My Entrepreneurship Journey
When life gives you lemons - make lemonade and sell them.
Growing up in New Zealand, I was always thinking about how to do things better and what I could do to improve my lifestyle and have the freedom to choose just that. It all started from my years in college when I used to charge students for helping them with their homework and school projects. My fee ranged from NZ$1 per student per homework, to a mince n cheese pie, ice-block, choc-chip cookies from the school tuck-shop. It was fun and rewarding at the same time. They get their school projects completed on time - I get my $1 fee, pies, ice-blocks and cookies which I used to love.
Remember those squared floppy disks back in the days - we used them to store our files and saved documents. It was frustrating when some of them with important files would corrupt and then had to start all over again. So I started my first small business idea as part of a university project back in 1992. I was looking for a new way to solve this problem about floppy disks and finding new ways to save files and backups efficiently and safely. This was at the time when the flash-drives were newly introduced by a Chinese businessman into the NZ market. That business idea was awarded as the most profitable and fast growing small business that year.
Things started to get better. I decided to grab the opportunity and ran with it. I teamed up with a good friend at uni DJensen and went into legitimate business as partnership. Long story short - USB4U Ltd imported computer peripherals from China and distributed them throughout New Zealand to colleges, universities, wholesales and retailers. We took our business project all around NZ conducted USB presentations, delivered trainings on how to use the products, and sold our products just like that to schools, government ministries, private organisations, computer wholesalers and retailers. At this time we were both studying par-time, working on our small business and took on other day jobs to compliment for our expenses for traveling and communication. As you can imagine - this was a full on schedule for two friends under 20 years old and we thought we would rescue the world with all our exciting ideas. We were optimistic, young risk-taking, and passionate about doing business and making money.
After a year of trading we were not satisfied with how little we knew about our products and manufacturers, so we decided to travel to China and Hong Kong to where our products were being manufactured and meet with them in person. This was very exciting for us. At this point and time in China the life of an entrepreneur finally settled on us - other internal and external factors started to influence our decisions, and I quickly realised I was going to be 'Ms Chief of Everything' with the help of Jensen (if Jensen is going to be available in time of need). And from that point on if we wanted to continue and grow our small business at a young age with minimal capital investment, time was everything - we had to get our priorities right.
My small business investment and journey then was very challenging, yet very exciting and rewarding. We applied what we learned from our studies to real life business - both with a Business Accounting, Management, and Law background. I realised we needed more than that to run our business smoothly.
We had to learn things the hard way, and this was followed with us calling it quit closing the doors to our small business after four years.
Running my own company had taught me some real life valuable lessons that I still hold them dear to my heart today. Being in business can be a lonely journey - I have learned the importance of reaching out and seeking professional help when you are in business because we do not know everything. If we had done that and know what we know now - I think we would have been saved and on a different path.
"Failure has made me stronger, wiser, knowledgeable person - always willing to reach out and help other entrepreneurs and those in need of advice and support. It has changed my life and the person that I am for the better".
I have never looked back since and I took on the lessons learned and applied them in everything I do. At the same time truly appreciating and embracing the positive transformations that life has blessed me with.
My parents (especially my mum) taught me integrity and independence in life. Even though at the time my family (parents, sister and brother) were very supportive of my crazy entrepreneurship journey - I was determined to make it out on my own so I could truly appreciate what I had received. I've learned all the characteristics and qualities of life from my parents at home. That, I will treasure, will never forget, and forever grateful for.
From Cleaning to The Corporate Life
At the time it made me believe in the concept that small businesses are the driving force and engine of growth in New Zealand, Pacific Regions and the whole global economies. Because my income from my small business then was not stable, I had my baby son short after - I decided to get a 'real job'. So I took on any vacant post that was available to me at the time.
I joined a warehouse in Parnell Auckland packing orders to go, and cleaning the floors, windows. Although the job was less than glorious, I loved it because I got paid a few cents more per hour than the staff at the counter selling pies at Georgie Pie.
The thought of having lunch at Georgie Pie across the road from the warehouse was a big ask of my very limited budget.
Then I moved to the Auckland airport to work for a Rental and Campervans company - cleaning cars and campervans getting them ready for the people with money to hire them. Long distance travelling from our family home in Grey Lynn to Auckland airport became an issue. I decided to find something close by home. I joined a Bakery/Grocery Store on Surrey Crescent cleaning, stocking taking, customer service, selling, etc. I loved this job because I had a very good boss (who spent time to talk with his staff about his business and I kept asking questions after questions about his business). As staff we also got a choice of a steak n cheese pie and a drink, or ice-cream and a cookie for a meal at work - very generous indeed.
Then I upgraded myself to a driving job (yay!) because I got tired of cleaning and packing and I wanted to see more of the country and get to know what other like-minded people like me out there are doing to make a living. Flying on the airplane was never going to happen as I could not afford it at the time, so I secured a courier driver's job delivering automotive parts for one of New Zealand's biggest autoparts company. I loved this job because I got to spend time with my son, got paid at the same time and saved money to return to uni and complete my study. I drove my way through Auckland up to Northland and down to Wellington. The people I met and businesses I delivered goods to were just overwhelming for me. I would spend good few minutes at the companies where I found that I would like to be them one day and talk with them.
My son was growing up, I could now afford to put him in DayCare so I could return to study during the day. At the same time I still needed to work to keep everything going in harmony. I secured an evening part time job at Pizza Hut close by to our home and started cleaning again, then customer service - sold pizzas over the counter, and filled in for drivers who did not turn up to deliver pizzas to customers. We had pizza for dinner at home every other night now - my son loved pizza and I could afford a pizza this time round - Yay!
Being a mum, worked part time and studied part time, and basically had no life were the choices and sacrifices I had to make then. At the back of my mind - my goal was to make a difference - get a better life and help others to do the same. I knew I would find something better - I knew I would do something better - I knew I would have a better lifestyle. I knew it is only a matter of time. I believed in myself every step of the way regardless of the mixed influences from the outside. I stayed focus doing what I love and enjoy.
After studying and having held various part time jobs - I have grown and grown every step of the way. I landed my first Corporate office job as Office & Accounts Manager for Ford Group of Companies. I could not have been happier here - excellent leadership and great people to have worked with. Here, once again I learned about the appreciation of giving, receiving, and hard working. I found myself get drawn into asking lots and lots of questions and getting along side CEOs and managers learning the drill of doing and managing a company. I met a mentor with wealth of knowledge and skills within the company whom I have worked with since (even when I left the company). I was determined to learn as much as I could and be the best that I could ever be because I knew what it was like to have scrubbed and clean floors and cars, sold pizzas, and delivered goods in rain and shine all over the place with very little and no money.
I later found in my Corporate journey about this real satisfaction in making decisions. I was no longer looking for jobs - I was deciding which job I wanted to do, who I would like to work for, and what are my priorities - my family was important to me. I wanted to put my son through college to do better than I did. I wanted to own my own home, and to go back to running my own business, drive a decent car, travel the world and simply enjoy life with my family and friends.
A New Life and a Simple Lifestyle
After 15 years of being in the International Corporate world, held senior positions in Accounting, International Sustainable Development Projects, Manufacturing, Real Estate, Facility Management, and Tourism - I decided it was time to do my own thing and enjoy life a bit more. I have also traveled the world (Europe, Asia, South America and around the Pacific Regions) in some of those senior positions I've held and also for leisure. I have achieved my goals I have set for a home in NZ, a decent vehicle, traveled the world, and still kept my family and loyal friends close to my heart even though I did not see them as much as I wanted. I extended my service through Kiva.org for 8 years now, assisting disadvantaged entrepreneurs in under-developed countries; Philippines, Cambodia, Nepal, Lao, Samoa to name a few by helping out to alleviate poverty by lending a helping hand through small loans.
That's when LL Consulting Limited was born in 2010 due to having experienced the shortfall in the small business sector and what it could have provided for disadvantaged entrepreneurs to make a difference in their lives. LL Consulting was established with the purpose to help disadvantaged entrepreneurs/owners to achieve outcomes by building capability in the small business sector to enable owners to build and grow sustainable and resilient businesses. Having build-up my company in NZ, I also learned that I have to market it for it to be successful.
Knowing that I needed some help with marketing, I hired an internet marketing professional. Within few months, I realised that their company was taking my money and doing nothing valuable in exchange, so I fired them. I decided to learn internet marketing myself, within few months, I think I became good at it. Besides using the social media, I started building and developing my own website, and help other entrepreneurs by building and designing standard business websites for them so they too can all share the same opportunities that the global online marketing world is offering on the business arena.
My change of career, lifestyle and passion to reach out - saw my journey making its way back to my homeland - Tonga with a vision to keep on sharing my dream and help like minded entrepreneurs and owners to grow their small businesses, give back to our community thus contributing to our economy. I saw the need for it. This move was a real eye-opener for me, it made me appreciate the small things in life.
My business has always been entrusted with what is important to me - team work, good communications, good people skills and being transparent within. And with the lacking of good communication skills and channels to fit my need here - it has seen me re-igniting my passion for writings here in Tonga amongst all other things.
I believe that LL Consulting is my tool to mapping a pathway to achieving my short and long term goals simply because of two reasons: not only does it solve unique problem that enough businesses are experiencing, but it does so in a very simple way.
It is still slow developing here in Tonga but I believe we'll get there some day with your support.
With my new found knowledge, and still have more work to do. I am spending my time working on creating my dream company. I wish I had a crystal ball that could tell me what the future holds for me, but I don't have one.
Luckily enough, I made a little bit of money from my previous work-life and investments, and I have been able to leverage that into my business activities today, thanks to my family, and best of all - my best friend/soul mate/mentor/my loving partner - Neil Jones whom we adorably share four beautiful grown-up children and a grandson between us. I hope my investments will pay off so that I can continue to do what I am doing and not work for anyone else.
Over the next few years, my number one goal is to share what I have learned with you so that you can have an even better life than I do.
Although I love being an entrepreneur, sadly I don't think I 'll be able to do it forever. I probably have few more good startups in me, but after that, I want to focus on the non-profit world. You see, I was born with a gift...ha ha. My hope is I can take that gift and help non-profits get enough entrepreneurs so that people like you can help change more lives.
I hope my story inspires you to do something with your life. You don't have to be rich to be happy. You just need to love what you do.
Best of luck with your entrepreneurial career. And feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.
Be crystal clear on your priorities
“As an entrepreneur, your number one challenge that you’ll have to face every single day is how you spend your time. After all, you’re the CEO or “Chief of Everything” officer of your business, your family and your household! And since human cloning still isn’t legal (cross your fingers), you’re still the one responsible for making sure things get done.
“You can bet you’ll be pulled in multiple directions constantly. That’s a given. Don’t be surprised by it! You have to plan for this, accept it, and decide to truly own how you spend your time. So go ahead and get clear on your top priorities—things like your health, your family and your business. Spend your time on those things. And be ruthless about saying no to everything else that the neighbour, the PTA, the women’s club and soccer coach ask you to do. Create a routine so you know when you’ll get your priorities done. Set clear boundaries, share them with the family, friends and clients, and most importantly: stick to them.
I truly believe that how we spend our time as entrepreneurs totally determines how happy we are with our lives!”