LINDSAY / CEO OF WISH UPON A PRODUCT / LAS VEGAS NV
Meet Lindsay. She’s a good person to know because she can pretty much do anything. I’m serious. After working internationally in China, she started her business, Wish Upon a Product, to help companies make, you guessed it, literally any product that they wish. In this interview, Lindsay’s drive, passion, and fearlessness are contagious and it’s clear that she’s only just getting started. And yes, oh yes, she’s Blooming.
Tell me how you got to where you are?
I went to Washington University in St. Louis where I earned a dual degree and triple majored in Mandarin Chinese, international business, and marketing. During college, I interned for a company that is based in both St. Louis and China, and after college was offered a position with this company in Dongguan, China. In this role, I sourced all kinds of products for major brands and retailers: everything from leather sofas for JCPenney, stuffed animals for Edible Arrangements, and trampolines for HSN and QVC. I was based in China for about a year and a half and then returned to the States, where I worked for another company. After about a year, I realized that the whole structured, 9-5 (which in reality was 8-7) life wasn’t for me.
I loved what I was doing in China and realized that I had the capabilities to do it on my own, so I launched Wish Upon A Product almost a year ago. Basically my role is to connect US companies with factories overseas to make high quality, low cost items. While I do work mostly with China, I have contacts in Vietnam, Bangladesh, and India as well. Most recently, I’ve kind of found a niche in the market working closely with smaller entrepreneurial businesses on products geared towards millennials, such as artist merchandise for famous EDM DJs, tanning products and accessories, and this year I also partnered with Zappos which has a very unique work culture.
Since I started my business, I have returned to China three times, as I prefer to be more hands-on and do quality inspections myself. But I’m sure I’ll get to the point where I will be able to grow and hire a team out there.
Has it been tough to be an entrepreneur?
Of course! It’s tough for many reasons. One, I have a very traditional family that believes in a corporate lifestyle and having a structured work environment, so it’s been tough to get the full support that I need. If you don’t have full support from those around you, it’s hard to stay motivated. But I’m very confident that as I persevere, I will continue to gain their support and achieve great success.
Second, it was initially difficult to get my business to thrive. It took about four to five months to obtain my first customer and get my business off the ground so that income could be steady.
Another major struggle is being a woman and working overseas. China often has a very male-dominated society so it’s been really tough to prove my worth over there as well. When I was working previously there, I had a male boss who, if there was a problem, could step in and take the lead. Now that I’m on my own, I am solely responsible for proving my competence, experience, and ability in order to be viewed professionally.
You feel that there is a gender disparity in your industry?
Absolutely. While there has been a huge difference from when I started working in China four years ago to now, it’s still not enough. It’s still a struggle for women to truly have respect in the workplace.
You talked before about feeling that you lacked support systems. How do you keep yourself motivated and positive as an entrepreneur?
I think I really get that intrinsic motivation from my dad. He was a self-employed attorney, and he passed away four years ago. Losing someone important to you gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you motivated to make them proud and do big things. When I’m feeling discouraged, I like to look at business and sales as a numbers game. You get rejected, you get rejected, but ultimately someone is going to say yes. That’s kind of what happened for me.
You’ve touched upon this already but can you go deeper into an obstacle that you’ve overcome?
Good question. My biggest struggle in my business is that I’m at the mercy of customers placing orders. Not having a consistent cash flow is probably the biggest ongoing concern that I have.
In terms of how I overcame it, about two weeks ago, I invested in my own product that I’ve private labeled and am committed to marketing myself. It is a high quality selfie light that I have trademarked as the Limelight. One day, I hope to expand the selfie light into a lifestyle brand of feel-good products called Get Into The Limelight. By expanding my business in other ways, this obstacle will no longer be an obstacle.
Again, it’s got to be that support. Convincing a family that believes in corporate America that entrepreneurship is my path has been tough. I remember placing my first order and I was so happy. They were like, “It’s a great order but what about when taxes are taken out? It’s actually not that much when you think about it.” I was like, “You should be celebrating!” Hearing this, it doesn’t always feel good. As time has gone on and I’ve proven that I can do it, I’ve gotten more support but this is not anything that my family is really used to. They typically take the safe route and I’m definitely more of a risk taker.
Before you launched your business, what did you think about before actually going for it?
My biggest apprehension is that there are a lot of people that do what I do. I’m one person. How can I differentiate myself from my competitors? The best advice I can give is to put a personal touch on it. My company’s name, Wish Upon A Product, comes from my love of Disney. I wanted to make the company very “me.”
When I work with factories overseas, I always take a step further to prioritize and build relationships. After we spend a long day working at the factory, I make sure that we go out to dinner or go to karaoke together, and we celebrate our successes. Lastly, I try to have strong business relationships with my US-based customers, in which we can relate on other levels besides just the business. It should be a personable experience.
HOW HAVE YOU MAINTAINED YOUR CONFIDENCE ON THIS JOURNEY TO BECOMING A BUSINESS OWNER?
When I was younger, my parents divorced. When I was a teenager, my dad came out that he was gay. His bravery (especially in the early 2000s) has always taught me to be proud of who I am. I am proud to be a woman. I’m proud to be Jewish. I’m proud to be everything that I am and what I do. I’ve learned to embrace it all and to be proud of it.
Especially in China, it can be a male-dominated society and it doesn’t help that I’m also a young, female entrepreneur. It is a struggle but I found that I connect well with other women; we work really well together because there is something unique to the female bond and this sense of understanding.
There are so many networking groups out there for women in business. We need to support each other and bring each other up. We need to give referrals and guidance to lift our businesses. That’s what Wish Upon A Product is about, and I am ultimately trying to develop a Get Into The Limelight lifestyle brand of products that make you feel good about yourself.
What do you do to practice self-care?
When I was living in China, I was working these crazy hours and even now, I work a lot. I’ll work 9-5 and then I’ll plug back in around 10 or 11pm to chat with the factories in China. But no matter how much I work, I try to make sure that I go to the gym, get to the grocery store, and cook healthy food. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a huge priority of mine. The more personally motivated I am, the more professionally motivated I am.
If you could give three keys to starting a business, what would they be?
Passion, persistence, and innovation — always thinking of ways to make your business better.
We’ve covered a lot! We've talked about your present, past obstacles, and even your struggle to find support systems…so how will you Bloom in the next year?
Creating my own lifestyle brand, Get Into The Limelight, outside of the products I am working on for other companies, is going to help my company Bloom and hopefully help me gain some additional exposure. One of the hardest things for me has been to find new Wish Upon A Product customers organically but starting my own brand will hopefully allow me to increase my audience and customer base.
When people look back at you and what you stand for, what do you want to be remembered for?
In order to be successful, you have to take risks. I started college wanting to be a doctor but I soon realized that the medical field wasn’t where my heart was — I kept leading towards China and Chinese culture. I took a risk studying the Chinese language, studying abroad in Beijing, moving to China after college, and now I took the risk to start my own company and my own brand. I want to be remembered for taking risks and showing people that if you take a leap, there is a net that will catch your fall. As Walt Disney said: All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.