Joy Lim on proving herself and developing products that make a difference

More and more women have broken societal biases, proving that a woman’s leadership skills are equal to that of a man’s. Here comes Joy Lim, director of Tomal Global. Knowledgeable, passionate and highly driven, her ideas generated products that address health problems caused by pollution. With Tomal’s filter technology for water and air, they are helping the world live a more holistic and wellness-based lifestyle.

See her answers and know what she has to say:

Q: What is “empowerment” to you?

A: Empowerment to me embodies the power to change and influence things around us.

Q: Tell us something true but nobody agrees with you.

A: Money alone cannot change things.

Q: Tell us a little bit more about your journey.

A: My journey growing up as a child was mainly exploring and playing by myself. My parents would work very hard at the family business and my older brothers would be at school. Most of the time I would be just sitting at my Dad’s office doing my homework or spending the day there after school. I didn’t quite understand why my Dad wasn’t really around but he was mostly travelling to places. He would take the family overseas for holiday but later on, as I got older, I would still wonder what he did when he was abroad. After graduating with a double degree at Singapore Management University, I went through the usual route of joining the bank, however, I landed an overseas stint at Hongkong to work for an American bank. Since I was sent abroad for thirteen years to learn Chinese in Beijing, going overseas and living by myself was quite usual for me so an overseas work stint right after graduation was the normal thing to do back then.

Q: Let’s talk about your current occupation or business. What do you do?

A: I founded Tomal Global, an innovation firm developing products that refine living. We source quality raw materials to implement into technology that can filter the water we drink and the air we breathe. The motivation of the firm came when I was travelling regionally to expand the family business and often would fall very sick due to the pollution that was present in the air, water and food. With increased pollutions that exceed the urbanisation pace of cities, the need to get cleaner air and water and food were imminent. With the experience gained in sourcing raw materials at the family business which I joined after leaving the bank, I decided to integrate the design and manufacturing process to develop products for urban dwellers. Tomal was founded in 2016 with the first customised range of water filters that were made up of modular configurations of filter media. Later we launched the slimmest dispenser that could save countertop space and then also breathe pure filters that could purify the air in living spaces efficiently and silently to facilitate good sleep with cleaner air.

Q: How did you come up with this concept and carry it out? 

A: The six years in the family business exposed me to various manufacturing sites globally and I had to travel widely to the USA, Europe and also Japan, Korea and China to coordinate raw material purchases and distribution to the region. I visited numerous factories making all sorts of materials in particularly filtration and was exposed to liquid and particle filter engineering. At the end of those years, I was inspired to develop better products as the products I saw in factories were made from lower grade materials and many did not meet the standards that were necessary for safe use. The quality assurance had to be conducted by a professional body and I audited the factories that were making our products as I needed to work with the product specialist to design the product suited for Singapore.

Q: What about your line of work excites you the most? 

A: The fact that we are constantly developing new ways and sourcing new materials excites me as it challenges me to be creative and innovative. Managing a team also is constantly engaging as we learn so much from each other. Each day is a new day of pushing frontiers in technology so it is not a mundane job!

Q: What has been your most challenging obstacle, and how did you overcome it? 

A: The challenging obstacle was being a female in a male-dominated industry of technology and innovation. I was visiting a few factories and sourcing materials and often I needed to speak to factory owners. Most of them are males and would often be expecting more than a single lady approaching them as I would travel alone sometimes. Some of them would not take a lady seriously and would think that it is often the men who make final decisions so the major challenge as a young female entrepreneur was to look credible!

Q: What motivates you to go further in your business or career? 

A: The fact that our world is facing more pollution and threats, filter technology can help clean the air we breathe, the water we drink and eventually reduce food pollution too. This in turn would benefit more people and possibly the world at large.

Q: What do you consider to be the most valuable talents you’ve acquired and implemented during your journey?

A: Soft skills. I have learnt to relate to people from various countries and backgrounds and also to forge strong and long-lasting relationships and friendships along the way. Connecting with others and also gaining a stronger sense of empathy for those that aren’t as fortunate as us. 

Q: What is the most significant mentality shift, belief shift, or “ah-ha” moment you’ve had in your business?

A: The most significant mental shift was that my business doesn’t have to replicate others or a model. There are a lot of models out there and also strategies taught in school. But there is no one solution in the book to turn to when the going gets rough. It’s the sixth sense that has to kick in. So no amount of training or exposure can help. A lot of it is the gut. So I didn’t have to keep stressing myself that I am not equipped enough and delaying progress. Just push forward.

Q: What would you do differently if you could go back in time and do things differently knowing what you know now?

A: I would not have delayed in developing new ideas. I would also have taken a lot more risks knowing that I cannot ironclad all my options with risk management. Some level of risk-taking is inherent and as long as it is calculated risks, taking the plunge should not be delayed.

Q: What attributes do you believe are the most necessary for a successful entrepreneur?

A: Grit and patience.

Q: What are some of the most crucial aspects of establishing a successful company? 

A: People. Spotting good ones and keeping them! Without good people, the company can never be successful.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you have ever gotten?

A: To always not walk on the grey side. Also, walk in the truth as it pays off to walk in integrity.

Q: What have you recently discovered that has astounded you? 

A: I have discovered that a lot of people who do business and continue to do it even though there aren’t many prospects are running on emotions. They simply can’t let it go when it is time to.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring and first-time entrepreneurs?

A: To do a proper business plan, have it vetted before taking the plunge. But when taking the plunge, do it whole-heartedly and not part-time.

Q: What is one question you wish we had asked you? What would your response be to such a question?

A: I wished I asked more questions to the business gurus I have met along the way. My response would be still to ask without holding back.

Q: Life has its ups and downs; can you tell us a compelling story?

A: When I was young I experienced what it is like to be bullied. I couldn’t really rationalise it, but I have learnt that having resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person will die. It is rough growing up with the experience of being bullied, but I have learnt at an early age to have empathy for the perpetrator and also forgiveness. Because if I don’t forgive, I probably will not be able to live out my life fully and be authentically happy.

Q: Who motivates or motivates you? 

A: I’m a Christian so I would say that the time here is what God has given us and with the purpose he has given me, I’m able to live out my life driven by a higher purpose.

Q: This is a book that every business person should read:

A: “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek.

Q: What would you do if you were to commit a crime? What would you have done and how would you have gotten away with it?

A: I would admit to it if it was my fault and my wrongdoing and pay restitution to the person suffering loss.

Q: How would you choose which emails to answer if you woke up with 1,000 unread emails and only had time to respond to 100 of them?

A: Family emails first and then work emails.


Interesting nuggets from our interview:

Q: When did you get your first paid employment, and how old were you? What was it, exactly?

A: 16, Piano teacher

Q: What are your favourite ways to unwind?

A: I would usually sip a cup of tea, reflect and listen to calming music.

Q: What is the most amusing event that has recently happened to you? 

A: I have young boy-girl twins. The most amusing event recently was when I was working from home, my twins were being cheeky and took off their diapers and were playing in their poop! I think it was just one twin who did it and the other joined in and I was so shocked to find them covered in brown!

Q: Describe the colour pink to a blind person.

A: I would have the blind person touch a flower and then describe the flower and its colour.

Q: What would you do if you found yourself on a (potentially) deserted island as a single survivor?

A: I would thank God that I’m alive and then hope that I have my mobile phone to call my husband!

Q: How much would you be willing to pay for a machine that could produce 100 dollars every day for the rest of your life?

A: I would partner up with the machine maker.

Q: How fortunate are you, and why are you so fortunate?

A: I’m very fortunate to be alive, healthy, and have an amazing loving family.

Q: What would you play if you could only play one song every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life?

A: I would play a Christian song called Good Good Father by Chris Tomlin.

Read more from our entrepreneur series and be inspired by outstanding people who are changing the world one idea at a time. Click here to find more.

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