On September 23, over 120 people gathered at the classy D6 Bar & Lounge in downtown Vancouver to kick off Cold Tea Collective’s first-ever panel and networking event, as part of The Entrepreneur Series.
The audience welcomed four local business extraordinaires – Bob Wang, Matt Murtagh-Wu, Vivian McCormick and Sonia Chhinji – to the stage. The awe-inspiring evening began with lightning talks from each panelist, followed by a deep dive into their entrepreneurial journeys, values, culture, identity and lessons learned. Check out our event photos here and scroll down to the bottom of this article for link to our podcast recap.
Sonia Chhinji, co-founder of Woodlot, opened with a heartfelt story about coming full circle with her career journey and reconnecting with her culture. Growing up in a Southeast Asian family in Vancouver, she had always resisted the influences her parents pressed upon her. Tracing her steps through the hospitality, tech, and now the beauty and wellness industries, she discovered that her identity has been a guiding force behind every turning point in her life.
“What I realized during the process of starting a company [was] as much as I was always running away from things I’m made up of, they just showed up in places where I needed it the most,” Chhinji said.
Founder of The Dumpling King, Matthew Murtagh-Wu, spoke about building community through storytelling and food. Sourcing from shops that have been around for 40 years, his business is deeply rooted in the historical neighbourhood of Chinatown. Murtagh-Wu utilizes his platform to share his passion for food and art, as well as to vocalize issues close to his heart, such as gender and cultural appropriation – all of which have propelled the continuous evolution of his multi-dimensional venture.
“People get stoked about dumplings and they are interested in me and my story,” Murtagh-Wu said. “There’s a lot to be said about the mixed-race experience in Canada, especially in Vancouver. We’re the first out of anyone to know what it means to be mixed-race or Asian Canadian.”
Recently recognized as a Top 40 Under 40 honouree, Bob Wang, founder of Legacy Advantage (now ctrl by Deloitte), encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs to take initiative and ask the right questions. Inspired by his father and grandfather, Wang’s entrepreneurial spirit was ignited at a young age and shapes the way he approaches all aspects of his life.
“When you see a problem in your life, don’t wait for other people to solve the problem for you,” Wang said. “The right question is always, ‘how can I do it?’”
The lawyer-turned-entrepreneur, Vivian McCormick, co-founder of Flax Sleep, discovered her passion for entrepreneurship after a decade of legal practice and through her pursuit of a sustainable career. She shared the reality of starting a company with no prior business experience, learning on the go, and the power of leaning on your community for support.
“There’s a lot of things you will not know – that’s okay, you need to just figure out what you don’t know and who does know how to harness and leverage that kind of knowledge from other people,” McCormick said.
THE PANEL DISCUSSION
Moderated by Natasha Jung, co-founder of Cold Tea Collective, the panel engaged in an intimate conversation about their transition to entrepreneurship, the meaning of success, and the wisdom procured along the way. Here are some highlights:
Becoming an Entrepreneur
For some, the entrepreneurial spirit runs in the family, from the humble beginnings of a tofu-making business to an overseas textile venture. For others, it was sparked by observing from the sidelines while working on the frontline of startups and watching other business owners. However, regardless of your upbringing or life experiences, it’s up to you to blaze your own trail.
“The past record of what you learned in school will define what you do in the future, but it’s really on you to connect the dots which is what makes you an entrepreneur,” Murtagh-Wu said.
In the early stages, businesses often take on the form of a hobby or a side hustle. The most challenging part is garnering the confidence and courage to share your ideas with the world.
Chhinji talked about the myth of having to be young when starting out when the average age of entrepreneurs, in reality, is over 30 years old.
“Starting at 31 was awesome, because I had all these years of experience that helped me to be more confident,” Chhinji said.
The panel also had this piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: before launching a business or even creating a business plan, you must define your values because they will ultimately shape your business going forward.
Sometimes we are so wrapped up in the everyday hustle and bustle that we forget to pause. The panel took a moment to celebrate their personal and business wins.
Sometimes success comes from watching your team succeed. Sometimes it’s about appreciating the small wins along the way. And other times, it’s about making your parents proud. McCormick’s and Jung’s parents were at the event to show their support.
Success is often defined by external validation and recognition, but there’s more to it underneath the surface. At its core, success is about the energy you carry, how you live out your values, and your impact on the world.
To hear more about the panel’s personal journeys and hard-won wisdom, check out our interviews and podcasts with them below:
- Bob Wang, Founder and President of Legacy Advantage CPA
- Vivian McCormick, Co-Founder of Flax Sleep
- Sonia Chhinji, Co-Founder and CEO of Woodlot
- Matthew Murtagh-Wu, Founder of The Dumpling King
Listen to our full-length event audio in our recap podcast episode:
Skip directly to hearing stories from our entrepreneurs, near the end of the 10 minute mark. At the 38 minute mark is when you can start listening to our panel discussion.
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