Back in 2004, Datuk Lily Lim thought she had her life all figured out. As a devoted wife and mother, she was content to focus on domestic duties and assist her husband with his business.
It wasn’t until she was in the process of designing and building her new family home that she realised she was capable of so much more. “I felt that I had already checked all the boxes after fulfilling my desire to have children and start a family,” Lily reflects.
“Experiencing the entire process of building my dream home opened my eyes to the limitless possibilities of what I can achieve. I built everything from the ground up and learned so much along the way. To me, it was wholesome and fulfilling, with an end product that was met with high praise. I knew this was something I needed to replicate for everyone else.”
Lily took the first step towards realising her dream when she founded RJ Realty in late 2005. Her first residential project, which consisted of terrace and semi-detached houses, sold out before the land had even been cleared. While Lily was thrilled with her achievement, she admits it wasn’t easy.
“My children were three and 12 years old at the time,” she explains. “As you can imagine, being a mother of two children while building up my business came with its challenges. It felt like I had two full-time jobs at the same time. However, it’s just a matter of discipline and determination – you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Do not limit yourself.”
“It’s just a matter of discipline and determination – you can achieve anything you set your mind to.”
The Kuching-born CEO says her business has “grown by leaps and bounds” over the years to become one of East Malaysia’s top property development firms. RJ Realty’s portfolio now boasts more than 20 residential and commercial projects.
However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing, especially in the early days. “When I started our first housing project, it was during the economic downturn,” Lily recalls.
“I was determined to overcome that setback because I knew that if I could do that, I could overcome any challenges that followed. It felt like the worst possible time to go into the trade. However, I was confident that my homes could withstand the test of time because of my unique designs.”
When it comes to design, Lily’s philosophy is simple: “To design every home as if it is my own.” She believes getting this aspect right is crucial. “Design is the most important aspect – it’s what will set a development apart from all others,” she says.
“I think being meticulous with your work also helps, because good design requires looking at every angle of a project.” Lily says finding the right location to develop also presents a challenge.
“No matter how difficult it is, we always commit ourselves to building the best homes in the best places,” she says. “We just want to build the best homes for everyone.”
“We always commit ourselves to building the best homes in the best places.”
The number of employees at RJ Realty has increased tenfold since the business started. Lily has nothing but praise for her team, crediting them with her success.
“Our employees are the heart and soul of the company,” she says proudly. “We feel that they are our family and we strive to make them feel at home. When they grow, the business grows with them.”
A self-professed early bird, Lily says she’s most productive first thing in the morning. “Waking up very early every day is helpful to get things done – but, by early, I mean no later than 4.30am,” she chuckles. “In the wee hours of the day, I get to think with minimal distractions and make the most important decisions.”
“I would say it’s discipline. When you are disciplined, you will also be consistent and reliable. These are some of the most important qualities a person should have to succeed in life.”
Lily is immensely proud of all she has achieved at RJ Realty over the past 14 years, including winning at the Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards (APEA) twice in a row in 2017 and 2018, a true testament to Lily’s hard-earned achievements.
“The best decision I have ever made is to be in the real estate development business,” she enthuses. “Every day I get to do what I’m passionate about.”
However, Lily insists she couldn’t have done it without the love and support of her family. “Without a doubt, my greatest achievements are my two beautiful children, who are now all grown up,” she says, smiling.
“They give me the strength to push through challenges I face and are always there to support me.”