Luisa Zhou - From Employee to Entrepreneur
Luisa Zhou is the creator of the Employee to Entrepreneur system, which teaches people how to leave their day job and start their own six-figure plus business working for themselves.
She’s helped hundreds of students, including health and business coaches, designers, copywriters, and consultants, and shown them how to launch businesses that generate anywhere from 30K to 100K in a matter of months. She has appeared in numerous online and print publications including Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, Success magazine, and more.
A graduate of Princeton University, Luisa majored in electrical engineering and minored in robotics. Before starting her own business, she worked as an International Space Station engineer for Boeing, a mobile payments start-up co-founder, and a digital advertising manager. She lives in New York City with her husband. What's special about the Employee to Entrepreneur system?
Through digital courses and coaching, i show people how to take their existing skills and knowledge to build their own online coaching, consulting, and course businesses to replace their 9-5 incomes. What was your main motivation to start a business?
When I was growing up, I dreamed of being the CEO of a major corporation. The child of Chinese immigrant parents, I was taught that a steady job and paycheck were the ticket to the American Dream -- and I bought in. I wanted it all -- the power, the corner office, the big paycheck, and a closet full of Manolos.
So I did the normal climb: I attended a prestigious university (Princeton) and majored in something safe (engineering) that would guarantee me a job out of college. By the time I was 25, I was the manager of a team responsible for millions of dollars in business each year. From the outside, I was really “making it” -- and I had the six-figure salary, high-rise condo, and proud parents to prove it.
But on the inside, I wasn’t happy. I was sick of the endless meetings, missed family time, and challenges that fell way below my potential. Why was I working my tail off for someone else’s business instead of my own?
Because I was living my parents’ dream -- not mine. And while I wanted to make my parents proud, I realized I needed to do it my way. I wanted more out of my career -- and my life -- and I knew there had to be something better than working at a 9-5 I wasn’t passionate about.
So I went all in and started my own business teaching people the digital advertising skills I’d learned from previous jobs. How did you start it? Did you have any previous experience as an entrepreneur?
Yes, I had started a tutoring business in college and co-founded a mobile payments start-up before. However, building an online business required a completely different set of skills that I had to learn on the go. I focused on leading with helping people first, and giving value, and building relationships. That "made up" for my initially weaker sales, marketing, and copywriting skills. How did you validate your idea?
My first paying client for digital advertising consulting asked me, "How can I pay you?" Once I had that, I considered my idea validated. And I was able to do that because I led with value and gave her a lot of valuable advice for free first. How did you finance your project?
The beauty of an online coaching business is that there aren't a lot of start-up costs.
I focused on getting paying clients FIRST (before I even had a website), so my business funded itself. Aside from that, I was working a job and used my own salary as needed as well initially. How did you market and promote your business when you were launching?
I connected with people in Facebook groups. How long did it take you to start getting the first results and see you could create a viable business ?
Within just a few weeks. And that's because I was focusing on the most important things - speaking with potential clients, giving value, and building relationships.
What are the main ways in which you are able to monetize your activities ? Coaching and courses. How long did it take you before you could switch full time on your business? What has been your revenue progression when you were building your online business on the side?
It took me about 2 years to commit to building my business, and then a year of testing and failing to figure out what to do. Then, once things started taking off, I made $106K in sales in 4 months and turned in my notice after that. You were able to make your side hustle your full time activity and quit your job within a few months. Usually it takes a few years to make that transition possible. What was key in achieving this goal that fast?
It was the only thing I focused on outside of work. That, and being super focused with what I was doing in my time spent on my business, as mentioned above.
You used to work on your side business while having a full time job. How did you organize yourself and keep motivated to make sure your side hustle was moving forward without burning out ?
It was HARD! Honestly, I think it was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.
The most important thing I did was focus on quick wins -- things I could do that would move my business forward in the most efficient way possible while also building my confidence. For example, in the beginning all I did was talk to people. I didn't spend time building a website or building funnels. And because I used all my time to talk to people, I got feedback quickly, built connections, and got interest in my services. How many hours on average were you able to work weekly on your online business while having a full time job? When I started out, I only did about 5-10 hours a week because I wasn't sure it was truly possible and I had a busy job. Afterwards, as I got more clients and saw the momentum building, I dedicated every spare minute I had to working on my business. What do you like most being an entrepreneur?
All of it! I get to control my life, do what I want, and challenge myself. I love creating courses and teaching people, and I love the work I'm doing and the people I'm helping. What has been your biggest challenge/failure as an entrepreneur?
Realizing that there is so much upside and potential as an entrepreneur, but that the price is that there's also so much uncertainty.
Your business' success or failure depends on YOU, and just because you're successful today doesn't mean you will be tomorrow or a year from now.
So you have to be constantly and proactively growing and thinking of new ways to expand your audience and your business.
What are your business goals for this coming year?
To impact 400 new students through my programs.
How can an aspiring entrepreneur start building an online business now as a side hustle? What would be a good business type to start as a beginner?
Definitely an online coaching or consulting business because all you need to start is the skills you already have from your job or life that you can coach or consult on.
My best tip would be to go out there and start talking to people. Find them online where they are - whether that's Facebook groups, Instagram, or industry-specific forums. Answer their questions, build real relationships. What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Uber focus. I can only focus on one or two things at a time, which helps me get the things I'm focusing on done faster. What's your favourite quote?
“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt, Sing like there’s nobody listening, And live like it’s heaven on earth.” ― William W. Purkey
Any good book to recommend to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Psycho-cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. It showed me how to change my thinking so that I could overcome my fears, build my confidence, and not give up.
Learn more about Luisa Zhou and her Employee to Entrepreneur system at www.luisazhou.com
Learn more about Luisa Zhou's success story :
Entrepreneur on Fire podcast episode - How to go from employee to entrepreneur
Article by Luisa on Growth Lab where she shares her journey on how she made $1.1M in 11 months
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