A strong and determined lady, Catherine Chai, founder of Catson Group Sdn Bhd has persevered through many hardships and overcame various obstacles in life. Despite being a bright and intelligent student at school, she was a high achiever but was in constant depression at a young age due to the trauma that arose out of her parents’ divorce. However, Chai’s strong will and emulous spirit has brought her success through her company as its products have become well-known in the health and beauty industry. In a recent interview with Top 10 of Malaysia, the visionary entrepreneur talks about her background, the ups and downs of her life and her determination to rise above her circumstances.
Hailing from Johor Bahru and growing up in a broken family, Catherine Chai’s parents divorced when she was only 8 years old. “I was constantly asked about why my parents divorced and this has put me under a lot of pressure. I was doing well at school but started to dislike studying because I dated a guy who was a bad influence over me when I was 15. Although my PMR and SPM results were unfavourable, I took up a course in programming and graduated with a Diploma.”
Chai moved to Kuantan with her husband at the young age of 20. “I had a clear direction in life, which was handling online business,” says Chai. “I sold things at Taobao but as I was inexperienced, I didn’t reap any profit but lost money instead.”
Soon after, a friend gave her a facial cleanser to use and also supported her financially to start a business with this product. “My friend sold me 30 cleansers and encouraged me to sell them as I’m good in convincing people,” reminisces Chai. “I was working full time as a maintenance clerk at a hotel in Kuantan and later at my mother-in-law’s shop. I soon quit my full-time job because I felt embarrassed being constantly on my phone to manage my online business selling cleansers. However, I soon realised that the products were fake and that I was duped by my friend. That unfortunate incident taught me to be even more determined to succeed.”
In 2016, Chai and her husband saved up some money and moved back to Johor. The couple rented a place and set up an office there. “My business was doing well and my wealth eventually escalated,” says Chai with a sense of gratitude. After all the ups and downs, she finally managed to purchase her dream car, a Porsche, travel overseas for a vacation often and also had a wedding photo taken in Paris at the age of only 22. “However, things took a bad turn when my husband was declared bankrupt a year later after lending money to a friend in need and he borrowed money from a loan shark without informing anyone. I also received calls from our landlord because we haven’t been paying our rent for a few months. My husband’s phone would ring and I would answer calls from unknown numbers on his behalf and the callers were loan sharks who threatened us verbally.”
Chai knew that the only option was to get back up and earn more money to pay off her husband’s debts. “After much hard work and earning more money, we managed to pay off the debts within 11 months,” says Chai. “Soon, I came up with a brand, Bardox, a weight loss product which are best sellers in the market. I borrowed a huge amount of money from a bank to finance the products. Bardox is short for “bar” and “detox”. We currently have two products which are Nutri Detox Bar and Boomba. After the launch of the products, we sold more than 10,000 boxes in just five days. We also promoted our products in Hong Kong and it was also well received by the people there.”
The husband and wife team decided to call their company Catson Group as “Cat” is short for Catherine and “Son” is short for Chai’s husband’s name, Jason. “Our company’s core values are to be creative, aggressive, have trust in ourselves, to prioritise speed, take on every opportunity and to be nurtured to be a better person” says Chai.
“I love my career, husband and family the most in life. Although I don’t have many friends, I learned to socialise as I have to network with clients such as entrepreneurs and businessmen for the online business,” says Chai. “I learned how to mingle with my staff and allow flexibility as long as they complete their tasks within the stipulated time. Work-life balance is also something I practise now.”
With a heart full of gratitude, Chai expresses her thankfulness for what she has achieved so far. “I’m motivated to work harder and stay healthy so that my team could also live a better life. I’m also spending money wisely and constantly thinking of new ideas for Catson,” says Chai. “I want my family and the people around me to be happy, that is my goal in life. I also want to be a leader and role model to lead others to the right path,” says Chai who also has a noble intention in helping single mothers be independent financially.
“As I’ve experienced a lot of misfortunes and sadness in life, I always advise young people to save money, work hard to be successful when they are still young and be humble even when they are rich. They have the choice to live a better life and they should also continually improve themselves and keep on learning. Do not be afraid to take the plunge, if you fail, you can still start all over again,” says Chai.