Amber Leong on Shark Tank, Survival, Sacrifice, and Success
The American Dream. That’s how entrepreneur, survivor, and recent Shark Tank contestant, Amber Leong describes her journey. An unpredictable passage of highs and lows that has led her to a life she could have never imagined.
I had the honor of interviewing recent Shark Tank contestant, Amber Leong, to talk entrepreneurship, family, and overcoming adversity. The CEO and co-founder of Circadian Optics took me through her journey to becoming the first Malaysian to land a deal on Shark Tank.
Born and raised in Malaysia, Amber Leong had a humble upbringing. She traveled to America alone at the age of 20 with a dream, her parent’s savings, and one semester of college paid for. Today, she’s one of the most recent Shark Tank contestants to strike a deal.
Her recent appearance on the show brought tears to the eyes of the judges and viewers as she shared her journey of coming to America, battling a life-threatening illness, and starting a business. Amber walked away with $750,000 from judges Lori Greiner and Mark Cuban, who decided to invest in the business in exchange for a 20 percent share.
While her success story seems like a fairy tale today, Amber endured a lot of hardships throughout the way. She left everything she knew in search of a better future, and through many mountains and valleys, she found it. Amber credits a lot of her success and fearlessness to her youthful ignorance. The naive mentality that you know more than you do.
Amber graduated with her undergraduate degree in journalism, a field she thought she was destined to be in. She thought she had reached success when she graduated from college and landed her first full-time job. After receiving a few paychecks, she quickly took it upon herself to pay back what her parents had selflessly given her. Unsure of her true potential, Amber felt as if she had accomplished it all.
It wasn’t until Amber was diagnosed with toxic shock syndrome that reminded her how precious life really is. Unfortunately, Amber’s parents couldn’t be by her side during a difficult time because they didn’t have a Visa. The fear and stress that came with all the lonely time spent in the ICU put things into perspective for her.
Being given a 50/50 chance of survival, Amber knew that if she made it out alive, she had to make a radical change in her life. Fortunately, Amber did survive the health scare, and it only pushed her to strive for more. To take more risks. To step out of her comfort zone.
“A health scare gives you perspective. You know what’s really important. In life, there are mountains and valleys, but bad moments never last. I have one life, and I didn’t want to go back to the 9 to 5.”
Amber’s journey to entrepreneurship began like many. She had a problem to solve. As a Minnesota native, she experienced the negative effects of cold and dark winters. The shortage of sunlight during winter months took a toll on her mood, sleep schedule, and energy levels.
After doing her research, she learned about circadian rhythms. She was shocked to discover that a lack of light had an effect on the way we feel and function. Amber saw a gap in the health care industry that constantly talked about the importance of nutrition and fitness but failed to highlight the importance of sunlight for our overall health.
In hopes of finding a solution, she tried light therapy and loved the results, but wasn’t impressed by the design. Her co-workers at the time would mock her for the bulky light devices on her desk. Amber knew there had to be a better way.
She started Circadian Optics alongside her husband and business partner, Kin Mun Chew in 2016.
“Dreams change, opportunities come, and sometimes when you follow the open road it leads you somewhere else and that’s OK.”
It’s that open road that usually builds some of the most successful businesses. Amber understands the struggles that come with being an entrepreneur, but she’s not letting them hold her back. To her, the magic is in getting started. “When you take the first step then you’ll know how to take the second and the third.”
Dealing with fear and hardships is something she’s endured a lot of. Amber suggests doing it anyway. “People who don’t risk anything won’t get anything.”
Amber is the definition of resilience and tenacity. While most viewers might consider her an overnight success, most don’t know a lot about her backstory. She applied to Shark Tanks 2018 group but didn’t make the cut. She was thrilled to get hear about the opportunity one year later. A great example of never giving up hope. Especially if it’s something you’re truly passionate about.
For Amber, her family is at the foundation of her work. Her parents cashed in their retirement, and with additional help from family, were able to help pay for Amber’s first semester of college. Today, giving back to her family remains high on her priority list. Amber travels to Malaysia every year to visit her loved ones.
As far as what’s to come for Amber and Circadian Optics, the future’s looking bright. Amber continues to learn and research the newest advancements in the LED industry. She’s eager to continue helping customers improve their lifestyles with stylish light tech and gear.
Although she can’t disclose details about her deal with sharks Lori Greiner and Mark Cuban just yet, she’s excited about what the opportunity will bring to the company. She hopes to get Circadian Optics into retail stores soon. Making therapy lamps accessible to consumers everywhere.
Amber Leong is a warrior, powerhouse, and a true SmartFem. Her success story of overcoming challenges, health scares, and fears will serve as a beautiful example that anything is possible when you align your dreams with your actions.
You can learn more about Amber Leong and Circadian Optics at www.circadianoptics.com.