The Secrets to the Success of Jason Wong, Entrepreneur and Social Media Marketing Extraordinaire
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Wong, a first-year software engineering student at the University of California, Irvine, who has already founded three companies. In high school, Jason grew his Tumblr audience to 1 million + followers, during which time he learned about social media marketing. Leveraging his social media marketing expertise, Jason co-founded TrendyCo, an online apparel company, and founded Digital Youth Media, a social media marketing firm. Jason has worked with dozens of companies on millennial targeted campaigns. More recently, Jason cofounded FifthTee, an online apparel store that promotes animal welfare and donates 20% of profits to animal shelters. In our interview, Jason discusses the challenges associated with founding companies at a young age, shares the lessons he’s learned, and provides advice to aspiring young entrepreneurs.
Putri: How did your entrepreneurial experiences begin?
Jason: When I was a high school student in Toronto, I was interested in learning more about business, so I thought, why not start my own? I conducted a lot of research on the Internet to learn more about business, since I didn’t have previous business experience.
I built up a following on social media, because I needed an audience to determine what things were in trend and in demand. Then, I conducted mass surveys to determine what people wanted, but couldn’t buy anywhere. Initially, I invested $1500 on inventory to start TrendyCo. I tried to fill what was in demand, so that my inventory would quickly sell out. Then, I used the earnings to buy more t-shirts. I made $6000 from that round. With those profits, I continued to buy more t-shirts. Since my t-shirts interested people and were affordable, TrendyCo has been profitable.
Putri: How did TrendyCo grow?
Jason: Millions of people worldwide gained exposure to TrendyCo, because I allocated marketing funds toward social media influencers, rather than spend on promotions via the social media platforms themselves. Working with the social media influencers allowed me to negotiate more affordable prices, and gave me more creative freedom. I could shape my advertisements in a way that could best engage with their audience.
Eventually, I started my own social media marketing firm to connect social media influencers to businesses. As a result, I have access to hundreds of influencers on Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter, who can help promote my own brand. Then, I use this network to create buzz for TrendyCo products. Geared towards the right audience, marketing campaigns have accelerated TrendyCo’s growth.
Putri: What kinds of challenges do you face while working as a young entrepreneur?
Jason: Firstly, since I was 16-17 when I began, I was not old enough to start a company, open bank accounts or sign legal documents. These issues were easily overcome- I opened the business under my mother’s bank account and name.
Secondly, people were less likely to believe in me, because of my age. People will dismiss your ideas because you’re in high school, young and inexperienced. However, at that age, there’s minimal risk associated with starting a business. When you’re living at home, your parents can provide you with free housing, support, and help with legal process. If the business doesn’t succeed, you’re still protected.
Putri: What are the most rewarding experiences you’ve had as an entrepreneur?
Jason: It’s extremely rewarding to see your efforts grow! When I hear people talk about TrendyCo, see my t-shirts being worn, it feels incredible to know that I’ve created something tangible from what was once an idea. Watching the company grow has been surreal.
Putri: What sorts of lessons have you learned?
Jason: I’ve learned a lot of lessons. Here are some of the top ones:
- Think long and hard about who your business partner is- avoid having your best friend or your family member as a partner. Just because they’re a good person doesn’t mean you can be good business partners. Instead, pick partners based on their skills. What do they bring to the table that can complement your skill set?
- Money management. As a teenager, a thousand dollars can be very overwhelming and you may not know what do to with it. When you start earning some money, don’t immediately increase your spending to unsustainable heights. Instead, start saving some money. Your income can be unstable and unpredictable, so learn to save.
- A golden time for entrepreneurship is when you’re 16-17. Your parents provide you with food, a roof over your head, all the basic needs; you have opportunities to make mistakes and those mistakes won’t mean you end up homeless and starving. So, if your business fails when you’re 16, there are minimal consequences. Furthermore, you can apply the lessons you’ve learned from that experience to your next startup. However, if your business fails when you’re 40, when you have a family to take care of, the consequences may be more serious.
- Time is money, as cliché as it is. Manage your time well.
Putri: Are there any resources that you’ve used to help you? What were some of the extracurricular activities in high school/ university that had helped you become a young entrepreneur?
Jason: Firstly, I asked various people for their opinions on my work and consulted teachers and adults.
Secondly, I joined DECA, which was especially helpful. DECA is a business organization that hosts a business competition for students. By competing in DECA, I learned how to create business and marketing plans, and met incredible people who inspired me. My fellow competitors understood what I was going through, and provided advice on what my next steps should be, how to execute my plans, and even motivated me to persevere when I wanted to give up.
Putri: Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Jason: Always have a backup plan. You need to be brutally honest with yourself and realize that even your best, carefully laid out plans may not work out as your wish.
It’s also important to be open-minded, when you receive advice. We know so little, and even less when we’re starting out. We may think that we’re right, but we could be completely wrong. So, listen to feedback from your customers and carefully consider advice from others in business.
Putri: Thank you very much for your time and a fantastic interview!