About Maya Kirana

Who the heck is Maya Kirana?

It’s my nom de plume, pen name, secret alter ego. It’s a name I used when I first got online and started blogging way back in the year 2000 when I was still working in the corporate world. I didn’t want people to trace me – I felt that being unknown allowed me to voice my opinions freely and openly. 

krista goon penang

Too bad that over the years, everyone I know stumbled on this blog. So much for anonymity! Sheesh! So here’s who I am. My name is Krista Goon and Maya Kirana is my alter ego.

I’m 46 this year, a Piscean Tiger and married to Nic, a Sarawakian. We have been living in Penang since we both met in Universiti Sains Malaysia some 20+ years ago. 

Nic and I are total opposites in personality but somehow we manage to get along well enough to run a business together. I’ve been in business with him since 2004, the year I called it quits in my corporate communications manager role in a public-listed software company called KarenSoft Technology.

At that time, I was also the website editor of a now-defunct women’s portal called i-asianwomen.com (I was hired to manage and run the portal but soon got sucked into doing corporate communications for the mother company as people figured out that I could write and handle events and a plethora of other comms stuff).

Anyway, my ability to write (specifically website copywriting) and Nic’s ability to design make us a rare and interesting combination.

We combine our abilities and competencies in running Redbox Studio, a business focusing on helping business owners attract more customers using their websites. Nic started the business in 1998 so this means we’ve been in this business for 22 years!

Our secret sauce is that we build marketing strategy right into the websites we design. To do this, we have to understand the client, his target audience, his unique offering and how he is unique. Once we understand this (we’re really marketing consultants because we simply love marketing), we start researching keywords, writing copy (or website content in plain-speak) and designing the website to help position the client as distinctively as we can. For the past 22 years, we’ve proven that our website plus marketing strategy works as evidenced by the reviews and results we’ve achieved for clients who are usually direct business owners. 

Besides website design and website copywriting, Nic and I speak, train and consult in the areas of marketing for small business owners, NGOs and SMEs. In 2016, we wrote and published a book teaching business owners our exact formula for getting online success with websites. We updated the book this year (2020) since technology moves fast. 

We don’t have children so a lot of our time revolves around our business and the work we do that impact our community (TSN Book Adoption Centre and WomenBizSENSE). I co-founded WomenBizSENSE with my good pal Josephine in 2006 for women entrepreneurs. Nic and I started TSN Book Adoption Centre in 2016 and you can read all about how the centre has evolved.  

I had a fat, grumpy tabby called Margaret Montokong Mustafa (seriously, that’s the name Nic gave her and she lived up to her uppity snob cattiness befitting her British name till she died of kidney failure on 8 April 2014). As with anyone who has had pets die on them, we were so depressed that we vowed not to own any more cats.

Ah, but sooner said than done, right? Eventually, another tabby came along and now we have a drop-in cat called Timah Boestaman. She comes for meals and belly rubs and hangs about till we shoo her out of the apartment. The cat was named by Nic. He calls himself the cat whisperer. 

Let’s Backtrack A Little, Shall We?

I’ve been scribbling, dreaming of stories and giving into my imagination since young.

I remember with clarity that at the precocious age of 6, I diligently copied questions and answers from a Tell Me Why book into an exercise book with a red pen! 

I read my first Enid Blyton that my dad bought for a princely sum of RM9.90. Back in the 1980s, RM9.90 was a big deal! 

I remember getting what I wished for – my first pre-loved typewriter at 11. I felt like a star! My Godmother bought it for me when I got first in class in Standard 5. I learnt to type really fast and concocted delicious stories and poems which read rather funny now. I even typed out a poem in my rage against the injustice of Tiananmen Square and I was a regular contributor to the Starchild section of The Star when I was 11.

So you see, I’ve been writing for a really long time. What Malcolm Gladwell says about putting in at least 10,000 hours to be trained as an expert is possibly true. I must’ve written thousands and thousands of words in my life since I was 6. I’ve read equally as many words too, given my love for fiction and business books. 

I discovered blogging one day in 2000. And I’ve stuck to it though sometimes it unnerves me that there are strangers who read my blog and build up pieces of me in their minds, especially those who have not met me in person.

But people who have read my blog says my writing is refreshing.

Thank you.

I haven’t been as regular a blogger in the past few years as I have a lot on my plate – managing my business, being on various committees, helping out in women’s and community projects, speaking, consulting, training and trying my best to exercise diligently on my Kettler rowing machine, eat well (and eat fewer carbs), be kind (to myself and to others), practice both Spanish and Mandarin on Duolingo. 

I’ve also told myself I’m going to write more books and everything (every damn thing) takes time. I also want to learn how to play the drums since my mentee owns a music studio. And I’m also starting my podcast this year. 

Oh, the many interesting things about Life! 

As a Buddhist, I believe that living life well is the best gift to yourself. I love being inspired by the people around me and I hate complainers. I have also removed a lot of whiny, toxic people from my life.  I used to want to have the last word in any argument but these days, I just move on. Sometimes, the angst isn’t worth it.

I like cooking more than baking, I love gardening when I have the time to just feel the soil in my hands. 

I love Traditional Chinese Medicine and soups (check out MY OTHER BLOG here), I love the smell of rain on a baking hot day. I love spending time with good friends and family and I treasure relationships like I treasure the moments I spend alone. I love journaling, I love reflecting and I love being patient, strong and courageous.

I also was one of the 18 women nominated for the Great Women of Our Time Awards in 2008 for co-founding WomenBizSENSE. I was the president of this organisation but stepped down in 2016 to make way for new leadership. I’m still involved as the advisor for WomenBizSENSE but I’ve realised it’s time to do new things and explore new adventures in life. 

Besides our own book, I am also co-writing a book on women leaders of Penang with two good friends under the aegis of the Penang Women’s Development Corporation. I am trying to say no to a lot of projects that people pitch me with because I value meaningful projects over mindless fluff.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew the woman I wanted to be.” Diane Von Furstenberg

Writing for websites is different from writing for me.

I like escaping to my blog and ranting though these days, as the business needs me more and more, I have very little time to escape here. Still, I could never give up my blog. 

I am on these platforms too (Facebook and Linkedin) because I love connecting with people online. Mostly I am on these platforms doing research about what works, what doesn’t and relaying this knowledge to our clients who trust us to have their backs.

(If you want the full list of what I’ve done – speaking, writing, blogging, coaching and setting up a women entrepreneur network etc – take a look at this.)

And if you feel you need to write to me, please do.

I love getting mail, I love hearing from strangers who in the end become my friends. Many have.

P.S. If you’re wondering how I got the name Maya Kirana, fret not.

Here’s the answer you’re dying to read…in this post.

Here I am in Bollywood style with Josephine during our 2018 WomenBizSENSE anniversary dinner. We co-founded WomenBizSENSE in 2006 because we wanted to meet other women in small businesses like us. Didn’t like the other organisations we saw and we thought, why not form our own? That’s how we started.
One of the many speaking opportunities I have had. This was a panel session together with founders of Yin Sourdough Bakery and Cafe (that the couple in the middle).
krista goon nic sim
Nic and I with a good friend, Ann (far left) at her friend’s Hawaiian-themed birthday party in 2018. And a year later, I landed in Honolulu, Hawaii when I was selected to be part of a prestigious 2-week women’s leadership programme at the East-West Center, Oahu, Hawaii. Dreams do come true!