Blogging about my entrepreneurial journey to strangers is quite intimidating. Because I'm dyslexic I make many simple grammatical mistakes, I constantly go back to reread and edit this blog. Plus, I'm afraid how judgemental people can be since my writing style and slight paranoia (it's an American thing) and humour is unique. Despite this fear and endless editing, I blog because I am not alone in the journey, I've come along way and want to inspire others that they too can achieve their dreams. So thanks you all for your support :)
Practice: my humble beginnings learning to socialise and network
I have a confession to make, I wasn’t as extroverted and sociable as I am now, I used to be shy and self-conscious when I met new people (really who isn’t!). I used to be envious of those that could enter a room and talk to everyone with confidence. I read novels about socialites gracefully hosting tea parties and charity events for high ranking officials and high society. At a young age I promised I would learn how tell interesting stories and be a great host one day. In my small town and tight-knit religious community I had few examples to learn how to network and socialise, and it wasn’t until I went to university that I was able to practice and join organisations where I would develop into the person I wanted to be. I joined and gain positions in my university student council, Black student union, I attended the ballet and symphony shows in Boston (discounted student rate), attend parties and events for students to “mix and mingle” with university administrators, alumni and leaders in the community, I volunteered and worked for the local city government, volunteered on political campaigns (Obama, Warren, Markey, and Kennedy), and studied French in Quebec for a summer where I discovered my love for traveling, and moved to Israel for my graduate studies and learn how to start a business. I still have a way to go, and Bangkok is the perfect metropolitan city that has allowed me to socially bloom.
Bangkok: social and networking opportunities
Since I have a lot more free time now I can attend more events and social activities. Though I’ve been in Bangkok for about 2 years I never been to any of the “chamber of commerce” like the British Chamber of Commerce of Thailand, American Chamber of Commerce of Thailand, Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce, etc (many countries have their own), until last week. So what exactly are these “Chamber of commerce of Thailand”? Well, each chamber promote commerce between their respective countries and Thailand and give legal and business opinions within their respective communities. Having membership to a chamber as a professional or business owner has many benefits and opportunities for promoting your business, personal brand, and staying connecting with your fellow countryman/woman. And last week, I went to the British Chamber of Commerce networking night and I met many interesting people (Brits have such a different sense of humour compared to Americans!). Essentially, I was able to practice talking about Healthy Hair Asia and why selling quality natural and organic hair products is a great business, that is not limited to women (Why are there always more men than women at networking events??). Great food, lot of people, few Aussies and Singaporeans, I’ll definitely be attending more of their events.
Aside from professional networking I fulfilled one of my childhood dreams by creating the Ladies Afternoon Tea Network, a group of amazing and busy businesswoman and entrepreneurs who get together once a month over tea to catch up, share, and leverage their network to help members. This wasn’t exactly planned, but came up as a fun idea over afternoon tea with two of my favourite girlfriends who are super busy and successful. There are so many fabulous tea houses in Bangkok, and getting together to genuinely catch up and share whats going on in our professional and personal lives is so much fun over tea and sweets! (will keep you updated).
Techsauce Global Summit Thailand Pitching & Roadshow 2017
Last Friday I went to the Techsauce Global Summit Pitching Road Show at Siam Discovery. I did sign up to pitch Healthy Hair Asia, and received an emailed 2 days before that I didn’t make the cut. I was a bit sad, but glad that I didn’t pitch because watching the 10 startups pitch I knew I had a lot of work to do. I do have a pitch deck, I have customers, and market research of the demand for natural, organic, and Halal products in SE Asia. But, I never practiced pitching in front a panel of judges and audience, which is quite intimidating. Overall, the startups were at passed the seed stage and had an amazing team of people (something I am working on building), and many pitched within the designated 5 minutes with questions from the judges. I didn’t stay until the end (I had another social event that evening), but I have a lot of work to do and excited that I was able to attend the road show. The Techsauce Global Summit will be July 28-29 with thousands on entrepreneurs, VC’s, angel investors, and businesses. Healthy Hair Asia will definitely be attending (may have a booth!) and if you are interested in buying tickets, you can email me for a special discount.
As always, thank you for reading!
Check out the pictures below: at TechSauce and British Chamber of Commerce networking!
My apologies for not writing last week, sometimes I like to take an extra week to have more to write about!
It takes more than hard work: Timing & little luck
I’ve learned early on in my journey it’s not just hard work, perseverance, and being able to take rejection well, will make you successful. What many people don’t like to admit is that timing and a bit of luck can make a huge difference in achieving your goals. And, if you read my earlier post about how I lost my wallet multiple times, despite my clumsiness, I left out how something always good came out it. Like when I lost my wallet for the first time after arriving in Israel, that was how I met my then-boyfriend, who was incredible supportive of me and we travelled all over Israel and Europe in his caravan. What if I never lost my wallet? Who knows? But I believe entrepreneurs have to put themselves in the right place and build a network to improve their chances of success! I know that most startups and businesses fail within 2-5 years but good timing and luck can make a hell of a difference when launching products in certain markets. Some entrepreneurs do work hard, have a great team, and have a great product, but the market or society may not be ready so they fail.
Hence why I moved to Israel to learn what it takes to start a business, traveled around SE Asia then settled in Thailand because the timing for building an online natural and organic haircare platform couldn’t be better. Back in the US, the market is saturated with organic and natural cosmetics and Amazon dominates the ecommerce space (look they just bought Wholefoods for $13.7 dollars, and they appear hell-bent on monopolising the ecommerce space and taking over retail,I cannot compete with that!) so I left to improve my chances of success.
Building a network: formal and odd places I’ve met incredible people
So last week I ended my blog post stating that I have an investor(s), for those in BKK I’ve told you directly and many have asked how? I think it’s an interesting story, but before I get into that, I just want to say that fundraising as an entrepreneur is one of the hardest things. There are many online platforms to connect entrepreneurs to Angel investors, venture capitalists (VC), even how-to guides and videos of how to do a kick-starter campaign. I’ve been building Healthy Hair Asia, after 3 pivots for about 1 year and I’ve tested the market, made a lot of mistakes, learned from mentors and my customers what it takes to make this business happen. I finally came up with a solid plan to show investors or VC’s that Healthy Hair Asia is scalable and with the right team and resources, the timing is perfect to invest in an online natural and organic hair shop with an all female logistics team that will provide excellent customer service and deliver to customers all over Thailand (and within 5 years all over SE Asia). Ok, now to the story!
So I met my investor when I first moved to Bangkok in 2015, at a Halloween party, at Maggie Choo’s at 1AM. If you’re ever in Bangkok and like live Jazz music, it’s a great place to check out. Anyways, so that night I dressed up as an 80s fitness instructor and was on a mission to go out and socialise as much as I could. I experienced huge culture shock (I went from Israel, a society that was very “chutzpah” and fast-paced, to Thailand, a society were maintaing “face” is everything and moved at a slower pace) so it took me a few months to adjust and learn how Thais and expats communicate and interact with each other. That night everyone was dressed up in some really cool costumes and I met a few entrepreneurs doing business in Indonesia, the Philippines, and other SE Asia countries just passing through for holiday. I was about to leave when this tall guy introduced himself and asked: “What are you?” I enthusiastically, did a high kick and explained that I’m an 80s fitness instructor! He laughed and asked if he could take me out to eat. I wasn’t hungry, and skeptical why some tall handsome stranger wanted to go out to eat at 1AM.
At first I said let’s meet tomorrow, like at an appropriate time, but living in Israel I learned to relax (I went hitch hiking and came out fine!) and go with the flow when it comes to meeting new people. He laughed and said what’s wrong with going out to eat so late? He had a point, Maggie Choos was in my neighbourhood and had the best street food, so we left, and went off to the night market on Silom Rd. The street market was closing up so we ended up eating at the 24 hours Sunrise Tacos Mexican Grill. Eating some yummy burritos, we got to know each other and talked about what we did for a living. At that time I was still doing Natural Hair Capital so I told him about how I wanted to connect the global natural hair community of bloggers, YouTubers, entrepreneurs, and academics with natural hair who have been discussing, sharing, and running businesses to educate each other on how to take care of their natural hair. And he shared his story, oldest of seven, worked in finance, and traveled back and forth between Europe and Bangkok for business. He was surprised by my ambitions (not in a sexist way, but more admirable way) and we decided to keep in touch. So for the last 2 years through polite persistence and demonstration of progress with now Healthy Hair Asia, he decided to invest. Still a long way to go, will keep you updated!
Meeting Michael Waitze ,VC and co-founder of of Asia Tech Podcast at AKIN ASIA Breakfast Network
Bangkok is quite an international city with many meet up groups and business networking groups, so over the last 2 years I’ve learn how to navigate the social and professional scene (still a long way to go). But many events, I rarely come across investors and/or VC (I believe they are hiding lol).
Earlier this month I attended AKIN ASIA breakfast network at one of their monthly early morning breakfast meetings. I was skeptical at first because, who has the time to attend an 8AM event before heading to work? Well I did (I’m not working now), and since I’m an early riser I was happy to dress up and meet some new people over a nice breakfast. So, having no expectations, I arrived at the event to a group of about 12 people, mostly women, and the founder had us introduce ourselves, our projects, and specifically ask what we wanted to get out of this meeting. Before it was my turn to introduce myself, the man sitting next to me introduced himself as Michael Wiatze, and acknowledged his privileges as a Caucasian American male, with a successful career in finance, co-founder of Asia Tech Podcast, and most importantly was passionate about helping female founders and startups. Now the whole time he was talking, I couldn’t help laugh to myself (and a bit out loud) “What are the chances of me as a female founder sitting next to this man??” Plus, the timing couldn’t be more perfect, the universe definitely favours me!”
So throughout the breakfast we talked about the scalability of my business, natural and organic hair care in SE Asia, and my next moves for building Healthy Hair Asia. I’ve learned the importance of balancing my time so I did turn my attention to other women at the event, who worked in non-profits, ran their small business, or leaving Thailand for better job opportunities. Waitze and I had a follow-up meeting later in the week (I was super nervous!) and talked for exactly 1 hour, about realistic steps for building Healthy Hair Asia and shared my website on his platforms. The best thing out of the meeting, was when I gave him samples of shampoo bars, which he absolutely loved, and suggested I hand out my business cards along with the shampoo bars. I took that advice and within two days printed my business cards and used rubber bands to attach to my shampoo bars. And for my curious readers, if you want to learn more about the meeting with Waitze and I, listen to his podcast Asia Tech Podcast: Featuring Female Entrepreneurs from the Bangkok Breakfast Network! He talks about Healthy Hair Asia and other female entrepreneurs in Thailand. It’s quite humbling to hear my small project be discussed on a podcast!
I’m not working, so what am I doing?
I begin working as a nursery school teacher in Thong Lo (will disclose more details later) in July, so right now I am attending many networking events, selling products, preparing for Techsauce Global Summit Thailand Road Show (Friday June 23 I’ll be pitching my business!), and a few expos. Last week I attended the 6th Thailand e-Commerce Day 2017 at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center. Though most of the talks were in Thai, I stayed to hear the CEO of Orami, Anne Belveze discuss online shopping and catering to female shoppers, and of course give her my business card and sample of shampoo. I also attended Propak Asia 2017 exhibition at Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre, which hosted hundreds of companies from around the world selling machinery—mixers, processors, pourers—materials, packaging, and virtually everything to build a factory. Now, 2-3 years from now I hope to build a small factory so I can make my homemade products to serve customers all over SE Asia. And what I got from attending the expo was learning what types of machines and capital I would need to make my Aloe Vera & Green tea mix or Avocado & Banana Super Hair Mask and other homemade hair products. As for now, working in my kitchen using my blender and running to Chinatown for packaging is good enough. www.bitec.co.th/default-en.html
Stay tuned, my next post I will write about my pitching at TechSauce Road Show at Siam Discovery!
Listen and subscribe to the podcast!
Check out our new business cards! And pictures from the E-commerce Day and ProPak Asia
Looking for a teaching job is tiring
Being an entrepreneur is like being on a roller coaster, there are so many ups and downs all the time, and sometimes I question myself if I’m doing the right thing. Since returning back to Bangkok, I’ve been job hunting for an English teacher job, not quite there yet to work on Healthy Hair Asia full-time :( and you know what sucks? Looking for a job. It's exhausting, but I keep positive and think about it like I have sell myself and skills to potential employers. Here it’s not just your resume they evaluate but also your appearance, personality, and experience, Luckily for me, I have 2 years of teaching experience and my Au Pair adventure in China has made me an interesting candidate for pre-school and kindergarten positions. Now my goal to continue my teaching career is to teach at an international school, which is highly competitive in Bangkok.
Fortunately for me, creativity and positive attitude has prepared me for this emotional week, I started unemployed and uncertain, and ended up with so much more! Before I tell you my good news I want to take you through my interesting week.
The story of how I got my first job
Not sure if you know the story of how I got my first teaching job, but when I first came to Thailand back in 2015 I landed my job after some wise advice from the Thai hostel workers who told me: “If you want a teaching job, you have to walk into schools, don't waste your time emailing people.” And that’s what exactly I did, after 1 week living in a hostel in the Sathon area (sadly it went out of business) I got dressed up, printed out copies of my resume, and gave myself a pep talk in the mirror, and left with a list of schools to “walk into.” Now in Bangkok, there are schools everywhere, initially I thought I could work in a university so I went to 3 different universities and a few schools hidden deep in the Soi (street), with no luck. In fact, at one university I accidentally walked into a graduation ceremony! So, I returned back to my hostel devastated and prepared for day 2, but this time I would go to primary and secondary schools. I asked the front desk worker if there were any schools in the area, he enthusiastically said yes and gave me directions. Now, if you don’t know already, I have no sense of direction (without a map). So I got a bit lost, and I asked a nun on the street if she knew where the primary school was located. I eventually found the school, but the guard at the gate led me past the primary school and to the high school (I didn’t know this at the time). So I walked in and with my simplest English asked the Thai grounds keepers where was the English department and they mime to me to go straight. Walking into an empty building I came across a woman (the Head of the English Department), and asked, is the school looking for an English teacher?” She smiles wildly and said yes! 2 weeks I performed my demo interview, and had to return back to the school to learn if I landed the job, which I did, and was offered not only a job but also housing (very rare) in an awesome neighbourhood, and the rest is history.
What’s interesting about this story is the timing, I came to Bangkok during the October school break so when I started teaching I began at the beginning of the second semester. Second, living in a hostel (for 3 weeks) in Sathon, I only stayed in that hostel because I met someone in Hong Kong who referred me to that hostel, which turned out to be in a great neighbourhood littered with schools. Third and most importantly, the Head of the English Department was Filipino-Thai (by marriage). I don’t want to get too political, but in the teaching profession in Thailand, Filipino teachers are not as valued as Western teachers, thus paid less and are mostly hired as assistant teachers, especially if they have dark skin. So, in my case, being bubbly Black American female looking for a job, I think she empathised and convinced the HR and Academic head to hire me and “stand for me” in case the staff or parents (yes parents are prejudice, that is why schools are careful who they hire) had a problem.
Image conscious employers: “we’re not racist it’s our customers”
What makes job hunting outside the US so emotional is that employers can openly discriminate against potential employees. For example, for teaching nearly all schools state teachers have to have passports from US, UK, NZ, AU, or SA, which I guess works in my favour, but some schools do have a preference for Caucasian teachers. So job hunting as a Black female American teacher what I have going for me is my US passport, B.A. degree, my gender, my slim figure and attractive face, and of course my fun personality and creativity. The fact that I’m Black with locs, does work against my candidacy, but not a nail in the coffin, I just have to be very well-groomed.
Interview with EP at Thai School: Can I be honest, can you be well-groomed?
The Thai school year has already begun but I got a job interview with an English Program at a Thai school whose teacher left during vacation and didn’t come back (it happens here a lot). The best way for teachers to find jobs is this popular website, ajarn.com and in the past I’ve used it with little luck, until I did got an email (quite rare) asking if I could come in for an interview. The school was not in an ideal location but I went anyways and met with the principal, a tall, colourfully dressed, South African Caucasian woman. Like Americans, South Africans have their ways of categorising people, so as she explained the school she explained that all the teachers are Western and there are “White South African male teachers” Americans, Brits, one “South African Coloured female” teacher, and the Filipino teachers were all assistant teachers. Even further, female teachers have to be very well groomed, especially the older ones despite their qualifications and experience, because young female teachers are favourable. Shocking? No, this is Thailand, appearance really, REALLY matter, even female street vendors in the sweltering hot sun wear makeup! So, after I was invited to do a demo interview she set me aside and asked if she could be honest with me, which I definitely welcomed.
“Angela, I like to hire female teachers because they have the female touch that men don’t have, your slim, your natural in the classroom, however you are Black, you have dreadlocks. I need to know if you can keep well groomed, so if there are any problems I can protect you from the parents and the staff. I don’t have a problem, in my country you look like any other Black girl, but here at this school, parents pay a lot of money to send their children and have certain expectations of what their teachers look like. It’s out of ignorance, it’s not personal.”
I was not offended at all by this conversation because I understand the reality of living and working in Thailand. So, I politely explained that I do maintain my own hair I will keep very-well groomed, and I look forward to hearing back from her about my candidacy.
And I did. She emailed me that I didn’t get the job, but was positive with my charm and skills I will land somewhere. And I did.
My dream job at an international kindergarten
I got a job as a nursery teacher at an international kindergarten in the best neighbourhood in Bangkok. Not an easy feat, but to prepare for this interview, I went above and beyond by illustrating my own book (pics below) of “under sea life” for my demo interview. One of my activities while I was an Au Pair I would draw pictures of our weekly adventures while my student describe what we did. So I have pictures of us going to the zoo, to space, at a construction site, and under the sea. Is that a bit much? No, because one of my favourite aspects of being a teacher is the ability for me to use my creativity.
So, this upcoming fall I will be working as a nursery teacher, teaching 3 year olds. I’m super excited because the school is really beautiful, follows an American creative curriculum, and the pay and benefits are a lot better than my last school.
A lot of exciting things are happening behind the scenes of Healthy Hair Asia, we will be participating in some tech event competitions and we found an investor(s)!