Leveraging An $8 Billion Dollar Industry To Create Social Change — Elaine Huang, Founder Of Neon Owl
Elaine Huang is the founder of Neon Owl, a media company and lifestyle brand that focuses on creating positive, inspirational content, while connecting artists and fans to give back to charities around the world. She left her six-figure income position as VP to create a life of passion and purpose. Since starting Neon Owl 2 years ago, the company has made waves in and outside of the industry, taking charge in leading it towards connecting music with philanthropy. Neon Owl has put together multiple charity shows to support youth, music and the arts, as well as other non-profits. She has also partnered up with some of her favorite artists to join forces in creating their Dance. Give. Inspire. charity line, where 100% of the proceeds goes back to building wells for clean water in developing countries like Haiti and Uganda. Elaine also founded Gypsy Social, where she specializes in vision coaching, tribe building, and supporting others in weaving their passion projects.
City where you’re from: San Francisco
Hobbies: Traveling, listening to music, attending festivals, eating delicious foods, having meaningful conversations, writing, personal development, sipping on coffee, exploring new places big and small, charity work, and brainstorming new ideas to take over the world with love and compassion.
Favorite quote: “Fortune favors she who dares” and “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”
- Elaine’s website
- Elaine’s facebook
- Elaine’s instagram
- Neon Owl’s website
- Neon Owl’s facebook
- Neon Owl’s instagram
- Neon Owls’ twitter
What are you working on? How did you come up with this idea?
Neon Owl, a charity focused music media and lifestyle brand. We support talented musicians, create inspirational content, and connect artists and fans to help charities around the world. The idea came to me coming back from EDC one year. I was already starting to lose passion at my 6 figure job, because I wanted to create something with more meaning and impact in this world. My friends were super depressed on the drive back from Vegas, sharing about how miserable Monday was going to be and how much they were looking forward the EDC next year.
A wave of emotions came over me.
A part of me felt sad to hear that, not just from them but so many other people that were dreading the return to “real life” and wanted to stay in fantasy PLUR land forever. I can see the appeal of the dance music culture, because everyone was so accepting, loving, brave, bold, and free. They were dressed up in full expression and loving on one another. But I also thought to myself, “Why can’t everyday be like this?” Why can’t we live with compassion and lead with love in our everyday lives. Why can’t we be the bold, expressive version of ourselves out in the real world making friends and stirring up conversations?
So the seed was planted in my head of bringing this festival culture into our everyday lives. How it all came together is a whole other story, but the mission of Dance. Give. Inspire. is what I wanted to spread in that very moment, and every leap of faith into the unknown has helped create this community around the world of music lovers, dreamer, and givers.
How is your company different?
My company is different because it doesn’t fit into a box. Some consider us a blog that shares positive, motivational, meaningful content.
When I started this, I made a vow that we would never release click bait content of just rave booties, pastie chicks and which DJs are beefing with which DJs. There is too much brainless entertainment floating around, when really it is absolutely not what the scene is about. Music is the one universal language that connects us all and has the power to heal and lift, which is what music content should be about as well.
Others consider us an apparel company. We create unique apparel for people to rock in and outside of festivals. From day 1, we decided that we were going to give a portion of each purchase back to charity. A lot of people say that they will give back when their company profits a certain amount or when their bank account reaches a certain amount.
Like Tony Robbins, I am a big believer that if we cannot give away a dollar of our ten, we definitely will not be giving away a hundreds of thousands when we make millions! Last year, we also launched our Dance. Give. Inspire. charity line in collaboration with some of our favorite DJs to build wells for clean water through generosity.org. 100% of the proceeds from this line goes to charity, and is a great way for the artists to step forward and use their influence to make a positive difference for those less fortunate.
Lastly, some consider us a promotion company since we put together shows. Our shows are charity focused and we have helped organizations like The Fenders Music Foundation, The Apollo Aid Foundation, AIDS WALK San Francisco, Generosity, and many more to come. For both our content and shows, we make sure to feature established artists as well as support up and coming acts with just as much talent. We have collaborated with artists such as Andrew Rayel, Mat Zo, Psy Fi, BEAUZ, Ken Loi, Nifra, RAM, and Feenixpawl just to name a few.
Our vision is to create community and lift it up as a whole, instead of compete. So when people ask me what makes us different or what we are, I tell them all of the above and that we are here to cause a disruption in the industry. We are not just a blog, an apparel company, or a promotion company. We are a movement that is uniting artists, fans, and innovators in the music industry to create community and give back.
What’s your dream with your company?
My dream is to be the leading company that creates a new standard in and outside of the music industry to lead with people over profits. It is to leverage the power that music has to truly do good. I want people to take a step away from brainless entertainment like gossip, rave booties, and drama. Instead, I want them to truly think about the issues going on in the world, question their own purpose on this planet, and take action to create and inspire.
My dream for my company is to inspire people to go after their dreams, create their passion projects and build companies that speak to them. I want Neon Owl to be the inspiration which will birth many socially conscious companies. I want it to be a place where good music and talent is cultivated and supported. I want it to be a place that people can call home and a true community that believes not in competition, but growing together. Lastly, my vision for this company is to impact the world in the masses beyond my time.
How do you creatively advertise?
The funny thing is we have spent very little ad money. I feel like when you have a strong enough vision that people can stand behind, they market for you. You see people at festivals all over the world rocking our merch, chatting about us, and representing our brand. Some of these people we know, and some of them we don’t.
It’s because our mission of dance, give, inspire is something that people are bought into and want to go out there to share with the world. So our best advertising is building a very solid and loyal tribe that goes out there to spread our mission of dance, give, inspire.
So you were in quite the different industry making big bucks before you decided to leave and start Neon Owl. Can you tell us more about that and what was going through your mind?
Haha, people always turn to look at me twice with wide eyes when I tell them. I was actually VP at my last company in the construction and renewable energy industry. My job was to oversee the company’s growth every year, sales, marketing, business development and to build and maintain relationships. It was a 6 figure career where I was offered the partner position, but I turned it down to go after my dreams. Every single person I told called me crazy, including those closest to me, but I just knew that it was the right thing to do. It was a great job with a lot of freedom, but after a while it felt like my growth was capped and that I was working hard to build somebody else’s dream. I wanted to be lit up again, and fired up every single day waking up and going to bed. So I started asking myself the tough questions of whether I was living a life without regrets, and if I was truly pursuing the difference I am meant to create in this world.
It didn’t take me long to come up with the answers, and the decision took even less hesitation. I knew that the only way to ignite that fire was to start building my own empire through the things that I was passionate about (music, travel, people, and philanthropy). Many think I made a 180 flip, which I did as far as industries, but the fundamentals are the same. I used to convince people that we were the best company for the job.
I am now convincing artists, brands, and people that we get to create a lasting impact through the music that already has so much influence in today’s world! DJs control crowds of 50,000 people easily, and festival companies are making millions after millions packing hundreds of thousands of attendees over 3 day events. Tickets go for $300-$500 easy, but not a lot of it is going back to those less fortunate than us. So how much harder would it be for these artists and brands to take the limelight and support issues thats matter?
I saw a lot of money in the EDM industry, and an opportunity to shift some of that money towards social good. So I decided that I was going to create that shift, although I had zero clue of how and not the most stable bank account. I just trusted that my WHY was big enough for me to make shit happen and my intentions were pure enough for the universe to be on my side. Life is one big sale, or what I like to call enrollment. Either you are enrolled into building someone else’s dream, or they are enrolled into building yours. Every now and then synergies meet, and you can have both.
What were your biggest failure and biggest success? What did you learn from them?
I don’t consider anything to be a big failure in my community. There are many failures, but I call them learning lessons. I am a big believer in failing forward, because each time we miss a mark or target, it teaches us what we get to tweak to hit the next one. Each day I am failing, but each day I find little and sometimes big wins!
When we first started, we had zero clue of what we were doing but went for it anyway. Most artists ignored us when we were trying to set up interviews, and most festivals were like “who’s this dinky little blog with 500 likes?” Fast forward to today, although we don’t have the biggest platform or reach like many other blogs, I am confident that we cause one of the greatest dents. We leave a dent in people’s hearts and minds, and that is why they want to be a part of our tribe regardless of whether they are artists, another platform, or the raging fans on the dance floor.
Give the readers the best entrepreneurship advice you have.
There is no such thing as preparing for the right moment when it comes to chasing your passion or pursuing entrepreneurship. No risk, no reward. If it were easy, everybody would do it. Jump off the cliff first, and a safety net shall appear. Most people “want” to become an entrepreneur, but the passion, courage, and commitment is what sets apart those that “want to be” and those that “become”.
What’s something new you’ve learned in the past month?
Focus first, and learn how to say no to things. A lot of entrepreneurs are creatives, and a lot of them are excitable. I consider myself creative and excitable, which makes many objects extremely shiny. I feel like I can do it all because I can. But the question is can I do them all well? The last month has really been honing in on what I am THE MOST PASSIONATE about, not just what I am good at and what opportunities come my way. If I decided to give birth to every single one of my awesome ideas, some of my babies would definitely get neglected and none of them would reach their full potential. So every time I am faced with a decision or presented with an opportunity, I ask myself if it truly aligns with my passion, what I want to create in the world, and does it fit into my 10 year plan. If the answer is not yes to all 3, then it is a no.
Tell us something we may not know.
Did you know the the EDM industry is an 8 billion dollar industry? Yup, 8 billion dollars. So for those that say electronic music is a phase that will fade soon, may want to think again. Dance music is not going anywhere. It will continue to evolve year after year with its trends and fads, but it will never go away. Turn on the radio next time and you will notice that half the songs you are singing along to are electronic music, whether it be songs from Justin Bieber, Rick Ross, Selena Gomez, Weeknd, or Lupe Fiasco.
What do you think you do better than most people?
Building relationships of all kinds, from my tribe to influencers. Being able to share my passion with others and having it become a part of their vision. I am also blessed to be able to draw out the vision in others and support them in making the jump. I have been able to work with many people a few steps behind me in their journey seeking alignment with their career, passion and purpose. I have been able to support them in clarifying their vision, relentless chasing after that, and building their passion projects.
What should an entrepreneur focus on?
Creating a brand that people can stand for and stand behind. Ideally creating a brand or product that can add value to the world, solve problems, and bring people together.
What are some of the best books you’ve ever read?
Darren Hardy- The Compound Effect is still the best book I have read. Very practical, straightforward and actionable.
Where do you see yourself and your product in a couple years?
Neon Owl will continue with our efforts in supporting talented artists big and small. We will continue to create content that matters and inspiring people to go after their dreams. We will grow our community to be filled with artists, influencers, and fans to support important causes all over the world. I see Neon Owl as a worldwide movement with an ever growing tribe that will only continue to multiply year after year. I will continue working with visionaries in aligning with their path, chasing restlessly after their dreams, and inspiring the birth of many socially conscious companies. My vision is to disrupt not only the music industry, but every industry to lead with people over profit.
Originally published at Future Sharks.