Be positive and tell yourself you can do it. I believe that anything is possible. Anyone can learn and do anything, it’s just a matter of time of learning how to do it. If you tell yourself you can do it, you can. If you convince yourself that you can’t do it from the start, then you have already set a bleak standard for yourself.
I had the pleasure to interview Willie Tsang. Willie is a special variety of entrepreneur who sees his ideas come to fruition and continually seeks to bring new ideas to life. Unafraid of calculated risks, Willie has dreamed of and grown several successful businesses, while staying true to his core interests.
Willie’s newest enterprise, Way of Will, an essential oil-based body care system for people with active lifestyles, was inspired by something even closer to home. As Willie’s father’s health began to fail, Willie — along with his mother and sister — sat by his bedside to take care of him day and night. When cancer cells began to spread through his father’s body, his memory started to fail, and he grew confused by his surroundings. It was during this difficult time spent with his father that Willie started to notice that the only time he would react and show happiness was when he smelled food or other familiar scents around him. It was then that Willie came to understand how powerful scent could be. As a tribute to his father and to honor their close relationship and his lifelong mentorship, Willie began a journey through scent and aromatherapy that lead to the line of essential oil blends that currently make up Way of Will’s line of whole-body care products. With nearly a decade of product development experience in hand, Willie began to develop blends with a close friend who is a certified aromatherapist and started to learn more about the benefits of natural essential oils. Combined with Willie’s enthusiasm for fitness, he saw a niche in the market for high quality, plant-based essential oil care products geared towards those, like him, with active lifestyles. Not a bodybuilder by any means, Willie has a passion for training and considers himself very knowledgeable in this area. Developing a line of functional products based on natural ingredients, the power of essential oils and aromatherapy for people who work out is Willie’s more personal endeavor yet, because it is infused with his personal experiences and interests. It seemed appropriate to name the brand Way of Will; not only is it his namesake, it also represents willpower, which working out and pursuing your passion both require!
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
My name is Willie Tsang. My entrepreneurial journey began in 2008. Since then I have successfully built multiple businesses within industries ranging from gifts, real estate and wellness. Currently, my focus is to build Way Of Will in hopes of becoming a leader in the wellness industry.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
The second year after I started my first business, I needed to hire a person that could help me with everyday tasks. I had very limited options due to a constrained budget, so I made the decision to hire my previous manager. She happened to close her business a few months before I began looking for help, and she approached me. At the time, she didn’t particularly have strong communication skills or experience in the wellness industry. Despite that, I decided to hire her, firmly believing we could grow the company together.
11 years later, she became the most loyal and important person in all my businesses.
Throughout the years, I’ve learned that everyone has their own talent and it’s just a matter of maximizing and utilizing their talents within my businesses. I delegate work to people knowing it will synergize well with their strengths, rather than forcing someone to complete a task that they’re uncomfortable with. The result is mostly satisfying.
When looking for new hires, oftentimes I hire personalities more than skill sets. I believe that everyone can learn anything if they are passionate, and as a result; individuals can truly love their job if they are working to their strengths.
I’ve also learned that loyalty is not easy to find, no matter how much you pay someone. This kind of integrity requires a lot of understanding and mutual respect from both the employer and employee in order to build a loyal relationship.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I believe that the authenticity of Way Of Will wins over our customers. Nowadays, attractive packaging with good quality products are very important — but this is the baseline of a successful brand. Brands need to create emotions and culture in order to be desirable. This is what Way Of Will is about and consistently tries to provide.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My father as he was my mentor. Before he passed away, I would discuss all my business problems with him. Even though we lived far apart (I was living in Toronto while he resided in Hong Kong), we would talk on the phone five days a week to exchange ideas and problems.
About 9 years ago, I received an infringement letter from Jeff Koon’s lawyer stating that we were not allowed to sell our bestselling product: balloon dog bookends. That occurred within my 3 years of entrepreneurial life. I did not know what to do. The name Jeff Koon was big enough to haunt me. I called my dad and explained the situation. The first and only thing he did was ask me to be calm and try to overcome my fear. After the panic, I started to tackle the problem. I contacted my lawyer, and, in the end, we won the case.
Overall, my father did not provide any direct suggestions to the problem. Instead, all he did was try to calm me down and encourage me to overcome my fear.
Since then, I have learned that fear is just an emotion and our biggest enemy. We can solve a lot of complicated issues if we can overcome internalizing our fears and think straight; by solving the problem instead of letting it grow into a mental obstacle.
My father reminds me to learn to give and take. Sometimes it’s okay to be taken advantage of because you can learn from it. When running a business, oftentimes you need a good balance between clients and staff. It’s about fairness. It’s almost like giving out free samples to prove yourself. Once you have proved yourself, then you can start making money. You don’t always have to show off your trophy even if you win.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience?
I believe that resilience is when one can turn negatives into positives.
What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
– Determination, never giving up
– Positive attitude
– Doesn’t complain much
– Never point fingers or blames others
– Confident, but not conceited or arrogant
– Doers and not talkers
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
Growing up in an Asian culture sometimes limited me in terms of choosing my career. To a lot of Asian parents, one can only make money from either being a doctor, lawyer, or running your own business. Although my parents are very open and supportive of what I wanted to do, my extended family would always tell me how I would not be able to make money or be successful working in the design field. Somehow, they always associated “design” as fashion design, and thought one couldn’t make any money doing design work.
I attended school for Graphic Design and Industrial Design. My first company, IMM Living, designs and manufactures home goods where I made my first small bucket of gold.
I wholeheartedly believe that you can find your way to make a living if you are passionate about what you do.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
About 4 years ago my first company, IMM Living, sales went down by 70% due to the economy and market changes. This also happened when my father passed away. That was probably the darkest time in my life. Going through that loss, as well as struggling with my business without having a mentor to guide me through was extremely difficult. However, that time was the beginning of Way Of Will.
I had to lay off 90% of my employees, switch our selling tactics, restructure the entire company and switch focus to my new business at the time — Way Of Will.
Through that crisis, I gained a lot of experience and made sure it would not repeat and happen to Way Of Will. I’ve done things differently since then, from marketing to optimizing sales channels.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
In my entrepreneurial experience, I have probably received more noes than yeses, especially at the beginning of new projects. Instead of beating myself up, I learned to turn rejection into motivation. Below are two points that I always remind myself when receiving no as an answer:
- I was working with a Wholefoods buyer for over a year before she finally decided to purchase our products.
- I received at least 4 no’s from them before I got one yes, and the result was rewarding. During the process of pitching to the buyer, I made a lot of small adjustments until they finally accepted the pitch. The adjustments included slightly modifying the packaging, reworking pricing, and marketing.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
1) Don’t let yourself be disappointed for more than half a day (set a time limit for yourself).
2) Pause, look back, and reevaluate why.
3) Pivot and don’t be stubborn about things that don’t work.
4) Learn from mistakes and make sure you don’t repeat them.
5) Be positive and tell yourself you can do it. I believe that anything is possible. Anyone can learn and do anything, it’s just a matter of time of learning how to do it. If you tell yourself you can do it, you can. If you convince yourself that you can’t do it from the start, then you have already set a bleak standard for yourself.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
There are no permanent enemies, and no permanent friends, only permanent interests. It’s always important to keep in good terms with others. It sounds cliché but I also believe in business karma. What goes around comes around. People appreciate little things that you do, and it will pay you back in some way, especially from helping others in need. Hard work does pay off in the end.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Jeff Bezos. We are putting a lot of focus into building our Amazon sales channels these days and I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with him to pick his brain!
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