C.A.N.A.L — 5 Essential Strategies For Sustainable Success, With Lisa Chau
I had the pleasure of interviewing the Founder of Alpha Vert Enterprises, Lisa Chau. The TedEd Lesson Creator and South by Southwest Mentor has been published over 130 times in Forbes, US News & World Report as well as Huffington Post on TABLES: Technology * Academia * Business * Leadership * Entrepreneurship * Strategy — All areas which her company consults on, under the business development umbrella.
Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I am a reformed planner. I was the kid in high school with the five and ten year plans: I would graduate college, then law school. Illustrious corporate attorney during the week, stylish fashion designer on the weekends. As a freshman at Wellesley College, the plan was still intact. My intended major was philosophy. By sophomore year, I switched to an economics major with a philosophy minor. I briefly entertained the idea of going into investment banking (Didn’t we all?) until I dated one and realized that my beautiful Manhattan apartment would only be used for daily three hour power sleeps when I wasn’t in the office. I opted to work as a financial analyst for Tommy Hilfiger instead, merging my interests in finance and fashion.
Less than a year later, I was offered the opportunity to work abroad in Hong Kong and I jumped at the chance because I had been coached to believe international work experience would give me an advantage when it was time to move my career into the C-suite. I worked in business development and marketing for an electronics manufacturer. Lots of trade shows as well as custom design and engineering client work. That experience helped me score a logistics job with a biotechnology company, sandwiched between my two years as a graduate student studying creative writing at Dartmouth College.
After I earned my masters degree, I spent another five years in Hanover, New Hampshire. I was, as Dartmouth’s motto reads: Vox clamantis in deserto (A voice crying out in the wilderness)! Fresh from leaving my second engagement, I found myself with a lot of time to think and write about TABLES after my work days at the Tuck School of Business. I also started networking in earnest, and created a TedEd lesson for those adverse to the practice.
Add a subsequent NPR interview; a large entrepreneurship conference at Columbia University; a large career conference at NYU; two Huffington Post Live segments; endless hours on social media; teaching a summer course hosted at MIT as well as leading career workshops at Yale and Princeton…
That’s how I became the purposeful pivoter I am today. The highlights of my journey were not always planned & sometimes relied completely on luck, but once the opportunities presented themselves, I cultivated a flexibility which allowed me to adapt to drastically new situations. That’s the backstory of my non-traditional career path to becoming a career catalyst and business development consultant.
Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
I go to a lot of events alone in Manhattan. Last year, I was attending a fundraiser held at Brooks Brothers on Madison Avenue. I had been in the store for over an hour and took a break from the crowds. Yale alumna Nicole Benjamin, Esq, walked up to me because, “You look lonely.” We had a good laugh and continue to be friends to this day.
Yitzi: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My company stands out because I have had such a varied range of experiences, accomplishments and struggles that I can empathize with people across a broad spectrum. I have friends in their 20s, 70s, and everything in between. Additionally, my genuine curiosity about everyone helps me connect and build trust. I have successfully worked with students, CEOs, and dozens of other professionals.
Early last year, I was leading a career workshop at Yale for 1st generation students in the Ivy League. Only after my presentation did I discover that a Brother from my co-ed fraternity at Dartmouth, Leanna Arjune was in attendance. She unexpectedly contacted me a few months later via LinkedIn, and elaborated over Facebook to inform me that my session inspired her to redirect her course of study. One term later, she officially changed her major to reflect her passions, and she is so much happier now.
((( Screenshots below provided with permission from Leanna & Grace )))
Late last year, a Dartmouth alumna also reached out to me via LinkedIn. Grace Phang informed me that her professor, Nancy Dickenson quoted an article I had written in 2014 for US News & World Report during her UX leadership course.
These two stories really highlighted my year because they reinforce that my work has impact and sustainability — Even three years later!
Yitzi: 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 would need an entire weekend to list all the people who have helped me along the way. I am so grateful to everyone who has contributed positively to my journey, especially the trinity: Dorie, Tim, and Ted.
I cannot thank Harvard Business Review’s bestselling author Dorie Clark enough for being so supportive, kind and generous to me over the years. We co-authored an article in Forbes together, and she invited me to participate as a featured speaker in Smith College’s Executive Education Leadership Series. Dorie also introduced me to former Director of Community at HuffPost and current Co-creator of CreatingIs LLC and LIFEworking, Tim McDonald, who connected me with Choose2Matter’s Angela Maiers, and recommended me for a project at the United Nations.
I met Acting CMO of Brand Innovators and Co-Founder of Prevailing Path, Ted Rubin years ago through Tuck alumnus and Brytemoore Group’s Managing Director, David Garrison. Ted is the cheerleader everyone should be lucky enough to have on their team. Ted is a good person and a wonderful father.
Hat tip to bestselling author Brian D’Amato who has been mentoring me since my senior year at Hunter High School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Since graduating from Dartmouth, I served on the Board of Directors for clubs in the Upper Valley and New York City to raise money for scholarship funds.
Fellow alumna Joan Ai has recently been mentoring me with the knowledge she has collected as a social impact leader with extensive philanthropy experience working for major financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase. Later this year, I will join her at the NYU Steinhardt Edtech Incubator (StartEd), where we build a social impact vehicle that seeks to disrupt the employee engagement space leveraging corporate social responsibility best practices.
Yitzi: 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.
I am actually writing a book titled The Clover Canal Principles to address this topic, and help founders improve essential strategies necessary for the sustainable success of their companies. Entrepreneurship may start with one good idea, but it requires a portfolio of skill sets to flourish including:
1. [C]ultivate Intellectual Curiosity because your community will have a wide variety of interests. The more you read and learn across different subject matters, the more chances you are giving yourself to engage with others in memorable conversations that spur further discussion and eventual sales or unexpected opportunities. Fortune 500 Global Talent Recruiter Dr. Michael Kannisto will sooner fondly remember our chat about Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach than if I were just another Powerpoint monkey droning on about pitch decks.
2. [A]rticulate Ideas Effectively because people need to understand what you’re selling before they decide to invest in your company or spend money on your goods and services. You must understand customer needs and explain how your company will solve pain points. I recently advised a stealth startup on making sure their pitch deck focused on investor concerns (monetization and implementation) as much as consumer concerns (solution and convenience).
3. [N]urture Purposeful Community by connecting with others who will support you in the short and long-term. I met Jennifer Jacques, Esq, last summer during the reception for Ari Zoldan Stands Up for Entrepreneurship. Ari connected with me soon after after he saw my subsequent interview of Jennifer as Legal Counsel for Survive and Thrive, as well as outside counsel for companies such as Iman Cosmetics, Wordeee and Xeniapp. We’re so supportive of each others’ work and I look forward to future collaborations with both.
4. [A]dd Value Always by volunteering without the need for instant, or any, reciprocation. If you add value, your offer to help will rarely be declined. Use your efforts to open doors. Money should not be the only form of payment you accept — Access and connections can be much more valuable, and indirectly lead to money in the long-term. Former Apple General Manager and Oracle Business Strategy Director Stephen Bates was visiting the Upper Valley region of New Hampshire. We connected in 2009 over Twitter after I responded to his request for area recommendations with an offer to give him and his daughter Sienna a tour of the Tuck campus. We’ve been good friends ever since and regularly connect each other with business acquaintances all around the world.
5. [L]everage Your Luck by being open and prepared for unplanned opportunities. Last November, I boarded a morning train from Manhattan to lead a workshop at the Ivy Council’s 17th annual Ivy Leadership Summit at Princeton University. Not knowing it was homecoming weekend, I expected to have an hour long nap before arriving on campus. Instead, I shortly found myself surrounded by many, many excited Princetonians. Somehow, I ended up sitting next to Craig Sevde, the owner of the Yale apparel U Store in New Haven. We chatted non-stop for the duration of the commute (He is full of trivia facts!), discussed several ways we can collaborate in the future, and he has since connected me to one of his colleagues who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.
Yitzi: 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 would love to have lunch with Sir Richard Branson because he’s a knighted philanthropic entrepreneur who is wildly successful and FUN. I call the past ten years my “Difficult Decade,” and meeting Branson would remind me why I’ve worked so hard and that I should not lose my sense of humor in the process. Fun is important!
It’d be EPIC to play Dartmouth pong with Richard Branson, Mike Bloomberg and Elon Musk!
Yitzi:This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank YOU!!! :)