Esther Wang, Founder of Joytingle — Design as a Gateway
“I always tell kids: there’s a river in your body, and floating on it are many of these tiny red messengers. Now, we need to invite these messengers out to tell the doctor secrets about your health. Don’t be afraid! If Rabbit Ray can do it, so can you.” — Esther Wang, 28, in an interview with HEY! The NTU Magazine
In 2010, While doing volunteer work at a local hospital and sculpting balloons for hospitalised children, Esther noticed many of the children warded there were afraid and anxious, but were able to relax through play. She was spurred to create a solution to address the anxiety that children feel when going through medical procedures such as getting injections or having their blood taken.
“I decided to use my design skills to do good by making medical procedures less traumatising for these children.” And so Joytingle’s flagship product Rabbit Ray was born — a rabbit-shaped patient engagement device targeted at 4 to 8-year olds to help them learn about various medical procedures. Rabbit Ray can be opened up to reveal miniature versions of the tools that doctors use to draw blood from a patient. “He’s basically a friend to help explain to a child what blood-taking will be like,” said Esther. “It even comes with a needle that you can use to draw blood from the toy.”
While there are online videos out there that do help to explain to children what blood-taking is all about, Esther says the effect is not the same. “You can’t hug an iPad. It’s not as comforting as hugging a toy.”
“Children are not just small adults. You can’t talk down to them. It’s really a different language that you need in order to reach out to them.” — Interview with Her World
“Rabbit Ray replaces children’s fear with understanding. The access to healthcare is important; coupled with education and positive experience, it will encourage children’s receptiveness to treatment. When children are involved in their care, it creates better outcomes.”
The process of designing and developing Rabbit Ray took four years and 30 different prototypes, before Esther was satisfied with the final product. To help fund Rabbit Ray’s development, Esther took several educational projects at hospitals, including creating videos teaching children about head wounds and stitching. She also went for four years without a regular salary, to keep business overheads low. Incubation and mentorship support from the Social Venture Lab @ NUS since 2013 helped supply the facilities and advice she needed.
Her dedication paid off when Rabbit Ray was officially launched in December 2015. Joytingle counts the National University Hospital, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, the Children’s Cancer Foundation and Chang Gung Memorial Hospital (Taiwan) as pioneering customers. Rabbit Ray is now used across seven countries.
You’re never too young to start (age is only a number…):
“At 17, a blind lady taught me the power of design. That changed my path to study product design where I can use my skills to meet a need in society.
At 22, I was the recipient of Blackberry Distinctly Bold, where I shared my firm decision to partake in a professional-level design challenge when I was still a student.
At 23, I was the global finalist for the James Dyson Award and one of the youngest presenters at the 3rd International Arts and Health, Australia.
Spurred by the great feedback, I took the plunge to entrepreneurship to do justice to the great idea in my hands.
By 27, I had successfully commercialised my product with CE certification, published my first children’s storybook with pre-orders from overseas hospitals (Taiwan).
By 28, I was awarded the Global Innovator by Shell LiveWIRE Top Ten Innovator’s Award for my life’s work.”
Despite her towering achievements, Esther remains down-to-earth and true to those she’s trying to serve. On winning the Global Shell Livewire Award and being an inspiration to other entrepreneurs, she says: “I will just focus on my work, and let the result and impact speak for itself. From entrepreneur to entrepreneur, sometimes it’s not about the title. The title gives you the platform. But at the end of the day, let the impact, let your customers be your real validation.” (Shell Livewire Interview)
Esther’s Advice To Young Entrepreneurs
1. Have compassion
“Most organisations, in their hiring requirements, have a popular buzzword: passion…I would like to suggest another word: compassion.
“Because when I think of the word ‘com’, I think of the word community. The beauty of the word compassion is that it turns the word “me” into ‘we’.” — Esther at TEDxSingaporeWomen, 2012
2. Step out and gain exposure
“The first thing is exposure. When people are exposed to different needs outside through their CCA or holidays — like Kathy Xu who saw those beautiful sharks [and was inspired to start The Dorsal Effect] — you are inspired to do something about it.”
3. Know what skills you have to give
“Before giving, you need to know what value you bring. Ensure you know the skill set you have and what you can contribute. Develop that confidence, get exposed to different needs.”
4. Find your “T-Zone”
“I’m privileged because I have a core skill (design) that people are willing to pay for, that I can generate on my own…”
“I think a profile of a good entrepreneur is what they call a T-Zone — first you must have the breadth of knowledge to know how things work together, then you must have the depth in a particular core skill set to draw out and create something to address that breadth.”
5. Find the right partners and opportunities.
“Support-wise, you need the right partnerships, the right opportunity to test out your idea. For startups, survival is a big thing. Bigger organisations with bigger networks and a testbed environment can be willing to accommodate these students to test their ideas for a few weeks. Not to incubate, but to say, ‘You have access to my patients, you have access to my beneficiaries.’ That’s how I started.”
6. Get out of your comfort zone
“Kick [yourself] out of your level of comfort. You will be more open to learning…and your retention will be higher.”
7. Find mentors
“They are the giants who allow me to stand on their shoulders so I can see further.” (Interview with Women’s Weekly. Read the full interview for Esther’s 3 tips on finding a good mentor who can help you.)
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