Keep your eye on the end vision and keep going. Everyone has a different version of success, but defining what your version looks like will help you keep going during hard times. Even if it seems like a far-off idea, that idea planted within you is meant for you to cultivate and bring to life. By keeping the end vision in mind, you’ll stay more focused in your actions, and your journey to greatness will bring more magic than you could imagine.
Being a founder, entrepreneur, or business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur” we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Emmy Wu.
With two decades of experience in the Hollywood film industry, she’s worked with brands like MGM, Paramount, Disney, Real Housewives, and Subaru. Emmy brings big-screen storytelling strategies to help artists and visionaries to elevate their online presence and create a bigger impact using the power of video. At the heart of her work is her love for storytelling. She believes that it’s through stories, we can educate, inspire, and change the world.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I’ve always been creative, so the film industry was the right step for me when I graduated from university. I learned how to manage large-scale, multi-million projects, worked with cameras even before HD existed, and learned how to tell a great story for any brand. However, the film industry didn’t allow me to really use my creativity, and I longed for more creative expression. When my mother passed away from cancer, it was a real wake-up call for me to pivot. Long hours in the film industry made it hard to be with her when she needed me the most. It was at that moment that I decided that I would make a big career change and step into something that wouldn’t suffocate me. In 2015 when I moved from Vancouver, Canada to the US to marry my love, I took my skills online and set out to empower entrepreneurs with video skills that would set them apart from their competition.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
After seven months of hustling and barely able to make ends meet in my business, I was actually about to give up and go back to work in the film industry. My debt had racked up and I didn’t see any way out.
As gathered my work kit together in my storage locker, sitting on the cold cement floor with tears and snot dripping down my face, I felt absolutely defeated. I believed that my hope of building a business was nothing but a dream. But as I picked up a binder … a note fell out … this was the last note my mother had written to me before she passed away and it read, “Emmy, you can have anything you want. You deserve it. Mommy loves you so much.”
It was at that moment, it was as if my mom was giving me a big hug and encouraging me to just keep going. As I wiped my tears away, I was suddenly hit with an epiphany.
With the film scripts, storyboards, and film pitches scattered all around me, I scoured for patterns on how big brands told stories that would inspire the masses and developed those concepts into my next video launch strategy. A few weeks later, I would have my first 5-figure launch. I still credit my mom for my first success, and I continue to remind entrepreneurs to KEEP GOING even in the face of challenges.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
As a shy, introverted person, I definitely developed an aptitude for entrepreneurship. I learned how important showing up consistently and visibility is, even when I cringed at seeing myself on video. I learned how important it is to put relationships first and you can’t do that if you’re constantly hiding. I learned to stand by my worthiness to charge rates that would honor my worth instead of diluting who I am. It’s certainly been a journey but also one that’s tremendously rewarding.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
I bootstrapped everything myself in the beginning, but I would still credit my mother for encouraging me to go on when I wanted to give up. My business would not exist today, had I decided to stop then. I also credit other entrepreneurs like Facebook ads strategists and copywriters who showed up to my tiny Facebook group years ago to learn video but have flourished into friendships and business besties. It’s wonderful when we have complementary skills but can collaborate and teach to a similar audience.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Unlike other marketing gurus who force you to come up with a marketing message that’s digestible and palatable, we believe in being disruptors with storytelling that speaks to the deeper human truths that are not often addressed in the online marketing space. I believe every person has a remarkable story waiting to be told, and I spend a lot of time getting to know my clients deeply so I can help them tell stories that position their Only-Ness Factor: that special thing that makes them remarkable and positions them as THE only solution their audience wants. We do this all by digging deep, instead of using predatory persuasion tactics.
When we apply these storytelling strategies to our client’s marketing campaigns and launches, the results are remarkable. For example, we helped a master goldsmith and jewelry-maker to launch his first online course for aspiring jewelry makers.
His audience desperately wanted to up-level their skills and build a business from making jewelry, so we leveraged that in our storytelling by talking about old-world methods taught in Europe (that most other jewelry makers don’t teach) that created unique results. We shared stories from his own career that would motivate and inspire. Using these strategies, we SOLD OUT his course within 48 hours, which resulted in their first 5-figure weekend. They’ve continued to leverage the strategies I created for them to reach 108k dollars in less than one year.
We used a similar strategy with another client launching an online group program and told the story of how most online courses are set up for failure with dismal finish rates. We leveraged that truth in their launch campaign with a disruptive message about what is NOW required to create successful online courses. That launch would create industry-breaking 90% engagement rates from start to finish, which resulted in 800k dollars in sales in less than two weeks.
This is the power of disruptive storytelling anchored in truth, rather than deception, that I believe, will change the face of marketing and selling in the online space.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Being organized & systems-oriented has definitely helped me. I think years of working in the film industry have taught me to create an organized workflow for everything in my business. This has saved me in the past when a client complained they didn’t receive something, but I had the documentation that not only was it delivered, they had actually signed for it.
Perseverance is another quality that has served me. In any entrepreneurial journey, there will always be ups and downs, but as an immigrant child who faced a lot of bullying and racism, I learned long ago to wipe off my tears and to keep going. In the face of tech not working when you need it most, or a launch not going as well as planned, these are moments that test our resilience and true character. The more equipped you are mentally and emotionally to handle these hiccups, the more easily you’ll reach your version of success because you won’t stop when most others will.
Adopting a positive, opportunity-based mindset (as opposed to a fixed mindset) has also helped me to grow my business. I didn’t start out this way and had to un-learn some old behaviors and patterns, but this shift has helped me to stay outcome-driven, even during challenging times, with the ability to pivot and seek opportunities where they might have been hidden from view before.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
Customer avatar exercises are extremely popular in the online space. It seems that every coach is telling you to create a customer avatar, then creates a package to sell them. I followed this strategy for the first 2–3 years in my business, which resulted in a ton of confusion, and wasted time and energy (our most valuable resources as entrepreneurs). Coco Chanel and Maserati didn’t do customer avatar exercises. Instead, they focused on building the brand and highlighting the artistry of their work. When I started to focus more on my own values, my art, and the value I offered to my market, marketing and selling became so much easier.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
I believe it’s extremely important for the owner/CEO to first understand which specific roles are required to support the company’s objectives and hire people with the personality traits and skills to fit. It’s often when there’s a lack of clarity around the outcome or people are assigned too many disparate tasks that they start to feel overwhelmed and lose their mojo for work. This is completely avoidable with clarity around the business’s vision with the right structures in place that support the company’s milestones and outcomes with the right players in their roles.
Having accountability with open communication between all team members is also important for healthy work culture. With a “top-down” approach, employees are afraid of their bosses and often feel like they need to hide how they feel, or even who they are. Instead, when you treat your work culture as a place for open collaboration where everyone’s voice is valued, the team dynamics change considerably. Not only are people more likely to contribute, feel heard, and feel excited about their work, but they’re more likely to express what’s not working so it can be addressed.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
As a video storyteller, I’ll always encourage other business leaders to leverage video to build know, like, and trust. There’s simply no other medium that allows people to experience the way you talk, teach, and share your message. Create videos that not only educate but inspire them with your unique twist!
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Video is even bigger today than it was only a year ago. Social media platforms are encouraging users to use video because they keep people engaged. While short-form videos are easily consumable and work great on platforms like Tik Tok or Instagram, don’t neglect long-form videos (20–60 minutes)! Longer videos allow you to go really deep on a topic with your audience and build relationships quickly. You’ll likely also gain more organic reach because social platforms love this medium.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Creating the products or services before building the relationships. I’ve seen too many aspiring entrepreneurs try to launch a new course when they don’t yet have an audience, which leads to months of frustration if your messaging is off. By focusing on building the relationships and community first, you’ll naturally know which offers will best fit your audience, and how to talk about it in a way that gets them excited to join.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
As an entrepreneur, you’re putting yourself out there every day. You put in tireless hours and push your own edges to realize your dreams, so it’s no wonder it can feel like there’s a lot at stake. Sometimes all it takes is someone posting a negative comment on your social media feed to make you feel like everything you’ve done is for nothing. This is the double-edged sword of entrepreneurship. Because it’s so deeply personal, even small setbacks can feel bigger than they actually are, but this also means that small wins deserve big celebrations.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
After seven months of hustling and not landing any clients, I was about to give up on my entrepreneurial vision. But after the note from my mother falling on my lap that encouraged me to keep going, I committed to creating a 3-part video series that would disrupt some of the current conversations around video. I wanted to throw out the idea that you had to look and speak perfectly on video in order to make a big impact, and the engagement around those videos spoke volumes. People were so excited about this idea and I saw them stepping out of their shells to create their first-ever videos. It was during that first launch that I would feel the impact of my work, and even though it was only a small step in the right direction, I never forgot the buzz that solidified that I could do this.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
In my second year of business, I was hired by a fairly high-profile client to shoot their launch videos which turned out to be a nightmare. This was the first time I was contracted to do a big job, but because I didn’t know any better at the time, I massively undercharged, hustled for 16 hour days, and shot all the deliverables myself. And agreed to even more deliverables than we had initially agreed to. I felt like a complete doormat because I was afraid to speak up. At that moment, I realized that it was to keep running my business, I had to stop devaluing myself, which meant unlearning years of bad habits and reinforcing low self-esteem.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
That experience scared me away from working with bigger clients for almost two years. I shrunk and hide when I should’ve quickly bounced back, but this is my honest truth. After a lot of looking within and doing a lot of healing work, I realized that I could still pursue those dream projects, but I MYSELF had to get clearer around the types of clients that would light me up, and create boundaries around my work.
As part of my self-care during this period, I listened to a lot of spiritual podcasts where I learned about a woman holding international healing retreats. Her work spoke to me, so I reached out to her. Serendipitously, she had also been looking for a videographer to shoot an upcoming retreat in Mongolia. Within 2 weeks, I would be booked for this project, which gave me my mojo back to keep moving forward.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Keep your values close to you. Sometimes we can be taken off track as new ideas and trends come and go, but by getting clear on the things that truly matter for you and the values you live personally and run your business by, you’ll be less likely to get involved with situations that aren’t aligned. Don’t be afraid of doing consistent gut checks and re-evaluate often. It’s okay to say no to people who aren’t the right fit because you’re actually doing them a disservice by not being honest with yourself.
- Understand that challenges are not meant to take you down, but to expand you. Along your entrepreneurial journey, you’ll absolutely hit bumps and roadblocks. Instead of taking them personally and feeling like you’ve failed, approach the situation with an open heart and curiosity. What is this situation teaching you? How can you step into a stronger version of yourself? Entrepreneurship isn’t about avoiding the challenges, but rather knowing you’ll handle every situation with grace and courage because that’s who you’re meant to be.
- Surround yourself with people who understand entrepreneurship that you can confide in. Entrepreneurship can be very lonely, and it’s easy to stay quiet or internalize issues when we’re alone. But I quickly learned that having a core circle of people who understand the journey that you can share with, mastermind with, and celebrate with, makes all the difference. Even if you don’t find a solution, just being witnessed and heard by people who understand can be very empowering, and that support will likely encourage you to keep going.
- Remember your brilliance. It’s so easy to look at what other people are doing and suddenly feel like a failure or like you’re not enough. In those moments, remember what drove you to start your business in the first place. Remember your experiences, skills, and all the unique attributes you bring to your niche. We tend to under-value our gifts and take them for granted, but there are people out there who need exactly what you have! Remind yourself of your brilliance often and continue to act like THAT person who’s ready to own it.
- Keep your eye on the end vision and keep going. Everyone has a different version of success, but defining what your version looks like will help you keep going during hard times. Even if it seems like a far-off idea, that idea planted within you is meant for you to cultivate and bring to life. By keeping the end vision in mind, you’ll stay more focused on your actions, and your journey to greatness will bring more magic than you could imagine.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
To me, resilience is the ability to keep going even in the face of the toughest challenges by navigating situations with grace and courage. Sometimes it’s a problem client that makes us want to give up, or maybe it’s a failed launch. Resilient people remember to not take everything so personally and rise to the occasion. Instead of feeling defeated, resilient people get creative about solutions and keep going, no matter what.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
As an immigrant child who grew up in predominantly white neighborhoods, I faced racism from a very early age. I’ve been bullied so badly that I was scared to go to school and scared to walk home alone. I remember entering my 5th-grade school and suddenly being surrounded by 10–12 kids taunting and laughing at me about my Chinese eyes. I had barely entered the school and I wanted to run home and cry … but I didn’t.
I remember my mother telling me a story about facing racism herself, and her words came into my mind: “Be strong and don’t show your feelings. Keep walking and ignore them. You hold your dignity and let them look like fools”.
So at that moment, I walked straight into the classroom and ignored the bullies. They continued to follow me, but I would never show them any weakness. I acted as if they didn’t even exist which left them little fuel for the fire. Later, I would report this incident to the school and the entire class had to apologize with orders to stay away from me. I will always remember that moment as being one of the scariest moments I experienced as a child, but I would also always remember to hold my dignity and keep walking forward.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
We’re human, so it’s okay to feel down once in a while. The worst thing you can do is be harder on yourself. After a difficult situation, get it out of your system: cry, confide in a friend, but then remember it’s not always about you so go easy on yourself! Often there’s an alternative solution that can be worked out, or when people act out, they’re expressing their own discontent. Rather than taking it all on yourself, remember that situations don’t happen TO us, they happen FOR us. What can you do to elevate above the situation and treat yourself with kindness instead?
Adopting a positive mindset is a choice and a practice. I’ve learned to treat difficult situations like a game where I need to master this situation for the betterment of all. It’s not a personal attack, but rather an opportunity for me to go further than I’ve been before … just that choice alone can bring the magic that I never would’ve anticipated until I chose positivity and to rise it above.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
When a leader adopts a positive attitude, it permeates into their team, their work, their clients, and their world. Positive leaders choose to see the good in people and situations and know how to leverage what they have into positive outcomes.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
“Be the change you want to see in the world” by Mahatma Gandhi. I love this quote because it’s so true for life and business. While we cannot control the world and how others treat us, we can empower ourselves to see the world differently and lead by example. I’ve lived by this motto in my own life and business when challenges hit or when I’m not sure about my next steps. Instead of getting stuck in other thinking or feeling defeated, I remember that entrepreneurship gives me the opportunity to lead by example, and to take bold steps forward because I believe in the values and mission I want to bring into the world.
How can our readers further follow you online?
They can learn more about me and my work on my website emmywu.com and follow me on Instagram @emmywumedia
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!