As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Jenny Chang, an event planning mogul that the world of celebrations has long been waiting for. Recognized as one of the country’s ‘Top 50 Event Planners’ by PartySlate, and ‘Top 10’ in Los Angeles by Junebug Weddings, Jenny brings her distinctive and ever-evolving business strategies to break the boundaries of the experiential event sphere. As the founder of national events agency ROCKNEVENTS, she serves some of the area’s most exclusive clientele, planning celebrations to remember ever. Jenny is also the founder of ROCKNUNIVERSITY, the only online learning program dedicated exclusively to aspiring event special producers. Through a series of courses also known as “tours”, students have the chance to learn directly from Jenny through her years of expertise and experience. Additionally, Jenny is continuing to revolutionize the event planning industry through the tech world as well with the creation of Vowlá, an intelligent app matching clients with their very own virtual wedding planner.
Jenny’s positive and uplifting attitude and outlook on life have also made her an influencer, beloved by millions on social media as she speaks out on hot-topic issues most important to her. From life’s most significant moments to a night of social fun, Jenny Chang’s vivacious personality, coupled with her daring and creative intuition, acts as a beacon of light even in the darkest of situations. With her unmatched ability to make dreams come true, Jenny Chang is, without a doubt, the event mogul that the world has long been waiting for.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. I know that you are a very busy person. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you grew up?
As a native of one of the wealthiest areas in Southern California, my parents were immigrants who worked tirelessly to make ends meet just so that my brother and I could live comfortably and receive the best education possible. Experiencing their unwavering work ethic and consistent dedication, it was from their inspiration that I started my first event planning company, ROCKNEVENTS, when I was just 19-years-old. At the time, I had completed no higher education than an Associate’s Degree from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM). To initially get my foot in the door and gain the valuable experience I desperately needed, I offered to plan events completely free of charge to any clients who would agree to work with me. After three years of operating my business with no monetary profit, I began to mold my company into what it is today where I now manage a team of executives across three offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Manhattan.
Being of a true entrepreneurial mindset, I knew that I wanted to share the real-life knowledge that I learned with others so that they too could become leaders in the events industry. I founded ROCKUNIVERSITY, which is the nation’s only 100% online course series dedicated to inspiring special event producers. But, understanding that experiential marketing and virtual reality are the way of the future, I also wanted to create something that could offer my company’s services virtually to those with a smaller budget. Thus, Vowlá was born. This smartphone app matches couples with a virtual wedding planner for an entirely remote planning process.
Recently, seeing as how the pandemic has turned many industries upside down, including the event space, and many people feel down on their luck, I wanted to connect with them and offer what I’ve learned from my own intuition and spiritual journey so they could realize something better is coming. I started a TikTok account in April where I now am able to use my platform to speak to my over 1.4 million followers to spread daily motivation and humor. I also released my first e-book this fall along with launching with my podcast ‘The Jenny Chang Experience’ to further the discussion.
What were your early inspirations that set you off on your particular journey?
I have to admit that I, myself, was my only inspiration when I first began my entrepreneurial and experiential journey. The younger version of me wasn’t one to fascinate herself with external role models, and instead, I’d find myself daydreaming about the person that I wanted to become. I’d fantasize about what she wore, how she spoke, what her day-to-day life as an event director would be like, and I became obsessed with this version of myself. It really would become such a spiritual journey to visualize myself becoming a top director and representing valuable members that gave me the creative freedom to express my art. Twelve years later, I’m grateful to lead my passions and ventures by connecting with my future/higher-self to guide me.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I’ve made plenty of mistakes as an expanding entrepreneur, but the most comical was believing that having a nice and shiny office space would mean that I’ve officially ‘made’ it in the business world. Before launching my company, I was fascinated with my perception of the glory office that my executives would prance into, and envision that I’d invest in expensive coffee machines, beanbag chairs and wallpapers to achieve that illusion. Is a creative, healthy and safe office space necessary for success? Absolutely. However, the “shiny-object-syndrome” of a Pinterest-inspired office is unnecessary to our ongoing success. The big lesson was to care less about material surroundings, and to invest more capital on creative independent contractors, marketing campaigns, and the right team.
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?
Tony Chang is my brother, my confidant and my supportive hand. My brother’s energy served as my ‘light’ as I trusted myself to transition from a “dreamer” to a “creator”. He was there visualizing side-by-side with me when, at the time, all I HAD were my dreams. My brother was there to lift my confidence, reassure me of my self-worth and validated my chaotic and very inventive mind. There was an entire year where my brother’s belief in me made him sacrifice his own time, health and work (earning no compensation) for my companies while putting his own financial security in a vulnerable position. My brother is the reason that I believed in my creator instincts. It’s ME looking at myself through his eyes that I found myself to become the capable, special and unstoppable entrepreneur that I’ve evolved into today.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
The most challenging time in the beginning of my journey is still, ’til this day, my greatest and overall, that is: attracting the right team for your success. The truth we’re told, but never prepared for is that no one in this world will want, love and give more to your company dreams than, yourself — and that’s okay. However, finding a well-intended team is fundamental to expand your mission. It’s the journey in sourcing, nurturing and mentoring the right people that will forever be a challenge for creators — which makes it the most rewarding when you actually do.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My intentions give me purpose. I believe a resilient creator is born through the ‘intentions’ behind their creations. If we, as entrepreneurs, are willing to go to great lengths to bring an idea to life, it would mean that our intentions of these ‘ideas’ are greater than the challenges we face. In reverse, if your challenges defeat your intentions, then the idea wasn’t strong enough to bring to life in the first place. When I find myself sloping in self-motivation, I pause and remind myself of the very intentions that gave me a reason to “start it all”, activate my problem-solving energy, and get back to work.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Today, I thank every person, unforeseen event and my past self for building the muscle of my new resilient transformation. I am, now, at the point in my life where when problems rise, I solve them with logic and little emotion. My mindset is no longer bonded to having a “victim mentality” and I find myself asking the right questions that help drive healthier solutions. It’s my new automatic response to witness a ‘problem’ and find every reason WHY it provided me (personally and professionally) with more to gain than a loss.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
All of my companies stand out because of my connection between my intentions and each company’s individual mission for this world. Essentially, I create a bridge between the two. A great example is of my app, Vowlá! This remote wedding planning app is designed for couples to experience a secure, luxurious and untouchable wedding year, matchmaking their perfect day with a reputable wedding planner — no matter their budget.
My intention with creating this app is to be able to offer every couple a luxurious experience, whilst solving the problem of couples not being able to afford a wedding planner. The wedding industry is saturated with smoke and mirrors, and for many couples, it’s impossible to afford a wedding planner without going over their budget.
While I had couples inquiring and falling in love with our in-person planning services, I was quickly discouraged by the amount of people that needed the experience, but couldn’t afford it. Therefore, I created the only app that matches couples with planners, while being able to self-guide their experience through my process. The mission of the company is to offer couples with a trustful process, connect them with affordable and reputable vendors, while my personal intention is to give more people the experience they deserve.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Magic is born through a collective effort, so allow others to help you. It’s truly a superpower to be in the experiential industry, and we should never underestimate the power of services we provide in this world. Understand that it’s hard enough for people to start a business, but to add your creative expertise on top of being an entrepreneur is very respectable, and should not be done alone. Find the right people, build a loyal team and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you and your mission need it.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Proudly, yes. Today, I share my entrepreneurial experiences to create future creators and entrepreneurs of this generation. I motivate people through spiritual work and practices that have healed my lightest and most dark moments while bringing relatable energy to inspire future creators. Through perspective awareness, I’ve dedicated my passion to influence others by developing their deserving confidence, self-validation and to awaken their greatest potential.
Wonderful. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
The handful of things I wish someone had advised me prior to starting my companies are: (1) Starting a company is no different than starting a family; (2) Keep your team small and goals bigger; (3) Celebrate every manifested milestone; (4) Build your influential presence simultaneous to your company’s presence and (5) Focus on teaching your clients the value of what you offer vs. communicating what you offer.
Now that you have gained this experience and knowledge, has it affected or changed your personal leadership philosophy and style? How have these changes affected your company?
Personally, I’ve evolved to become more efficient with where I am depositing my energy and time. Professionally, my leadership style has evolved from pressuring my employees to meet their greatest performance, to understanding with intuition that every great performance is backed by the value of knowledge. I find myself coupling my expectations of my executives and clients with the value of mentoring/teaching them through expertise, compassion and direct communication. Personally, I’ve adopted true happiness by celebrating (or treating myself) with the milestones that I always intended to bring to fruition.
This series is called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me”. This has the implicit assumption that had you known something, you might have acted differently. But from your current vantage point, do you feel that knowing alone would have been enough, or do you feel that ultimately you can only learn from experience? I think that learning from mistakes is the best way, perhaps the only way, to truly absorb and integrate abstract information. What do you think about this idea? Can you explain?
I wish someone had taught me that “starting a business” is no different than creating a family. This is true for the entrepreneurs/creators that have great intention to grow their ideas with great people. Being a founder of a company is one challenge, but to couple this position with being an experiential direct/designer was the greatest challenge. I do agree that ultimately you can learn from your own experiences — both the good and the bad.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
In this world, we’re flooded with financial investors, and not enough of intuitive investors. It’s no surprise that financial investment isn’t an interest of mine, so instead, I’d start a movement where we create a group of creative leaders to invest their light, energy and motivation to those that are in need of the strength, advice and branding so we can, perpetually, create a world of creators.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My work and contact information is found on my website, jennychang.com — and it’s here that you can find a list of my establishments. You can also find me on my social outlets: TikTok: @iamjennychang / Instagram: @jennychanggang!