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“Accept That We Can Only Control Our Efforts, Not The Outcome” 5 Leadership Lessons with Yi Zhou

“Like an athlete, we can only control the effort we put into the game, but we don’t have control over the final results.”
I had the pleasure to interview Chinese multimedia artist, influencer and entrepreneur Yi Zhou. Yi Zhou is widely known in the international creative community for her artistic, fashion, branding and film work. Her work is admired by a highly diverse group of distinguished intellectuals, Hollywood A-listers, wealthy patrons and the young social media audience. In recent years, Yi Zhou has endorsed a number of global campaigns including Persol, DFST — Galleria, Levis, and others. She was named the first ever brand ambassador for China for Clarins in 2010. Since 2011, she has collaborated with such prestigious brands as Chanel, Hogan, Pringle of Scotland, Lane Crawford and YOOX. She also collaborated with French couture Jewelry house Gripoix, launching a special collection titled “Pineapple Secret. Her animations have also inspired a clothing collection by popular French brand Each X Other. In 2013, she was invited as the first ever Chinese talent to be hired as a designer and creative director of a brand, to create a 360 degree project ranging from menswear, womenswear and accessories for Italian luxury brand ICEBERG. The “Breaking the Ice” capsule collection was released worldwide in December 2013. In 2010, she created Yi Zhou Studio, creating employment opportunities for young Chinese talent to collaborate and experiment together on international projects. A major social media influencer, Yi Zhou has been named Tudou’s art director, art and fashion advisory member at, and beauty and fashion ambassador for Tencent. A passionate promoter of East-West relations, she is frequently asked to speak at conferences and events around the globe, including TEDx (Paris 2012, Beijing 2013, Zheijang 2014), LVMH Labour Day in Paris in 2013 and Financial Times Luxury Conference in 2014. She has a degree in politic science and economics from the London School of Economics, and is now continuing her education at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. She speaks fluent French, Italian, English, Spanish and Mandarin.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I am a multimedia artist who has been transforming my artist studio YiZhou Studio into a media, production company and strategic partner in the entertainment industry and luxury space.

I decided to carve two paths: the creative one as an artist, director and influencer, and the business one, by investing my funds and assets into profitable ventures.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company.

I founded by company in 2011 in Shanghai, but I find myself learning still to this day. Today, I’m also taking classes in hedge funding at Pepperdine University, because I feel human beings are like programs. We need to upgrade our system on a regular basis in order to stay fresh and to be on top of our game. Revising our strategy and approach on a regular basis is the key to success. I feel I still have a lot to learn and that I’m just at the beginning of my journey as an entrepreneur. Success is made of failures as well. For example, recently, an institution hired my company, but for no reason after one month broke the contract in an arbitrary way. I learned that the best approach is to move forward and not look back on the negative situation.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

YiZhou Studio is about innovation, strategic partnerships and bridging the gap between the East and the West in the entertainment and luxury worlds. We work with such prestigious partners as Alibaba Group, and others. We have also created original IP lifestyle brands, such as Global Intuition that will launch later this year.

People used to tell me that I am very ambitious. I have heard this since I was in kindergarten. I feel the world is made of many ambitious people, but not many can turn their ambitions into reality.

To me, the passage from desire and ambition to reality is the key component that makes us stand apart. When I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be in primary school, so I begged the school director to allow me to enter the school early. After one month of my persistence, I entered primary school. I still apply the same consistency today to all of my projects, including my Hollywood debut as a director, investor and personality. Despite all of the difficulties I have encountered during the development phase, I have not given up.

I have also recently formed an investment company, Into The Sun Holdings, created to invest in entertainment and lifestyle ventures.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I am grateful to my family, first and foremost, for giving me the freedom to choose what I wanted to pursue since childhood, and for giving me the means to achieve my goals.

I am grateful to my dad for inspiring me to learn and appreciate fashion, design and craftsmanship from a young age.

I am grateful to all the people who helped me in Paris, Rome, Shanghai, Hong Kong and now in Los Angeles. I would not be able to be where I am now without the support of my agents, team and partners.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I have been working for NGOs since 2010, by using my creativity and artwork to raise awareness for numerous causes. I particularly care for the Heritage Marine Sites of UNESCO, for which I produced a short film for World Oceans’ Day in 2015. I have also created a short film commissioned by TUDOU for the United Nations on the topic of global warming, and have contributed my artwork for auction for Natalia Vodianova ’s Naked Heart Foundation. I hope to be able to inspire more people with my voice, art and creativity and bring more awareness to the causes that are dear to me.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Management is key to execute a great idea. A great idea for a start up needs proper management to run it.
  2. Accept that we can only control our efforts, not the outcome. Like an athlete, we can only control the effort we put into the game, but we don’t have control over the final results.
  3. Be open minded in the approach. Studies are empirical. We need a real life playground to be able to apply what we learn. Therefore, stay open minded for all challenges and new encounters to inspire us to reach the next level.
  4. Use creativity in business. Business can be creative. It’s a matter of imagination and courage.
  5. Choose good partners for the long run.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

I am very happy to be able to work with great business people, such as Tommaso Chiabra, in my recent partnership with his company Royal Yacht Brokers. He has a great business mind that I admire. I also admire Jessica Alba for her career in entertainment, as well as being a global brand founder and a mother. I hope I will have the chance to meet and work with her one day.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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