This Is Where I Ended up After Diving Into Entrepreneurship Before I Was Ready

In the last two years, I often got introduced to people as the girl that left her six-figure income job to pursue her dream of connecting people through music and philanthropy.

Although most knew that I went from making six figures to zero, many often assumed that I had a big cushion in my bank account or rich parents. Little did they know, when I left that job and chose to move across the country from San Francisco to New York, my bank account had no more than $2,000 after my years of reckless spending and investing the rest into starting up my baby, Neon Owl.

Most call me insane when they realize what little of a plan I had of how I was going to get where I wanted to go, but I tell them that conviction behind my “why” was all that I needed. Hard work was not a stranger to me, so I knew that although the path was foggy, my true north was going to pull me in the right direction.

If I learned one thing over my years of bending over backward for every single company I’ve been with, is that nothing is a guarantee. During my early twenties, I worked 120 hours for the experience with close to no money. It did set me up for my next step, which was a flexible work and play schedule, going to all the festivals I wanted to, a ton of freedom, and a good six-figure income. I then made VP at the age of 26, and that had its short-lived celebration. Being VP about to make partner did not bring fulfillment, but a sense of anxiety towards committing to another decade to something that did not speak to my heart. By that point, I realized that one constant remains, each path we go down is meant to take us towards discovering our next.

At the age of 26, I made VP having only been with the company for two years. I was great at my job, and was often recruited within my industry. The next step would be to take on the role as the youngest partner in the company, which my family and friends were completely stoked about! My mom was finally coming around to admitting that I made the right move for myself in taking one of the lower offers two years back. She didn’t understand choosing the opportunity to grow, make decisions, and potential to earn so much more versus just going with the higher $80,000 base. Although everyone was ecstatic about the news, something inside me couldn’t bring me to make that move. I started doing a little soul searching during this period that many would consider a quarter-life crisis.

What was the point of being the best at what I did if I wasnt the best at what I loved?

At first, I felt a little nervous even thinking about stepping away from the life and comfort I had built for myself, but continued to dive deeper. This was not what I always imagined myself to be in my wildest imagination, and life is too short not to go after my craziest dreams! I always knew since my late teen years that I wanted to become an entrepreneur and create an empire of my own. In my circle, I had always been the one to take a dare and step into the uncomfortable. I always preached that people get too comfortable with the good, that they forget to chase the great. In that moment, I felt like I had fallen into the warm pot of boiling water, allowing my soul to slowly die a comfortable death. The company and job started off as extremely challenging, fun, and exciting as most other things do. I got good at what I did, pay raises, and a taste of what careless spending felt like.

People often came to me to tell me that I am a go-getter, an inspiration, a dreamer, and a light to this world. Those were all the things I wanted to be so badly. But inside my heart, I felt that I wasn’t living my life’s true purpose. Would I be happy if I died two years down the road continuing to build someone else’s dream? Am I making the impact in this world the way that I want to? Am I living my dream life or has life been so nice on paper that my mind began to think so?

The answers came clear to me and they came quick. I made a list of all the things I loved and valued. The list included: travel, connecting people, charity, experiences, new relationships, boldness, adventure, love, compassion, music, personal development, and touching people’s lives. A few years prior, I had completely fallen in love with dance music and the festival culture. Event after event, my love for it grew each day as I experienced acceptance, love, creativity, compassion and the connection of this universal language. Although I was never musically talented, I could barely remember a day going by where I was not listening to it. I thought to myself how cool it would be to create a movement where I could bring music lovers around the world to lift each other, share incredible music, and support causes that matter.

A little over three years ago, my brother Ray and I had even started designing shirts for our friends to wear at festivals, which quickly caught the eyes of many fans across social media. One of the main designs was the “Rayel Family” shirt created to support one of our favorite DJs, Andrew Rayel. People were asking to buy them, but we had no intention of selling. We started hosting meetups at the back of festivals with different time slots for people to come pick up their free shirts. Sometimes people would trade us handmade kandi bracelets, masks and pearlers to show their appreciation. That created a following, and harvested many friendships beyond the festival. Eventually, I started entertaining the possibilities of creating something more out of something that people already wanted.

Around that same time, I started investing in myself with courses, coaching, and spending time in masterminds with people that were further along than me in experience and business. Within two weeks of throwing myself into these new resources, my blurry vision became clear, although with a muddy path. I dreaded turning in my resignation to the company that had treated me so well, but knew that all good things do come to an end in order for the possibility of greatness to be achieved.

I had shared my audacious vision to create a movement and community where we got to connect artists and fans to help charities around the world with my brother Ray, who also ended up being my co-founder. He was the only one who stood behind my decision immediately to quit my job to pursue what was screaming so loudly at me. Every other person advised me against this madness of walking away from the setup I had and that they would kill to be in my position, with my job and income. They also came from a place of concern, since making 6 figures did not mean I had healthy spending habits. How long was the $2,000 going to last me if I managed to save none of the $500,000 I had made over my lifetime up until that point? How was the mortgage going to get paid? How was I going to continue supporting my parents? How was I going to fund my festivals? I wasn’t sure, but I somehow had a feeling in my gut that if I hadn’t saved any of my $500,000 I made up to date, I wasn’t going to be that much better off a year later. I felt deserving of this ultimatum due to the financial mistakes I’ve made my entire life, and it was time for a wake up call with no safety net.

I had been so comfortable that the only way for me to learn, grow, and challenge myself was to get uncomfortable.

“One day” was going to come today. My best friend Sophie still calls me crazy for having made 3 of the craziest decisions in my life within a span of 3 weeks; quitting my 6 figure job, starting my own company, and moving to New York, the most expensive city in the world all at once. Fast forward to over two years later, I’m back in New York after having traveled all over the world doing what I love. Last year, Neon Owl lead to the accidental start of my second company Gypsy Social, supporting people in discovering their visions and transitioning from their careers into building their own passion projects.

Don’t let the fast forward get you wrong though, as there was a shit ton of highs and lows. Sometimes the highs and lows came at the same time, and I did what I had to do to handle it. Imagine getting the invite to go to Miami Music Week to interview some of the biggest artists in the world along with your favorites like Armin van Buuren, Gareth Emery, Andrew Rayel, MaRLo and many more, but staring at your bank account online wondering how you were going to pay for that trip, the rest of your businesses expenses, New York rent, and your mortgage back home in California. It was not a pretty time. I remember one day in early 2016, my last company gave me news that they were not going to pay me the rest of the money they owed me, and I was left holding the bag. I really needed the money for business and life that month, and it was a big industry month for Neon Owl.

I have never been one to be paralyzed by much, but that day I spent an entire day watching “Orange is the New Black,” crying in bed, and ordering Seamless with money I did not have.

Going off on my own and pursuing entrepreneurship was a lot more difficult than I thought, and my ability to handle instability was being pushed to its limits. On one hand, everyone else was cheering me on, celebrating the wins of having created so much from nothing. On the other hand, it was me figuring out how to work out the numbers and make things happen while still surviving. Fighting for survival was not something unfamiliar to me, as I had to learn that at a young age, growing up with harsh environments and family situations. But being in the comfort zone for the last few years and having a taste of being able to get anything I wanted, I suddenly was put back into my “uncomfort zone”. This is the part of the journey where most “wantrepreneurs” give up. They get cold feet, revert to coming from a place of scarcity and seek shelter back in their comfort zones. I cried for a full day and night in bed, pulled myself back out and reminded myself of the only thing that could have kept me going; my vision. When you have a strong enough “WHY,” the how will figure itself out. I knew that my why was beyond me, and I knew that if it wasn’t me that was going to make it happen, nobody else would. While laying in bed, I reached out to my immediate team for emotional support and set up a call with my mastermind accountability partner the next day to shake it off!

One of my favorite producers, Paris Blohm, once told me that we all have our peaks and valleys, but it’s about who we are when faced with those valleys to get back up and reach those peaks again. The darkest of my valleys endured a few months before peaks of sunlight starting shining through for me to start climbing back up. Although smooth sailing has never lasted more than a couple of months and we are still often in the trenches, I would say that those few months in the first year were the most difficult. Once getting past that, the rest of the challenges were anticipated and handled with much more grace and ease.

It started with a vague idea of wanting to start a music apparel company with a focus on giving back to charity.

Today, Neon Owl has become so much more, from creating authentic and inspirational content, promoting talented artists to having hosted multiple charity shows to support different causes around the world. We have worked with some of our favorite artists like Andrew Rayel, Feenixpawl, Nifra, MaRLo, Win + Woo, BEAUZ, RAM and many more. We have supported organizations like the Fenders Music Foundation, generosity.org, Boys & Girls Club, The Apollo Aid Foundation, and many more. Although I have yet to replace my old income, I am well on the path to do so and then some. With that said, I feel so much richer than I was 2 years ago, living a life of abundance that aligns with my true north. I get to run my businesses from anywhere in the world, connect with different people, all the while creating the impact that I wish to see in this world. In the last couple of years, this journey has also allowed for me to cross paths with thousands of people aligned with my vision as we come together to create magic every single day. The journey of creating a passion project and life out of everything that I love has been anything but easy, but the most rewarding thing I have ever experienced. I wake up each day with gratitude, and understanding that if there is an obstacle, it is well worth pouring my heart and soul into overcoming to build my empire of vision and purpose.

Elaine Huang
Elaine Huang

Founder, Neon Owl

Elaine Huang is the founder of Neon Owl, a community connecting artists and fans to give back to charities around the world. Elaine also founded Gypsy Social, where she specializes in vision coaching, tribe building, and supporting others in weaving their passion projects.

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