Contributed by Amanda Ma, founder and CEO of Innovate Marketing Group and EO Los Angeles member.
As entrepreneurs, we go through ups and downs all the time. These ups and downs impact us deeply because we are so close to and personally invested in our businesses. I am an avid entrepreneur and have now been in the events industry for 15 years.
In March 2020 when the pandemic hit and the US shut down, the events industry was completely disrupted. The entire industry ground to a halt. In my company, projects left and right were being cancelled or put on hold indefinitely. Employees throughout the industry were being let go or furloughed.
The disruption impacted my business negatively in a significant way. It was a very scary, uneasy time to be an entrepreneur. There were moments when I thought to myself, “How will my company survive this, and how much longer can we possibly last?” Considering the multiple unknowns of the pandemic and its impact on the entire world, not just the United States, it was impossible to guess.
In that moment, despite the rampant uncertainties, I had a choice—to give up or to lean in and lead. I refused to take my foot off the pedal even though my back was against the wall. I knew I had to come out fighting like a warrior. I thought to myself, “This ship is not going down on my watch!”
I needed to come up with a solution. My brain was constantly working on it. There were days when I was mentally exhausted, but I forced myself to go back to the drawing board and think how I could save my company and my employees.
During those days, weeks and months of frustration, I was grateful for the support of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and especially for my Forums—I’m a member of both the Go EO Los Angeles and KillingIt Forums. EO offered a multitude of informative events to help its members navigate the uncertainty of the situation. My Forum mates—who are all in other industries—took turns checking in on me to offer their support and brainstorm ideas with me. That’s the power of EO!
I gathered my team together to share my new mindset. I told them we had a choice: We could either live in fear, or we could harness our fear and channel that energy into how we would solve this problem of no in-person events. What solution could we provide to still help our clients connect their brands with people while obeying the strict COVID-19 rules in our region?
Eventually we landed on the option of virtual events. As it turns out, my company was one of the early adopters of this new venue. We pivoted to offering virtual events and “Events To Go Kits” as a service. As a result of our fast thinking and ability to execute our pivot, we were able to make it through those dark days of the shutdown with zero furloughs and to provide job security for all our team members. That outcome was not typical of most of the companies in the events industry.
Going from 0 to 130
We learned as we went, and we made it work. We had to—so we did. I am very proud to say that, since March 2020, we have produced over 130 virtual events.
This outcome validates why it’s so important to be part of a community like Entrepreneurs’ Organization: My peers never stopped cheering for me and brainstorming with me as I developed my plan to take my company into the unchartered realm of virtual events. My friends, colleagues and Forum mates shared their experiences, wisdom and contacts to help make my idea for a virtual events pivot into a success.
Facing added challenges
As an Asian American woman in business during a time fraught with anti-Asian rhetoric and even violence toward members of my community, I wouldn’t let those things stop me from succeeding.
Instead, I showed up more fully, more generously, and with gratitude for everything we have. It was important to me to model positive behavior for my kids, teaching them to be kind human beings who live a life of purpose–even in the face of what may seem like insurmountable challenges.
The result? We’re still standing, and we’re stronger than ever. At Innovate marketing Group, we believe that our differences make us unique. We are proud to be a diverse, inclusive, 100 percent women-owned business. We believe that life is too short for boring events—and we continue to do what we do best and love what we do!