Eunice is a final year law student studying at Taylor’s University. She recently took part in the Malaysian Public Policy Competition and Law Reform Competition and her team emerged as champion for the Malaysian Public Policy Competition and runner-up for the Law Reform Competition! She also owns a business selling handmade leather products such as journals. Talk about an all-rounder! Here is an Q&A session we had with her to inspire the rest of us to work hard in our own goals:
1. Could you briefly explain what the Malaysian Public Policy Competition and Law Reform Competition were about?
The Malaysian Public Policy Competition is an annual case-based competition that engages Malaysian students in a comprehensive public policy-making process. The two-day competition involved a detailed case study, assessed workshops and the opportunity to engage with renowned industry, government and private stakeholders (i.e. World Bank, IDEAS, PwC, Jeffrey Cheah Institute etc). My team emerged as champions out of 5 finalist teams, 24 semi-finalist teams, and hundreds of other preliminary applicants, bagging an award of RM5,000.
The KPUM Law Reform Competition is an annual, national-level competition that challenges participants to engage in a law reform exercise based on the Malaysian context. The multi-tier competition process comprised of assessed written submissions and a final presentation round before a panel of legal and governmental insiders. We received the award of 1st Runner-Up for our proposal on “Complete Abolishment of the Death Penalty and Reforming the Criminal Justice System in Malaysia.”
2. Who were your teammates?
My teammates for both the competitions were Mercy Yap (previously in Taylor’s Law School, currently completing her final year in University of Leeds) and Eliza Chow (final year in law in University College London). They are both incredibly talented and passionate individuals, whom I admire and respect tremendously. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of these if it wasn’t for them!
3. What motivated you to participate in these competitions?
To be very honest, my lack of knowledge and understanding on the subject matters pushed me to participate in these competitions. One of the biggest reasons why I chose to do law was because of the end goal I have, which is to contribute the best I can to be a part of nation-building, be it in policy reforms, social justice, and the betterment of Malaysia as a whole – realizing the mere academics would not push and equip me fully, I needed to venture beyond that. It was the eagerness to explore the world of policy making and law reform, test ideas in a risk-free environment, and receive feedback from various industry leaders that brought me to a place of wanting to participate in these competitions. All in all, it is also the desire to see reforms and improvements implemented for the greater good.
4. What was the preparation process like?
The preparation process was intense, yet extremely enjoyable. Both competitions were of multiple-stages, which meant that we had to submit several pieces in the few months leading up to the competitions before being qualified for the residential challenge. We had to evaluate current public policies and programs in terms of their absolute and comparative efficacy in achieving given social objectives, make policy recommendations, and learn to communicate complex ideas clearly and persuasively in written and oral forms. Time management and tasks delegation were crucial as both competitions happened on the same weekend.
5. What was your presentation regarding?
For MPPC, in line with the theme for the year "Shared Prosperity: Bridging the Urban-Rural Divide", my team and I presented a proposal for the institutional overhaul by designing and proposing a novel policy targeted at reforming the Technical and Vocational Education and Training System (TVET) in Malaysia. As for LRC, under the Human Rights Division, my team and I proposed the abolition of the Death Penalty through conducting in-depth research and proposing a step-by-step action plan for abolition in light of the political and social reality in Malaysia.
6. What was the most valuable takeaway from these competitions?
I was reminded that we all have roles to play in building a better society – many of us have the privilege, capacity and talent to do more than just witnessing changes.
7. Could you explain a little about your business, the products you sell, how they are made and when this business was established?
Align.Co is really an idea built from nothing. One hide turned to two, two to four, and four to many more. It started off because I was looking for a journal that would be suitable for my daily usage and purpose, and not too long after I found myself delving in the world of leather crafting – and the rest is history. With a few simple tools, the story began: one built on hard work, late nights, great friends and sometimes too many cups of coffee.
The product selection currently ranges from personalized leather journals, keychains, key organizer holders, cable organizers, wallets etc. I’m always looking to develop new products so the possibilities in the future is endless. All our products are handmade with quality materials. The business was established about one and half years ago. Feel free to check us out on our Instagram @align.co and our website www.thealign.co!
8. What was the inspiration behind starting this business?
I love the creative process. Besides, when I started working more with leather, it felt like an escape from daily stress. It’s a good way of taking my mind off other commitments as it acts as a distraction/ de-stressing tool.
I first launched the leather journals because I believe that journaling causes us to dive deeper into reflection and gives us better perspectives. It is rewarding in the long haul as it forces us to slow down, process our thoughts, acknowledge our emotions, confront our fears and realign. Why leather? Because of its good looks, reliability, solid construction, durability and aesthetic appeal.
9. What were some of the challenges faced during the start-up of the business?
Starting a business was scary for a first-timer like me without wealthy parents backing it up. Having to make unpopular and unsupported decisions over and over, it’s both daunting and fulfilling. At first, it was challenging as there were few people whom opinions mattered to me thought that it was not a good idea, but thankfully there were some God-sent friends who came in and lent both moral and tangible support. Other challenges include fierce competitions, time-management, and winning the trust of customers. I started off knowing nothing about building a business, and I guess I was forced to pick up different things along the way – and I’m still on the journey of learning! There were also many moments of discouragement. When I was first starting out, it took a few months of practice before I was happy with the place my work was at. Then few months later, it was embarrassing to look back at that work. The same type of thing happens every few months still. However, I think the biggest improvement has come from the mindset of never getting comfortable. There is nothing wrong with being ashamed or embarrassed of your old work – it just means that you’re improving.
10. How did you learn to navigate the realm of e-commerce?
Lots of trial and error, reading books, listening to podcasts, and conversing with different ones who have done it before. I’m still very much an amateur!
11. How do you find the balance between a rigorous academic schedule, extracurriculars, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and running a business?
Developing a schedule (having a planner works for me.) and taking intentional breaks helps. It also helps to set goals in every area, assess and attempt to recalibrate when I realize that there’s a lack of alignment in the different areas.
12. Do you have any advice for readers interested in “doing it all” like you have?
Vision, passion and action – I think that all three attributes are essential in bringing dreams to life. Be very clear about why you do what you do - a clear and strong sense of purpose goes a long way.