While most 6-year-olds play with toys and video games, Kara Arissa Tan cleaned the nests of swiftlets at the factory. In 1986, her father Eric founded Masterdon Swiftlets Resources, a leading bird’s nest supplier in South-east Asia.
In addition to its numerous health benefits, bird’s nest is a traditional delicacy made from the saliva of swiftlets. Eating it regularly is believed to boost immunity, hasten the body’s ability to heal, and inhibit the signs of ageing. Tan herself was fed bird’s nest as a baby to treat asthma.
Cleaning birds’ nests was an elaborate and tedious process. “I spent hours picking dirt and feathers out of the nests! I had to be patient and meticulous. It was hard work, but it was necessary to ensure the quality and purity of the product,” remembers Tan, now 28. Whenever she completed a session, she was rewarded with her favourite Häagen-Dazs strawberry ice cream.
Even after becoming an entrepreneur, Tan still enjoys getting her hands dirty. After completing a master’s in China & Globalisation from King’s College London, Kara Arissa Tan launched Zhen in 2021.
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