Today, I am an entrepreneur who started, grew, and sold my first company in just under 10 years and exited that experience with a healthy sense of self-worth, confidence, joy and authenticity, in addition to an accumulation of strategy, expertise, and problem solving know-how in business. But, I arrived here after years of heart wrenching, head-banging-against-the-wall self-induced training that I embarked upon from the moment I chose to start my own company.
Here is my story...
My decision to get into my own business was made while sitting on the floor of my 600 sq ft 1-bedroom apartment with a laptop full of Google searches and a gut feeling of a promising idea. A week later, I would hand in my notice to my (almost) 6-figure full-time job with benefits and a 401k plan, a few weeks shy of my 27th birthday.
You can certainly label my action as bold, reckless, or both. I can confirm, without a doubt so many years later, that it was certainly naive.
Aside from working as a receptionist, bookkeeper, hostess, dishwasher and occasional waitress in my family's businesses growing up, I had no practical experience, strategy or foresight as to what I was getting into.
In hindsight, perhaps being naive was a blessing at that time. After all, you can't be scared if you don't know what to be scared about. Unfortunately, that didn't change the number of mistakes or problems I invariably faced as a small business owner with dreams of hiring employees, scaling up, and selling the business one day.
As a kid, I was always slow to catch on to ... well, just about everything. Things simply didn't 'click' in my head until way after everyone else had already moved on to the next thing. So, when growing up as a 1st generation Asian-American kid with all the parental expectations of getting straight A's in school, I harnessed the power of sheer determination and raw studying to graduate with honors in both high school and college. By the time I was 21, I also developed perfectionist tendencies and nurtured a serious case of an imposter syndrome that would stick with me.
Naturally, I relied on the same persistence and grit that I had learned in my adolescence to start building my first business. I read books, listened to podcasts, consumed massive amounts of online content, and of course, took it on the chin over and over again as I navigated through some tough business challenges. I was relentless and my brain hurt, my body hurt, and my heart hurt...alot.
By year six of my business, I had become a pro at falling down and getting back up. But, the stakes felt higher than ever since the business was growing, clients were relying on us and my employees were relying on me. I knew that continuing to do things alone as I had done up to this point would get me to my goal eventually, but the road to success was starting to look more like a slow and painful death rather than a fist-pumping, champagne-popping run to the finish line.
Sure, along the way I had (thankfully) informal mentors and peers for the occasional happy hour-and-share between business owners to alleviate some burdens, but otherwise, I was alone...alone in my thoughts, alone in my mistakes, and alone in my fears. I didn't need or want a business partner; I simply wanted more support for myself as a business owner.
So, I hired an executive coach for six months and joined an exclusive business accelerator group to expand my network of business owners willing to share their hands-on experiences and their empathy. Soon, I started to get into a flow and while the number of business problems I encountered didn't lessen, I got better at handling them and actually started to enjoy myself. Then, in year eight of my business, I achieved the sale of my company.
Cheers to it all, by golly, I did it!
By the time I fully exited my business in 2021, I had accumulated numerous "lessons learned" along the way, but one of the biggest lessons I embraced was the realization of how much faster, more effective, and more fun I would had from the start of my business if I didn't go about it alone. I started thinking:
What if I had someone along the way, someone who was on my level, someone understood small business ownership because they were a business owner themselves who can work side-by-side with me to help me push through my mental barriers and create a solution with me?
What if I had someone who's brain I can borrow, available to spitball different ways to solve for a problem so I can then decide which is the best path forward?
What if I had someone who I can share my worse thoughts or explore my craziest ideas about my business with, in confidence and without judgement, as I continue to expand my business and find ways to add more value to my customer and employees?
How much quicker would I have gotten around my business problems and enjoyed the journey to my exit if I simply had someone to turn to who just gets it and is also willing and able to solve my problems with me?
This line of thinking formed the genesis of why I became a Business Thought Partner. Problems are inevitable in every business, but they don't necessarily need to slow you down or beat you up as a business owner. Nor do you have to give away equity or potential risks of bringing on a business partner to take on the business with you.
As a business thought partner, I am that 1-on-1 support to business owners, who is a readily available sounding board, collaborator, strategist, and on-demand problem solver so small business owners and entrepreneurs can overcome any problem on hand faster or with better results.
Finally, from one business owner to another, I can say with absolute certainty that the journey as an entrepreneur doesn't have to feel all that lonely at the top and can be both successful and fun starting TODAY.
WHY I BECAME
I spent the last 10 years learning how to start, grow, and sell a business.
I started my entrepreneurial journey with an "I can do this all by myself" attitude and thought that the only way to success was meeting problems head-on and figuring things out on my own.
Well, that attitude slowed the growth of my business and reinforced a negative belief that the road to success was only paved with frustration, doubt, exhaustion, and burnout.
But, I can tell you right now, that is not how it has to be!
Click on the video to the right to learn why I became a business thought partner.