When I arrived in China eight years ago as a blogger, it was still like the Wild West. I remember young women, in general, not being confident from a personal and professional standpoint or with how they wanted to show themselves to the world. Many of them restricted themselves based on societal limitations that Chinese traditions required.
Fortunately, I think we’re slowly transitioning into a period of post-feminism for the future, where girls can do, be and have anything they want. They don’t need to worry about a lack of gender or even racial diversity because these are things of the past; we’re now starting to live beyond binary gender roles.
Today, with the rise of Gen Z, globalization and diversity in culture, a lack of gender diversity and extreme conformism are thankfully starting to be things of the past. People think we don’t need feminism. It’s 2020, and the misconception that women are equal is a misinformed setback in itself. It’s important to understand our girl power as individuals, support this positive and collective change in society, and not take what we have now for granted.
Only two years ago, my office was based in the studio of my apartment, where I had 200 colorful Post-it notes everywhere, and I held “corporate reunions” at coffee shops or in my living room. I also remember when I started off, I was close to going financially bankrupt, and I borrowed money from a friend to pay a model on set. I think these struggles are a reminder to not take things for granted. As soon as you have the desire to elevate, you’re going to face challenges, and success depends on how well you overcome those struggles.
Two years later, we renovated and entered a 100-square-meter space with a mini-warehouse in the center of Shanghai. The office greets us with an abundance of natural light, a garden view and a spacious area for Monday yoga and meditation practices. We’ve also doubled our revenue year over year and started to expand our services beyond social media and PR to include content creation and art direction, catering to a more holistic strategic approach for our partners.
But I want to share with you not only the successes but also the hardships I went through, as this is what made the journey real.
Here are five lessons I learned as a young female entrepreneur in the creative industry:
1. Be patient.
When you start your entrepreneurial journey, things may seem like they are going super slow, but this is the best foundation to grow your seeds. It takes time.
2. Stick to your goals, even when they feel out of reach.
I was so happy to land my first client until I realized that he had created over $10,000 of bad debt, which was a lot for a startup at the time, and then fell into more complications.
Understanding my limited cash flow and having no money for lawyers, I just dropped it and changed my focus to new client building. This resulted in us landing two more clients that year (three times bigger than the first one). After that, I started aiming to work for large-scale clients instead of small brands as a lesson learned.
3. Be more strategic with relationships and your time.
Early in my career, I was often invited to events, galas, cocktail parties, etc. and met a lot of different people. But it became quite superficial, used up a lot of energy, and distracted from what the target and goals actually were. I eventually felt I was networking in the wrong places and trying to take every opportunity that arose to achieve a goal. I later realized this wasn’t the way to go.
Because you’re stretching your time and allocating it to your team, business, family and yourself, you’ll have to be more selective with your priorities and your surroundings. You might feel isolated at first, but it’s really about the need to choose where you allocate your time and energy.
4. Don’t just focus on work.
If you focus solely on your work, you’ll end up burning out. It’s important to have a balance with leisure and invest in strong relationships that really matter. This helps bring balance to both the production and the production capacity (the PPC balance). I often try to recharge and have quality time with the people who matter most to me. Every week, I dedicate at least one full day to my family.
5. Make trust and support a priority.
At POMPOM, we have great suppliers who we’ve worked with for over three years, and they support us like a true extension of our team. I’ve worked with many different suppliers for shootings, production and social activations, and indeed, sometimes you get ripped off, lied to, etc. So, it’s important to protect your business and trust your instincts so you don’t make the same mistake twice. It’s a learning curve.
Because of social media and the pressure to perform, we want to showcase the best of ourselves. But this isn’t always an accurate representation of how we came to be who we are today. From my personal experience, people don’t really see the hustle of millennial female entrepreneurs, and there is a relatively low support group in the fashion business for young business owners. I hope this will change in the future.