I was very honoured to be interviewed by Daniel K Cheung, Founder of The Wedding Entrepreneur and ChopeIt.com, to share my experience as a mum and an entrepreneur. The actual interview deviated a little from the original transcript below. But I’m very excited to share the interview here. I hope you all enjoy it.
Jo is a mother of 2 young boys, self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” who also dedicates her time in ministry teaching Christian Yoga. Growing up in two cities (Hong Kong & Sydney) with the influences of Asian and Aussie cultures have shaped her strong views on the need to embrace technology in business, life and parenting. She currently lives in Sydney running a digital marketing agency, teaching yoga and looking after her 2 young boys. Her entrepreneurial spirit lends itself with the crystal clear objective to help people’s lives. In her spare time, she is sitting there intentionally doing..’nothing’.
Do you have a favourite success/motivation quote?
“Time waits for no man” For me, that is a reminder for me to put every second of my life in ‘intentional’ good use, whether this is work, play or doing ‘nothing’. All is intentional.
You’re at a networking party, someone walks up to you and asks “What exactly do you do?”. How do you answer that in 10-seconds?
Together with a good friend, I run a boutique digital marketing agency which help businesses with all things ‘digital marketing’ related. I juggle that job with teaching Christian Yoga as well.
How did you start this journey of becoming an entrepreneur?
I suppose I was either born with that itch or I wanted to mirror my parents’ success in entrepreneurship.
I’m sure that I was heavily influenced by my parents’ encouraging stories and success in their experience.
A few years ago, I left the corporate world to venture into the life of an entrepreneur starting an online fashion accessories shop. That business has not done as well as I had hoped and has now become more of a legacy and turned into a hobby for me. Since then, I have tapped into a few other business ideas but have come to realise that digital consultancy is my edge and has proven to be the most successful business I’ve been running thus far.
And following on from that, how did you get your first client? Was it a paid job?
In the three ventures I currently run, they all started with word of mouth or referral business. When you launch , it’s always your closest who buy/become your first client or spread the word for you.
To answer your question specifically, I’ll use my online fashion business. Following on from friends and family, my first customer was from a Facebook ad who was looking for a gift for her fiancé and wanted a customised card sent out together with the purchase. And man, do you bend over backwards for your first ever real customer!
Can you describe the worst entrepreneurial moment that you have had? What happened? How did it make you feel? And how did you address it?
Hmm….It would have to be “breaking up” with my initial business partner. I must have lost 2 weeks of sleep over that saga.
I’m sure plenty of entrepreneurs go into partnership with a beautiful vision of how ‘you two (or three or four) would work collaboratively as a solid team’, each being able to contribute their skills and complement one another. You kind of ‘know’ about your differences and ‘hope’ that those differences never surface into anything significant. But I tell you what, ‘know those differences’ and make sure you have a game plan as to how you manage them when you enter into business partnership. And especially if they are friends. It’s not a pleasant conversation to have when you want to go separate ways.
For me, I was very blessed. My friend and I were very civil about it. We both knew to place friendship over business. But I know and have heard of partnerships that went sour and it makes me feel so bad to hear those stories because I’ve seen what can happen if the friendship IS placed first. Everything always works out in the end. People just sometimes need to let go of the business and self-righteousness. Easier said than done, I know..
Anyways, we went separate ways and that has not impacted our friendship a slight bit. She’s gone and built an empire for herself in the same industry, and turned her business into something far more successful that I have in that industry. We’re very supportive of each other and I don’t regret ending that partnership at all.
Can you describe the best entrepreneurial moment that you have had?
Can this question be rephrased in ‘plural’ form? “Moments”
Gosh there are so many but can I talk to my ministry work here? It’s not intentionally ‘entrepreneurial’ but something that entrepreneurs can relate to and this is something that happened recently.
I sent out a flyer for my Christian yoga class to one of the mother’s at my son’s school just ‘hoping’ that I would get some extra students for my classes. That flyer went viral (DIGITALLY! “sorry, I had to clarify that). I then had the biggest turn out that a yoga teacher, church minister could ever hope for. Not only that, this has turned into a regular class with more students that I could ever ask and opened opportunities for more classes. Of course, I have that mother, a good friend of mine, to thank as well.
The moral of the story is that every avenue to spread word about your business is an opportunity. Whilst that example wasn’t intentional, in hindsight, it was definitely a learning. So, don’t be afraid, I say. Just spread the word.
Entrepreneurs are often told to raise their prices. What are your thoughts on the matter?
Yes, this is a challenging topic.
Fundamentally, I believe that you should never undervalue your services. On saying that, as an entrepreneur, I know that it’s easy to get emotional and you do whatever it takes to get that business through the door. Often with lots of excuses and justification because you ‘want THAT CUSTOMER’ …be it your first, be it your biggest.
HOWEVER, I am also a commercial director at heart. Don’t let the emotions take over. Do the math.
My view on this is, don’t undervalue your services and be scared to say ‘no’ because when you do, you are entering a vicious cycle of ‘in scalability’. When you take on services at a loss, you can’t afford to grow your business while you continue to spend time trying to deliver the best. You are compromising your most important asset as an entrepreneur, your TIME.
If you are going to offer ‘free’ services, make sure you exchange it for something like a ‘testimonial’, a ‘speaking spot’ at a big event or anything that can help you grow your ‘brand’ awareness. Not because you WANT to have that FIRST or BIGGEST customer.
What is your point of differentiation in the market? What makes you you?
With my digital agency business, our point of differentiation is ‘quick wins’ and ‘efficiency’. We don’t like to harp on about the strategic 10 year plan that NEVER gets executed on. We’ll leave that for large corporate boardrooms. We pride ourselves in delivering results for small/medium sized business.
With my yoga teaching, my point of differentiation is that the meditation and focus is on the Bible. I am one of two Christian Yoga teachers in this country.
What social media do you use for your business? Which one converts the most for you?
For all my ventures, we are on almost everything. Like I said before, every avenue is an opportunity and especially social media where it’s free and there is a relevant audience.
To name a few, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Polyvore.
I would like to say for ‘B2C’ businesses, Facebook definitely converts best. It can get complicated but let’s not.
My rule of thumb is to be present where your customers are mingling.
Do you have a website/blog? How often do you update it and why?
Yes, I do. My personal blog is an extension of my brain and also serves as my blog for my yoga teaching and digital marketing opinions.
I update it several times a month. Why? Because I love writing. I also love capturing memories in words. I also love sharing my passions with others over the Internet!
My blog is celebrating it’s 10 year anniversary and I’m very proud of it, I must say.
Share one of your personal habits that you do have that contributes to your success.
Scheduling and sticking to plan. Action over words.
Do you have a resource like an Evernote that you can recommend to the audience?
Yup. And you named it.
I also recommend Xero for small business accounting. Check it out.
What is one habit that you wish you had?
I wish I was a morning person. Enough said.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
This piece of advice was given to me by my father. “Any decision is better than NO decision”.
What was stopping you from becoming an entrepreneur?
For me, it was money. I’m naturally quite risk-adverse which is sometimes a stumbling block for entrepreneurship. I waited till I could afford to ‘lose’ before I ‘gambled’.
What is the best way to contact you? And what is a parting piece of advice that you would like to share with our listeners?
Email. I am great with emails. I always respond and I’ll have a well thought-out response.
“Do everything wholeheartedly, efficiently, with kindness and with your audience in mind first. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes because they become your story.”
Thank you for allowing me to share my story today!