Starbucks Live and Inspire: Julia Chong

Komunitikini speaks with the founder of The Truly Loving Company to find out what motivated her to start TLC.

Komunitikini: We know you are a highly respected figure now. How did you begin the journey?

Julia Chong: I began the TLC journey by leaving the corporate world where I was the Managing Director of Reckitt-Benckiser for Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indo-China. It was a very challenging and demanding job which saw the countries under my responsibility become some of the region’s top performers over a period of seven years.

However during that period, my husband passed away leaving me as a single mother to fend for myself and to bring up two teenage children. It was a long struggle but the children and I have emerged stronger and both of them have now obtained their professional qualifications; one as an architect and the other a doctor.

I’ve been very blessed and decided that I should repay my blessings and give back to society in my own way. In 2006, when my daughter graduated as a doctor, I tendered in my resignation and thus began my journey of helping the disadvantaged with setting the up of The Truly Loving Company and the building of the TLC range of household and personal care products such as dishwashing liquid, floor and toilet cleanser, shower crèmes, soaps, etc; with 100 percent of our dividends going to charities.

In your dictionary, what does “difficulty” and “failure” meant to you?

Stepping down from the peak of my career to build a social enterprise which drives “profit for philanthropy” was no easy task. I’ve had to relearn everything and accept the humility of having to start everything from scratch, facing rejection and scepticism along the way. However, it has made me a lot more resilient to the challenges at hand and have learnt to move forward despite the road bumps that confronts my journey daily.

Which figure or his/her accomplishment in your respective field has inspired you the most?

I would cite Idris Jala, ex-CEO of Malaysia Airlines Bhd and current CEO of Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu). I feel that his philosophies mirror mine in that we must empower people to be the change they want to be. His methodology of seeking advice from the grass roots and being a hands-on leader is something which I believe everybody should emulate.

What kind of impact does your respective field have?

The Truly Loving Company was set up to provide 100 percent of its dividends to its Charity Partners as 99.99 percent of its dividend bearing shares are held in trust by HSBC (Malaysia) Trustee Bhd. As the company grows, more charities will be admitted as TLC’s Charity Partners.

The Truly Loving Company derives its income from the sale of it’s TLC household and personal care products which are available in large retail outlets such as Carrefour, Cold Storage, Giant, Jusco and Tesco, together with supporting traditional outlets.

We all lead demanding lifestyles and very often we do not have the time to be involved with Charities. Now with the TLC brand, we are not asking for donations but everyone can support charitable causes in the comforts of their homes in a simple undemanding way. After all we all wash dishes, we clean our homes, we wash our hands and bodies so why not use a brand that supports a good cause if quality is as good as and if it is no more expensive than the leading brands. Let your daily routine become an act of kindness.

How has the community responded to your work?

We ask that the community be the change that they want Malaysia to be. Come on board and support our vision. Each day as awareness of the TLC brand grows we see our performance getting better and better, as consumers begin their TLC journey and try our products. We now have some die hard TLC fans that are using the TLC products in their homes and helping us to spread our message.

If you are the minister in your respective field, what would you do?

That is an interesting question for Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, Minister of Women, Family and Community Development. We are collaborating with her and the ministry on a TLC-led youth engagement campaign called TLC Promise Me which will be launching early July.

We both believe that the private sector can take a leading role to support the disadvantaged, underprivileged and marginalised within our society; whether in the form of Corporate Social Responsibility programmes or long term partnerships with deserving charitable causes.

What can we expect this coming Thursday?

I would like to share the TLC story with the Live & Inspire audience and to share with them our life ambitions to helping deserving causes via our core values which reads as CITA-CITA (‘ambitions’ in the Malay language)

• Caring – We believe that we should all care enough to help the less fortunate and those in need, regardless of race or religion

• Integrity – We believe in being fair and honest in all our actions

• Transparency – We believe in being open and transparent in the conduct of our business and operations

• Accountability – We believe that we are accountable to the community, to our charities and to our business partners