I believe most of us set out on the path to entrepreneurship with a lot of hope, energy, and excitement but it doesn’t take long on the journey to realize we’re not just expected to be great at our craft, there’s a lot of other tricks we have to add to our bag. Marketing, sales, pitching, PR, bookkeeping to name a few. Not to mention the tough skin needed to overcome obstacles, comparison, hurt feelings, and setbacks.
It’s a bumpy road we’re traveling and with time it can be hard to hang on to the hope, the excitement, the fun, and most of all —the creativity.
In a black and white business world that says success is … Money, achievement, power. Do it this way! Follow this formula.
How do you hang on to the wonder and creativity?
In today’s interview, Anita shares a compelling story of starting, pivoting, and starting again. Even though the path may look like wrong turns and failures, how each part of her journey taught lessons she would need for the next part.
If you’ve ever felt you were losing your creativity, stuck in a role that no longer seems to fit, or just a creative robot for hire… I hope Anita’s story of bravery and courage to start again is just what you need to hear today.
WILDFLOWER SHOWNOTES : shannaskidmore.com/anita-cheung
Anita Cheung (00:00):
I was at a gas station filling up gas and that like that worked fine, <laugh>, but then I was like a little bit hungry, so I'm like, you know, I'm gonna go get a bag of chips. And this was during, like this was in that like four years of the yoga business, starting in trying to grow it. And I was like, You know what? I'm gonna go grab a bag of chips just for like little car snack. And I went in and I tried to buy a bag of chips and like I didn't have enough money for that. And it was just the most like embarrassing humbling, like there was just so many moments in those four years where like my debit card would not go through.
Shanna Skidmore (00:36):
You're listening to Consider The Wildflowers, the podcast episode 17. I believe most of us set out on the path to entrepreneurship with a lot of hope, energy, and excitement. But it doesn't take long on the journey to realize we're not just expected to be great at our craft. There's a lot of other tricks we have to add to our bag. Marketing, sales, pitching, pr, bookkeeping, to name a few. Not to mention the tough skin needed to overcome obstacles, comparison, hurt, feelings and setbacks. It's a bumpy road we're traveling and with time it can be hard to hang on to the hope, the excitement, the fun, and most of all the creativity in a black and white business world that says success is money, achievement, power, do it this way, follow this formula. How do you hang on to the wonder and creativity? In today's interview, Anita shares a compelling story of starting, pivoting and starting again.
Even though the path may look like wrong, turns and failures, how each part of her journey taught lessons she would need for the next part, if you've ever felt you were losing your creativity, stuck in a role that no longer seems to fit or just a creative robot for hire, I hope Anita's story of bravery and courage to start again is just what you need to hear today. If you dig professional bios, here goes. Anita Cheung, aka "Nits" is an artist, illustrator and designer based in Vancouver by day. She works with small businesses to create impactful branding and visual identities as well as dynamic and unique websites. Also, by day, she creates illustrations and artwork that is playful and warm for the young and young at heart. Since starting her creative entrepreneurship journey in 2017, she has a TEDx talk, a collaboration with Sage Natural Wellness and a few children's books under her belt.
Okay, formal introductions over, let's dive in. Hey, it's Shanna and this is Consider the Wildflowers, the podcast. For the past 15 plus years, I've had the honor to hear thousands of stories from entrepreneurs around the world. As a former Fortune 100 financial advisor, term business consultant, I have a unique opportunity to see the real behind the highlight reel. I'm talking profit and loss statements, unpaid taxes, moments of burnout, and those of utter victory. Or as my husband says, the content everyone is wondering but not many are talking about. And now I'm bringing these private conversations to you. Hear the untold stories of how industry leaders, founders, and up and coming entrepreneurs got their start, the experiences that shape them and the journey to building the brands they have today. Stories that will inspire and reignite, encourage to redefine success and build a life and business on your own terms. Welcome Wildflower. I'm so glad you're here. Hi Anita. Welcome to the show.
Anita Cheung (03:15):
Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.
Shanna Skidmore (03:19):
Okay, so I want you just to go back and tell the story that you told so beautifully that did not capture and record before <laugh>. I feel like we are just getting to know each other and so I'm really excited to get to hear more of your story. And I was feeling like I'm on pins and needles, so excited, like we got into it a minute and then had to start again. So take us back. What were you doing before you started the business you have today? Like what did you go to school for? What was your first career? Give us a picture of life before business.
Anita Cheung (03:51):
Got it. So I started my first business when I was 23, fresh out of university. And I went to university for the degree is called Global Health and Nutrition. And I went into it thinking that I would like save the world and quickly learned that, wouldn't be the case. While I was in university, I had the pleasure of working both in like a non-profit setting as well as working for entrepreneurs. And I just found that the entrepreneur way of doing things aligned a lot better with how I do things in that like moving quickly, very agile versus nonprofit world. You know, there's a lot of bureaucracy in the degree that I was studying in was going to become like I was gunning for, like working for a non-profit organization, doing food security, that kind of thing. So with that said, once I got out of school I was like, you know what, let's, let's try this entrepreneurship thing because I can always go back and do a master's program, so let's try this and just see how it goes. And so when I was 23 I started my own yoga and wellness mobile studio is what I called it. I was a yoga teacher, I led retreats and classes. It was what I thought I wanted and I eventually when I got out of it, realized that it was definitely not the right choice for me.
Shanna Skidmore (05:25):
Yeah, yeah. I like how you were saying before, kind of just the, the bigness, the of the nonprofit world, like how things moved so slowly is what really led you into entrepreneurship. And I would love for you to share where you what, why yoga <laugh>, why did you start with the yoga path?
Anita Cheung (05:45):
Yeah, so I was doing yoga in university and definitely a lot more when I moved away from home. So I'm based in Vancouver and I went to Melbourne for school for the last bit of, of my schooling. And I really missed home and I found a lot of solace in the yoga studio. I was also struggling with, I almost feel like it's like a cliche but like anxiety, depression, that kind of stuff in my early twenties and during university and found that mindfulness and yoga really helped. And so I think, you know, you only know what you know and I thought I had worked for so many studio owners in my university career, so I was like, you know what? I've seen it done before and I've helped them start their business so I feel like I could do this.
Shanna Skidmore (06:31):
Yeah, yeah. And so how did you, it sounds like you just started your own yoga classes. I mean, how did you figure out the pricing side and getting clients and how did it go in those first few years?
Anita Cheung (06:48):
Oh my gosh. Um, <laugh>, so as a yoga teacher I was working for select few studios. I didn't love the studio culture, like the studio culture once I came back to Vancouver cuz there's, there was kind of this like one big conglomerate franchise and I knew I didn't really wanna work for them. So I was sourcing out like, or finding smaller studios. Luckily someone connected me to somebody who was opening their own studio as well. So like there started to become a bit of like a boutique fitness movement I think globally, but definitely in Vancouver. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And this was kind of like 2014, you know, when Instagram was still Instagramming <laugh>.
Shanna Skidmore (07:28):
Anita Cheung (07:29):
<laugh>, yeah. It was still helping people get connected with new businesses. And I, I'm really thankful because I worked really hard at my Instagram game at that time and um, there was a lot of word of mouth and kind of collaborating with other businesses. And I think if there was anything I learned from that period of my life in that business, it's that like collaboration and generosity is key to growing your audience, growing your network and everything like that.
Shanna Skidmore (07:57):
Oh, that is so true. I totally believe the same in my own business. I started my own business kind of unofficially in 2012 and then 2013. So we remember Instagram <laugh> Yeah. <laugh> in those days. Yeah. But I totally agree. I just think especially back then, it felt definitely more like a community I would say in some ways and very collaborative and yeah. So I I loved that season as well when I was starting. So you did yoga it sounds like, for a few years. And I would love for you to share kind something you mentioned before about something can be your passion but not necessarily be a great fit career wise. And I would just love for you to kind of unpack that a little bit more.
Anita Cheung (08:44):
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So like I had mentioned, I, I really enjoyed like personally the benefits of yoga and, and mindfulness and meditation, but I was, was finding myself extremely exhausted and kind of spinning my wheels a bit whenever I would host a yoga event or retreat or a meditation class or something like that. I just, like, I loved it in the moment, but I would just be so zonked afterwards. And I know running a business is tiring. I fully expected that, but it wasn't until after I got out of the industry that I was like, Oh wow, that's like a whole other, that's like not regular business exhaustion. That's like me an introvert trying to be an extrovert for my life.
Shanna Skidmore (09:30):
Anita Cheung (09:31):
And I just couldn't hold that space. Like I think maybe it comes naturally to a lot of people and I am like really empathetic and I, I do care and love listening and I think I just like, I care too much to be in that position where the boundaries are so fluid and I'm, I'm yeah. Holding space and being the person for so many people when I can barely be like the person for myself.
Shanna Skidmore (09:55):
Yeah. Yeah. I just, I'm so glad that you shared that. Thank you Anita for sharing. I think you wanna be an entrepreneur, you know, and that's, that's in you. You wanna be an entrepreneur. But I think, I think sometimes we have to try different things to find the right fit and I often tell myself and students we can love something and be passionate about it and not have to make money from it, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and sometimes like we just need that permission. So as you started it, you know, it sounds like what three or four years you were doing yoga and when you started realizing this isn't maybe the greatest fit long term, what did you do?
Anita Cheung (10:33):
I got out, I mean, I wish I could say it was like super clean cut, but it was actually quite messy. I was at the late stage of my work in that industry. I was co-owning a meditation studio with two other business partners. It was definitely messy. I don't recommend it for anybody, but eventually we all went our separate ways and there aren't too many hard feelings, like everything got wrapped up. But yeah, I kind of, I kind of fell into the work that I do now really organically and I, instead of forcing myself into it, which I kind of felt was how I approached the yoga industry business, you know, I was just kind of like, I'm doing this and I'm just going like machete creating a path for myself. For the creative work that I do now. It just really kind of landed on my lap and I was a bit nervous to, to dive in at the beginning just cuz I had been burned before with the previous business, but I like slowly like bit by bit just kind of followed the trail and it led to full-time creative work.
It, I, I guess this sounds really like vague and mysterious, but basically I was, I had done my own branding and website for the meditation studio and I was getting requests from people asking like, who did you know, who's doing the photography, who's doing all the creative? And I was like, Oh, oh it's me. And they wanted my help and I was hesitant to start, but once I started taking on clients, it was just like one after another and it was, that was when I was like, Oh, okay, this, this feels good. Like it, it feels good to be doing this work. It doesn't feel draining. And it's kind of what confirmed it for me.
Shanna Skidmore (12:12):
Yeah. Oh I love that. I love that so much. Like it seemed more like a natural fit. Did you just start taking on clients? Did you immediately think, oh this is my new business? Tell me about, you know, when did you say, Okay, I'm gonna do branding and design, you know, just walk me through this new business as it grew.
Anita Cheung (12:34):
So I never really thought of it. It wasn't like this is a business <laugh>. I think I was like, I'm a freelance creative and that's kind of how I marketed myself and talked about myself for a really long time. Was like, I'm a freelancer. It just felt less scary than business. I think I wasn't ready for the business name even though I was like fully running a business. Like I like totally self-employed, you know, profit margins, all those things. But I still stuck with being or calling myself a freelance creative. And I think it happened over the course of maybe six months when I was finding like, okay, I'm letting go of this past industry and going full force into this new one.
Shanna Skidmore (13:20):
Okay. And so did it start with branding, website design? Tell me about those initial offers. Oh yes. What were you doing and pricing and how did you figure all that out? And I just am excited to, I'm, you know, I'm such a fan of your work, I think it's so amazing. So I just think it's really neat that this, you know, just was something naturally that came to you. I, I love hearing that. So did the business side come naturally? So how did you come up with your offers and pricing? Tell us about that transition.
Anita Cheung (13:50):
Yeah, I came up with the offerings based on what was asked of me and what I noticed was lacking in the market. So I, I mean I had always noticed, I'm like, oh, whenever I'm like looking at a website or I'm like, oh that like doesn't look so good like, or like, I'm like, oh that could be better. But I would keep those comments to myself because no one wants to hear that. Yeah. And it, because I would, I didn't formally go to school for this. I mean I've been, right, I've been creating websites and playing around with Adobe literally since I was 10. I was the kind of kid that did not get to go to summer camp. So in the summers I'd be at home with my grandma who's supposed to watch me and I'd just be on the computer like playing around like a little nerd,
Shanna Skidmore (14:36):
Anita Cheung (14:37):
<laugh>. But I, I mean because of that, like I learned code really young and like it's changed a lot but like it's a language and you know, when you learn a language really young it just comes back to you really easily. And so it was the skill set that I had never even thought was useful <laugh>, which sounds so silly, but when people started reaching out about it, it, I, that was when I was like, okay, you know what? Like I do have a really big interest in branding and design and aesthetics and I know, I'm like, I know I'm good and I just, it, it was a confidence that I had never really felt before and never really thought to own. So that was what led to like that being the offering. I didn't wanna do just like any kind of graphic design. I really wanted to help someone tell the story of their brand or the story of them, their per their personal brand. And in terms of pricing, it was definitely lots of ups and downs because I wasn't formally trained and I wasn't in the, you know, I didn't go to school for it. I definitely underpriced myself at the beginning significantly, but I learned over time and just kind of seeing what other people were doing and um, and then doing a gut check to see like, okay, does this feel good for me? That's kind of how I started to land on price increases and like package rates and that kinda thing.
Shanna Skidmore (16:00):
Yeah. So wait, was this what, 20, what year was this Anita?
Anita Cheung (16:06):
This was probably 2018 at this time where I was definitely like more full force in this work.
Shanna Skidmore (16:14):
And since then, do you feel like the work has just kind of come to you? Is it mostly still word of mouth? Are you utilizing social media a lot? I would just love to hear how the business growth has happened over time.
Anita Cheung (16:27):
I've been really, really fortunate that it has been almost exclusively word of mouth. I don't really promote myself in this client work, at least on any social media platform. Like I know there's so many things I'm like, I could do, you know, I could be doing like funny reels. I could be like on Pinterest, I could be like writing a newsletter like that. And there's lots of things that I know that I could be doing, but I often just end up getting swamped with work that I'm like, okay, well as long as the work keeps coming, I'm not gonna complain. Uhhuh <affirmative> though, it is something that I wanna do more of next year is just to start to create maybe just a little bit more content in that world so I could reach people. I'm not gonna lie, the like upcoming recession or the recession that we're in definitely scares me. So yeah, it's got me thinking a lot about, you know, being more proactive rather than just allowing the work to fall into my lap, which I've been so, so grateful.
Shanna Skidmore (17:25):
Oh absolutely. I've felt like that so much in my business, especially in those first kind of four to five years, like, <laugh>, please don't go to my website, please don't look at my packages. Please don't, you know, <laugh>. And I was just so grateful cuz I was busy doing client work, you know, and I was fortunate like you, it sounds like to have just great word of mouth and people coming in and I love, you know, I'm such a big fan of your work and I also really like, you know me, you have been in my business program, I know I am such a kind of niche and tell what you do. What are your offers? What is the pricing that, that makes it easier to market and promote yourself if you can share, like, this is what I do, but I feel like you have your hands in a lot of different things, <laugh> and, and I and I think that that, Well I would love to hear why do you think that works for you?
Anita Cheung (18:18):
I think it works. I know. I was like, this is like the one thing business 101. Don't do this <laugh>, I, I think it works for me because my target demographic is that, you know, this small business within like zero to two years. And they need someone who, who knows it all. Yeah. Um, who is a bit of that one stop shop. And if I don't, if I, if there's something I personally don't do, like copywriting, I've got people for it. Like I can recommend them to like some amazing people. I think there's also a lot of trust in that. Like, you know, I've started a business many and I know what's required and I know like I'm never gonna push somebody to, to take on a package that they don't need at that moment. Like, I'm very understanding and I just think it, it's different when you've gone through it and you are a small business owner Yep. Versus, you know, an agency that's just trying to push all their products on you.
Shanna Skidmore (19:11):
Yeah. And that's what I think Anita works so well for you and it is almost like you, that is your niche, that is your offer is you need creative work done. I create <laugh>, you know, and I I love that for so long you called yourself a freelance creative. You know, it's when you guys go listeners, when you go to Anita's website and just see her beautiful. It's like you are agile and you can make different things, but it does, it all tells a story. It all fits a need and it all very much speaks to you. You know, I love, like I can point out your work and it's so beautiful. Okay, so I got off track a little bit cuz I'm just fangirling you so much over here. But okay. So that sounds like, you know, as you grew, you, you're taking on work for so many years. I did the same thing. I said, I kind of threw spaghetti on the wall and saw what stuck and what people needed and how I could help. And for me it helped to create more streamlined processes just so I could like, this is what we do, this is what we don't do. And that was helpful just for communication. But I love that you've kept it open to be creative and that just fuels you. So it continues to, to, to fuel you. I would love to hear you share, like, did you have financial goals? Did you have salaries that you had to, to meet? Or, you know, how did you start thinking more about the numbers side of things?
Anita Cheung (20:39):
Okay, so I definitely learned a lot from the yoga wellness business business In terms of like service offering and a little bit about like pricing. And so I didn't have any hard goals the first few years except to get myself out of my business startup debt. So to start the yoga business I had taken on a loan from, it's like a young person business loan from the Canadian government, which is super amazing and like really, really helpful. But I had to start paying that off. I had to pay off my part of the meditation studio. So like I came into this freelance period of work already carrying some debt from the previous work. Yeah. So my big goal was just to pay that off as soon as I could. I told my partner, like I met him in 2015 and I was like, we can't even talk about getting married until I've paid everything off. Yeah. We got married this year, so I know. Congrats, congrats. It was, it was huge. Like
Shanna Skidmore (21:42):
Anita Cheung (21:43):
2020. So two years of working as a creative was when I finally like put that final payment in for everything and it just felt so good to be out of that kind of debt. Yeah. So yeah, that was, I didn't pay myself a salary. I actually, my company, so I am incorporated, but I just pay through dividends because it's kind of the easiest thing right now. At least according that's the advice my accountant gave me. Yeah. Where since we're looking to like buy a place in the next year or two, changing to a salary structure now would be a bit of a detriment. So they're like, just pay yourself in dividends. Like it's easy enough for us to calculate because, um, there's only one me and I don't have employees. Yeah.
Shanna Skidmore (22:28):
Yeah. I just really love how it's, you know, you went into this business with yoga, learned a lot of lessons, come now into your art and creative business and do work that fuels you and have a very, I love that you have a very specific, or had a very specific goal of paying off debt. Like that's what financially was kind of fueling you. Do you have new goals now that you have paid off all that debt?
Anita Cheung (22:56):
Well, we did just have a wedding, so there is still a little bit <laugh> of, but this is like more personal debt so it doesn't feel as as scary. I'd say our new goal is to buy a place in Vancouver, which feels like an impossible task. We are, we are very lucky in that my partner bought the apartment that we're in and he, when he's, he's like nine years older than me, so he got it like basically before the last recession in 2008. And so since then, I know you love numbers, so I'll just share with you. Like, so he got this apartment for I think it was like 375, $375,000 mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And it's now like an apartment like this is like $800,000. Oh yeah. This is a 650 square foot apartment PS
Shanna Skidmore (23:51):
Oh my goodness. Welcome to Vancouver.
Anita Cheung (23:54):
I know. Don't move here,
Shanna Skidmore (23:56):
<laugh>. It is beautiful though.
Anita Cheung (23:59):
It is beautiful. Yes. So our goal, our financial goal is to be able to buy a place like whether I think it would probably be like a townhouse and be able to forge the mortgage is like, for me it feels really scary to be like on the hook. It just feels a mortgage feels different from rent, you know?
Shanna Skidmore (24:17):
Yeah. Oh, for sure. Yeah. Oh, this is so good to, I just, Isn't it fun that we get to have businesses and set these, That's why, you know, I love numbers for this reason. Like what's our new goal? What are we shooting for? And that's the fun that only as an entrepreneur we get to have. Okay. Anita, share with me all the different kinds of things you are having your hands in now. How is the business feeling as it's grown? So you're what, four years in now to the creative business? What do you still really love doing? Are there some things you tried that you just didn't love doing? Just kind of walk me through the last few years what you've loved and how it's grown
Anita Cheung (24:56):
For sure. So I've realized over the last few years, um, I started to specialize in Squarespace websites and a little bit in Shopify as well. And while I do, I do love a good website, I'm now, I think in the next year or two I'd like to start to pivot more into exclusively design. So branding, design, website design, but just not development. It's like the coding is just a bit of a slog sometimes. So I think we're really lucky as entrepreneurs that we can really pick what we, pick what we love doing and maybe leave the rest on the table. So I think that's after doing a bit of reflection, I'm, that's like the way I'd like to move. That's the direction I like to move in. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, other lessons learned in the last four years, I completely changed the way that I work. So I used to be, you know, people would hire me for a project and that project would take three months, but you know, the nature of life on both sides, sometimes it would creep. Like timelines and then the payment would be late and it's just, it was just a bit of a logistical mess. So I switched to doing day rates in the last year and last year and a half I guess. And I love it <laugh> where people book me for the day and I Yeah. I'm like your creative robot for hire for the day, basically. Yeah.
Shanna Skidmore (26:24):
Anita Cheung (26:24):
And I know exactly what I can do in a day if, you know, all the pre-work gets done, I can do a brand identity in like a day and a half or two days. I can do a website in like three days. Like, I just know exactly what I'm capable of. And that's been really well received as well from clients both returning and new ones is like, they just like to know like, okay, I can launch on this day because Anita's gonna be done her work by this day.
Shanna Skidmore (26:49):
Yeah. Yeah. I think that that's such a cool, I have seen some other branding website professionals take on that quicker, get it done faster one project at a time and have heard such amazing, amazing feedback on, on people doing that. So I love that you're, you know, like, hey, let's get this done quick and mm-hmm. <affirmative> and quick. So it sounds like branding and websites is really how you started, but you do a lot of other creative work as well. Am I right? Some art, some illustrating licensing. So tell me how you started adding on these other projects and types of work.
Anita Cheung (27:30):
Yeah, so I am still, I, I feel like in the branding and web work, I'm like, okay, I feel like maybe not an old hand, but I'm like, okay, I know I, I know what to expect. I'm comfortable. And then as I think what happens with a lot of entrepreneurs, we love a good challenge. And what I was feeling was that I was just a creative robot for hire <laugh>. And there's nothing wrong with that, but I found that I wanted to be able to play and experiment and tell my own stories a bit. Maybe not necessarily like my actual stories, but like stories and ideas that I had in my mind. So about two years ago I started experimenting with storytelling through photography and themed photo shoots and art direction and thought like that was super fun, but it wasn't quite the right medium for me. I just don't love editing photos and kind of followed that instinct. So because I was never fully trained with art materials, I never really felt comfortable calling myself an artist. Right. You can probably see there's like a theme in my life where I'm like not formally trained in something and yeah, I
Shanna Skidmore (28:40):
But gifted, truly gifted
Anita Cheung (28:41):
<laugh>. Well I just, I, it's funny because I, yeah, I really didn't have the confidence in my artwork mm-hmm. <affirmative> and it wasn't, I share this in my about page. It wasn't until I started babysitting my niece, who's five years old now, but she was 10 months when I started watching her. And we'd spend every Thursday together and like, I'd read her books and we'd color and she just made, like seeing the world through her eyes, seeing my drawings through her eyes, like really lit me up and made me realize that like, you know what, there is a need for this, the playful nature of my personal work and that I do wanna bring this into the world. So in 20, I'm like, when was it, Was it just a year ago? I feel like it felt like so long. So last June was when I officially made my like debut as an artist. So doing prints and originals and and commission work. Prior to that I was doing, like, I had done a children's book or two, but I still didn't feel like an artist. <laugh>. And I had done some like brand collaborations as well, but last June was when I was like, you know what, officially this is also a part of me just as much as like the client work that I do.
Shanna Skidmore (29:54):
Yeah. Oh, that's, there's so much I feel like there, I have always loved running. I'm not good. I'm not fast. I will never win a race, but I am this, I never will call myself a runner. And I, uh, just a few years ago I was like, you know what, I'm a runner <laugh>, and yes, I'm slow and I, but I, it gives me so much joy to run. I mean, I know some people listen like, oh my gosh, that sounds crazy, but just being outside, that's just so freeing for me. So what is it about us that we don't own the gifts that we have or the things that are in us? But that's so true. I mean, it's hard when you're not, like you said you weren't formally trained, but you are clearly very gifted. And I love that you're doing this personal work as well, even if it's not your main money maker, you know, which you probably learned from the yoga studio. Like that's okay.
Anita Cheung (30:50):
Yes. Yeah, exactly. I mean, I would love for it. That's definitely where I'm putting a lot more of my focus. Like if you see my like social media, I'm definitely focusing my attention on this part because in my eyes I'm like, the client work is coming at least, at least for now, <laugh>. Um, so I wanna really grow this, this branch of my creative work. And so I'm putting, you know, all those, the Pinterest, the newsletter, the, like social media, like I'm putting a lot more public effort into the illustration and artwork side of
Shanna Skidmore (31:25):
Things, which is so great. It, it reminds me of a lot of the students that have that maybe have a full-time job. It's like branding right now is your full-time job, which you gratefully own it and enjoy it <laugh>. And it's good that you, you can still build up your side hustle. So I didn't have the luxury, you know, some people I didn't, some people listening don't have the luxury just to do what they love and not have to make the money. So it's like, I love that you are incorporating this personal work and trying to build that up as a revenue stream, but still holding onto your main, your main thing while you're doing that. So that's so good. Okay. And then, you know, I'm gonna ask about your TED talk. So tell us how this came to be and I would love to hear more about that.
Anita Cheung (32:03):
Yeah. I, I honestly don't even remember how it landed in my, I think I, I actually think somebody from the organizing committee in the TEDx Vancouver or like TEDx SFU team, they reached out to me and they were like, you know what we've like heard about you would, would you be interested in like auditioning for a TEDx? And yeah, it, it felt very surreal, but it is like a nice little flex. So I <laugh> when you were like, when you ask for the professional bio, I'm like, I'm just gonna drop this just cause it is like, I think it's something that,
Shanna Skidmore (32:39):
It's so cool.
Anita Cheung (32:40):
I think it's something that like other people are more impressed by than me because I, I was the one who like lived through it. So I'm like, I don't know. It was, it was okay. But I do still really love the topic that I talked on, which is the courage to start again. And I, it like toot my own horn. But I, I do think it is a really good TED talk in that I kind of link my experience with like starting new businesses to my parents starting a fresh new life in a new country. They, uh, fled the Vietnam War and arrived in Canada with like nothing. Um, so in a way I feel like that courage to like start again is in my dna.
Shanna Skidmore (33:24):
Yeah. Wow. I didn't know that part of your story. That gives me chills, <laugh>. Um, and I love the courage to start again. I'm literally writing that down so we can title your talk that. That's amazing. So were you born in Canada?
Anita Cheung (33:40):
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. So my sister and I were both born and raised here. My parents moved here when they were I think like between 18 to 21. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, I think my dad came when he was like 18 and then my mom a little bit later. After he had raised enough money to sponsor her over.
Shanna Skidmore (33:58):
Wow. And did did you still have family in Vietnam?
Anita Cheung (34:02):
No, no family. Yeah. So everybody managed to escape. Yeah. That we know at least. Just because the, it was not a, not a great place to be I think after the war. Yeah. So I have family kind of all over the world. Wherever they ended up, that's where they ended up. So like Australia, Vienna, Austria. France States, um, and Canada.
Shanna Skidmore (34:25):
Wow. What an interesting, I love, I'm excited. I haven't listened to your TED talk yet, so I'm excited and I will absolutely be linking it in the show notes to listen to it after that. And just the idea of the courage to start again, like in so many parts of life is, is relevant.
Anita Cheung (34:41):
Shanna Skidmore (34:42):
Yeah. Okay. So from yoga studio to creative work, you've been doing entrepreneurship for a while now. I would love to ask you some numbers questions if you're down for it.
Anita Cheung (34:54):
Sure. <laugh>. Yep.
Shanna Skidmore (34:56):
I would just love for you to talk about, you know, your relationship with money throughout the years. I mean, as you started university and then your first business in the yoga world and wellness industry and then now in the creative. Just talk to me about your relationship with money.
Anita Cheung (35:12):
So in university I was very lucky in that I, because I was such an overachiever in high school, I managed to secure a full ride scholarship to university and not have to worry, not have to worry my parents not have to worry myself about money. Yeah. In hindsight, I'm like, that may not have been the best thing cuz those are such formative years and like to just have this, like this pot of money that you could dip into, not without consequence, but like to not worry. And, and then I also worked like three jobs because I'm an overachiever <laugh>, so I had like a disposable income and I actually joked that I had more disposable income in university than I did in my early twenties when I was starting a business for sure. Yeah. And so that was, my relationship back then was kind of like very naive, I guess, and not really wanting for anything because everything like school was covered. I had jobs to cover everything else and I didn't really, you know, you're in the little bubble of university. So because I didn't have maybe the firmest foundation from, uh, my university experiences, I definitely felt like I was in over my head a bit once I started the business. And I think I had consumed a lot of media that was like, oh, you know, it takes money to make money. And that was the mindset that I think I had at the time. Probably not the best, especially because like early stages of business really should have been keeping it lean. But I was not smart with my money and I'm not afraid to admit it. I, there's actually a story where I was at a, I was at a gas station filling up gas and that like, that worked fine <laugh>, but then I was like a little bit hungry, so I'm like, you know what, I'm gonna go get a bag of chips. And this was during, like, this was in that like four years of the yoga business starting in trying to grow it. And I was like, you know what, I'm gonna go grab a bag of chips just for like little car snack. And I went in and I tried to buy a bag of chips and like, I didn't have enough money for that. And it was just the most like embarrassing humbling, like, there was just so many moments in those four years where like my debit card would not go through. And it was just so, it was so embarrassing and mortifying and really like just such a wake up call at that point. I can't believe it took that long. It ended up being not, it ended up being like a, a weird banking error. So I did have like $5 at least, like I had more than $5.
But like at the time I fully believed that was possible. I was like, this is very possible that I don't even have $5 in my bank account. And I never forget that story because yeah, it reminds me to not have my head in the sand, which was my approach back then. I really don't think I started being realistic with numbers until later in my twenties. And, you know, I wish that wasn't the case, but that's how the cookie crumbles sometimes. And I'd say my relationship with money now is kind of like when you're in the forest on a hike and they say like, Oh, do not disturb this rehabilitation zone. And I feel like I'm in that rehabilitation zone right now where with my creative work, I started making a real income. And my biggest, I guess like piece right now is, you know, I'm doing my monthly bookkeeping so I'm aware of where, so that I'm a little bit more aware of where money flows more so than I was like, you know, two or three years ago.
But I could definitely be more budget conscious in, in the way that I spend because I think like those four years of just going from like university, not really having to worry about it and then like starting the yoga business and being like, I don't have money for anything. Whereas like my peers were starting to get their first salary jobs and like go on vacations and everything. And then when I finally started making income from my creative work, I was kind of like, okay, well I'm gonna, now I'm gonna like treat myself and I'm gonna spend on things. So I'm just coming off of that pendulum swinging and like learning to find that
Shanna Skidmore (39:24):
Yeah. I really like how you said, you know, spend money to make money or, you know, those kind of business sayings, but looking back maybe you would've grown it a little bit leaner. Would you say there are numbers that you have learned to look at either personally or in your business and how, for somebody who's listening who is like, I bury my head in the sand too. <laugh>, how did you start <laugh>? I don't even think we're taught what to look at, which clearly is why I do what I do every day. I mean, were there resources that helped you or anything you'd like to share that helped you start understanding your money more?
Anita Cheung (40:02):
I'd say, I mean definitely shoutout to the blueprint model, um, for a lot of the more adult feeling like things to look for. I think in the last, prior to enrolling in the blueprint model, I was looking at like expenses. And that was the biggest thing was just like, it was very like elementary and it still is like, at the very least that's what I'm gonna be looking at. Um, in my monthly bookkeeping because I was noticing, I'm like, you know, I quote, I quote this much for projects, I'm making this much money. Like, where does it all go? <laugh>. Yes.
Shanna Skidmore (40:36):
Anita Cheung (40:37):
And yeah, that's, I I'd say like, if there's anywhere to start, it's just to set yourself a monthly, I think you call it like a monthly coffee date or something,
Shanna Skidmore (40:46):
But like Yeah. Money date
Anita Cheung (40:47):
I a money date. Yeah. So I, I've been doing like money dates for the last few years, like once a month just to at least look at my bookkeeping. And that saves on accounting and that kinda stuff later on too, which is nice.
Shanna Skidmore (41:00):
Yeah. And it's so helpful. I just, I thank you so much for sharing that because I feel like it is intimidating to even know where to begin and you're like, Hey, if I can't buy a bag of chips, this is a problem <laugh>.
Anita Cheung (41:14):
Yeah. Cause I'm work ingso hard.
Shanna Skidmore (41:16):
Oh my goodness. Exactly. But it's like, where to start? Is it your pricing? Is it your cost? Is it your, And I did not coach it. Thank you for shouting out the blueprint model. That's so sweet. And I, I really clearly am very passionate about empowering people to know what to even look at because it's, it's not taught, it's not easy to know
Anita Cheung (41:38):
Shanna Skidmore (41:38):
<affirmative>. Yeah. In all of that, what would you say is the best thing that you have learned about money?
Anita Cheung (41:44):
I would say that money comes and goes and there will be seasons in life where there is more of it seasons where there's less. And these days my view on money is that it's a tool for opportunity and for me, like the most important thing is to use that as an opportunity to use it as an opportunity to connect with loved ones. So I know like the numbers and everything, if you're not a numbers person, it can feel very scary. But like, that's why it's so important for me to know the status of where things are and to like not bury my head in the sand anymore is because I wanna be able to use it as a tool for good. Yeah.
Shanna Skidmore (42:24):
Hmm. I love that. And that's so true, you know, because you've taken my program, the blueprint model, but I start all of my programs off with vision and I think sometimes I have students be like, Wait, I wanna talk about money, I need help with pricing today, right now <laugh>. And it's like, well, to make big life changes and money is one of those, we have to know the purpose behind it because I'm never gonna make you fall in love with money, you know? But like you said, you want to know so that you can do good in the world or connect with family, you know, the purpose and why you're making the choices you make with your money. So That's so good. Anita, Thank you for sharing that.
Anita Cheung (43:04):
Shanna Skidmore (43:06):
<laugh>. Okay. I wanna ask one final question before we go into like a quick fire round, but I called this podcast Consider the Wildflowers for so many different reasons, but I just really love to hear, I think in a world that asks us to do everything really well, how would you say that you have found harmony between your work and your life?
Anita Cheung (43:29):
I would say that changing the way I worked was huge. So taking those intensive design days rather than big full projects that like drag out and managing multiple projects all at once and just being like on call all the time. Whereas now there's a very clear distinction of like, okay, I'm on, you know, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday if I'm booked, and then Thursdays I guard religiously because that was the day that I used to take care of my niece, my older niece when she was a baby. And I've been taking that Thursdays basically half off or off like for the last five years to watch her and then watch her little sister when she came around. And then now that they're both like daycare and kindergarten, my parents are retired, so now Thursdays are like family time. So that is, so that's something that like, I never want to give up because that helps me find balance. It helps me stay creative. I know being a creative robot for hire, like I have to be on my A game whenever I'm with my clients. And I think if people aren't creative, they, or if they're not in a creative field, they don't realize, you know, like sometimes we have great ideas and it's like, oh yeah, we're in the shower, great idea. But like, I'm being paid to have a great idea that day <laugh>, and so I need to make sure that I'm gonna have that great idea. Yeah. And so in order to do that, like finding the downtime, like investing my time and hobbies has been so, so
Shanna Skidmore (44:59):
Huge. Yeah. Oh, that is so good and so true. I find myself, you know, I work in money, but it's still very creative. You know, that's my spreadsheets are my creativity, you know, and you're so right. Look, we have to be fueled to be able to have these good ideas and running on zero and 18 cups of coffee is not gonna make it happen. So. Oh, thank you for sharing that. Okay. This has been really fun. I just have enjoyed spending time with you and let's end with kind of a quick fire round.
Anita Cheung (45:31):
Shanna Skidmore (45:32):
Okay. So first question, what is one thing you would be embarrassed if people knew
Anita Cheung (45:38):
Um, I have an emotional support, cactus pillow, <laugh>. It's like this perfect size for like screaming into when I'm frustrated or like hugging when I'm like having a down day.
Shanna Skidmore (45:49):
I mean, And do you feel that this helps?
Anita Cheung (45:52):
Oh, fully, yeah. I, I'm like big on the whole like inner child work reparenting, like all of that. I mean, doing the type of illustrative work that I do, like, I'm sure that's not a surprise.
Shanna Skidmore (46:03):
Yeah. Oh, that's awesome. I have a friend who has a, an emotional support candle, and that's kind of the first that I've heard of this. Um, but that's so true. Screaming into a pillow. I mean, what could be better? <laugh>. <laugh>. Oh, I love that. Okay. Um, any wish you could do over moments?
Anita Cheung (46:21):
No, no regrets.
Shanna Skidmore (46:22):
Yeah. Ugh, so good. Okay. Third, what is a pinch me moment or kind of a big win?
Anita Cheung (46:30):
Um, any I get featured in a publication, especially if it's for my artwork side of things. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it's a pinch me moment. PR does not come easily to me.
Shanna Skidmore (46:41):
Yeah. Yeah. Have you had any big features that you wanna share? I would love to hear some.
Anita Cheung (46:48):
Yeah. There was one, um, 99 magazine, they're based in the UK and they did a digital feature on me earlier this year. That was sort of like my biggest one so far because I do my own pr, you know, you know how it is, you have like 50,000 things to do and it was, I had devoted one or two days in the spring to being like, I'm gonna just pitch to a bunch of places. And it just felt really rewarding to see that coming to fruition.
Shanna Skidmore (47:16):
Oh, that's so awesome. Oh, I'm gonna look it up. Okay. What is the best advice or just really good advice that you have received?
Anita Cheung (47:24):
Um, not sure if this is an, like, if it's advice, but it's a life motto that I heard somewhere and now I take it to heart. It's either a good time or a good story.
Shanna Skidmore (47:33):
Oh. Oh, I'm gonna have to think on that one. <laugh>. <laugh>. Okay. That's awesome. Okay, last quick fire question. What are you working on now and or what is one resource you would like to share?
Anita Cheung (47:47):
So what I'm working on now is playing around with my, the artwork side of my business. I think I like with many other, like, like with my other businesses, when I was starting out, I was just kind of seeing, okay, what else is out there? And what I've realized is that in the art world, you know, prints, originals, there is a lot of, there's a lot of stuff. And I actually, I mean, I live in a 650 square foot apartment. I don't want a lot of stuff in excess inventory. And product based business is new to me. So I'm working on what I'm calling the yearbook club for next year. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, where it's a monthly commission membership. So folks will pay a sliding scale rate per month, and they'll get two commissions from me that's bound into a lovely little coffee table book that they can keep at the end of the year.
Shanna Skidmore (48:39):
Oh, this is so fun. What a creative idea. I'm excited. Yeah. You're gonna have to just try new things. Oh, yes. And I love that you're, you know, sometimes you try things, they'll go Great. Keep me posted on how that goes. I'm excited.
Anita Cheung (48:54):
Yeah, I'm, I'm really curious too. It's, this is the first time I'm like talking about it. Although I guess when this launches, it'll be around that same time. But yeah. And then the resource I'd love to share is another podcast called Softer Sounds Studio.
Shanna Skidmore (49:07):
Oh, okay. Oh
Anita Cheung (49:07):
Wait, I think it's called Off the Grid. And it's produced by Softer Sound and it's all about going off Instagram, going off social media and still growing your business.
Shanna Skidmore (49:16):
Um, hello. That is so my thing. How have I not heard of this before? Okay. I'm looking it up. We will link it below. Thanks for the resource. That's awesome. Yeah,
Anita Cheung (49:25):
I feel like you need to be on that podcast.
Shanna Skidmore (49:26):
Anita Cheung (49:27):
There needs to be some cross collaboration.
Shanna Skidmore (49:29):
I need to speak with my pr slash myself and <laugh> get on that podcast.
Anita Cheung (49:34):
Shanna Skidmore (49:35):
If someone listening knows them, let's Oh, that'd be so fun. I, you know, I'm a big, Well, we can talk about social media off the grid another time, but I'm excited to check that out. Thank you for sharing. So good. My pleasure. Okay, Anita, I'm sad to send it off because I feel like I could keep chatting with you, but I would love for you to end our chat today and just go back to the days of university and right when you were about to start your first business, what would you tell yourself on day one?
Anita Cheung (50:07):
Hmm. I would tell myself that everything will pass good and bad. All the stresses, all the worries. One day they're gonna be in the rear view and not to worry about every little thing because it will pass.
Shanna Skidmore (50:19):
Yeah. Mm. That's so good. Like we gotta speak truth over ourselves so much. <laugh>, thank you so much for your time today and sharing your story. It was just so wonderful to get to know you a little bit better.
Anita Cheung (50:31):
Thank you for having me.
Shanna Skidmore (50:33):
Hey Wildflower, you just finished another episode of Consider the Wildflowers, the podcast. Head over to considerthewildflowerspodcast.com for show notes, resource links, and to learn how you can connect with Nits. One final thought for today. I actually heard from Anita, she ended her TEDx talk with this quote from the book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century To Keep up with the World in 2050, we will need to do more than merely invent new ideas and products, but above all else, reinvent ourselves again and again. As always, thank you for listening. I'll see you next time.