My Hard Knock Life as an Entrepreneur in New York

Here’s the hard truth about being an entrepreneur: it’s lonely, and you’ll fail over and over again. As an entrepreneur, you have your ups and downs. In the moments that your family see or hear about your downs, their immediate reaction may be, “why don’t you get a 9-5 job?” You’ll lose friends and find yourself in situations outside your comfort zone.

At the same time, the way you look at the world changes and there’s something inside you, an obsessive force, that keeps pushing you to pursue your dreams.

That’s exactly what happened to me. When I graduated college I had no idea what I wanted out of life. I picked a marketing major and minor in computer graphics because my friends told me it was easy. Securing a job after college was scary because it meant you’re officially inducted into adulthood with real responsibilities.

I found a job working in New York City’s infamous diamond district, selling diamonds wholesale. I worked with diamond manufacturers and diamond mining companies. The job was supposed to be a layover job till I found something I really wanted in marketing. But I ended up in the industry for over sixteen years. Then moved onto selling advertising in NYC. In my 19+ years of working on other people’s dream, there was always this yearning to start my own business.

No matter which company I worked for I was unhappy and had a difficult time connecting with my co-workers. As a result, I got really good at getting fired from many of my jobs. Eventually, I lost everything: my savings, my NYC apartment, friends, I mean everything. But it was in my darkest and most desperate moments that I learned about who I am.

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, I had three failed businesses. At one point I thought I wanted to be a life coach, came to find out I couldn’t take listening to people’s problems all day. I then decided to start a luxury concierge business catering to wealthy travelers, that never really got off the ground. Then I decided I wanted to help small businesses market their health and wellness brand. That didn’t turn into anything either.

It took a lot of soul-searching, sweat equity, and asking myself the hard questions. What was I good at? What makes me happy? What’s my passion? I spent time reading a lot of books from Brendon Burchard, Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Gabby Bernstein, Marianne Williamson, Jim Rohn, Jack Canfield to name a few. I attended Tony Robbins events and took online courses by experts such as Amy Porterfield, Ramit Sethi, Don Miller, Jim Kwik and more. Then one day it magically made sense- everything just clicked.

I realized that I love connecting people to each other. It felt even better when most of the connections I’ve made had been fruitful. I wanted to do it on a larger scale with brands and businesses. One of my major strengths is strategizing whether it’s in marketing or branding. Now the question was how do I connect all these together to create a single business entity? What problem was I solving? Where will I find clients?

When I look back at all the companies I worked for, one thing kept coming up. All these businesses had a product and service to sell but they never created a human personality to their brands to connect with their human customers.

So just like that, my recent company The Chi Group was born. A global branding agency humanizing and co-branding brands working with businesses from fashion, events, food and beverage,  health and wellness, entertainment and more. I remember the moment when I acquired my first client, a major supermarket chain that was launching on the East Coast in US. That was when I thought to myself, “I can do this.” 

Now here are some tips for those who want to make it: you never really make it per say as an entrepreneur because every day you’re reinventing yourself. The key to being successful on this journey is to have the courage to take one small step then another one. It’s not enough to have the desire and will. Your actions will shape your life. There will be moments that it’s painful, not fun, but if you’re willing to make one small sacrifice in order to gain a lifetime of joy, it’s so worth it.

Your most powerful weapon is to know where to allocate your time and energy. If you’re looking to be an entrepreneur but spend most of your time shopping, eating, partying or scrolling through social media feeds, don’t expect to be successful. We’re all given the same 24 hours in a day, how you use it is your choice and it determines your success.

The best advice that I’ve ever gotten was, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.” It means ask questions and speak up. Because you’ll get answers. If no one hears you then there’s no way anyone can help you. Don’t be afraid to be curious, to use your brain, think outside the box because it’s in this space that creativity is born and life becomes vivacious.

(written by Connie Chi (@Connie_Chi_). Connie is the founder and CEO of The Chi Group, a NYC branding agency humanizing and co-branding brands through experiences. She’s also the host of The Brand Academy Podcast which talks about trends in branding and marketing, secrets to co-branding and brand strategies that can help you level up your brand.)

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