“God hasn’t given me some special power
God hasn’t made me any different to the average person
Where I attribute my successes in life to
Is my unrelenting pursuit of excellence in every single thing that I do.”
– Kym Huynh, Founder at WeTeachMe
Is being an entrepreneur something that is innate or does it develop over time? That may be subject to debate, but Kym Huynh, one of the founders of WeTeachMe, believes that one is born to it, and that is evidenced by patterns of behaviour over time. “I believe that you’re born an entrepreneur. I believe there are inherent traits and characteristics that consistently manifest over and over and over in one’s life. It’s only when you reflect that you connect the dots; that the behaviour is consistent with that of being an entrepreneur,” the young businessman professes.
Coming from a family consisting of hardworking parents who arrived in Australia as immigrants, Kym lives and breathes what he learned and saw from them. Kym, thinking of his parents, recounts, “They left Vietnam after the Second World War and they came to Australia as refugees, on the boats. For them, they left an entire world that they knew behind them — their culture, their family, their language and their innate sense of belonging — and they started their life again in a strange and foreign land. To do something like this requires an inordinate amount of courage, tremendous bravery, unrelenting persistence, and dogged resilience; and these are qualities that I live and breathe each and every day.”
Given their experiences and the challenges they faced, Kym learned a lot from his parents. One of the things he learned is the results that come from being unrelenting. Kym likens this to waves that hit sea cliffs. The waves keep on hitting and no matter what happens, it will always keep on hitting. “And one day, if I hit something hard enough, and if I hit it the right way, something’s going to give.” That is the philosophy that Kym lives by. With conviction, he avowed, “I may not be the best, and I may not be the fastest learner, and I may not be the cleverest, but I will be unrelenting. I will never give up. And one day, somewhere, something is going to give.”
Kym exhibited his unrelenting attitude and his entrepreneurial abilities early on. When he was eight years old, he used to collect papers, odd bits and pieces of them with varying colours, textures and designs. He would approach his classmates and sell them his papers and they would gladly buy the papers at 50 cents or for a few dollars. Unbelievably, Kym’s papers were always sold out, leaving him happy with his venture.
Three years later, like any kid in school, Kym moved towards collecting marbles, which was the playground’s currency. One day at lunch, he observed his schoolmates as they set out to win marbles. The good ones cheered when they acquired three to five marbles for their winnings. Kym thought, “there must be a better way I can quickly amass a lot of marbles.” An a-ha moment came. He rounded up his schoolmates and announced a new game he devised. With a container lid at hand, he placed it on the floor and challenged the other kids to throw their marbles into the container lid, at 10 to 15 meters from where he stood. If they could get their marbles to land and stay in the container lid, he would give them 50 marbles. But if they missed, he got to keep their marbles. The kids excitedly lined up, and showed off their throwing prowess, only to their dismay. His plan worked. He eventually amassed hundreds of marbles, and he gleefully went back to his classroom with the marbles in his arms. Alas, he tripped and the marbles flew everywhere, leaving the other kids to rush and seize whatever they could.
Kym has many anecdotes to share about his childhood. While they may sound funny, these incidents left a dent in his life, which laid the foundation for his entrepreneurial journey. For instance, there was this time when his mom asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up. The boy who sold papers in school and amassed large quantities of marbles answered without batting an eyelash, “I want to be a dolphin trainer.” His shocked mother countered, “No. You’re going to be a lawyer.” And so, he trudged the path to becoming a lawyer. He loved the cases he worked on, but he later found out that his bigger passion lies in business. Still, he credits his experience as a lawyer for training him how to research, and how to structure and articulate his thoughts, which he applies to many facets of his life, including business.
Then again, Kym didn’t go after his passion in the onset. He was just starting to practice law and was travelling in South America when he met a freak accident. The car he was a passenger in drove off a cliff. Scenes from his life flashed before his eyes – him hugging his mother, devising games with his kid sister, spending time with his closest friends – and he thought it was going to be his end. Luckily, the car landed on a tree and he survived the ordeal. He was transported to an operating table and spent a year in recovery. That incident left a significant impact on his life because it made him realise that life is short.
Kym declares, “Life goes by in a blink of an eye. So I want to make sure that if I dedicate my time to something, I want to dedicate it to something that makes my heart beat, something that I am truly passionate about, and something that I will stay awake for days-on-end to accomplish. I want to live a life that is intensely passionate and extraordinary in every possible way.”
It was then when he took a turn towards his passion and opted to take the business track where he was able to recognise the need to seek other people’s help. Growing up with his parents working multiple jobs and working incredibly long hours, Kym became independent at an early age. As a result, he never asked for anything and he did things on his own. That was his methodology at first until he found a better way of doing things. “In business, there are so many lessons, so many obstacles, and so many hurdles that if you try to solve everything yourself, it will take you an inordinate amount of time. What I learned was that there should be no fear in reaching out to someone who has achieved what I want to achieve, and to sit down with them and ask them to share their experiences or their nuggets of wisdom. This alone will save me years of learning the hard way myself.”
One particular nugget of wisdom he received from his parents, which he considers as a very important one, is the value of learning. “They’ve always said to me: In life, you can lose your house, your car, your money, your clothes, and all the material possessions that you have amassed. You can lose everything. But you will never lose what you have learned.” The idea of continuous learning has stuck with Kym his entire life as he has seen firsthand how learning can be transformative not only to one’s life but also to those that surround that person.
Wanting to take that idea a step further and as his way of honouring his parents, Kym planned to set up something that can encourage learning, one that will lead to changing the individual, those surrounding the individual, the community and, eventually, the world. From that seed of vision sprung WeTeachMe: home to Australia’s best and most popular classes.
Along with three other friends, Kym co-founded WeTeachMe. As Kym would put it, they started on the smell of an oily rag. With basically nothing, these four individuals worked only on the idea that they could increase knowledge in the world by disseminating and democratising education. And being young, green entrepreneurs, they committed several mistakes along the way.
Throughout his entrepreneurial journey, Kym recognises that errors and miscalculations are part and parcel of the learning process. As Kym quotes George Naddaff, a serial entrepreneur and founder of New Boston Chicken, “No business, no problems. No problems, no business.”
The biggest blunder Kym can remember was when they did not conduct customer research prior to launching the first WeTeachMe platform. There they were, pouring all their energy and spending sleepless nights designing and developing the initial website. However, after they launched their “baby” to the public, a month came and no one visited the site. It was heartbreaking, but more than that, Kym felt sad for the team. Sitting down with one of his mentors, Kym voiced his misery and asked where they went wrong. “Did you do any customer development?” he was asked. Learning from that, they sprang into action and talked to hundreds of customers before they launched the second platform. Only then they were able to see growth on their site. Now, they are the biggest school in Australia.
But did you know that this entrepreneur who loves learning often feels like he knows a little? “What I love about EO is that I constantly feel like I am the dumbest person in the room. It’s a feeling I have never quite shaken off, nor do I want to. I constantly feel like I have to run and chase to keep up with my peers. I love that feeling because that’s when I’m most challenged and when I am most engaged.”
As much as he loves challenges, this lawyer-turned-entrepreneur also gets tired, so when things get tough and when business gets difficult, he goes back to his family, which he considers his fortress. He recalls the words of entrepreneur, educator and public servant, Warren Rustand, “No success in life compensates for failure in the home.”
And that’s what makes him unrelenting. “I am not afraid to put myself out there, grab risk by the proverbial horns, try new things, and leap in all-guns-blazing. But, I cannot take credit for this, because behind that is a very strong family that believes in me, and supports me in every single thing that I do. For me, even though I may be taking a risk, I like to think of it as taking a risk from a position of strength.”
Kym makes sure that he pays attention to four things that make up life as a whole: business, personal, family, and community. He puts a premium on his relationships in these various aspects of his life. In fact, relationships play a key role throughout his journey, and he gets recharged by conversing with people close to him or spending time with them. That same connection with people got Kym to sell his bits of papers when he was eight. “I found that my classmates bought the paper, not because of the product itself – the product was great, by the way – but mostly because of the relationship they had with me.”
He may have tripped and dropped his marbles, but Kym never gives up. Now, this man who loves learning has a company about learning, and he continues to learn in the process. There is no stopping Kym as he is unrelenting in his pursuit of excellence.