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Name: Monica Kang

Business: InnovatorsBox

Location: Washington, District of Columbia

Industry: Professional Services

Reason for starting? InnovatorsBox was a service I myself desperately needed. In 2013, I started my dream career in nuclear nonproliferation, but I felt stuck. The lack of creativity and experimentation made me risk-averse. I reconnected with my true self through street art in March 2014. Within several months, I made visible progress professionally and personally. My journey taught me the importance of expressing creativity. When I realized others had the same struggle, I decided to gather my diverse expertise in project management, curriculum development, teaching, business, and community building, and create a space for professionals to rediscover their creativity.

Related: Read about another professional services entrepreneur here. 

How do you define success? I plan to measure our success in two ways: how individuals relate and interact with InnovatorsBox and how society’s impression of creativity practice in non-creative sectors evolves. If the workshops and community are helpful to creative growth, I expect to see an increase in returning customers, referred customers, new customers, and interaction in the online community site. As I grow into a chapter based model, I can validate my impact by observing how active chapters are and how their local initiatives encourage their communities to be creative and adventurous. Measuring society’s impression on creativity is harder, but not impossible. When there is increasing awareness, I expect to see more articles written about the new norm of creative implementation in non-creative sectors. I also foresee more organizations requiring individuals to take creativity-related workshops, and more job openings requiring an individual to take on creative roles.

Biggest success: Since I opened for business in January 2016, 87% of the 210 participants at 21 events expressed how the new creative lens helped them do their day job more effectively and efficiently. In addition to workshops, I built a physical game, won the 2016 American Small Business Championship, and a shoutout from the White House during Nations of Maker’s. SPARK, a deck of thoughtful question cards, is a game designed to spur creative thinking and curiosity. 90% of users expressed how the cards helped them have better conversations, spark curiosity, and defer judgement.

I have also actively reached out to partner with many local organizations, building a more creative community. In the first seven months since inception, I secured partnerships with eight organizations including Le Pain Quotidien, The National Day of Unplugging, WeWork, The Loft, and Skillshare. I have also launched a speaker series with WeWork to debunk people’s perception of innovation in five industries this summer.

My success at building a global creative community will be accomplished when creativity becomes an integral part of professional lives across all industries. InnovatorsBox will be the global hub where professionals can build creative confidence, learn the latest insights on creativity, and meet like-minded people who support one another. The next iteration of services will target veterans, the elderly, educators, and hospital patients to support their transitions.

Related: Read about another creative entrepreneur here. 

What is your top challenge and how you have addressed it? Finance and marketing are my biggest challenges. My desire to offer services at a reasonable price conflicts with the need to adequately price my services to make a profit and sustain myself as a business owner. As I host various events and workshops for the public that are new to them, I have faced challenges in marketing my programs effectively. This will be a growing challenge as I scale as well. As a result, I decided to focus on utilizing my strengths in access to people and different communities. Due to my word of mouth and in person interactions, I have succeeded in sharing my story on a small scale through one-on-one interactions with great return on investment. I still need to be able to deliver the same message on a larger scale without losing its personalization but I am utilizing what I know and can do best at the moment as a small team.

At the moment the most significant personal situation is that I took a leap of faith into a path that has no clear outcome. I do not know how many people have tried to convince me out of this decision. So many kept finding reasons why my business would fail and why I am ill-equipped. I did not have a clear business model and my idea was too idealist, they said. Yet, whenever I came across someone who would share how my work has changed their day, I am reminded of why I wanted to choose this uncomfortable, unpredictable path. I have never been more alive and excited in my life, despite this uncertainty. Leaving a secure job and career path was a significant jump but the best decision I made in my life. I hope to inspire many other females to recognize that there are options in life where you can build your own path.

Who is your most important role model? My most important role model is my mother. Growing up in an Asian household, doing something that is quite different from the traditional career path was always thought twice. I was already taking new roads when I choose a career in nuclear nonproliferation and when I choose to return to the United States at age 15. I am grateful for my mother for her courage to let me explore the world on my own. She is the one who have constantly urged me to be kinder, more humble, and more thoughtful with every experience and relationship I build. She has taught me how to respect, how to fight for our own path, but also be patient. After being a housewife, I am also very proud that she has launched her first business in Korea few months after I started my business. This was a major decision and why I am so grateful to learn from her for life.


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Edited by The Story Exchange