JOIE YEN & THE CHAMELEON READER: AN EXPAT MOM REMAKING HER CAREER
“The sea is deep and the world is wide! How I long to sail!” said a tiny snail. She hitched a lift on a whale. They sailed and saw the beautiful scenery together. The snail said, “I feel so small.” [The Snail and the Whale]
This is exactly what I felt after being an expat mom. I devoted all my energy taking care of my child. When he turned 2, one day I realized that I am just a mom, not me. I forgot who I was. Just like the Tiny Snail, a character from a children storybook I loved to read, I did feel so small.
With a quest to redefine who I am, I began my journey. I decided to use my talents to do something meaningful. Therefore, I started a business to introduce Chameleon Reader worldwide.
MY EARLY DAYS
Before we moved to the Netherlands, both my husband and I lived in Taiwan from birth. I have a multidisciplinary background – a master of Technology and Innovation Management (Business) and a bachelor degree in Biology (Science). For years, I worked as a user experience (UX) researcher at Acer identifying what users’ pain points are and improving products as part of the design process (Design).
My husband and I thought it would be great to have an overseas experience. One day he got a chance to work in the Netherlands. At the same time, our son was born. I became a stay-at-home mom since we moved to Eindhoven in 2016.
Life in Eindhoven was perfect. We had much more family time and we enjoyed the leisurely lifestyle instead of the fast-paced and crowded life in Taipei, Taiwan. Also, it is a very special experience to observe how a baby grows (I viewed it as one of biological experiments). When my son started preschool, I had more free time. I started to search a job that would allow me to have a good balance between family and work. To be honest, as a foreigner, it is hard to find a good job with flexible working hours in the job market, so I thought why not create a job for myself – running my own business!
THE BIRTH OF CHAMELEON READER
Chameleon Reader is a kit to turn any regular book to an audiobook – in your voice or other voices – for children to listen to any time. It includes a reading pen and 5,000 multifunctional stickers. You can add up to 4 versions in different languages or read by different people. It is so nice to see children reading books while hearing their parents’ or grandparents’ voices telling the stories. (The video may help you understand how it works.) As a scientist, I read many parenting books for raising my own child. I learned that babies can learn multiple languages and screen time is harmful for children’s brain development from the book “Brain Rules for Baby” written by Dr. John Medina, a biologist in the US, based on scientific evidence instead of someone’s own experience. Therefore, we decided to raise our boy in Chinese and English from birth and limit screen time carefully. As a book lover, I think it is very important to introduce books with diversified storylines and designs to children. It will be the building blocks for their language development and aesthetics sense. I kept looking for an assistive tool that is screen-free and can be used for all books in our languages (Chinese, English and Dutch).
At the time I tried to explore my career in 2018, I found the product in Taiwan. It was originally designed by a speech therapist for children with special needs. Both my son and I loved it and, after a few months of use, I decided to turn it into a business. I messaged him on Facebook saying that I wanted to introduce the product to Europe. He was happy to collaborate as he had no ability to explore the international market.
LAUNCH AND IMPACT
We spent almost a year preparing for the international launch. Using my user experience background, I interviewed many multilingual families to make sure the design of Chameleon Reader is easy to use and meets user needs. With the help of engineers in Taiwan, we added new features to the pen. For the stickers, user manual, packaging and other items, I worked with a designer friend, coming up with the chameleon brand. I did market and design research to revise the previous designs. Then it was sent to the lab to ensure the product met EU requirements. Chameleon Reader was launched in August 2019.
We are so lucky that many parents, teachers, and language experts love Chameleon Reader. After a year of sales and marketing, we even have resellers in Australia, Singapore, and Canada. Moreover, the expat mom I met in Eindhoven is going to introduce the Chameleon Reader to her home country, Japan (we are preparing for it). Being an expat is not a constraint, but an opportunity. We are the bridge between different worlds.
WE ARE NOT SMALL
I have learned a lot, especially by doing something I have never done before. I want to be a role model to my child that he can do anything if he dares to dream (and so you!).
Chameleon Reader is more than a toy. It is a good way to encourage children to read (child-led learning), a great tool for multilingual families and it allows children to stay connected with their loved ones who live far away. It is also a dream for the expat mom to introduce her home country worldwide (Chameleon Reader is made in Taiwan!).
In the end of the story, the tiny snail saved the whale. The snail is not small at all.
Joie Yen, the owner of ENJOY STUDIO LLC and the mom of a multilingual boy, introduces Chameleon Reader worldwide. She worked at Acer as a UX researcher for years. She moved to the Netherlands from Taiwan in 2016, then moved to the US as her husband’s career development. She currently lives in Texas, USA.
(The article is published on Delft MaMa, the international community in the Netherlands, on September 28, 2020.)