If we have spoken at all in these past 2 years, you probably have heard about my struggle to figure out what to do next. It’s one of the reasons I stayed at MIT for an extra year, and also why I went “off-the-grid.” I needed to go find myself.
When the idea of graduation became realistic to me in 2018, I felt lost. I had been in the school system all of my life, and suddenly, it was time to go. As a generalist from MIT with diverse interests and ambitions, I was grateful to have options. But as someone who wanted to impact the world as soon as humanly possible, working at a big company or doing research at graduate school did not appeal to me. So I continued searching.
As a second grader in China, I didn’t get any allowance from my parents. When I wanted to buy a lollipop, I would collect cardboard and plastic bottles around my neighborhood and trade them in for cash. This exchange taught me the value of resourcefulness and satisfied my craving for snacks at the local convenience store.
During high school in New York, I realized that no one would hire a 15 year old. So I snuck into the sneaker business and sold used Nikes and Js under a pseudo name. I invested my precious Chinese New Year money and hustled my way around Facebook Marketplaces to negotiate deals. In 3 years, I sold over 60 pairs. This side-hustle taught me that it takes money and lots of hard work to make money.
In Boston at my college dormitory, I collaborated with two friends to start Danger Snacks, a snack business which offered affordability and convenience to our fellow neighbors. We each invested $300 of our own money into the venture to pay for our first Costco order. Over time, we grew the business in users and revenue, and upgraded from in-store Costco orders to online Boxed deliveries. While this venture wasn’t very successful financially, I got the ultimate satisfaction from my classmates visiting my store past midnight to satisfy their ramen craving. This business taught me that helping people in a meaningful way can feel really damn good.
Looking back now, I was an entrepreneur before I even learned the vocabulary.