The Leong family was supportive of his venture and Lionel sees value in venturing outside while still working for the family business.
“I think the way you look at start-ups today, the way they deploy capital, it’s so efficient. And so, if I could even bring an element of that back to the corporate world, just a little fraction of that… I would be saving a lot of money,” Leong said.
Richie Eu is general manager of strategic development for Eu Yan Sang International and he represents the fifth generation in his family business.
While he sees the attractiveness in carving a niche outside the family business, he also thinks he can “make a real difference” at the 138-year old company. He joined the company after a four and a half year stint in private equity.
“I’m really looking for the sixth generation and that’s what drives me … one thing that I’ve always learned from my granddad and my dad is … we will always be owners … so I’m obsessed with finding the best talent for the company because I want to survive beyond myself,” he said.
One millennial who has taken a somewhat different approach is Yen Kuok, the youngest of the eight Kuok kids. Her father is Robert Kuok, whose empire includes Shangri-La Hotels as well as Wilmar International. Forbes currently ranks him as Malaysia’s richest person with a net worth of $12 billion.
As the “wildcard of the family”, Yen decided after college in the U.S. that she was not going to join the family business.
“A lot of my older siblings do work in the family business … I’m really grateful and I’m a bit lucky that as the youngest one, I do have a bit of freedom to come out and get my own thing going as opposed to if I were let’s say the eldest son of the family, I would feel a lot more pressure,” she said.
Yen is Founder and CEO of Guiltless, a secondhand luxury e-commerce site that she launched in May 2016. While there were initial discussions to keep one foot in the family business and another in Guiltless, Yen decided she would focus on her entrepreneurial venture for now.
“It’s almost like… the Chinese saying ‘If you can’t straddle two boats with one feet’, although it’s normally used in a romance setting but same with companies… for me I’ll say well, I definitely want to set my sights on Guiltless (and) focus on making it work… probably in the future with synergies with anything we can bring it back into the fold,” she said.
Catch the second season of Lasting Legacy, Thursdays in June, on CNBC Asia at 17:30 SIN/HK and on CNBC EMEA at 23:30 CET.