advertising can actually be affordable and that booking is simple.

Are there really affordable offline ad options for SMEs with a small budget?

You’d be amazed at what you could do with a RM5,000 advertising budget. As a former small advertiser herself, Therine has had years of experience in this field, but many small advertisers are not aware of this. Through AdEasy, SMEs can really stretch their RM5,000 budget by looking at all the options available to them. It’s all very transparent.

You offer offline ads. Why not offer online ads as well?

Booking online ads is easy. Anyone can just go and book ads on Google or Facebook. And they can do it with a small budget. That’s why you do see lots of SMEs doing online advertising. The gap is with offline ads, which is what we’re trying to address.

How much were you inspired by platforms like AirBnB?

We were very much inspired by the online marketplace concept and wanted to make the process of booking offline ads as easy as booking accommodation via AirBnB. We wanted to remove barriers to adoption, and making it easy to use is crucial for that.

How did you finance the development of your business?

We utilised equity crowdfunding via pitchIN ( and managed to raise RM242,250, which was sufficient for our needs. This is kind of a new way to raise start-up funding. Someone recommended it to us, we tried it and it worked out well for us!

What’s your business model?

Media owners can list their ad spaces for free but we charge a small fee for every ad campaign booked. Advertisers don’t pay anything. And the prices they get are the same even if they were to go directly to the media owners to buy the ad. It’s just more hassle for them if they do it that way.

Has it been easy to convince media companies to take part?

So far it has been relatively easy because they understand what we’re trying to do. And they like it. After all it’s an additional channel for them to sell more ads and make more money. We’re letting them list for free so there is no cost to them for participating. We only charge a small fee if there’s a sale.

What’s the barrier to entry for someone else to start an online marketplace for offline ads?

I’m not sure there’s a barrier to entry as technology isn’t a factor. If someone can programme or hire a programmer, they can build an online platform like ours. Our competitive advantage is the industry knowledge we’ve amassed and the relationship with media partners that we’ve built up over the years. Our online platform may be new but we’ve been in this line for years.

What enhancements do you plan to roll out in the near future?

We want to offer features that help make the whole media buying process smarter. I’ve been reading a lot about machine learning and artificial intelligence. It’d be good to be able to automate things and determine which type of media is suitable for each client.

How has the start-up life been so far?

It’s been very exciting. We’re learning new things every day and meeting lots of people — really great people. Therine and I also work very well together. We have very different personalities but we complement each other.

Does the financial uncertainty of running a start-up worry you?

Not really. It forces you to be more creative. Having a fixed, steady monthly salary is nice but would I want to be working a 9-to-5 job 20 years from now? No. I’d rather be doing this.

What motivates you?

I want to build something that will solve a problem. I want to make a difference. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to do something different. So, this is it for me.


A passion for marketing and branding

Some people were born to do certain things while others like to try out different professions in the course of their career. Muhammad Zain Ibrahim belongs to the former category and has been involved in branding and market all this while, starting out working for private corporations, working for a government agency and eventually founding his own company.

In the private sector, Zain served in various brand management positions and dealing with big names like Dobi and FAB Detergent, Nespray and Everyday Milk, Milkmaid and Teapot Condensed Milk, Maybelline and L'Oreal Cosmetic Brands. He was also an active member of the industry associations where he served two terms as the president of the Cosmetics, Toiletries and Fragrance Association of Malaysia.

Zain’s passion for marketing and branding eventually led him to start his own consultancy, Impakstrat, a platform for him to try to make an impact on brand management in this country. He talks to Savvy about his understanding of the industry, why he started his own company and his views on the impact of the Internet.

What first got you interested in marketing?
While reading Economics in college, I took on a part-time job as a labourer in the school union warehouse supplying various food outlets in the university union building. In my last semester, the management of the food service department decided to open a retail outlet in the college and I was put in charge as the first manager of the newly-opened, “The Union Market” at the University of Iowa. It was then than I developed an interest in marketing and retailing, dealing with suppliers, and interacting with customers on a daily basis. There was certain energy about those interactions that got me hooked on marketing.

You’ve worked for many private corporations but you’ve also some “national service” for the country?
Ha…ha… yes that’s right. For three years, I was engrossed in promoting and building the national ICT initiative called MSC Malaysia, while working in MDeC. This was a different ball game from fast-moving consumer goods. Suddenly, I found myself having to learn something new: managing the various government stakeholders and getting their buy-in on initiatives that will benefit the nation as a whole. It was also about engaging the world and telling them about the IT products and services from Malaysia. Lastly, it was about telling people to invest in our people, our knowledge, our resource, and our abundant creative minds. It was quite an experience. And it was during my stint there that I became intrigued about entrepreneurship, something I didn’t really think about before. I met entrepreneurs on a daily basis. And in talking to them, I couldn’t help but notice the passion they had for what they were doing. Whether it involved just a creative idea, an animation project, a call centre, an RFID chip or some revolutionary software – all the entrepreneurs I met had one thing in common. They wanted to make the world a better place. I know it sounds corny but it’s true. Their energy and idealism was truly inspiring and it was because of them that I decided too that I wanted to embark on such a journey.

Companies and people generally understanding marketing but fewer have a good sense of what branding is all about. Why do you think that is so?
Marketing can be very tactical and focused on a specific objective so it’s easier to grasp but branding is all encompassing. To best explain this, I like to tell the all-familiar story of the blind men and the elephant. Each of the blind men only described the elephant based on what they touched and felt. The blind man touching the elephant’s long trunk, the blind man touching the elephant’s powerful leg, the blind man touching the elephant’s big soft ear and the blind man touching the elephant’s tail, each described a different feel and make of the elephant without describing the elephant as a whole. All of them describe correctly what they felt, but in truth the elephant is made up all of what each described. They could not see the big picture, which is the elephant. Branding is like that. You have to be able to see the big picture. And sometimes that is not so easy to do.

So what’s an easy way for us to understand branding?
There are many definitions of branding out there and I think the best way to describe it was put forth by Shultz, D & Shultz, H.F., in their book, Brand Babble: “A brand is something that both the buyer and seller can identify with and for which some type of exchange agreement results in the creation of value for both parties.”  To me, it is this idea of “value for both parties” that makes brand management exciting and meaningful. And to do that, you’ve to have a kind of connection where everyone wins.

Is branding an art or a science?
I’d say it’s more like an art, like cooking. I love cooking. And I see cooking and branding as having many similarities. You need to have a recipe when you cook. But that does not mean that if you asked two people to cook using the same recipe, the food will turn out the same. Branding is like that. You can have the same basic recipe – having the same products and services and knowing the theory and methodology on how to best build the brand. But no two branding person will produce the same outcome.

What do you hope to achieve with your company?
Apart from Air Asia and Petronas as two very obvious examples, Malaysians do not have many global brands that we can be proud of. By global brands, I mean brands that are accepted globally and have significant market share in many of the countries they compete in. And yes, the brand has to be profitable as well. A brand like Toyota is associated with Japan and Samsung Hyundai is well-to be from South Korea. I want to help Malaysians brands become global because some of our products and services are world class.  

Is it easy to keep up to date with developments in digital marketing and branding?
How easy or difficult it is really depends on a person’s willingness to embrace the digital world. There’s enough material online to suck out the life in you. However, if you bother to sift through all that information to find the relevant and useful materials, you can become well-versed with digital marketing and branding. I should say that learning how to use new, digital tools, is the easy part. Understanding your users and how they consume the content using the digital media platform is the real challenge. Branding specialists should have the knowledge to differentiate between the platform and the content. Platform without the right content is useless.

How has the Internet impacted your job?
As I’ve just mentioned the real challenge is still in the story-telling when it comes to marketing and brand-building but it must be said that in the modern business world, professionals who do not embrace the web will be left behind and will eventfully become irrelevant.


Speaking Up against Wrongdoing

When you utter the phrase “Tidak Apa Attitude” everyone knows what you’re talking about. It’s become such a commonly understood phrase which bears testament to the fact that there’s a lot of apathy in our culture — certainly more than there should be, if we’re aspiring to become a developed nation.

One lawyer grew angry enough that she decided to something about it. Legal advocate Animah Kosai has just founded a movement called “Speak Up” which encourages a corporate culture of openness, allowing people to raise issues of concern without fear of reprisal.

Her passion has proven to be so powerful that she has left behind the safety of steady employment to focus her knowledge and skills to address this issue. She had previously served as counsel with the oil and gas industry for 14 years and was an advocate and solicitor of the Malaysian Bar for nine years. Through the course of her stellar career, Animah has helped implement many ethics, anti-harassment and whistle-blower policies.

This passionate lawyer talks to SAVVY about her new movement, the importance of speaking up and how leaders can improve the corporate culture of their companies to better reflect the inner yearnings of their people.

Who influenced you the most in the area of ethics?

For as long as I can remember, my father used to speak up and intervene whenever he witnessed wrongdoing or injustice of any kind. This could happen anywhere — in society or within the corporate world where he was an internal auditor. So this is normal for me as I grew up around it.

What is “Speak Up”?

I would describe “Speak Up” as a movement and I’m ambitious about it. I want this to be a global movement enabling others to join in various capacities from around the world. “Speak Up” is a platform to support leaders and organisations in creating an open and empowering corporate culture where people can raise issues of concern without fear.

What platforms do you plan to use for “Speak Up”?

Right now I am using LinkedIn as my main social media platform. Earlier this year, I wrote articles about BP’s Deepwater Horizon incident from the viewpoint of liability, pressure of KPIs and cost cutting measures which impacted safety decisions.

These three articles went viral within the oil and gas industry, especially in the US. I received many e-mails where engineers and drillers shared their stories with me. A recent article entitled Men, This Is Why Women Stay Silent When Sexually Harassed following Cheryl Yeoh’s revelation about her experiences in this area, has also gone viral including in Silicon Valley. That’s how powerful LinkedIn is.

What are the main issues when it comes to workplace ethics in Malaysia?

Malaysia has a huge cultural problem with power dynamics. We scored the highest on Hofstede’s Power Dynamic Index at 100. This means that people lower down the chain are subservient to their bosses and will not dare challenge them, even when they know their bosses are wrong.

If someone believes there are some ethical issues happening and it involves their boss, what should they do?

This is a very real challenge and not just in Malaysia. First question: Is there a policy on ethics and whistleblowing? Next question: Is there an ethics hotline which is anonymous and independent? If the answers are yes for both, that’s good. If not, it’s a tough situation. I’d say go to the legal department of your company. If nothing happens, then you have no choice but to go outside, perhaps to MACC or some other relevant enforcement agency.

Is sexual harassment a common problem in Malaysia?

There are no recent statistics on sexual harassment so it’s hard to say. We really should have annual surveys done. Otherwise, how do we know if it’s a serious problem? I’ve handled some sexual harassment cases and I can tell you women tend not to pursue these cases because their organisations have no processes in place to handle such things. It’s not just happening within the company; women also get sexually propositioned by clients too. Worse still, they are encouraged by their bosses to tolerate it. We know this happens to men as well, but they are even more silent than the women because it might be too embarrassing for them.

What’s a good workplace culture and what’s the best way for a CEO, TO instil this culture in the workplace?

A good workplace culture is an open one where leaders lead authentically. They trust and truly empower their people to grow and innovate. People feel safe to raise issues openly, without fear of retaliation. They believe in good work-life balance and don’t disturb employees after hours except in emergencies.

Does upbringing play a role in ethics?

It absolutely does. I notice Malaysians parents are very good at telling children what they should do but are not so good at being role models. For example, they may tell their children not to break the law and then they themselves run a red light. Children will notice and later tell themselves, “If you can break the rule so can I!” Of course they won’t say it out loud but they’ll break the rules behind their parents’ backs. I’ve learnt so much about good leadership from my own daughter as she used to parrot me even at an early age. Whenever I noticed some bad behaviour, I realise some of it actually came from me and that I’d have to change. Now that she’s older, we openly discuss our respective behaviours and a lot of it is actually tough learning for me.

How did you formulate your philosophy on workplace issues?

I read a lot of books. Normally up to 10 books at a time which I dip into whenever I’m in the mood. The book that impacted me the most though is Margaret Heffernan’s Wilful Blindness which talks about how leaders choose to ignore the obvious at their peril. Wrongdoing cannot happen in a vacuum. It is often the environment — for example, KPI pressures, a domineering leadership and a closed, toxic culture that are more likely to breed wrongdoing. People usually hesitate to report wrongdoing for two reasons: fear and futility. If we can create workplaces where people feel safe and they believe they can make a difference, then we can tackle wrongdoing at an early stage.

Is the “Tidak Apa Attitude” really prevalent or is that just a stereotype?

We are an apathetic lot. This makes me angry because we are where we are due to apathy. We need to stop complaining so much and do something about it. I’m happy to say that it’s starting to happen though.

Do you sometimes feel demoraliSed because the pace of progress on ethical issues is too slow?

I wouldn’t say it’s too slow. It’s actually sped-up quite a bit over the past two years. When I gave talks on ethics 15 years ago, everyone looked at me as if corruption is the normal cost of doing business. Now everyone gets it. Corruption is wrong. Young people are drawn to be ethical and I remind them to always do the right thing. The older ones are stunned by the amount of corruption coming to light and that changes their thinking too. I am a huge fan of MACC and am proud to say I have stood up to support them.

Who are your heroes?

Elon Musk inspires me as he carries on with his crazy visions in spite of all the naysayers who say it can’t be done. Sheryl Sandberg is also an inspiration with her incredible “Lean In” movement and her courageous vulnerability after the death of her husband.