Those were the exact (well, pretty much but with worse English) words my mom texted me back in 2018 when she found out I had racked up $3,000 in credit card debt while trying to sell jackets online from my dorm room. Oh, and I had also just turned down my summer internship return offer from the top management consulting firm in the world: McKinsey & Company.
Needless to say, my Asian mom was understandably worried.
She had come to the US with my dad in 2000 from GanSu China with one goal in mind--to provide her children with the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.
Little Kevin enjoying some home cooking! My mom looks exhausted, I'm sure I was a handful back then...
A Dream that required her to take on two jobs as both a house cleaner and a waitress in a country that didn’t even recognize my Dad’s PHD, leaving him with no choice but to scrub lab equipment for minimum wage.
And what is/was this Dream worthy of so much sacrifice?
You guessed it, a solid education leading to a stable job in corporate America.
A job that would allow for a “perfectly acceptable” 2 week vacation per year.
A job that would take a lot of time away from family, “but at least you will be secure.”
A job...that wasn’t for me.
I realized after my junior year internship that I wanted something different.
I wanted to explore all that the world had to offer instead of being confined to a two week vacation window. I wanted to be able to live a carefree financial existence without obsessing over every penny or keeping long hours away from my family. I wanted to love waking up every morning, excited to go to work and ready to build my dreams from the previous night into concrete realities.
So when my mom told me...
Those words hurt.
But they also offered me a choice.
I could take the “secure” route, accept my offer, and sign-off on my dreams (or lie to myself and say I “postponed” them).
I could fight against 23 years of socialization by colleges and corporations and take a risk.
Needless to say, I took that risk, but (if I’m being honest with you) for the first 6 months I thought I had made a mistake.
I churned out 5 eCommerce stores in a variety of niches and all of them failed. My credit card bills started showing up at my parents’ house and my Senior year social life consisted of me holed up in my room all day responding to customers.
On top of it all, I was ashamed. This is what my parents sacrificed everything for? All their hard work, just so I could mess around online?! It was one of the darkest periods in my life.
But I didn’t back down.
Slowly but surely, each store got better and better. I spent hours scouring the web for new techniques to test. Days, meticulously crafting ads in photoshop (which I had never previously used...). Months, revamping my website to make it more user friendly and enticing.
Finally, 6 months later, my once a week(ish) sales became a steady, daily stream. A month later, I became profitable. Next thing I knew, I had my first successful store on my hands that was generating 10x the money I would have made in my first year as a consultant and then on Black Friday, well, just see for yourself...
The craziest 48 hours of my life. Nothing else even comes close.
When I got the call from Forbes I was in shock. Truly grateful to be a part of sharing my eCommerce knowledge with the world!
Since that first store, I’ve gone on to do over 8 figures in sales through eCommerce and the “far-fetched” goals I had as a college Senior have manifested into my everyday life. I’m so blessed to now live in a beautiful home in Hollywood Hills, mingle with childhood idols like Magic Johnson, and become the youngest person ever elected to Forbes Business Council.
My house in Hollywood Hills. I love my Midwestern roots, but can't stand the cold!
That being said, above all the flashy titles and exotic purchases, my most treasured experience as a successful eCommerce entrepreneur will always be seeing the look on my mom’s face when I surprised her by paying off the mortgage on my childhood home and starting a college fund for my brother.
She sacrificed so much for us, always wondering if it would be enough, so witnessing that moment of joy and relief plastered across her normally careworn face was priceless.
In that moment, I realized the American Dream had become my American Reality.
The eCommerce revolution changed my life. How will it change yours?