Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Masami Moriya, Founder of Strong Asian Lead, located in Los Angeles, CA, USA.
What's your organization, and who are your members?
We help Asian American storytellers navigate Hollywood to tell their stories authentically and jumpstart their careers. We also provide in-person events for studios to showcase their latest Asian American shows and movies.
Tell us about yourself
I started Strong Asian Lead because I knew there needed to be a better system for learning about Asian American Hollywood and holding space for conversations around Asian Americans in media. What motivates me each day is the people who come up to me and tell me how much they don't know about the history of Asian American entertainment. They see themselves empowered with great responsibility and a new light on how to go about their careers.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Our biggest accomplishment is connecting with big studio networks and providing them space to partner with us. We've also put on 4 in-person events in the past 5 months, which have all been a success. The guests who attend feel grateful for the space to meet other creatives and feel safe to be fully Asian American.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The hardest thing I struggle with is being able to financially support the work while growing the work. We've been able to provide and accomplish so much, but all the funds are supported by the freelance work I do elsewhere. As a non-profit, we don't make money, and without grants and individual donors, we have no way to support ourselves. But to see how much we're needed and wanted in contrast to how much we can financially continue to support ourselves is very difficult.
We also find it very difficult to keep volunteers on board. Yes, it's volunteer work, and we understand that everyone has to work their jobs to keep their heads above water, but as the founder of the business, I'm also a volunteer and still doing my other work. It's frustrating to have volunteers sign in one day and sign out the next week.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Branding is key. Get your color pallet. Get a good graphic designer. Think about the story of your logo and the name of your company. Build a website no matter what. These are the front page of your business, and the first thing people look at when they hear about you.
- Find your mission statement. For-profit and non-profit organizations all have a mission. When you have a mission for the good of a community, this will help you get recognized because you're doing good for someone else besides yourself. Find a community that you can talk about and care about. TOMS used to give free pairs of shoes to Africa. That's how they got popular. Think about what your company will do to give back.
- Be your company brand. You are your company. If you build a company because you see a market and you just want to capture the market, you might find money, but you also might find yourself struggling to relate to your business. The best businesses these days have a personal relatability to it, and those founders are the face and soul of that company. Anyone can build a restaurant, but if you can't see yourself in the food and tell a really compelling story, then you're not doing good for your company or your customers; you're just doing it for the money. Embrace who you are, which will become the company and an extension of yourself. That way, you get to make money and help people while doing the thing you already loved to do.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Get started now. Just put it on a piece of paper. Put out into the universe with your idea and see who wants to work with you. If you start now, in 5 years, it can be something. But if you don't start now, in 5 years, you'll be exactly where you are. I'm only 2.5 years in, and I've tried to quit and stop so many times, but each time I do, something else pulls me back in. I'm unable to quit even if I tried.
But now, people are looking at what we're doing and offering us things I thought we wouldn't be able to do for years. Just try what you want to do and see what happens. You're going to fail, so you might as well fail when nobody knows who you are than trying to be famous and failing then. Make a bad recipe. Try something out of your grasp. There's always room for improvement, but the first step is giving it a go.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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