Wen Zhang’s amazing story begins as she dreams of venturing into the world while growing up in an isolated mountain town in rural China. Wen completely transformed her life by teaching herself English using just a cassette machine. Despite countless challenges, she pushed forward to become the only person who ever left her hometown, and achieved her dream of seeing the world.
You can’t help but become motivated listening to her story and Wen wants to empower and enable others to achieve their dreams as well. This is why she founded INNW Institute, with a mission to empower entrepreneurs and startup founders to connect with investors and customers.
In this episode we cover how to nail your pitch to get funding, common mistakes founders make and how to avoid them, starting your day with meditation and how to create and achieve goals to make your dreams come true.
Wen Zhang: I walked outside and I gave my mama a call. I tell her what happened. I tell mom, I, I don’t know if anything I can do this is the best I got with this cassette machine with my own effort is, is there’s nothing else I can do. I felt at a moment when everybody laugh at me, everybody thinks I’m crazy. Maybe they are true.
Maybe I was just meant to be a little mountain town girl. And maybe that was my life. This is not a path for me. And maybe I am not good enough. I don’t have what it takes to truly take on the world. And I remember that day, that moment is still vividly in my mind. And that whole night I just very, I was very road down for a solid couple days.
I thought that’s everything I got, but I thought to myself, you know, by this point I have failed so many times there is nothing to lose at this point. I absolutely have to give it one more shot.
You’re listing to the Establishing your Empire show, a podcast that inspires entrepreneurs, creatives, and future business owners to pursue their passions, grow their organizations and build their empire. My name is Darren Herrman and creatively. I’m best known for my photography. But, business-wise my claim to fame is growing a company from 15 K per month in online sales to breaking the $1 million a month barrier.
And I’m sitting down with interesting people to talk about the process and the lessons they’ve learned and how they have established their empires.
I got Wen here on the Establishing your Empire podcast. Thank you so much for coming by and doing this today with me. Why don’t we just start off and give a little background about who you are, who is Wen?
Well, hello everybody. This is Wen Zhang I’m super, super excited and honored. Thank you so much, Daran for having me here.
I tell people my name is Wen, just like, if not, not, when? Now it’s a best time. Today I’m the founder and CEO for INNW Institute. We support entrepreneurs grow and scale their business.
I love it. And How’d you come up with the name, if not now, when? Was that like something that you had just had say like a, a power statement?
You know this Chinese proverb said the last time, the last best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
Second best time is now. So oftentimes our minds, I oftentimes think about you know, if not in when surely not only because I made my name, but I just felt like we have such a short time in this planet. With the pandemic. I feel like I could totally die tomorrow. If anything I want say, I want to start working out, say, I want to start a business.
I want to start XYZ. Now is the best time
I love it. So motivational. And so you have a podcast, if not now, when there’s like, it’s a pump you up because you get very excited. You have a lot of energy, so excited today. Hopefully I can bring the same energy, but so I don’t even know how to ask this, but basically you’re, you’re not born in the U S right.
So can you give that background that backstory?
Yes. Well first of all, I’m born and raised in China Wen in Chinese, actually means “Rainbow in the Sky”. So my mom wanted people to be happy when they see me. So hopefully that is covered. So I’m born and raised in a little town where first of all, girls are unwanted.
In a family like mine and in the town where it is not much internet truly their’s no internet, there’s no car. And if you want to visit the nearest city, I mean, there’s a bus to take, go around mountain like eight, nine, 10 hours ish. That’s how you get to the town. And with that we don’t leave. So people who are born in a town, you’re living in a town and that’s how the life is.
And I mentioned that, you know, girls are unwanted because really life for a girl. Well, woman, really just one path being a great mother, great wife, and that’s beautiful, truly inspiring my mom, my aunt, my grandma, every single woman I know in my family did that path, which was so much hard work. And I have so much respect to that.
I just, as little as I remember, I just knew was not for me. And I could not explain that verbally because there’s no quote, unquote mentor around me. There’s no example. There’s no. Anybody do any beyond that mounting life has to offer, but I just always wonder what is more and I know Darren, you mentioned today, you have a newborn son.
If you watch a Disney movie with him, which maybe he’s never too young for that. But I love this movie. If you ask Muana, which is one of my favorite. In a movie, Muana was wondering what is beyond the ocean for her. And for me, I see that as so similar in my own path, we are always wanting a run walk rather than mountain town.
When I see the mountain all over me, I wonder what is beyond the mountain line. And that’s
a lot of people have parallels to that. Like I grew up in a small town in Kansas. Right. Which is nothing. I mean, it’s, I could still leave easily, but a lot of people don’t right. And I just. It’s so interesting. I think there’s a lot of parallels to entrepreneurs that have that, that kind of have this want to do more and see more and be out there.
And I wouldn’t say it was sheltered as a child, but like, I mean, first time I got on a plane was like, I was probably senior in high school. So whereas most people travel out much younger than that. But anyway, go ahead. Continue.
I love that Kansas. I heard great barbecue.
Yeah, Kansas city, definitely different barbecue than here in Austin.
Completely. Like when I moved here and I went and got barbecue, like I was like, this isn’t barbecue, this is different. It’s an apple and an orange, but I, now that I’ve lived here since 2008, I probably like it here better. Cause now, now I’m into the whole brisket thing, but at first it was. It’s just different.
It’s completely different, but
amazing. Wow. That’s how I learned about the world. It’s by the food, I don’t exactly know what Kansas City is, where it is, but I know barbecue.
What’s your favorite food from your Homeland?
So for me, when I, when I miss home, when a homesick food is one miss the most, and because today’s kind of one of the first fall seasons in Austin, Texas here in the moment of the hot pot, even though that is
Shanghai, China. So, yeah. So, and then there’s, I mean then also like Lin here downtown is amazing. In fact, I liked there what do you call it? A little dumpling like, see, I liked him better there than in China.
The best of dumpling I have entire universe including when I was in China, but yes. So could that, I agree with you.
So how did you leave then?
Just one random day. I’m not mad, random, but random D my, my my friend she had a summer job in the big city Shanghai, which is speaking of which, so she might even visit her. So I took a motorcycle ride above. Train up about my stuff. Right then I was like, that’s how I got there.
And when she showed me the town, I was just so amazed. Wow. That is listed. There was locally, which is not my hometown. And I think what memorized me the most is when I walked in one. And it’s five stories tall and is full up book. And that just amaze me during, because I come from the bookstore is Papa this size of a space and all textbook and then never see I’m so crave for information about the world.
And that’s my first time I felt I was like kissing the Kenny store. I see so much possibility. And. I still remember that day I was getting lost in the, in the hole, like so many floors, so many so fancy, you know, and I remember I, I come across is English as second language session and that’s how I discovered cassette tape.
And that’s how I did, you know, at the time did not really know what English is or even what America or what you was. I have no idea geographically or. What does a world remains. But for me, when I come across a session, something in me just sends the Assam possibilities. I don’t know what that is, but I thought, you know what?
I’m not going to, it’s not going to hurt. Why not give a try? And that’s how I, that day got a cassette machine get like five, 10 books you know, that day. And I still remember when I check out a book and when I carried a book on my shoulder and a weight on my shoulder, I remember that’s actually my first time ever felt what hope feels like.