Welcome to my fifth post in my new series called “Coffee Chat.” This series is focused on inspirational women who love their jobs and want to inspire other women to find their passions and transform their lives. Today’s coffee chat features Sophie Song-Fang, who is the mastermind behind Petaluma & Co – providing products that are sourced and tested by a team of skincare experts who believe natural is the best path to follow when it comes to taking care of your skin. Keep reading to hear the in’s and out’s of Sophie’s life, plus some damn good advice (because we all know we need a heaping dose every once in a while).
1. Where do you live and what is one random fact about you to break the ice with our readers?
I currently live in sunny Los Angeles, California. When I was younger, I lived in Hong Kong for 5 years. Living in a different country at a young age was an eye-opening experience for me. I also attended an international school in addition to living in a foreign country, and thus, had a beautiful platform to experience different cultures and ethnicities.
2. What is the first thing you like to do before you start your day?
I love to drink a glass of water flavored with a squeeze of lemon to awaken my digestive system. I also read my long-term goals (I often do these two activities simultaneously). I have realized that when I read my goals with a clear head, and at such a quiet time as in the morning, I am inspired and I feel like I’m ready to take on the world. According to Forbes, many successful women prefer to have a little time, particularly, early in the morning, to generally meditate and reflect, before starting the day. Evidently, the approach works quite well for me as well.
3. What inspired you to choose your career path in Marketing? Is there a childhood memory that made you decide?
I’ve always been creative as a child and showed some talent in music and art. I loved to draw and I especially enjoyed my elementary painting classes the most. As I grew older, my objective eye for creativity deepened. I began to appreciate the finer details of design. Over the course of time, I knew that I wanted to be in the creative field and my interests firmly developed in architecture and design. I subsequently majored in Fine Arts and Graphic Design which enhanced my ability to creatively think along multidimensional lines. I also discovered that seeing ideas come alive and take shape was something that really excited me. The excitement spurred me on to my career path into marketing.
I started my career in advertising. The period I started my career was when the digital space was starting out. This was good as there was lesser competition than now, however in converse, the implication was that there was fewer information around. That period for me was very critical, as that was where I learned the nitty-gritty of the web industry and the various tools and frameworks involved. In addition, I realized that building a website, brand, and connecting with customers to bring them a product they wanted or needed was what made me feel fulfilled at the end of the day.
In retrospect, I cannot pin a day to the time that I decided that “Hey I am going to start my own company”, rather it was a culmination of several steps that I took in each phase of my career, which made me realize I wanted to know more and more about building something that would last. It was a worthwhile decision.
4. What was your very first step to get you where you are today in your career?
I would say a deep curiosity was one factor that helped get me to where I am today. You remember that saying ‘Curiosity kills the cat’. For me, it was a case of curiosity giving the cat nine lives. I had always been thirsty for information on several topics, as long as they were of interest to me. It does not matter whether the topic was on business, self-development, science or environment as long as it caught my interest, I read books on them. Over time, I have been able to gather quite a wealth of information that had eventually come in handy whether it was acquiring a new skillset to move forward with my career or sparking a deep interest in a new hobby. So, reading and satisfying my curiosity on matters of interest was one of the very first steps that got me to where I am today.
5. What is one challenge you had to overcome in order to reach happiness with your career?
Being extremely cautious with my time. I started Petaluma & Co. as a side project while I was working full time in the tech industry. Imagine you running a full-time job and a demand thirsty entrepreneurial project on the side. It was very tough, especially in the beginning stage. Most times, I would work on my company projects on the weekends. However sometimes, especially when the workload was more, I had to work on them after work. Sure enough, the strain started taking its toll until I realized that in order for me to be more effective and less exhausted, I needed to manage my time maximally and the valuable lesson I learned with this experience was the best resource I had (which was time) was also the most scarce. Consequently, I became more frugal with how I spent my time. I was more conscious of where and who I spent it with. Prioritization became quite crucial in pushing the company forward. It is still a challenge that I try to balance today.
6. What are three habits you would recommend to someone pursing their dream career in marketing? What would make them stand out?
- Be relentless: This very point is quite important to me because I believe that it is imperative that no matter how pressured one may feel like quitting, believing in yourself that you will achieve what you want will be there at the end of the road. As it’s said ‘winners are not quitters’. Even at a point when you feel like you’ve gotten to the peak of your career, it’s still important to keep pushing, because there is always somewhere better than where you are presently.
- Get your products out there as soon as possible: It’s good to focus on getting the product out there for people to use or test. If you keep waiting for the perfect time, there will never be one. The product doesn’t have to be perfect just yet. However, the sooner you get it in the hands of people, the faster you will receive feedback, and the closer you are to building the exact product type that customers really prefer.
- Just doing it: I emboldened the phrase because in spite of the fact that the words may sound simple, cliché, maybe even overused but it has a lot of depth to it. To me, `just doing it’ means a lot. It meant letting go of my initial doubts and it meant shutting off the fear of failing. It also means NOT caring about what others think, pushing aside the naysayers and believing in what I really cared about. So the next time you hear the popular Nike trademark, don’t just smile and go your way, rather reflect deeply and implement the advice. It’s amazing how far such a little phrase can go, in making your business and start-ups go a long way.
7. How would you describe your support network? Who’s in it?
My Husband: My husband has been my number one supporter since the first day. He has been my go-to person to talk about ideas and has been along for the ride. I wouldn’t be where I am without him.
Friends: I’ve been fortunate to have close friends that support and believe in me. They have been my cheerleaders along this journey.
Advisor: Having an advisor to be the sounding board for ideas and the direction of the company has been a huge help.
8. What’s one skill you’re currently working, that will help you further your career?
I am still learning how and when to use patience. I’ve always been impatient with everything. Since I’ve started the business however, I’ve learnt when and how to be patient. One of the ways I do this is to look at a situation with better insight. For example, on occasions when it seems my patience is being tried concerning forming business relationships with potential and existing clients, I just consider the situation with more insight and remind myself that building relationships generally takes time. Thus knowing to accept that, and seeing the long term value in it has helped me in a positive way to accept the challenges that accompany that particular process.
9. To balance out your work life, what’s your fitness and health regime?
I wake up at 6:30 am and go running. I listen to a podcast or audio book on my run and this energizes me. It’s a great way to start the day! On occasions, I go hiking and do pilates to balance out the running. I believe that inner beauty shines through when you take good care of yourself. I also believe that one of the best gifts you can give yourself is to eat healthy. Therefore, I eat a lot of fruits, vegetables and try to live a vegetarian lifestyle. In either case, I feel my best and look most radiant when I eat healthy food to nourish my body and strengthen my mind.
10. What is one book that helped you on your career journey that you would recommend?
The 10x Rule by Grant Cardone. This book is an eye-opener and really gave me proper perspective on how to set specific targets in life. It also gave me insight into what I need to do to get there. The author talks about extreme success, which is that you have to be able to push yourself everyday beyond the mediocre, in order to become ten times better than you are today. He revealed that success does not come without hard work, grit and perseverance. I would recommend this book to any other person like me willing to start up and maintain a healthy career.