When I began my journey as an entrepreneur, I was told to start a blog.
By having a blog, I could document my journey, build a personal brand, distinguish myself from my competitors, and it would help me build my storytelling skills.
After all, as an entrepreneur you have to "sell" not only your product, but your brand to customers, investors, and VC's.
If no one is writing about you, best that you start out writing about yourself and company.
I was scared, because I wasn't so confident with my writing, and it took me a long time to figure out how to simply explain my startup, tell my story, and what exactly was particularly special about me as an entrepreneur.
Many think, that for entrepreneurs it's enough to have a good idea, but from my experience exploring different startup ecosystems, talking with key influencers, Angel investors, Venture Capitalists, Corporate Venture Capitalists, and other entrepreneurs, people invest in an entrepreneur they believe that can build an idea.
Not just the idea only. And if I wanted an investment, having a blog where I could practice building my personal brand and storytelling skills was essential.
So over the last 4 years, I've created different blogs where I wrote about my products, tech events, my life as an entrepreneur, and startup ecosystems that I explored.
It took about 3 years for me to find my voice as a blogger and a personal style that is honest, provoking, and personal that set me apart from the crowded blog space.
But the world has changed a lot in the last 4 years. Blogging may have once been something popular, and I still believe is essential for new entrepreneurs to craft their storytelling and personal brands. However, people are getting more lazy to read, I admit as much as I love reading thought-provoking articles, books, posts, that visuals and shorter posts are more attractive. Plus when I'm working it's more practical for me to listen to YouTube videos and podcasts that inspire and empower me to keep on moving forward.
I would say that though I haven't monetized my blog, which I started to improve my writing skills, improve my storytelling and brand, I believe it's time to take on the challenge of mastering the art of podcasting.
I'll always be a writer at heart, and continue to write blog post to promote my journey, though now I'm turning my blog into a book, it's the right time now to get into podcasting.
After all, podcasting is now more popular than blogging, the space is not so crowded like blogging and YouTube (another platform I hope to get into once I master podcasting), and opportunity for me to share my unique experience and perspective of building a startup in a foreign land.
So, for the next few months I will be focusing my energy on podcasting. And will focus on telling the story of foreign founders building startups and businesses in Asia.
My podcast: Entrepreneur In A Foreign Land, so far I launched an intro. and my first episode, where I share my success and setbacks of building my startup in Thailand.
And, I have a list of foreign friends building their startups and business in Asia, that are happy to be featured.
I hope, over time with a lot of practice, more equipment, and more practice that I will become better at podcasting, and just as I successfully found my voice with blogging, I hope too that I find my voice and develop a style for podcasting.
You can listen to my introduction to my channel and my first podcast on Sound cloud: Entrepreneur In A Foreign Land
On September 25, 2017, I woke up at 3AM, turned on my laptop, and started writing my resignation letter to leave teaching position at an international kindergarten in Bangkok.
Why 3AM? Well, I was so excited because I was going to take my future in my own hands by working full-time on my startup.
It was the perfect teaching job, everything checked off on my list of teaching jobs to have:
great co-workers, the administration listened to teachers, my students were absolutely wonderful,
the parents very involved, I had a great salary, it was at an international school,
I had control over what I wanted to teach and be creative, and it was walking distance from where I lived.
This job though perfect, was perfect for someone that wanted to be a teacher.
A person that had no ambitions outside of teaching (plus who didn't mind working on their free time).
And that person wasn't me.
I got my start in Bangkok by teaching English, I used that skill to secure my ability to work and live legally in Thailand.
I knew the risks of leaving my job, but in this so called perfect job, I was miserable.
I always looked at the clock waiting to leave and focus on my startup and came to a point living a double life, teacher by day, entrepreneur by night and weekend.
Many people have to do this once they start building their own business, but I reached a point where I was so busy that I had to make a choice, and I secured my seed funding.
So I chose me and my startup.
Initially I was scared, but once I quit, everything changed, I entered a whole different chapter of my journey as an entrepreneur in a foreign land.
For a full story of my experience quitting my teaching job you can read my blog post: Leaving my teaching job to go after my dreams.
It's been a roller coaster of opportunities, failures, emotions, uncertainty, but I have zero regrets leaving my safe, well-paying job.
I saw the picture above on my Facebook timeline, it reminded me that 3 years ago I was Hong Kong International Airport, after a 12 hour flight from Tel Aviv to Hong Kong (with a layover in Doha).
I officially moved from Israel, September 14, 2015 to try my luck teaching English and building my startup in China.
So my plan was to spend 5 days in Hong Kong while I applied for a 10-year visa to enter China, and once there check out the school that offered me a teaching job.
If you don't know me at this point, I'm a planner a meticulous planner, even in chaotic situations, I always have a plan.
But of course, life has its own plans and this photo reminded me of that.
See, what many of you don't know is that I had my eyes set on making it in China.
But life not only had a different plan for me, but a completely different location to build my dream.
When I got to Chongqing, I realized wasn't Chongqing, China.
The school that offered me a job, via an agent, didn't disclose how isolating and far it was from the city of main city of Chongqing, 30 million people.
And how few foreigner teacher were in the school and in the suburb.
It was a bit traumatizing for me, to go from a country of 8 million people, to a city of 30 million people. I knew this was not going to work.
But I spent a total of 3 days at the school figuring out paperwork, and had to leave if I were going to apply for my Z-Visa (work permit).
One of the foreign teachers reached out to a teacher friend who recommend me to go to Bangkok, Thailand, because it was cheap and I wouldn't spend too much time and money while waiting for my Z-visa.
I didn't know much about Bangkok, other than that it was a Buddhist country, and from the movies I saw, The King and I, and The Hangover II (I know so ignorant).
So I packed my stuff, booked a flight, and left to Bangkok.
I arrived in Bangkok, absolutely fascinated.
The first thing I notice was pictures of the royal family everywhere, I saw buddhist, hindu, and Chinese temples, and monks in orange garbs on the streets.
I could smell fresh food being cooked and sold on the street markets, and as I was making my way to my hostel, tall shiny building, condos, and a sky train.
And I'll never forget the smiling and kind faces of people that I saw.
Okay, this was definitely an interesting city.
I planned to stay 2 weeks in a hostel, recommended by a fellow traveller I met while I was in Hong Kong.
And from there just explore Bangkok while I decided what I was going to do.
After 2 weeks I thought to myself, I really like this city, why should I have to go back to Chongqing?
Bangkok, I could get around independently, there was western food options, people were used to seeing foreigners, and it was a more young professional city.
After careful consideration, I decided that never again would I depend on someone else to find me a job (no agents!),
So if I was going to make it as an English teacher and entrepreneur I would have to find opportunities myself.
So I contacted the agent and school and told them I wasn't interested in taking the teaching job.
So back to square one.
I'll admit I was a bit scared, but with fear comes a new type of motivation :)
I started "Googling" teaching jobs Bangkok, and emailed my resume to a few schools.
And didn't hear back from anyone... so I asked the staff at the hostel how could I find a teaching job?
They told me that schools want to see their applicants, basically I have to go to the schools and apply in person.
And that's exactly what I did.
I was on a mission to find a job.
I printed and made several copies of my resume, passport, and carried my diploma and teaching certificate with me.
My first day job hunting I got dressed up, had a list of universities I wanted to see, and hoped into a tuk tuk to each university and school.
None were hiring.
And at one university I accidentally walked into the middle of a graduation ceremony!
I didn't know it was a graduation because the gowns looked different, but it was clear seeing all the parents, people taking pictures, balloons and decorations.
The next day, I asked the hostel staff if there were any schools nearby.
One person told me that there was a Catholic primary school not too far from the hostel.
So I got dressed, took a copy of my resume, and left.
I consider this day one of the most luckiest days of my life.
First, when I walked into the school, the guard directed me to the high school, not the elementary school (which I later learned didn't hire walk-ins).
And as I was walking into the high school I ran into one teacher, who I later learned was the Head English teacher.
I could see that she was surprised and excited to see me, because the school was looking for a native English teacher.
The timing couldn't have been any better because the school was on break so they were happy to to hire a new teacher to enter the upcoming semester.
So I got an interview about 1 week later, which went okay, and didn't hear back after she said that she'll email me (emailing is not popular I later learned).
At first I waited, got a bit depressed, then decided,why wait for an email to determine my future?
So I walked over to the school, and asked if they considered hiring me.
And not only did I get the job, I got housing!
There was no way I could have planned all of this!
Job, housing, and located in the center of Bangkok a vibrant city full opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Let's just say, this particular time in my life I constantly remind myself everything will work out when I'm in a tough situation.
With a job and housing secured I wanted to check out the startup scene.
It took awhile for me to find entrepreneurs, meet up groups, and key players in the Bangkok startup community, since I had no contacts, but once I found one, it was easy to find the others.
And once I got into my teaching routine I was experiencing a whole new culture shock.
After living in Israel, and adjust to being in an environment where people are extroverted, likes a good debate, and there's not much hierarchy in the work place, I had became very Israeli, and that didn't work in Thailand.
Thailand, was completely opposite.
So I "tone it down," kept my opinions to myself, and embraced a more "soft" approach to conflicts.
And after a year I eventually made my way as a teacher.
Now, as for my startup, I've failed, made several pivots, rebranded and finally had a break through discovering the demand for organic and natural hair products.
And and finding supportive meet up groups, key entrepreneurs, mentors, and advisors to help me navigate the Bangkok startup scene.
Over the next 2.5 years I've made friends, found a partner, found an investor, built my personal brand and blog, and the rest is history.
The Importance of Socializing
Charisma, you either have it or you don't.
It's a character trait that cannot be learned, but you know what can be learned, how to socialize ;)
Some people tell me I am charismatic and very sociable person.
However, what people don't know is that I wasn't always this way, it took years of practice, a lot of mistakes, and advice from friends how to network.
I'm about to write something really unpopular: from my experience people are more open to do business with you, mentor you, and help you (in the long-term) if they genuinely like you.
Now, this can be interpreted many different ways.
In short, because this is a whole different subject in itself, being liked, especially in Asia where business is all about relationships, being liked does open many doors and opportunities, especially if you're a foreigner and don't want to be take advantage of.
Being a Likable Entrepreneur
As for being sociable, becoming an entrepreneur, I didn't have much of a choice.
I am building a personal brand and selling cosmetics, which is very personal to people because looks are important (especially in Thailand), so when people buy my products, they are implicitly putting their trust in me to help them look beautiful.
When I first discovered the cosmetic packaging district in Bangkok, I went to many shops asking for a small supply of shampoo bottles and jars.
Here I was, an American girl with a big bun, so I stood out, starting my small cosmetic business. And most shops have factors, so they had a minimum order of packaging they would supply to buyers.
At that time I needed 12 units of packaging, and many didn't see it worth the effort so supply me this order.
Until I found this shop, and spoke to the owner and told him I was a teacher at Assumption Commercial College, and he automatically lightened up, because his son went to the Assumption elementary school (right next to my school at the time), and said he will make an exception for my small order.
And I'll never forget that day, as his son was at the shop and he got to practice his English with me by taking my order, writing a receipt, and thanking me for my business.
After attending so many events over the last 4 years, I gained a lot of practice networking and socializing with all types of people in different settings, like the startup community, NGO and non-profit community, political circles, fitness community, academic community, faith-based community, investment community, women empowerment circles, etc.
And you know what?
I discovered that I'm really good at a few things when it comes to networking:
1. Finding great events
2. Having a polite conversation with strangers
3. Connecting people in my network
And given that I thoroughly love to go to events, at some point I thought why not create my own events?
Small, professional, and purposeful events doing something that revolves around food (because Bangkok is such a foodie paradise, though I'm no food I do love sweets and tea).
So, connecting people, love for tea & sweets, and polite and purposeful conversation is how I came up with the idea of organizing high tea parties.
It Just Happened
Started last July over a lunch at the with friends who are all fabulous yet super busy, the venue was at the Park Hyatt, we were all impressed with the tea, location, and how nice it was for us to catch up.
We joked we should do this more often!
And that's when I thought? Why not, my co-organizer knew all the great places in Bangkok to have tea and a successful serial entrepreneur from Korea who knew a lot of other female entrepreneurs, and I was great with Facebook groups and attending many events (that we went together with), so we did it.
And as a team, our strengths complimented each other, but most importantly we were able to bring female entrepreneurs together .
The overall purpose of the tea party is to get female entrepreneurs together, catch up on life, business, and how we can help each other.
What's unique about Bangkok is that nearly everyone is an entrepreneur or had some kind of side hustle.
So people in our afternoon tea group had solid social and networking skills.
High Tea Party in the US?
Coming back to the US, I realized that many millennial, professional, and ambitious women in my network, don't exactly have the "entrepreneurial spirit" or networking skills or confidence to talk about their careers.
Maybe this is a difference in city life, culture, and type of industry, because in Bangkok, being an expat is hard enough so people do put more effort to connect with people and find opportunities.
In the states, people are more comfortable, stick to their circles, and don't mix so much....
I see this as a challenge and new meaning I could add with organizing tea parties at my home.
Because these days millennials have to be more creative, have several streams of income (hello student loans!), have some kind of personal brand (blog, YouTube channel, podcast) to have their resume stand out, and most importantly how to find opportunities by networking!
Since I don't live in the city any more (and it's too expensive to take the train to Boston), there are no tea houses in my small town (there is Starbucks and Panera Bread) I figure hosting high tea parties at my home to help people in my network is a great opportunity for me to continue doing what I love!
And my first tea party, after weeks of careful planning, re-connecting with people I haven't talked to in years, and having my mom cook vegan sweets for me, was a big success!
I look forward to organizing more tea parties and focus on educating my guess not only on networking, but financial planning, being an entrepreneur, and moving to Asia (because Asia is the future).
As always, thank you for reading!
And look forward to getting back to blogging every week!
Well, it's official!
Yummy Blair stickers are now available on the LINE sticker shop!
You can check it out here :)
Now, I consider this a big step forward, because creating stickers is quite an investment, talent wise and money wise.
I'm truly fortunate to have a talented design team that understands the importance of stickers and branding.
Initially I was hesitant even to share Yummy Blair, but I constantly got feedback to sell the stickers on LINE. So after a few weeks of convincing we got to work, created a variety of stickers, 24 in total (next set coming out soon), and I'm totally excited to share!
Many don't know, but making stickers are expensive. All those stickers people use on LINE or other communication apps, like WeChat, takes time and money to create.
This sticker shop is no small feat, and was my 2nd largest investment. So I encourage you all to buy :)
So what's next?
I'll be blogging "here and there" so I can focus my energy on writing my book.
I have over 4 years of notes, journal entries, videos, and memories I'm still going through, and it takes time to organize and put together.
Rereading my diaries, brings back fun and some painful memories, and I want to write a witty and fun book to inspire, inform, and share my experience traveling and building my startup in a foreign land.
This is a big moment for me and would love to hear your feedback on my stickers :)
Thank you for reading!
Blogging has enabled me to find my voice, improve my writing, and share the good, the bad, and ugliness of entrepreneurship.
I've come full circle with this chapter in my life, first starting in my childhood bedroom with an idea for a startup.
And after 4 years of traveling the world, I'm back home, in my childhood bedroom where it all started.
But this time, with a wealth of knowledge and experience that would be better expressed in a book.
Yes, friends, I am writing a book, because I have a great story to tell :)
Disclaimer: If you're American, a feminist, politically sensitive, and never lived or travelled long term abroad, you will be offended by this post. So "reader discretion" is advised :)
Opinion vs. Experience
I haven't lived in the US for 4 years, so I've changed and evolved since living abroad.
I know, some of you may think "people don't change" well I have.
Anyone can have an opinion, shaped by what they read and watch, by where they live and who their friends are.
But then, there are experiences, which can be very rewarding and expands one's perspective.
Disclaimer: I can't write a universal perspective of what it means to be a successful entrepreneur, let alone a in a foreign land, because everyone has a different experience, and journey. But there are some hard truths that I discovered in my journey, that I share on my blog that upset a few people.
I'm back in the US, living at home, and I want to continue the discussion from my last post about the 3 types of entrepreneurs I've met.
If you haven't read it, read it HERE.
Why People Disagree?
Now I expected disagreement, because not everyone neatly fits into those 3 categories.
And I recognise I have limited experience as an entrepreneur, in a foreign land, because I'm not married, I don't have children, I'm heterosexual, and I've never worked in the corporate world.
However, people are certainly uncomfortable reading about social class, wealth, and how their private relationships and wealth influences their success.
What is wrong with analysing your supportive network, and admitting how people and wealth contribute to your success?
Because even the most successful entrepreneurs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerburg, give credit to their spouses, family, friends, employees, teachers, and mentors who have helped them along the way.
The essential point of my last blog post was that no one can do it alone.
Everyone gets some kind of help.
My Current Situation
I'm going home. I didn't plan to go home until Thanksgiving. But, I'm out of options of supporting myself and my startup. So I'll be in the US for a few months.
As for my incredible job opportunity, as a Community Manager at an accelerator, the bureaucracy of hiring a foreigner in Thailand (for every foreigner a company must have 4 Thai's, unless it has a BOI), is too costly.
Am I disappointed?
Yes, because it would have been the perfect job.
But, this experience has taught me I'm a valuable asset in the local startup ecosystem and at home I could use my expertise of the startup ecosystem in Asia to find another job.
However, the greatest lesson I've learned living as an entrepreneur in Thailand is that
there're are only 3 ways to be an entrepreneur in a foreign land.
I'm back in Bangkok. I no longer live in Sukhumvit, and moved back to Sathorn, my old neighbourhood. I'm living in a hostel, starting all over. How did I get here? Is all hope lost? Not exactly. Because this time, I'm starting over on my own terms.
Three years ago, when I first came to Bangkok, it was supposed to be temporary. I wasn't supposed to stay longer than 2 weeks, as I was planning to return to teach English in China. But the longer I stayed, I fell in love with Bangkok, from the food, ease of getting around the city with the Sky Train, and a lot of people spoke English.