I tasted entrepreneurship for the first time when I was 9. It was pure ambrosia.
Every summer between the ages of 9 to 12, I would run down to the amusement park (5 blocks away), find tourists who were looking for parking, and sell them one of our parking spots for $5/hour.
We had 4 spots. It was a ludicrous venture.
I remember getting so tanned every summer from standing outside, waving my hand-written sign to every car that exited the public lots, unable to find parking. When I got older, I even up-sold my customers, offering to wash their cars for an extra $5. It worked, too.
That hustle paid a lot of bills for my struggling parents.
As you may have deduced already, my family was quite poor.
Every scrappy, resilient poor kid has a story like mine.
When my parents and I immigrated to Canada in the early 90s, we barely spoke a word of English.
We lived in the Downtown Eastside, the poorest neighborhood in Vancouver, one rife with rampant drug use, homelessness, poverty, mental illness, crime and prostitution.
Our apartment was infested with rats and cockroaches, so every night when we came home, we had to grab rolled-up newspapers and go around killing them all.
Most of my childhood was spent eating junk food and binge-watching cartoons. Alone. While my parents worked multiple jobs till all hours of the night just to make ends meet.
Mom worked 12 hours a day in this insanely dusty garment factory for years and didn’t even wear a mask to protect her lungs. She would bundle up and keep her head down walking home from work every night because she was afraid of getting mugged or assaulted. I’d go with her to the factory on the weekends, pick up fabric scraps, draw faces on them and call them my dolls. My dad worked as a dishwasher/busboy for 6 years. He would spend 2 hours walking to and from work every single day just to save bus fare.
Funny thing was, Mom was an accountant and Dad was an agricultural scientist back in China.
It took 7 years of incredible frugality and hard work before my parents saved up enough money to buy a new house and their own restaurant. 7 years of: working 85-hour weeks (each), no dining out, no vacations, almost no non-essential purchases, no credit card debt, no leisure activities/hobbies. Nothing.
7 years of sacrifice.
Could you do that to make your dreams come true?
Once my parents became successful business owners and began investing in real estate and stocks, their wealth finally took off and we could all exhale again.
I worked my butt off in the family business every weekend, every school break and holiday until I turned 18.
The family restaurant business taught me about business, marketing and how to make way more money than any other kid I knew.
Inspired by my tireless parents and motivated by a gnawing hunger that had grown within me since I was a kid, I began building my own businesses.
At 16, I landed my first paid gig as an English instructor. But it was my second full-time client, Jackson, an insurance broker from Beijing, who really changed my teaching business. Through his wildfire referrals, I grew from 1 client to 4 to 6 to dozens within a year!
Teaching clients how to read and write helped me pay for university. Educating others paid for my education! I never spent a single penny on marketing. No website. No ads. No business cards. Nothing.
Pretty soon, I landed gigs for editing and copywriting too. Endless referrals meant I was turning down tons of business because I didn’t have enough time to take on more clients!
My world ran like a well-oiled machine.
Until BAM. I fell in love (at first sight)!
Then, my mind transcended logic, my steps defied gravity and my soul sprouted wings.
I got pregnant at 21.
Literally weeks after graduating from university.
I had to slam the brakes on my businesses to take care of my baby daughter. The first year was so rough because she didn’t sleep for more than two hours at a time. I had constant headaches and breakdowns. I had little help from my family (who thought I was crazy for having a kid at 22), and my husband was working 12 hours a day to put food on the table.
While my friends were out drinking and clubbing, I was at home nursing a newborn.
While my university classmates were beginning their career ladder climbs, I was at home generating zero income, with no employment insurance, mat leave or government subsidies to fall back on.
I thought I’d killed everything I worked so hard to build. I began desperately looking for other ways to make money from home, which resulted in many fervent Google searches and late nights of research. My husband thought I was nuts.
But I was a ruthless hustler.
What emerged from 2014 was something life-changing.
Nothing short of magical.
I learned more in that one year than I did in all the previous two decades combined.
In that one year, I started: investing in real estate and the stock market, I learned graphic design and started an online print-on-demand store, I finished my first novel and began building my brand as an author. I bought cheap goods off eBay and resold them locally for a profit. I began teaching international students over Skype. I started selling my copywriting and editing services on Fiverr.
…all while raising my baby.
I tried a lot of different ways to make money. Failed at some, succeeded at others and lost motivation for the rest.
When I was finally done bouncing from project to project, I focused on two things: my education and my copywriting/publishing business.
For the next four years, I stayed at home and raised my daughter while growing my businesses.
From 2014-2018, I…
• wrote over 1 million words
• received over 500k reads on my top 2 novels (still getting 1000s of reads today)
• published 18 novels under 2 pen names
• Ran 100s of digital marketing campaigns
• Built up a 50-member PR team from scratch
• Built up a huge author network and hungry fanbase
I continued my education business as well. For 15 hours a week, I taught clients writing and mentored/coached them.
I was working 70-85+ hours a week while raising a toddler and looking after my home. It was too much, and I knew if I didn’t adopt a healthier lifestyle, I would miss out on my daughter growing up and alienate my husband. There was zero work-life balance. I was turning into my workaholic parents.
The glory wasn’t worth the sacrifice.
With a heavy heart, I decided to take a hiatus from my writing and publishing business. Running this business taught me about social media marketing, brand building, community engagement, self-promotion, digital advertising, graphic design, leadership, accounting skills, and a zillion other little things. Most importantly, I honed my craft while doing something I was passionate about. But at the end of the day, I just couldn’t keep up with the fast-paced industry…
Today I am the Marketing Manager at Captus Advertising, an award-winning ad agency in Vancouver, Canada. I manage 16 projects with a cumulative budget of over 7 figures. I work with some of the largest companies in Canada to launch culturally-relevant multicultural marketing campaigns that made multimillions in sales over the past year.
I’m also the copywriter extraordinaire who created this website from scratch. *super-shiny smile* Over the past 10 years, I’ve helped 165+ clients on over 200 writing projects.
I’m the mother to a rambunctious, now six-year-old daughter. Loving wife of 8 years to a crazy husband (who happens to be my mentor and best friend). We are proud to live in a big ol’ 1960 house we renovated ourselves. When I go for a walk, I no longer see drug addicts or prostitutes. Instead, I see women pushing babies around in $500 strollers and neighbors who pay people to do their landscaping.
I also know the secret to everlasting youth and will probably look 17 forever, because, Asian genes.
I’ve made a crap ton of money.
I’ve lost a crap ton of money.
I’ve suffered from hundreds, if not thousands of failures over the past decade…
Just so I could own those 5 or 6 really cool brag-worthy accomplishments I listed above.
It’s 2020. Over two decades since I started my entrepreneurial journey as a parking spot seller. I’ve come a long way, but I still have miles and miles to go!
What about you?
I want to connect with you! Reach out to me on social media (I’m most active on LinkedIn), and share your story with me.
If you’ve read this far, you’re a star. ?
Thanks for visiting my website and being a part of my journey.