Founder Spotlight: An Interview with Angie Ho Pang
Angie Ho Pang is the co-founder and lead strategist for the multi-award winning, Jason Pang Gallery in Hong Kong. She and her husband began the business after nearly 20 years in consulting and banking and finance. Four years ago, Angie and Jason both started to feel unfulfilled and decided they needed a change. Bringing together Jason’s passion for photography and Angie’s skills in marketing, branding, advertising and social media, they launched their own business and since then have been recognised globally for their achievements. Recently, Angie was invited to write a chapter about this transition in the newly released book, She Rises for Tomorrow. Angie’s professional journey is one of 16 told by bold and brave businesswomen around the world.
Tell us briefly about your professional journey?
I graduated from Chinese University of Hong Kong with a masters, became a consultant and worked my way up the ranks at Ernst & Young and KPMG. I reached director level and even started a new department within EY, eventually building a team of 20. Like a lot of consultants, I travelled the world, stayed in nice hotels and earned a very good salary. Then I met Jason, who was in banking and finance and after a while we both wanted a change. We had creative energies that needed an outlet and we couldn’t find that where we were. After that, it didn’t take long for us to quit our jobs and start Jason Pang Gallery.
Did setting up your own department give you a taste of entrepreneurship?
Not really. And the only reason for that is because I couldn’t see the project through from conception to execution. No sooner had we onboarded a new client, I was off finding new projects. There’s a big difference when you start your own brand, create your own why and develop your own vision. It underlies everything including the reason you bid on and/or accept certain projects in the first place.
Was it hard to leave your big corporate role? Were you scared to jump in to your own business?
It was hard to leave consulting but at the same time it was very easy too. Jason and I were both so unfulfilled. We looked successful, yes but there was no opportunity to just unleash. So, we asked ourselves what we were good at, what did we feel passionate about and where could we discover something meaningful? Those three questions really guided our decision and today, they still guide us particularly when it comes to our pro bono work, which is very important to us both.
How did others around you react when you said you were quitting?
In the beginning, there were a lot of questions. People wanted to know what our strategy was? What kind of business were we going to operate? Where are we going to set up? I think part of our success was saying, we don’t know yet and being open to the market. We didn’t want to pigeonhole ourselves as photographers, we wanted to engage at a deeper level. What is the client trying to achieve or convey? We don’t even use the term headshots. For us, these images are personal branding. And once you start talking to the client about their mission, their business strategy and their company values, you get a better understanding of the type of images that fit with their brand. And as we have those conversations, clients go on to engage us for branding, advertising and general consulting. And that’s how we’ve grown our business and our reputation.
Tell us about the book? How did you come to be involved?
I received an invitation via an entrepreneurs group on Facebook. The idea for the book was to tell the stories of women who’ve successfully transitioned from 9-5 (or 10-10) corporate life to owning their own business. Telling my story wasn’t easy. I’m usually an introvert but the stories of these women are really inspiring. Plus, I’m the only Asian entrepreneur profiled and it was important to me to speak up for women in this region.
Why is a book like this important?
The book is really all about inspiring women to follow their dreams and reach their potential. Sometimes, women aren’t good at asking for help, just like we’re not as good at asking for funding. Plus, the title is inspiring, Rise Up for Tomorrow – how relevant this year, of all years, to have a book like this?
What are the important lessons you’ve learned in business?
There are so many lessons but here are my top ones:
- Be flexible and trust in yourself, be confident and value your own contribution.
- Excel at expressing your message. Refine it and make it memorable.
- Keep your costs under control especially in the beginning. Create virtual teams, train them well and always look beyond the scope for pivot opportunities. Don’t wait for a pandemic to strike, diversify within your own business if you can.
- Finally, look for referrals and always be willing to give something different.
What about scaling? What’s your number one piece of advice?
We talk a lot about organic versus inorganic growth. For our part, we wanted to be good at both. Organic growth is obviously slower but you should start here, particularly if budget is limited, Create content that starts conversations and as you grow, move towards paid solutions; Facebook targeting, Google Ads etc. Refine those ads, test new offers and new markets. Look for opportunities within social media platforms that are win win. Join a Facebook group or follow people/companies on Insta who might be able to partner with you and your brand.
What advice can you provide about presenting your brand story?
You must focus on the why. You should also ask, what do you want your customers to feel? And remember, it’s not just about the words, the visuals are just as important. People make quick decisions based on your images.
Here are my top tips:
- Be connectable/approachable – your brand story should evoke curiosity and make people feel you are trustworthy
- Include client success stories, they are your best brand ambassadors
- Take followers behind the scenes, let them see how you work, particularly with other clients. Abandon the selfies.
- Put up your story, your personal story. People want to know about the founder and why they keep investing their time in this business.
- Strive to be influential. That means nailing the technical. Show how you’re an expert, comment on your industry and show you’re growing. Create influence goals and work towards them.
- Authority. Similar to influence but this is more about owning your USP. Be different and tell people why.
What are your top five marketing and branding tips for start up entrepreneurs?
My top tips are:
- Develop your website and your social media platforms well before you ask people to like it, otherwise you risk damaging your brand and wasting their time. They won’t revisit it if it’s substandard.
- Make sure your visuals match your brand. Plus, go beyond your business to include your industry and your city. In other words, show you are part of something bigger than yourself.
- Build recognition.Show how you’re helping your clients. Bond with them one at a time. Build your partners and show how you’re being recognized by your customers and your industry.
- Keep challenging yourself. Go to talks, workshops and conferences, join industry groups and keep investing in yourself and your brand. Give credit to people who help you grow, even if they’re in the same industry.
What would you say is the most critical thing in marketing to achieve growth?
Be consistent. Show up. As a startup, particularly online, understand that it’s a long road. Plus, start with one platform and do it well.
Register here to receive one of 10 free copies of She Rises for Tomorrow book.