On September 12, 2012, in a Starbucks in Aiea, Hawaii I took a picture of an idea written down for my first startup business. I uploaded it to Facebook and wrote:
"Ideas and experiences can be developed into something great. Going to start my own business. Wish me luck everyone. :)"
I was 24 years old with no experience in business. Just had a gut feeling there was an opportunity. I probably also had a sense of validation neediness and was searching for support; hence the Facebook post. A month later I filed as an LLC.
With zero capital and zero business connections, I became an entrepreneur overnight with just an idea and a few friends I thought I could help through it. Was I crazy? Or just plain stupid.
A study by The Journal of Business Venturing emphasized that early modest rule-breaking behavior predicted entrepreneurship.
The late Abraham Zaleznik, former Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School also once said, "To understand the entrepreneur, you first have to understand the psychology of the juvenile delinquent."
That is relatable; the epitome of the entrepreneur is a drive for autonomy, for a freedom from restraints that sparks an inner rebelliousness. For me, risk ignited adrenaline.
Going back to juvenile delinquency, I grew up with conservative parents who said no a lot. "No you can't stay out past 8pm. No you can't climb that tree, it's dangerous. No you can't take that trip to Carnegie Hall." I was eventually arrested as a 16 year old.. .but I digress.
The "no" psyche to being showcased on stage at Carnegie Hall is understandable now that I'm older. My high school orchestra in Hawaii got invited to New York to perform. It was a dream opportunity. I wanted to go soo badly. Then, my life depended on it! But my family simply couldn't afford it at the time. That was hard to translate as a high school senior.
So I rebelled and stomped out the door, in tears, determined to prove my parents wrong (cue dramatic music).
Adrenaline rushing, I had to figure out a game plan to get to Carnegie. It was pretty simple. Strategy number one: sell a heck a lot of brownies to the gamer kids who decided to skip lunch to play Magic Cards (I went to them with food). Strategy number two: sell $10 pizza certificates on Black Friday at a computer store because the certificate came with a $20 coupon off the store if one purchased $100 or more. Result: Performed at Carnegie Hall.
I didn't realize I was coming up with these little strategies to raise money at the time. I simply wanted to prove to my parents that I could get to Carnegie autonomously. I was fueled with rebellious adrenaline to prove a point.
In addition, the success after being told no and proving otherwise felt good. Hearing the word "no", sparked the fire to find a solution to make it a "yes". And so, I thankfully owe my crazy entrepreneur side to my parents.
The idea written in 2012, "a one stop shop for social media marketing" has definitely developed beyond its original intention. That idea has probably been bounced more than a hundred times with everyone from my mom, to CEOs of successful companies, to non-profits, to new media celebrities, to childhood friends, to fellow entrepreneurs.
Today my company exists as a new media creative agency and I am proud to have worked with internationally recognized brands and artists. While the company is independently mine, it is important to note here that good entrepreneurs know how to appreciate their team. We are nothing without a good one.
Today, the developed idea has led to a few other related ventures. I sense risk and opportunity at the same time -- adrenaline pumping more than ever.
Sometimes it's difficult to sleep.
Upon starting a business with no business connections, networking events were a must. One of my first was the Hawaii Social Media Summit. Though I was standing shy in a corner, I managed to meet my future friends and confidants there. If there were any advice to give, I'd say put yourself out there, purposefully.
Taking that advice, I found myself at a conference called "Discover Me" earlier this year where today's most influential leaders in technology, finance, and media gathered. The saying, small fish in a big pond rings true here. I was a guppy and the big fish were Grade A tuna. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was in attendance too.
A lot of us got to share ideas with one another.
Ted Schilowitz, serial entrepreneur and consultant at Fox was also in attendance. He believes that taking risks is a must. Having a relaxed attitude towards failure and success also helps the process. Not trying is never an option.
Having that attitude led him to co-found Red Digital Cinema Camera. Not too shabby considering that's the camera that captured my favorite movie "The Great Gatsby".
The jet-lagged but still lovely Janet Hsieh from Discovery Channel's "Fun Taiwan" said, "Anything is possible -- especially in this day in age. There's probably a market out there specifically for you."
Charismatic Tyler Ward and I got to say hello too. With over 1.6 million fans on YouTube he shared a tip to new content creators, "Sometimes it's hard. But you just gotta do it. You just gotta work hard."
With a lot of their entrepreneurial success, I wondered if any of them had juvenile delinquent tendencies too.
Discover Me's executive producer and founding partner of k5 Venture Accelerator, Kai Tao hopes to bring more of these types of people together in 2015 to continue growth.
Wrapping it up, this isn't one of those stories that end in a successful million dollar Series A fundraising round. I didn't launch the next Facebook. I may have not done much in comparison to others out there.. .yet. To be real, I don't even have proper office space and split time between the road and working from home. I hope that changes soon.
Despite humble beginnings, time was recently spent in Silicon Valley where I just pitched a few VCs and angel investors. Two years ago, 24-year-old Mylen writing out her business idea in that Starbucks would have never dreamt this a possibility. Probably thought VC stood for something like Virtual Console back then.
Actually, it's nice to write this blog outside the new Apple headquarters. Right now it is a pile of dirt soon to be constructed into a building that resembles a spaceship. To think Steve Jobs presented this plan as an idea in 2011 to the city of Cupertino. According to a report by Bloomberg in 2012, that idea has translated into this 176-acre pile of dirt soon to house as many as 14,200 employees and the main circular building will total 2.8 million square feet. Products to change the world will be made there.
If the VCs tell me no (which stands for venture capitalists), I know the adrenaline will systematically kick in. Whatever happens, I'm finding my dirt pile too.
Writing ambitions down has worked for me in the past. And so, here I write again...