Winnie Mak, a story of a female entrepreneur
(Winnie's family, image left to right: Winnie Mak, Alexander Tselikas and Rafael Tselikas)
Winnie is a Hong Kong born Chinese, a mom, wife, daughter, the founder of One Dear World and a good friend of mine. She kicked off One Dear World through crowd funding and now One Dear World was successfully launched November last year and have won ‘The best Family Business of the Year’ award in London. One Dear World created and sell a collection of multicultural dolls and storybook that allow different children to be represented in toys or books, and allow parents to introduce diversity to children from an early age.
If you meet Winnie for the first time, she might come across as a quiet observer, always with a warm smile, but she is truly a powerhouse, a doer with a strong will and determination.
Last week, I had the opportunity to have a deep and honest conversation with her about her entrepreneurial journey, her personal experiences, challenges, confusions and motherhood. I personally was very inspired by her story and courage, and may you encounter some ‘a-ha’ moments reading through her story too.
(Interview, left to right: Ling Jin and Winnie Mak)
How would you describe yourself?
I’d say I’m adventurous and I dare to step out of my comfort zone. I think it’s to do with my experience. After working in HongKong for 7 years, I was promoted to be a District Sales Manager. My colleagues in the same rank with me were all in their 40s. When I looked at them, I remember I was thinking ‘will that be how my life look like when I turn 40?’ I wasn’t aspired by that image. So I decided it’s time for a change.
I used all the money I saved over the years to pursue a Masters degree in the UK. That’s how my life in the UK began and nowadays, when things get tough or when I have doubts, I just tell myself ‘just do it, you have nothing to lose’.
How did you get to the idea of OneDearWorld?
It wasn’t like a light bulb suddenly came to me, for me to say, yes, that’s it, that’s what I want to do. Rather, it was more like an evolving process.
After I got pregnant with Alexander, I had to pause my Chinese language training business, so I had about 15 months of blank period without any income. Our household expenses was wholly covered by my husband. I don’t know whether other moms feel the same, I had a period when I felt really down, lonely and it was frustrating.
That’s when I started to think what I really want out of life and what I’m really passionate about. I don’t need a lot of material things to be happy, and I was seeking for my purpose of life. Seeing Alexander grow everyday, I was inspired and wanted to leave a better world behind for him.
So I started to research fair-trade products and sell them online, but I found the profit margin was so low and it didn’t make much sense to me after a while. Then I decided to create a brand and product for my own, that’s how One Dear World got born.
What was the biggest challenge along the way?
My biggest challenge has been within myself, it is about overcoming my own limiting mind. I think there isn’t any skill you can’t learn, there isn’t any problem that can’t be solved. It’s only when your mindset is in a negative mode, it blocks all your creativity and drive.
It helps when you have a partner that shares the same vision with you. So that when you feel down or lack of energy, talking to your partner can clear a lot of doubts for you, so that you can be ready to go for it again. Alternatively, you can also join a mastermind group, where you can meet like-minded people who share the same vision, to support and encourage you.
Entrepreneurial pursue can be a lonely journey, but you are not alone. There are many entrepreneurs out there, your job is to find the right partner or group to embrace yourself in.
How do you balance your life, with roles of active citizen, entrepreneur, mom, wife and a daughter?
It’s important for you to prioritise and understand what’s important to you and your life. Also, be present whatever you do.
When I work, I work and when I’m with Alexander, I switch off from work mode and just enjoy my time with him. I genuinely enjoy cooking, my work, spending time with Alex, so when I swap among different roles, to me, that’s a break.
What is your way of relaxing?
I do meditation. I have been trying this app Headspace for about 2 months now. I found it helpful. It teaches you to understand your emotions, observe and accept them. You feel frustrated, that’s fine, be aware of it and let it be, don’t feed more energy to it by rejecting and fighting it, just simply let it be.
What’s your advice to your 20s self?
Don’t think too much about what other people might think about you.
I used to compare myself with others a lot, and over the years, I realised it wasn’t helpful at all. It only makes you feel less about yourself. Nowadays, social media doesn’t make it easy. You see other people’s happy life, but you need to understand it’s filtered life, which is not 100% true reflection of what’s really going on behind the scene.
What’s your definition of ‘a beautiful woman’?
A woman who is not afraid of being her true self.
What other lessons you learnt you’d like to share with fellow ladies?
I think moms might have the same experience with me, I’m actually learning a lot just by watching Alexander grow every day.
He tries time and time again until he masters a new skill. He does not have the concept of failure, but enjoys the learning process and is totally free spirit, I realise it’s often the parents who put a ceiling or limitations on the babies and tell them what to and not to do.
I love to be tidy, but every parent would know how it can be a big challenge when you have a baby. I used to have the urge to clear the space up every time and it gave me a lot of pressure. Thanks to my mother-in-law, who is very caring and care-free, she influenced me a lot and I started to let go of my rules, life became much lighter and nicer.
I think as a parent, it’s best to let go and let the baby to explore the world and be who he or she was born to be.
P.s. if you want to find more about One Dear World and its plans, click here to visit their website.