What does it mean to be extraordinary? For some, it means being a Nobel Prize laureate, an Oscar-winner, a record-shattering champion athlete, or a scientist/innovator/disruptor who changes lives and the world we live in for the better. Oh, to be the Marie Curies, the Oprahs, the Steve Jobses, the Indra Nooyis and Serena Williamses of the world — it must be pretty great. But here’s the thing: They are all taken. So, you’ve got to do you, right?
As Susan Cain says: “The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers — of persistence, concentration, and insight — to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems, make art, think deeply”.
Take a look around. There are unsung heroines walking among us every day, working alongside us, living with us, being their own version of extraordinary. And, if you will let yourself believe it, you will see it within you, too.
For us, I guess we’re lucky because it is our job to see and seek greatness and light in people — women, especially, who are doing and creating amazing things that benefit and inspire the rest of us. Last month — in celebration of “Everyday Extraordinaires” with our friends at
Cole Haan — we met two more remarkable women, Ciara Yeo and Wen Ling Lim, founders of The Mindful Company (TMC).
Let me let you in on a little secret: Ciara and Wen Ling have been on our #WoWWoman wish list since the first time we laid eyes on their jewellery. Theirs is no ordinary jewellery brand — each piece is a daily personal reminder of what is truly important in life, whether it’s “love”, “light”, “courage” or “balance”. And it’s no ordinary company — they are a registered social enterprise on a mission.
“TMC was inspired by the personal battles, losses and tragedies of our families, friends and peers… It is our way to start conversations around what matters, mental wellbeing, and what it means to be kind,” says Ciara, who was a mergers and acquisitions lawyer and an investment banker before TMC.
Maya Angelou once said: “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
To turn adversities into something positive, meaningful and beautiful — that is, to us, pretty extraordinary. Kudos, Ciara, Ling!
IN COLLABORATION WITH
Extraordinary to me is someone who lives by the principle of doing what is right and not what is easy; a person with integrity even in the midst of challenges.
Growing up, what was your dream job?
Ciara: Opera singer (even though I really wasn’t very good!). I thought Charlotte Church had the perfect life.
Wen Ling: When I was about eight to 10 years old, I wanted to be a teacher. I loved marking test papers and embellishing the pages with stamps and stickers.
What would you say are your greatest strengths or power?
Ciara: Perseverance. When I set my mind on doing something, I’m laser focused! Curiosity. I’ll give most things a go once.
Wen Ling: Determination. Similar to Ciara, once I’ve decided that I want to do something, I’ll make it happen. I don’t give up easily.
What qualities do you most respect and admire in other women?
Ciara & Wen Ling: Empathy, humility, integrity and perseverance.
What does it mean to be extraordinary to you? Who is your idea of an extraordinary woman?
Ciara: Extraordinary to me is someone who lives by the principle of doing what is right and not what is easy; a person with integrity even in the midst of challenges. There are many extraordinary women in my life – my mum, mum-in-law, girlfriends, Ling and my female employees.
Wen Ling: I couldn’t agree more. Having integrity in times of discomfort and adversity is truly extraordinary. An extraordinary woman to me is also someone who is generous — generous with love, time, service and abilities. There are many extraordinary women in my life — my mum, my two sisters and Ciara, just to name a few.
What drives or inspires you?
Ciara: The idea of building something that combines business and purpose, and helping start the right conversations.
I BELIEVE A LOT OF LIFE’S STRESSES CAN BE BETTER MANAGED WHEN FRAMED WITH THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE.
Wen Ling: The desire to see my loved ones living joyful, meaningful lives. The idea that businesses can have the ability to spread kindness and hope, and to encourage those around us.
What (or who) inspired the idea of starting The Mindful Company? What was the intention behind it, and what do you hope to achieve with TMC?
Ciara: The Mindful Company is a happy accident. We hadn’t intended for it to be more than a side project to encourage the people around us. It was inspired by the personal battles, losses and tragedies of our families, friends and peers. We wanted a way to encourage others to consider what’s important to them and not let life slip by on auto-pilot. It is our way to start conversations around what matters, mental wellbeing, and what it means to be kind.
Where have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced starting and growing the company, and in spreading your message so far?
Ciara: The biggest challenge personally has been mental. I believe that everyone experiences self-doubt, and that entrepreneurship exacerbates it due to the unrelenting uncertainty you have to deal with. Dealing with self-doubt and not allowing myself to calculate the opportunity cost, has been a constant struggle but also a source of immense personal growth.
Wen Ling: The biggest challenge for me was finding a balance between the demands of growing a start-up and being a new mother. I found myself feeling guilty for focusing the bulk of my time on work, and if I was with my daughter, feeling guilty for not working. Entrepreneurship is demanding, and I eventually learned that the key is to prioritise smartly, to focus on one thing at a time (to be present!), and to put everything into perspective.
"It’s from awareness and reflection that you realise
what’s important to you, and what priorities, principles and values
you wish to live by. Change isn’t possible without awareness."
(TMC) was inspired by the personal battles, losses and tragedies of our families, friends and peers… It is our way to start conversations around what matters, mental wellbeing, and what it means to be kind.
What have been the greatest lessons you’ve learned on this journey?
Ciara: There have been a lot of lessons! Some are: Dealing with self-doubt, you’re only as good as your team, learning to let go of the things you can’t control, fail fast (and hopefully inexpensively), age and experience don’t always mean you’re right, legal contracts are important most of the time, integrity might not win you points in the short run but it will in the long run, it isn’t rocket science.
Ling: To add to Ciara’s list: Don’t be afraid to ask for help, be flexible. Things will go wrong, take a deep breath and deal with it as best as you can.
What is “mindfulness” to you?
Ciara: “Mindful” means to be “aware of”. To me, it is learning to be aware of your thoughts, emotions and actions in any moment. It’s from awareness and reflection that you realise what’s important to you, and what priorities, principles and values you wish to live by. Change isn’t possible without awareness. You can’t change something you weren’t aware existed.
Do you have any tips on being present, mindful and grateful?
Ciara: People have said to us that since we run “The Mindful Company” we must be very “mindful”! This couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m definitely a work in progress and constantly learning. Something I love doing is morning meditation and gratitude journaling. Gratitude journaling for me involves noting three things that I’m grateful for each day. I find that it helps to remind me to keep things in perspective. I believe a lot of life’s stresses can be better managed when framed with the right perspective.
Wen Ling: I’m definitely also a work in progress! Similar to gratitude journaling, a verbal pre-family dinner “Three things I’m grateful for today” is a great exercise. Sharing what you’re grateful for can encourage others and sets a beautiful tone for dinner conversations. Something else that helps me on a daily basis is to take deep breaths, take a step back and consider how I want to react before I do so, particularly if it’s in a challenging situation.
What are three things you are most grateful for today?
Ciara: Today is a lazy Saturday afternoon for me. Three things I am currently grateful for are:
- Mother’s Day lunch with family.
- Uninterrupted time this afternoon to read.
- A good conversation regarding online falsehoods and its impact on social and political stability.
- That I got to take my eldest daughter for a swim today and see the pure joy on her face.
- Mother’s Day dinner with a bunch of girlfriends, organised by our incredibly thoughtful husbands.
- That family in Perth are just a video call away.
ONCE I’VE DECIDED
I WANT TO DO SOMETHING, I’LL MAKE IT HAPPEN. I DON’T GIVE UP EASILY.
Wen Ling Lim
What is your mantra — in life and in business?
Ciara: You’re doing your best, and your best is enough.
Wen Ling: You live, you learn. We don’t always get it right the first time round but that’s okay — there’s always a lesson to be learned.
Do you have a story of how your work has impacted someone to share?
Ciara: We’ve been privileged to have customers share their triumphs and challenges with us. Our jewellery has been gifted for a range of reasons. We’ve heard harrowing stories of battling drug addiction, terminal cancer, retrenchment, and attempted suicide, and at the same time celebrated with our customers for anniversaries, promotions, birthdays and baby showers. We’re also involved in non-profit work — witnessing the personal growth of young beneficiaries and the non-profit teams we’ve worked with has been rewarding, too. Honestly, our customers and non-profit partners are the reason that our business has purpose. We started the brand to encourage, and we’re hopeful that our jewellery is out there doing just that!
What do you consider to be (a) success and (b) happiness?
Ciara: To me, success and happiness are intertwined. I believe success is when I’m 80 and I can look back and say I did my best, and I lived life according to my values and what’s important to me.
Wen Ling: Happiness and success would be feeling that I’m doing my best and offering my best in all aspects of life. Happiness would also be seeing my loved ones living full, joyful and meaningful lives.
Your jewellery come with inspiring, positive and self-loving words. Which word resonates most with you right now?
Ciara: Too many! Different words resonate stronger on different days. Today, on this lazy Saturday afternoon, it’s definitely “gratitude”.
Wen Ling: There are too many, so it’s a good thing we have a lot of reminders! In this current season, it’s “purpose”. With a lot going on, “purpose” is a reminder to prioritise what makes life meaningful to me. To live on purpose and with purpose.
How would you advise women out there who are on their first steps towards having a more positive relationship with the self? How can we empower ourselves?
Ciara: I think it starts with internalising the idea that if you’re not kind to yourself, you won’t have any capacity to be kind to the people around you. You can only give out what you put in. Being kind to yourself starts with the idea that you can only do your best, and your best is enough. “Best” in this context means what is within your control.
Wen Ling: Ditto, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Looking good makes us feel good. The opposite is also true. Have you developed a personal style that feels and looks good in a way that boosts your confidence?
Ciara: It might be the “corporate” in me, but
I love a good power dress! A well-tailored, black dress is my go-to.
Wen Ling: For a confidence booster, a pair of stilettos. Whether it’s with a relaxed pair of jeans or a black number, a pair of stilettos usually makes me feel like a superhero. It could be because I’m rather short. Haha.
How important is comfort in your outfits and shoes?
Ciara: Very important. I wear flats 90% of the time, and heels for meetings and occasions only.
Wen Ling: Ditto, I’m very practical like that.
If you could a walk in any woman’s shoes, who would she be?
Ciara: At the moment, Sheryl Sandberg. I’d love to understand her stance on online falsehoods and how Facebook intends to shape the way we connect in the future. As a digitally-
native brand, we wouldn’t exist without the existence of social media, but we do recognise how it can have a detrimental effect on society.
Wen Ling: My mother. I know it sounds cliché, but that’s the truth. With my father working overseas, my mother almost single handily raised four kids. Four kids who are essentially best friends and we’re an incredibly tight-knit family – something I want for my own family. She is strong, generous beyond measure and has achieved so much. What she may have lacked in a formal education, she’s made up a thousand-fold in sheer determination and resourcefulness. Now that I’m a mother of two, my mum been a great example of what it means to be mother, an entrepreneur, to love, to give, to sacrifice and to achieve much. As my mum is a role model for me, I’d love to be the same for my daughters. I’d love to inspire them on both a personal and professional level.
CHANGE ISN’T POSSIBLE WITHOUT AWARENESS.
Ciara, in what ways does Wen Ling inspire you? What qualities about her do you think makes her extraordinary?
Ciara: Ling is the whole package — a mum, a wife, a career woman. What makes her extraordinary is her empathy, awareness of what’s important to her, integrity and tenacity.
Ling? How does Ciara inspire you?
Wen Ling: Ciara always gives her best. She has empathy, integrity, grit, and is fiercely loyal and generous, making her one of the most extraordinary women I know.
How are you stronger together?
Ciara: We completely trust each other. I believe that trust is the most important element of a relationship. We also happen to be complementary in our skill sets. In the areas that I flounder, Ling is amazing.
Wen Ling: On top of completely trusting each other, we’re also honest with each other. This helps us to grow as individuals and as partners. Having complementary skill sets means that we’ve been able to split most key functions. It’s incredibly comforting to know that in the areas that I’m not strong in, Ciara is a superstar. I love that we’ve got each other’s backs.