Opportunities are everywhere

Shan-Lyn Ma, co-founder and CEO of Zola, was born in Singapore and moved to Sydney, Australia, when she was four.

There, her dad fought for Southeast Asians’ labour rights at a nonprofit and her mother was an entrepreneur at heart. In Australia, Ma’s mother taught her about spotting opportunities.

“We’d walk past an office building and she’d say, ‘Look at all these people. If only I could put in a coffee cart right there […] That would do X, Y, Z in sales, and it would only cost this much.’ A lot of what she talked about was that opportunities are everywhere.” 

According to an interview with Marie Claire, in college, Ma had a poster of Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo, on her wall. Whilst she was studying her undergraduate commerce degree at the University of New South Wales, she had three jobs: pizzeria waitress, econ tutor for high school students, and call-centre employee.

At the call centre she learned about “having to randomly call people and ask them to take a survey” but it only served to enhance her entrepreneurial spirit:

“There’s nothing that I enjoy more than building things that the world has never seen before, but once they see them, they’re like, ‘How did we live without it?’. It brings them genuine joy. That is the thing I want to keep doing forever.”

Opportunities are everywhere! How do you spot them?