Stephen Yeoh decided to start IT company Un1teee in 2009 after working for a variety of large companies including Amgen Inc. in Thousand Oaks.
He found that jobs at large companies were narrowly defined, solving small, highly specialized IT problems.
“I found myself wanting to make a bigger impact,” Yeoh said. “I noticed that there are many small companies without the benefit of skilled, quality IT. I would have the opportunity to work with small businesses and make a big impact on how IT can improve their bottom line.”
Yeoh said his business is growing as a result of the pandemic because of proactive measures taken early on.
“Our existing clients were well prepared for work from home pre-pandemic, and so for them, the transition was smooth,” said Yeoh. “New clients have been joining us because of the quality of our work and our focus on risk management.”
Un1teee, pronounced “unity,” offers clients hardware and software management, vendor relationships for internet connectivity, website management and maintenance renewals, along with other technology needs. The company takes on project-based clients too, helping with IT vendors and website management within a limited timeframe and budget.
The self-described “chief of peace of mind” said he loves being his own boss, but early in the game considered trading it in for a steady paycheck.
“Once the business stabilized, it was no longer a consideration,” he added. But, owning a small business means the hours are long and the responsibility falls on him.
“There’s not really a day off; I am always at work,” he said. The company has four employees.
Yeoh said that as a startup entrepreneur, one needs to reflect on the “why” before diving in. He suggested prospective entrepreneurs reflect on how they want to contribute to the local community and wider world.
“Starting out can be challenging and without the right reasons to continue, it’s easy to quit. Have a strong support system around you – there will be difficult days. Find mentors to guide you – the journey is simpler,” he noted.
Despite increased hours and responsibility, Yeoh said he enjoys the flexibility that entrepreneurial life affords him, being able to attend his children’s sporting events and family functions — the Un1teee owner says he handpicks the projects accepted by the company too, and it gives him a sense of pride to help businesses protect themselves from IT threats.
Un1teee started during an economic recession; one of the biggest challenges was simply navigating to better economic climates, Yeoh said.
“We started in 2009 when the economy was not doing well,” he explained. “We pivoted in 2010, 2011 and 2012 with the primary source of revenue coming from different sources each year. The breadth of experience from past jobs has given us the experience and expertise to pivot and work in different areas of IT.”
A favorite memory over the years, Yeoh said, was when a client with a dental practice embraced what IT service brought to the table.
“We are involved in many facets of the operation of the business, from planning and budgeting, training, technical operations, to strategy in how we approach HIPAA compliance,” he added. “We are effectively a member of their company, which is truly a privilege.”
As for his Asian heritage, Yeoh believes it is his duty to complete the “single stories,” or stereotypes people harbor, and make them more complete by getting to know him and his business.
“By practicing this philosophy, I feel that our business has not been affected in a negative way and we are grateful that we haven’t lost any projects of significance because of it,” Yeoh said. “In some cases, I feel it has helped us raise awareness and share our stories with our clients, helping them recognize the work ethic that our Asian heritage brings. We let our work ethic speak for us.”
Yeoh serves as a board member of the Ventura County Workforce Development Board. From 2012 to 2017 he was a board member of the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce.
– Amy Stulick