JSong International, Inc.
This conversation is part of an ongoing series in celebration of National Small Business Week. Each day we’ll feature a different entrepreneur that we have served through our brick-and-mortar Centers and other small business programs. Learn more about our small business programming and meet the other entrepreneurs here.
JSong International Inc. is a design and wholesale company based in Manhattan. Read our interview with founder Way Zen to learn more about her journey to expand to retail, why she loves owning her own business, and more.
What made you want to own your own business?
There are two reasons. The first was to have the freedom to express my creative side. The second reason is to do something greater than myself.
Given my background traveling from a small village in the mountains of China to the greatest City in the world, my business is my way of expressing gratitude to all of those who have helped me get to this point. They believed in me, and this is my way of giving back. I am not where I want to be yet, but I am getting there.
What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
I enjoy connecting with people in a way I would have never imagined. Also, the challenges that I had to endure while starting and growing my business have forced me to realize my full potential. It pushed me to find solutions; otherwise there would be no way to move forward. I have learned so much and have met so many great people.
What was your biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?
There have been many challenges for me on this journey. I’ve had limited access to resources and time, and I also have had a hard time organizing and prioritizing tasks. It has proven to be difficult to both manage a business and be creative. I am still learning how to manage. I used to do everything myself, but I have realized that I can’t handle managing both the design and the manufacturing. Instead I delegate responsibilities to everyone on my team and help them get train with different skillsets. With a staff of 3 full time and 2 part time employees, I now have more time to focus on creating new works as well as customization.
How did you first hear about the Business Solutions Center? When was your first time working with the team at the Center?
I remember hearing about the Business Solutions Centers a while ago, but did not seek assistance. It was not until recently when looking for a business planning course that I came across it again. I attended an event where I met the director of the Lower Manhattan Center, Vivek Jayaraman, who took the time to meet with me and connect me to helpful resources.
What services did you receive at the Center, and how has that support helped you grow your business?
I attended a business planning course where I received assistance as well as resources to perfect my ideas. I was looking to expand my business from purely manufacturing to retail. To do so I needed to purchase additional equipment to produce more. Through the financing team, I was able to explore my options and obtain financing. NYC Business Solutions provided me with education and guidance, and truly helped me find the solutions I needed. I was able to buy machinery to expand my business.
What are your plans for the future of your business?
JSong International is currently transitioning to the retail side, and we hope to scale up and expand to other cities. We are first working on sustainability, marketing, and obtaining new customers. I want to continue to provide customized work, but also work on reducing inventory to minimize waste. I also have a strong desire to provide online courses where I can teach people different design work.
What does owning a business mean to your family and future?
Owning a business has allowed me to do the work I love. I have dedicated myself completely to the business driven by the notion that I am working on something that is greater than me. Everyone is unique and through my work I can showcase that.
How does your business impact your community? How are you involved in your community?
I make a point to never forget where I came from and how I was able to get this far. There are various ways that I give back to my community with hopes to inspire others to follow their creativity. I have interns who have the freedom to design their own shirts that are later displayed on my website. If anyone purchases an intern’s piece, a portion of the proceeds will go towards their education.
I volunteer my time at FIT design classes, showcasing my work and design style; I’m constantly encouraging students to think outside of the box when it comes to embroidery and styles. I also host Church shopping events in our studio and donate 10% proceed back to the church. At the same time, I demonstrate our styles to the individuals on how the pieces were made and different ways they can be worn.
Finally, I offer free workshops on how to transform a t-shirt to a wearable art and how to make fabric flowers.
What advice do you have for other business owners, or people considering becoming entrepreneurs?
Everyone is unique and we can’t do everything alone. Be sure to inspire your team and surround yourself with those who are as passionate about your mission as you. You will never make meaningful impact alone. You need a strong team.