Actually, I never had the intention to become an entrepreneur. I come from an average middle-class family from Jakarta, Indonesia. I am the eldest of three children. My parents worked hard to provide us with a good life. My father owned a small engineering business while my mother is a very loving and caring housewife who took care of us. In 1998, there were a lot of unrests in Indonesia and anti-Chinese riots broke out in many places. Concerned for my safety, my parents sent me to Singapore with $1,000 as my living expenses. When I got here, I enrolled in the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). So as to lighten the load on my parents, I took up a DBS study loan as well as a tuition-fee loan to help me with my living expenses.
I studied Electrical & Electronics Engineering (EEE) in NTU. I guess the reason why I chose to major in engineering had a lot to do with my background. My father is an engineer by training, and so are my uncles, aunties, and relatives. Having the opportunity to see how my father worked probably influenced my decision too. Since I was a young kid, when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, my most natural answer will be, “I want to be like my father. I want to be an engineer.” So, I guess being brought up in such a family influenced me when I was choosing which major to take.
While I was in University I started to think about my life more seriously. I saw how my parents needed to work hard even though they were already in their 50s, just so they could provide for their children’s education and save up for their retirement. That prompted me to want to achieve success early in my life. I wanted to give them a better life. I wanted my parents to enjoy great food, travel to exotic countries and live life fully. Seeing as I was already 21 at that time and my parents were in their 50s, I thought that if I could only achieve success in my 40s or 50s, my parents would be too old by then. I might not have much quality time to spend with them. Furthermore, they might be restricted by their health and their old age to enjoy all the things that I wanted to provide for them. While I might have the time, on a personal level, to achieve success later in life; the question is, have they?
Immediately after graduating from university, I was $40,000 in debt and cut off from any income from the student loan. I had to start earning some income fast for my living expenses, as well as to repay the student loan debt. I decided to become an entrepreneur and to do a business in sales rather than to take the traditional and safe path of an employee.
By the third month after I started the business I was already making more than the salaries that my peers were earning as a fresh graduate. So I saw the potential of the business and I focused all of my efforts in it. My biggest assets were my energy, time and willingness to work hard. So that was what I did. I was working 14 hours a day, seven days a week. If you calculate mathematically, I was doing three years of work in just one year. As a result, I broke many records and won many awards in the industry. In my first year, I earned over $200,000. I paid my student loan in one lump sum of $40,000, in cash. That felt really great! And in just four years, I earned my first million dollars.
When I achieved my million dollars before I reached the age of 26, I received a lot of publicity. My story was covered in several publications including Today newspaper, Female, Cleo, Seventeen and others. One of the interviews that I did was with The Sunday Times. After they published the article, which was titled “She’s made her first million at just age 26”, I started getting approached by many individuals and companies for speaking engagements. They wanted me to share my success story and personal experiences. Initially I was doing the talks for free to share my story as I am always very passionate about helping others succeed.
But soon, companies were asking for my rates to engage me professionally as their speaker. I had been paid as much as $3,000 per hour and spoke to as many as 4,000 people at one session. While I was doing more and more talks, I was also thinking that it was somewhat limited. There are a limited number of people who would be able to hear me speak but if I published a book, I can probably reach out and help more people. So I wrote a book titled “A Gift From A Friend” in 2006, and it became a bestseller.
Seeing the demand for my speaking engagements rising steadily, I came to realize that people found the sharing of my personal experience of value to them. I didn’t plan for it but I started to realize that there is a potential for the training business. I thought that with all the talks that I was giving, I can branch out into this industry and help even more people. So I started a new business in training and consultancy. About a year ago, we started to become more focused and aggressive in this business.
Merry Riana Organization is a training and consultancy firm that focuses on inspiring and helping young people achieve financial freedom and success at a young age. The main reason I decided to go into the training and consultancy business is because of my passion to help other young people to achieve their success. Based on my own experience, I know that there are other young people who are probably going through what I went through. They want to achieve success, provide better lives for themselves, their parents and their families but they don’t know how to do that yet. Sadly, without guidance and mentorship, a lot of them will probably just give up on their dreams because they don’t know how to achieve it or think that it is not possible for them. I want to use my story to touch them and show them what is possible and also to groom them into leaders.
My passion is to help people achieve their personal dreams and goals and I feel fulfilled that this has become my business today. When people ask me how I have managed to come this far from the desperate state that I was in after I graduated from University, I tell them about my personal, ultimate success formula: Vision—Action—Passion. Essentially, it is a three-step process that starts with having a Vision, which is to know what your goals are. Next, you will have to commit to taking massive Action that will bring you closer to that Vision. Finally, you must have the Passion to enjoy the entire process in spite of all the obstacles and failures that come your way. Going through these three steps have enabled me to achieve my dreams and the success that I have worked hard for.
To me, success is not determined by how much money I have or how famous one can be. To me, success is the ongoing process of striving to become better and to continually achieve more. It is the opportunity to grow emotionally, socially, spiritually, physiologically, intellectually and financially while contributing positively to others. At the same time, I am certainly not saying that my life is what success is all about. Everyone has different dreams and ideas of what we would like to create for our lives. Ultimately, the meaning of success holds different meanings to different people.
Based on my current vision for my organization to reach out to more people and on a larger scale, I am aiming to enter Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam soon. And as how we have done in Singapore, we intend to realize our vision to make a difference in the lives of the young people in those countries. I find that many of the young people want to succeed early but they don’t know how to go about achieving that. So I hope that with my story I can impact more young people to achieve their aspirations.