Moving to a Foreign Country, and Starting a Business

Today I met up with a guy who runs his own digital marketing agency in Hong Kong, and as I started explaining the usual 'Who we are and what we do', he stopped me and asked: 

"Wait ... Did you come here alone to do this thing?"

"Yes. I guess I did.", I said. 

At this point, normally people would exclaim an obligatory "Oh wow you're so brave what were you thinking? Do you know anyone here?!" and I'd politely laugh it off. 

In the MTR ride back to my office, I started thinking about the past 2 months in Hong Kong. I came here with a total of two friends in my "friendbase" that I knew in Hong Kong. Fell sick twice. Cried once. Had many instances of crippling self-doubt - 'oh my God who do I think I am to succeed in this foreign place, I'm not Jack flippin' Ma.'. 

But if I could turn back time to the first moment I blurted out my idea of OpenMinds™ Hong Kong to Jan and Daryll ... Would I really, really still do this?

The answer is a 'Fuck yes'. 

If I'd REALLY took my time to consider all the 'Pros and Cons of moving to a foreign country to start a business from scratch', I guess I'd have considered the loneliness, financial instability and risk involved... Which may have led me to pulling out of the idea. 

Yes, sometimes I'm so scared I feel my limbs going weak. My best friend just delivered her first child and I can't be with her. I miss Malaysia so much it hurts.

But doing this in Hong Kong has brought out the best in me. 

The experience has tested my belief in my partners, my core principles and brought me back to the essence of who I am: stubborn as hell and as resilient as a cockroach. I scramble to find inspiration - daily - and every rejection is adding on layers to my skin, building me up to be impenetrable.

Reject me! Say no to my proposals! Talk shit about me - 'Eliza really is a party girl by nature and cannot lead' - and I really can't wait to prove you wrong. :D

Being here has also helped me refine my belief in the concept of Patience. Rome wasn't built in a day - and a new startup from KL is not going to be an overnight success in a foreign country. 

One of the biggest things I've learned in Hong Kong is that motivation, drive and inspiration does not magically appear out of thin air. You have to crave it, look for it and CHOOSE it. 

On "choosing inspiration":

These days, I spend half an hour before bedtime watching inspirational videos by Gary Vaynerchuk or on TED to feed myself some positivity and end my day with the right mindset. It's a small lifestyle change, really, but the effects are huge. ;)

If you feel like you're in a rut or "lost in a foreign land" (metaphorically!), you're not alone. Make a choice to be the best freakin' version of yourself. If you really need a listening ear, email me - let's talk. :) 

It's okay to feel less successful in life. Here is why.

Awhile back, I met up with some friends I hadn't seen in ages and I was wondering why X was nowhere to be found. "Where is X?", I ask.

"Oh, I think he feels a little left out when he's with us, cause he is in between jobs and he thinks we've all made it.", my friend tells me. "It's kinda uncomfortable for him."

"WHAT?", I exclaim. "Tell him that is nonsense! I don't even consider myself successful. None of us are going to judge him anyway.

Then I realized that what X felt was perhaps how I feel around my friends who have married and moved on to have children.

Certified Undateable™

"You're lucky to have dated good boyfriends who love you.", my good friend C tells me, her eyes narrowing as she sips at her cup of black coffee. 

She shrugs.

"You can't expect anyone to wait forever to marry you."

Boom.
There it was. The awkward truth that no girl right smack in the middle of an existential crisis wants to hear.

"But ... I don't know, maybe I don't want to be loved or be proposed to. Maybe I just want to love myself", I sheepishly say, knowing how many soon-to-be married women out there are rolling their eyes at me right now. 

It feels strange to me that in this day and age, we still place so much importance on finding the right man and settling down. Have we not evolved past that now? Women have equally successful careers, divorce rates are sky-rocketing and there are at least 5 dating apps to download on Play Store.

'Is settling down the only way we can be truly happy?', I ponder out loud. 

"I don't know, but you really have to be growing up.", she tells me, her voice kind and genuine, and I knew it was because she does love me that she wanted me to know The Truth. 

... And then I realized what she - and maybe many people thought of me. 

The Truth:
I am clumsy as hell, play video games, have a genuine love of alcohol, get bored easily, definitely crazy enough to dance on tables and have the carefree recklessness of a 19-year-old (what are consequences? bah, who cares!). Add my age into the equation and ...

I am Certified Undateable.
(a.k.a Non Marriage Material a.k.a the girl you don't wanna bring home to your parents

But I am also ambitious, adventurous, kind to animals, generous and awesome at first dates - true story, bruh. So why are my flaws so glaring just because I don't fit into the mould of a conventional woman?

I feel like us women have been put under microscopic observation all our lives - by men, peers or even other women. She has a stable job and yet not too successful cause, you know, that's intimidating? Ok, good. 

Good in bed but still has an innocent quality about her? Check. Doesn't have more than 3 boyfriends? Great! She doesn't drink? Good, you don't wanna date an alcoholic. Does she sleep around? Yes? Oh, that's not someone I wanna marry. She goes to church every Sunday? Good, religious girls are less likely to be sluts.

She's too fat, too thin, too muscular, too old, too loud.

Why are we going through this? It would be painstakingly different if we were born men - at least on a biological level, noone's gonna tell you that you risk being infertile in your 30s. 

Social media shows you pictures of happy relationships, fairytale engagements, flawless marriages and cute-as-heck babies ... but never forget that it can be very deceptive, and very harmful if we make choices based purely on the desire to fit in. 

"I'm annoyed, brave but I'm also scared. What if everyone is right and I should just settle?", I whine to R, a good guy friend of mine who has been the unfortunate recipient of my rants for the past month. 

He rolls his eyes and laughs. "You are still fucking young! Older men will date you, younger men will date you, and whatever it is you should not be listening to what other people tell you to do anyway."

So ladies, if there is anything I've learned in the past month, it is that if you're feeling Certified Undateable, girl friends are great but (sometimes) guy friends are even more awesome. 

 

Seven years in the making

It's been 7 years since the night I was alone and lost in Singapore, and met you as I walked alongside the riverside of Clarke Quay. 

So there you were. Older, successful and fresh off an exit - while I was young, naive and my business idea was nothing but a fantasy. Both my startup aspirations - and you - were completely unattainable. 

7 years ago, entrepreneurship, men, love and ambition were all foreign to me.

7 years ago, with an amazing rendition of Kings of Leon playing in the background, I looked into your eyes and really believed I could use somebody like you. 

And yet, I let you break my heart. 

You chose her. 

I still remember that night in KL as if it were yesterday. Alone, tears rolling down my cheeks, I learned two things: 
1. Women should think with their brains, not their heart.
2. I will never cry over the loss of a man again. 

7 years later, I am a completely different person. I've loved and lost businesses, boyfriends, traveled a little and grown a lot.

 7 years later, there were men who wanted to marry me and men who wanted to play with me. I cried no tears for either. 

7 years later, I still want to ask you ... So what do you think of what I've achieved? Is my career going well? Have I made the right choices? Should I really leave? 

Do you still love her?

... And I feel like I'm falling into a wormhole back through time, where I am once again a naive 21-year-old who had nothing to offer and really desired your validation. 

They say that women will always be the weaker species and I've spent the past 7 years trying to prove I wasn't made with the same mold. But today, I'm feeling a little tired of fucking up and moving on. Just for today - I want to be weak.

And weakness, to me, is thinking about that time in my life, 7 years ago, when I fell in love with you. 

 

 

Best Free Tools to Kickstart Your Social Media Presence

I get it. Your business is in its infancy / planning stage, and you're not ready to invest thousands into hiring a Social Media Agency or a team who can help you manage your social media presence. Managing platform(s) on your own can definitely be difficult to manage ... you've got to plan your content, snap photos, design visuals, schedule your postings and possibly even manage ad buying. That's a whole lot of work right there - and on top of business development and operations, many bootstrap entrepreneurs find it tricky to juggle.

The good news is, it is definitely possible! Here are some free tools and tips to help ease your journey into a superstar social media marketer for your brand. :)

1. SocialPilot - Social Media Content Management. 

The first step to having a successful long-term social media presence is to get down to the basics: implementing an efficient system to manage your content. 

If you're only on Facebook, you can make do with your Pages Manager, but if you have more than one platform (e.g. Twitter, Pinterest), uploading different content on different platforms can be quite a hassle. 

I recently discovered SocialPilot, a Content Management system which I think is fairly easy to use and has a decent 'Free' plan, allowing you to connect up to 3x Social Media accounts. If you're just starting out, chances are you won't be launching more than 3 platforms anyway, so SocialPilot's base plan is a decent starting point. :)

However, the system does lack Community Engagement features so you'd still have to manually handle fan replies on each social platform. Apart from this, SocialPilot only has a 'reminder' feature for Instagram and does not have Instagram scheduling just yet. 

The plus point is it is simple to use and navigate, even for beginners. If you're launching less than 4 platforms and it includes Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or LinkedIn, you can definitely give SocialPilot a go. :) 

Apart from SocialPilot, you can also use Buffer's free plan - but Buffer only allows 10x scheduled posts per profile, while SocialPilot allows 10x post sharings per day and up to 30x posts in the scheduling queue. Hootsuite - one of the most popular ones - also has a free plan, but you may want to read this post for the pros and cons of Hootsuite before deciding to go on board.

2. Visual Editing & Creation - Pixlr Express

If you're managing your own page, sometimes the most difficult aspect is visual creation. Apart from photographing your own images, where can you get free stock photos? How do you then edit these photos? For simple visual editing, I've found Pixlr's web app to be pretty good - especially if you're in a rush, or if you're not adept at Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator. 

Back in the day, I'd swear by Pixlr's Collage editor as it's a really easy way to create collages. It saves a lot of time when you want to create simple collages for your postings. 

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You can also use their photo editor to edit your photos if you wish to make simple edits - such as cropping, including texts, borders, and some minor edits such as brightness, contrast, saturation etc.

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If you don't have the resources to conduct a photoshoot or photograph your own images, you can also use the free stock photos from PicJumbo (one of my favourites due to its user-friendly search / categorisation features) or Unsplash

3. Competitor / Own Page Analysis - Social Analytics. 

Ever wondered how your competitors are performing on Social Media? Yep, being aware of your competitor's every move and step is a plus for all social media marketers. ;) Social Analytics, a plugin for Google Chrome is a really user-friendly Chrome extension that allows you to check Social Share stats on any page you visit. 

This helps you understand what content on your site is capturing attention, and also allows you to get an idea of your competitor and influencer's current standing on social media. For example,  if you have an online store and if one of your competitor's product is getting a good amount of social media attention, you can then understand their Target Audiences a little more - or even decide for yourself if you should stock up similar items on your eCommerce store. 

Understanding what content works for you also helps you plan and optimise content for your site. 

4. Creating fun infographics - Easel.ly

Visuals are an important element of your social media strategy, and here's a fun fact: Infographics are Liked and shared on social media 3x more than any other type of content

Even if your brand is related to fashion, healthcare, beauty, or even animals ... you can definitely integrate fun facts and stats into relevant infographics for your audiences. But infographics are time-consuming to create from scratch through most editing softwares - and that's where Easel.ly comes in. :)

Easel.ly is a free tool to allow you to easily create your own infographics, fact sheets, checklists or even simple fun facts. 

Example of infographics created via Easel.ly.

Example of infographics created via Easel.ly.

I found Easel.ly relatively easy to use and get the hang of, although you'd have to pay to unlock their full library of images and icons. For simple infographics, the free version should be more than enough. Once you're done, you can easily export your infographic as an image or PDF file, which you can then share with your social media followers. 

The four tools above has helped me manage pages without a team or access to paid-for professional tools, such as SimplyMeasured, SumAll or Buffer's premium plans. There are more, of course, but I might go into deeper details into each aspect of social media management (such as breaking it down to content planning, visual creation & analytics) in future posts to come. :) 

 

The Best is Yet To Come

adventure.jpg

Hello, world. I've finally renewed my domain and revived my blog. 

2016 has been an incredibly exciting year so far. With much to look forward to - including a BIG move to the city of my dreams, Hong Kong (yes! the city in the background of the visual is HK). I figured now is better than never to start documenting my journey and also write about my favourite subjects, startups and social media. 

We only have one life to live, and it better be a hell of a ride. ;)

Watch this space!