Jenny Q. Ta is the founder and CEO of Sqeeqee, the first-of-its-kind social networthing™ site. Launched in 2015, the site gives individuals, businesses, celebrities, politicians, and non-profit organizations the ability to monetize their profiles in unprecedented ways.
Ms. Ta is a seasoned entrepreneur with two successful ventures to her credit. She was the Founder and CEO of Titan Securities, a full service investment firm that was acquired in 2005. Prior to founding Titan Securities she was the driving force behind Vantage Investments, a full-service broker-dealer start-up she founded in 1999 at the age of 27 and grew to a quarter of a billion dollars in assets.
Overall, she has more than 20 years of experience as a senior executive in sales, marketing and finance.
Jenny is an author whose book, Wall Street Cinderella, will launch in 2014 detailing her escape from Vietnam during the war and her path to success from welfare to Wall Street. As a self-made millionaire by the time she was 27, the book will serve as a roadmap for women looking at a business career.
She earned a Master of Business Administration degree in Financial Management and a Bachelor of Science degree in Management Information Systems from California State University, Fresno.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
The struggles in my life have made me the incredibly strong and resilient person I am today. My father was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, so I never had a chance to see him, and I was raised by a single mother. We escaped Vietnam on a fishing boat when I was 5 years old, stayed in a refugee camp in Hong Kong until I was 8, and then came on to America. Once in the U.S. I was raised on welfare and wore clothes from The Salvation Army and Thrifty. Because money was scarce, toys were few and far between so my mother would take my brother and me to K-Mart or Toys-R-Us and have us "play" there as much as we could with any unwrapped toys or miniature cars. My promise to my mother was that I would get my four-year degree before I was married or pregnant, and not only did I do that, but I did it in just 3 ½ years. I handed the diploma to her, as promised, the day it was handed to me. From here, I went on to become a millionaire by the time I was 27.
How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Sqeeqee?
Prior to creating Sqeeqee I had founded two broker-dealers on Wall Street. This highly aggressive and mostly male-dominated work environment, which I was in for more than 18 years, gave me the strength and determination needed to mold myself for the leadership roles that I would be taking on later in life. I also learned to respect others if such mutual respect is given, and in particular to give others a lot of opportunity early on when they are starting out so that they may prove themselves worthy. In any line of business, trust and honestly are key to me. Once a person has lost my trust, it would be very difficult to gain it back. Sqeeqee is no different now than being around the high testosterone work environment back in my Wall Street days, full of high energy young men who largely dominate the tech world.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Sqeeqee?
The highlights would be my continuous strength in innovation as I and my teams continue to bring out the best and most unique things no other sites have. Since Sqeeqee is my third founded company, I have endured a number of challenges within the past 20-21 years. I started my first company when I was just 20. But I would say my biggest challenge of all is, letting go. I believe most entrepreneurs tend to think they can do everything. I am somewhat a perfectionist. Things must be done a certain way. While I do hire a number of team members, staff, etc., but I still tend to micro-manage. I believe by micro-managing, I can be in control of what's important. Running two brokerage houses and now Sqeeqee, all are mega businesses, so I do delegate tasks to a number of team members with operations, support, and sales to name a few. I love to make decisions and see ideas grow into reality. I get bored easily with the same old daily tasks. I love to solve problems. I have a passion to innovate, seeing a business from the ground up. Seeing the growth, the wealth that I am able to build that would benefit a number of my staff and team members. While letting go is one of my biggest challenges, the success of my last two companies and currently with Sqeeqee can attest that I do work well with staff and team members. It would not be possible to run such mega enterprises doing everything on my own.
What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
I believe the best thing about being a female entrepreneur is being different. It is because entrepreneurs are predominantly male-dominated, being "that woman", makes you stand out. I learned this from being "that woman" on Wall Street. Ninty-nine percent of market-makers, specialists, investment bankers, wear a two-piece suit, tie, and a pair of buffed up loafers. Walking into a board room, a meeting, they would all look bland. But if you are "that woman", that only woman walking into that board room, that meeting, you should and could certainly make "that statement" if you shall choose. That is actually AN ADVANTAGE if "that woman" plays her card wisely. Women entrepreneurs tend to be intimidated so easily. They bluff or make facial gestures when another male in the board room starts to cuss. I find that is the woman's own weakness to zero herself out as being weak. A woman entrepreneur should blend herself in. If a man cusses, then when it is her turn to speak, she should start out by cussing as well. Use a cussing word at the beginning of the sentence. That way, she owns that time slot. The attention is on her. "That woman" would be surprised to learn that at some meetings the men would clap their hands and praise her as well. So, a woman entrepreneur either chooses to own her own stance, or downgrade herself to being weak.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Most would say that I don't have a life, or plainly, Sqeeqee is my life or my O2 (oxygen we breathe to live). If stress or pressure is way too much or too extended, I would find myself sitting, meditating, and praying in a quiet church somewhere, or jogging along the breeze of the beaches around here, and of course drag out a few good friends and hit some new restaurants for some fine dining.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I believe the biggest issue for women in the workplace, especially in technology today, is not having enough women as Venture Capitalists. VCs tend to "fund" their own kind. A group of young, white male VCs will most likely send their money to a group of young, white male entrepreneurs. I believe the problem lies precisely there. If we have more women VCs, then it would be quite simple to resolve the many challenges women are facing in the workplace and/or tech. It doesn't matter how great an invention is, without necessary funding, that idea will eventually die.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I hope this does not sound too egotistical or arrogant because it is not with that intention. What I am about to is a plain fact because life is too short to not be who you truly are.
My only professional "mentorship" was when I first started out as a New Accounts Clerk at Shearson Lehman Brothers. I got to know a senior investment banker who was kind enough to have taught me a few lessons when working with "the boys" on Wall Street. He was one of the top brokers at that branch at the time and his lessons were quite valuable. Since then, I have no other mentorships besides my own mother. Mother has always been my mentor. We argue and debate a lot, but that is usually how I learn lessons from her. After all, her husband was a prisoner of war when she was only in her early 30's, took care of two young children through a war where most daughters were sold as prostitutes, and managed to find a path to take her child out of a communist world and bring them to a world of freedom, free speech, and free capitalist country. If mother is not my mentor, no one else can have that luxury to being my mentor. Everything else, my success, etc., has been my own learning curve, determination, and molding myself into the person that I've become.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I would say there are a number of female leaders that I do admire. In politics here in America, I am a fan of Hillary Clinton. I rooted for her to win nearly 8 years ago, and I would root for her again if she'll run for 2016. I am a registered independent. I was too young to vote for Reagan, but I would have. I voted twice for Bill Clinton, and I voted for John Kerry (ran against George W. but lost), and recently I voted for Hillary Clinton against Obama, and then the very last vote, for which I was too busy to send in, would have been for Mitt Romney.
As for corporate women leaders, I would love to meet Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Meg Whitman of HP (former CEO of eBay).
In addition, I will add the male leaders I do admire -- just something extra. Recently, I sent out a tweet that Marc Benioff is my new tech idol and I envy to follow in his footsteps. He is a billionaire and the CEO of Salesforce.com and he recently blasted other billionaires for being too stingy of not giving back enough. Prior to learning about Marc and what he believes, I envied Bill Gates through his work with the Bill and Melinda Gates' Foundation. Bill Gates recently drank a glass of water that was once human poop. I find these things fascinating and making billionaires like Bill Gates and Marc Benioff more human, that they're not from another planet or something.
What do you want Sqeeqee to accomplish in the next year?
While I do have many plans but I do leave everything to Faith. I am a faith believer and I believe God has the last saying of what or where Sqeeqee will be. I can only do what I believe is the right path for the Sqeeqee Ark, but the ultimate things will be up to HIM to decide. Obviously, I do have plans of which I don't usually share with anyone because I am also a strong believer in being jinxed. I've ran two successful companies before. I went from a welfare child to being a self-made millionaire at the age of 27. I am the only minority female to have founded two investment banks on Wall Street, a world dominated by non-immigrant males, nevertheless an immigrant female. I have weathered many storms and Sqeeqee just happens to be another one. I do love what I do. I have the drive and passion for it. It is not just a job, something on my to-do list, it is the O2 of who I am and what I live for.