Dominic Zhai // Ep 14 // From Failing the MCAT to Founding a 7-Figure Marketing Agency

Welcome to Episode 14 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have Dominic Zhai on this week's episode.

We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Check us out on Anchor, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Spotify and more. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave us a positive 5-star review. This is our opportunity to use the voices of the Asian community and share these incredible stories with the world. We release a new episode every Wednesday, so stay tuned!

“Andy Nguyen is the mash-up king in the food industry.” – Food Network

Plans of becoming a doctor were suddenly thrown off course when Dominic failed the MCAT – and if you could fail while going the “safe” route, you might as well fail while doing what you love. With that in mind, Dominic booked a one-way ticket from Madison to Los Angeles to pursue acting. He managed to land a gig as Tang Wei’s acting coach for a film in Hong Kong…but even that dream was short-lived, ending just a couple of weeks into the job.

Taking things in stride, Dominic turned his side hustle as an SEO strategist into a full-time remote job while traveling to over 30 countries – reading, learning, experiencing. He’s now the founder and CEO of a multi-million dollar marketing agency, and a Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient. An unconventional path, to say the least…but it worked out. And by sharing life and career advice with the next generation of graduates, Dominic hopes to use his platform and experience to encourage them to chase after what they want.

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Intro: [00:00:00] Hey guys! Welcome to the Asian Hustle Network podcast. My name is Bryan.

And my name is Maggie. And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians

to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Maggie: [00:00:23] Hi everyone. My name is Maggie. Welcome to the Asian Hustle Network podcast.

Bryan: [00:00:28] My name is Bryan.

Maggie: [00:00:29] And today we have a very special guest with us. His name is Dominic Zhai and here’s his bio. Plans of becoming a doctor suddenly thrown off course when Dominic failed the Mcat. And if you could fail while going the safe route, you might as well fail while doing what you love. Without a mind, Dominic booked a one way to get from Madison to Los Angeles to pursue acting. He managed to Atlanta gig as 10 ways, acting coach for a film in Hong Kong. But even that dream was short-lived ending just a couple of weeks into the job.

Taking things in stride, Dominic turned a side hustle as an SEO strategist into a full-time remote job while traveling to over 30 countries. Reading, learning, experiencing. He’s now the founder and CEO of a multimillion-dollar marketing agency and a Forbes 30 under 30 recipient. An unconventional path to say the least, but it worked out and by sharing life and career advice with the next generation of graduates, Dominic hopes to use this platform and its experience to encourage them to chase after what they want.

Dominic, welcome to the show.

Dominic: [00:01:35] Thank you. Well, that introduction that actually Nancy who’s, I told you guys before we started recording, but Nancy did a great job helping me write that she’s a much better writer than me actually. Now that you read it, it sounds nice.

Maggie: [00:01:48] Just wanted to give a shout out to Nancy. That’s a very clever and very inspirational bio. So thank you, Nancy.

Bryan: [00:01:55] Hey Nancy, wanna make my bio too?

Dominic: [00:01:58] Yeah. She’ll make it. She should make resumes.

Maggie: [00:02:03] Amazing. So.

Dominic: [00:02:04] Thanks for having me though, I appreciate it.

Maggie: [00:02:06] Well, let’s jump right into it. You know, we’d love to hear about your upbringing, you know, where you were born, what your family was like while you were growing up, things like that.

Dominic: [00:02:17] Yeah, upbringing wise. I grew up in Wisconsin. I was born in Madison, Wisconsin. Mom and dad were immigrants from China. Had an older brother. I’d say some of the things I probably remember the most is, or like the key highlights, the too long didn’t read, TLDR is my parents divorced when I was quite young.

They had a pretty nasty divorce. There’s not a good divorce. And like, it was very difficult for my mom to raise my brother and I, on her own more or less, so lots and lots of respect for her. And, and also really just any single parent mother, a single parent father. And, and plus if you’re an immigrant, it’s like, as on like a whole nother level of complexity to, you know, just everything.

Cause he doesn’t speak English that well sometimes, you know, whatever it’s not, you know, and the culture. So, that’s really the upbringing in terms of how I grew up just hanging, hanging out a lot with my mom whenever she was not working. But when she was working or she was going to school trying to get like a degree as a nurse to ultimately make money to support my brother and I would go with her to the library,  play SIM city.

So, I mean, it was a pretty normal upbringing when I was very young. And then as I got a little bit older, my mom’s still was, you know, she got a full-time job as a nurse, which is a good stable job. And her shifts were very long, should work like 12 hour days. So that means because I just had a lot of time at home.

She never really had the time and to look at my grades and stuff, actually. So it wasn’t like I had this tiger mom experience, actually played video games all the time. And I like wanted to figure out how to build a better computer for as cheap as possible to be able to play more video games. So I would have liked more like frames per second and stuff.

So it wouldn’t be lagging. So I actually spent a lot of time just like figuring out like buying some computer parts, putting together some computers. And then also just playing video games, I got pretty good at some specific games, but that was the main upbringing, honestly, when I was young.

But that’s probably some of that stuff leads into some entrepreneurial stuff, you know, just, I think probably it started there just trying to make money, like on the internet or like buying computer parts and stuff, selling some stuff.

Bryan: [00:04:17] Our early entrepreneur process that you can recall.

Dominic: [00:04:21] I mean, like, I think like many kids out there, I just, Yeah, just like sell stuff, like on the side of the stress or like Oreos and stuff.

But probably mostly just a first exposure is just buying computer parts, assembling them, and realizing that I can make a profit if I just like sold like a completed set to someone. So I just like made some friends on the internet and like sold it to them. Sold it to some friends as well.

Bryan: [00:04:48] Growing up, like I was not like you at all. I wasn’t entrepreneurial. I was actually your consumer. If you sold me Oracle for two bucks, I’ll probably buy for two bucks. See so many complete computer. I would probably buy a computer from you. Yeah.

Dominic: [00:05:01] Yeah.

Bryan: [00:05:01] We need to hear this. It’s awesome to hear like how entrepreneurial you are at such a young age, you know, Yeah.

Maggie: [00:05:07] Yeah. Oh yeah. So, I know you mentioned, you know, your mom is a nurse and so you were taking your Mcat and that would love to know, like, did that influence you to go into the medical field to take your MCAT? And did your mom have like a set of plans for you? Like, was she expecting you to go into the medical field to kind of follow her path or did it just naturally happen?

Dominic: [00:05:31] No, there was no expectation at all from my mom or really my dad as well. Like, I mean, I spent some time with my dad, but like there’s no expectation to go to medical school. I actually started off college majoring in mechanical engineering, but it took some of the classes. I think I got to a class, which is like the first like class that’s like filters people out.

I think it’s called statics or something. And I was like, yeah, this just sounds terrible. It’s like, it’s too difficult, like too much, too math-heavy. And then I was like, okay, let’s just like find something easier. And then, biology just seems really easy. Cause it was like compared to like the physics plus engineering plus like calculus, like combined and like one chorus.

I was like, yeah, that just sounds terrible. I wasn’t ever like that good at math. So, so I was just like, you know, me, I would just go like do biology and then with biology, I would go a premed track because, Worst case scenario, at least like I’m going to be motivated to get good grades.

And then and then, worst-case scenario, I have good grades. Hopefully, I have good grades. And then I can like to do whatever I want, even if it’s not medical school. So I kind of like self-selected that. And also I was just like, yeah, like, you know, Asian doctor, I was like, ah, it’s like normal. Right. I should just nature.

And that, so.

Bryan: [00:06:43] Yeah, I mean, they grew up in Wisconsin to have an effect on you in terms of owning up to your Asian heritage and your personal identity?

Dominic: [00:06:51] Yeah, for sure. A hundred percent. I mean like most of my friends who are just very like midwestern dudes from Wisconsin, you know, like I grew up in a very, very like, you know, people are just huge fans of like green Bay Packers, the Wisconsin Badgers, sports.

Just Midwestern, it was a very American upbringing, pretty much. I didn’t really have many friends that were Asian. Pretty much all my friends were, more or less white I’d say. And yeah, definitely. I think like, for me personally, I like it, it was nice I had an older brother who likes, who he’s six years, six or seven years older than me.

So it was helpful to have someone kind of like as a role model to kind of see like how he navigated through, you know, he was kind of like a Guinea pig. Cause he, I got to see him navigate through like, Do with all the dumb shit, like don’t stuff like, yeah. And then I would just kind of learn from that and not do those things, but definitely identity wise.

I mean, I felt sometimes was out of place for sure. I mean, even going to school there at Wisconsin, I did. and, and, I think that probably plays a pretty major role into why I started my podcast and why I actually went into acting at some points for a few years.

Maggie: [00:07:57] Yeah. So let’s walk up through your journey, you know, you, after failing the MCAT, did you have, you know, would love to know what your mentality was like after that?

Did you have this period of time where you were like, Oh, should I retake it or were you just like, okay, I’m done with this. You know, I should probably focus on something else. That’s not what I want to do.

Dominic: [00:08:16] Context is like, I actually had really good grades in university. Like I had almost a 4.0, I think I had like one B or something in four years.

And, so it’s like the MCAT. I studied really hard for it. It’s not like I just like winged it, you know, I actually like really put a hundred percent into it. and then, so when I got the result actually on a day that took the test, I knew I didn’t do well. I knew it already. Cause like I had to like go to the bathroom and like pee in the middle of it. And like in the, with Mcat, you get zero time. It’s so tight on time. That was like, I got back to that’s only like a minute I got back and I was just like already so behind on like the timer. And so I had to guess a few questions or then I was an after you guessed a few questions, you’re just like, I’ve kind of already like screwed this up.

Cause the margin of error is very low on MCAT for like the points. So anyway, I wasn’t that surprised when I got the result back honesty. And then, I think I got a 24 out of 45, which literally I think is like 50th percentile, you know? so I was pretty bummed cause you know, you spend six, three to six months studying for something.

I even did like a Kaplan course or something else. I was a little bit bummed, but I was like, yeah, maybe I should just like, study, like do the LSAT, go to law school instead. Cause I’m like less of a science person. I’m more of like a communication person. So I bought a bunch of like LSAT books and I sat at the library for like a day and I try to start studying it and I was just like, no, that’s not going to work.

Yeah. And I also thought that I’ll have a better chance to go to like a really, really good university if I did law school because I was thinking, I was like, okay, I have a really good GPA. And if I can just do fairly well on this, I have a lot of extracurriculars for like med school and I’m like a different applicant.

Cause I didn’t study like political science and stuff. I was like, maybe I can get into like an Ivy league or something. And I was like, that’d be cool if I could like go to Harvard law school. Cause like, everyone’s like, it’s like a running joke between my brother and I, and probably many people where it’s like Harvard or bust, you know, it’s like got to go to Harvard.

But it just didn’t feel right. I just couldn’t get myself motivated. So I was like, I’m going to take a year off and apply to some programs, like Fulbright’s Princeton and Asia, to go hang out in China. I really, I studied abroad in China earlier. So I thought it’d be good to like, spend some time there, but I actually got rejected to all of those things, like, so then pretty much I ended up graduating and I was just like, I dunno, it just like didn’t have anything lined up at all actually. I had like literally nothing. I just remembered sitting at my friend’s place that like they were gone for the summer and I was with another friend and like, I was like cleaning people’s houses for like $10 and like playing like video games and like making tacos all summer, nothing.

Bryan: [00:10:51] What year was this by the way?

Dominic: [00:10:52] 2012.

Bryan: [00:10:54] 2012. I mean, that’s probably one of the referee years he graduated and your story too is very relatable to myself, you know?

Dominic: [00:11:02] Yeah.

Bryan: [00:11:03] I graduated in 2010 during like the whole recession thing and super seniors on a job. And I found myself just sitting there as well, like a living room, like my friend’s living room and I’m like, Oh crap, I don’t have anything lined up after college. It’s scary.

Dominic: [00:11:17] Cause like a lot of other people had stuff lined up at least, but yeah.

Bryan: [00:11:22] It’s scary. It’s very, yeah. So similar to you, like also got really good grades, but somehow like the economy taint, even you get good grades, they have no experience.

You can’t get a job.

Dominic: [00:11:34] Yeah. It’s probably similar to people graduating now. Right? I mean, this probably is not a very good time to like, whatever, but, but yeah, I mean, so that was kind of it. I wasn’t that nervous though or anything. I just kinda, I guess I didn’t just didn’t really know what to do, but I was pretty happy just playing video games and stuff.

Maggie: [00:11:53] Well, I love how open you are, you know, about failures and just, you know, the setbacks and times where you didn’t even know what you were going to do with your future. And so it seems like…

Dominic: [00:12:05] It depends on success too, you know? Like what would you define?

Maggie: [00:12:08] Yeah. Yeah, but it seems like you’re very open-minded, you know, trying to get into medical fields and then on your way up to during your journey, you decided to go into acting.

And so, at that time, you know, well, did you always have like this desire and like passion for acting or was that something that was like very, you know, out of?

Dominic: [00:12:29] Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s interesting. I did acting since I was in high school. I did a bunch of theater classes. Throughout college, I did a bunch of theater classes. I did improv classes. I was pretty good at improv, and I was overall not bad at acting. I would say I was pretty raw. Like, you know, I just didn’t have life experience acting is really like very tied to life experience. It’s like, if you have more life experience, you’re going to be a better actor.

But, cause it’s a reflection of life, but, Yeah, no, I, I didn’t like, aside from that, I think it just kind of seemed like something fun to do that I was interested in. I had watched a lot of Asian, Asian Americans that started to surface in the media. Not in not in anything mainstream. But I started to see it on like, on a YouTube.

Ya’ll remember watched some videos from like this guy named KevJumba, nigahiga. Yeah. Some of those guys and I was like, it’s cool. Like, I really like what they’re doing, but like, I think I started to see that was. I was graduating the year I was graduating. It was like Harry Shum jr. was in Glee. And he had no lines, but he was in glee.

So every episode I was like, I hope he says something. Cause I probably want to like few Asian people on TV. And popular stuff. So I was like, you know, it seems like the wave is coming. And I was like, you know, China’s getting really big in the entertainment industry. Like we’re probably going to see a lot more Asian faces cause there’s going to be more market audience there.

That’s what I was thinking. So I was like, you know, why don’t I give it a shot? Maybe I’ll be in like the right place, right time. You know, and also I think for like black African American people, like, you know, like I was like, maybe Asians are just like the next like at some point people will realize that Asians have like buying power to like watch stuff and consume content to the same as like black or African American people do. So like maybe they’ll maybe that will happen one day where there’ll be more Asian people represented. So I was like, I should try to go there cause I just might be in the right place at the right time.

Hopefully, be good at what I do too, but yeah.

Bryan: [00:14:31] I mean, I really love your can-do attitude, you know, you’re like, you know what, this is a passion. Why not pursue it? And you did. Yeah. I love that. Lack of mental barrier that most people have, especially within the Asian culture too, because we tend to overthink a lot of things. And we think that since there’s not enough representation, like acting or Hollywood, what not that we shouldn’t pursue it, but that’s not the case to you at all. So I want to understand my, what is that thing that separated you, that helped push you forward?

Dominic: [00:14:57] I think, I mean, I think a lot about stuff too, but also just, I think I’m pretty good at making decisions quickly. Sometimes you gotta just make a decision, but, I’m trying to think. Yeah, I don’t know. I think I think I just felt like, the fact that there weren’t that many people yet that it’s a good time to do it because you don’t want to wait until something’s already supersaturated. So it’s better to be… it’s a calculated risk.

It’s not like actually. I thought a lot about it. I read the book like I read a bunch of books. I read, like at that point, Malcolm Gladwell was really, his books were really popular. So I would read like blink, I’d read like outliers, I’ve read like the tipping point. And like, pretty much I made a decision based on those books.

I was like, okay, outliers, like the right place, right time. That was like one of the premises of that book. Did they, in the beginning, it was like, why are all the hockey players go into NHL born in the same like three months? Because like, at that point, like before the season, they’re like the most like they’ve aged so they’re like stronger than other people. And then they’re more confidence. And then it’s like, you know, whatever. And then tipping points. I just felt like we’re almost at the tipping points where like suddenly mainstream media was going to realize that like, they got to get some more Asian representation.

I think some King had started to get some representation as well. Randall Park as well. Just a little bit. He was just starting out. Actually messaged all those guys. I spoke to before I moved to LA, I even talked to Randall park on Facebook messenger. I talked to Sung Kang. All those guys are super receptive to just like, I literally Facebook message them.

Yeah. So, and they replied, so that was pretty cool.

Maggie: [00:16:33] And so while you were in the acting industry, what was your perception on? Cause I know it’s changed a lot in like films and movies since like, you know, let’s say 10 years ago. Right. And so what is your perception on our progress on, you know, starring Asians then actors and actresses and lead roles right now.

Dominic: [00:16:53] Yeah, I think it’s great. I think that the problem is that a general if it’s a really big global film like a blockbuster, and this is one of the reasons that I quit was because, although they did start to cast more Asian faces. I just realized, look like the studios, they’re not going to go to like some like totally unknown.

I mean, generally. This might’ve, maybe disproven already, but just like, I just felt like they were more likely to cast someone that already had a big name in the Asian markets, attached them to a movie, then cast a no-name Asian-American person. Because when you cast someone that already has the market potential, then you already are guaranteed like an ROI.

It’s a business decision. So when I realized that I was just like, you know, the chances are against me at this point, because unless I make it big in China and actually try to, I moved to China for two and a half years to go down that path. You know, as I was just thinking like that, that maybe is the route I have to go.

So, I don’t know if that answered your question, did that answer it? I don’t even know. Yeah. Yeah.

Maggie: [00:17:55] I guess my second part of the question is like, what kind of differences did you see between America and China?

Dominic: [00:18:00] Oh, differences. Well, it depends on if we’re talking like film industry and entertainment industry or just differences between the two.

Maggie: [00:18:10] Yeah. Yeah. I would say the film and industry. Yeah. Yeah.

Dominic: [00:18:17] I think. I think in China. Well, first of all, China, it was just the wild West. It’s like, everything is a connection based half the time you don’t even need to audition, looks as much more important than your skill. This happens in Hollywood, I’m sure a lot, but I think for people to get roles in China, there’s a lot of like backdoor stuff happening, right?

Like sleeping with someone with a producer, that type of stuff to get I’m sure happens everywhere. I’m sure I have this knowledge. We know what happens in Hollywood, especially like with a lot of stuff that happened in the last few years, but like, I think it happens a lot in the Chinese film industry.

 It’s all about Guanxi. Everything in China is  Guanxi, it’s just,  it’s just if you know someone. Yeah. Or if you or if you can [inaudible], which is, you’re the one that pays. You take all the money that your producer, you know, so that’s a big difference. you know, also they can make more mass-market stuff.

It’s a, you can just see, you know, make mass, they just have so many people. They are watching stuff on like the networks and the, you know, streaming and stuff. It’s like, you can make a lot of really crappy stuff and like still make money with it. Just have some explosions, you know, drama, whatever.

Bryan: [00:19:28] Yeah, definitely.

And all of this experience too, it’s pretty inspirational to hear that you hop from the medical field to acting. And I feel like just like, again, there’s no barrier. So how’d you get into like, starting as a marketing agency, you know? What led to that part of your career that led to you meeting so many people around the world and living in a lot of different places.

Maggie: [00:19:50] Yeah.

Dominic: [00:19:51] Yeah. I mean, like, I think the thing with like China was, you know, I had helped coach a number of different A-list actresses, that Tang Wei and Zhang Yuqi like I worked a lot with Tang Wei and with Zhang Yuqi, I was helping coach her on a different movie and just hanging out with her pretty much like three, four months or so, in her entourage.

And she, you know, Yuqi is like, she probably was like one of the top 10 A-listers in China. So then I moved over to China to really pursue acting, but I also just needed to make some money. So it’s like, you know, acting is very unstable. So I had always just done a little bit of consulting.

I did someone, one of my friend’s dads. Pretty much. I like one of my, I was visiting one of my friends, friends that his dad was there and I like his dad. We talk a lot about you don’t get advice from him. I was like, I need like a job that can like, I can make money and be flexible. And then I was talking, I talked to my dad too.

And he, my dad was like, when you should do like web design and stuff like that. And I’m like, that also was like, he was like, yeah. He’s like, I know like, cause my dad works at a company and he was in marketing. So like he was saying how like they hire these companies to help them do like SEO and they pay them like a thousand bucks a month.

He’s like, maybe you should look into that. So I was like, yeah, maybe that’s a good idea. So, I talked to my friend, another friend’s dad, and all the dad’s wisdom. And he was like, yeah, like, he’s like, cause, cause he had run like a digital marketing web design company. He’s like, yeah, SEO is good. So you don’t need to really have my concern about doing web development is I had no background in coding.

So it’s like, I, I was just like, you know what? Even if I learn how to do web design, like what’s my advantage. Like why wouldn’t someone just go hire someone, a kid, and literally like some kid in India. Who probably is going to know how to do CSS and HTML. Better than I ever will. And, and at a much more competitive rate.

So I was like, well, that’s off the table. But SEO is something that I could just do in the US and it was more, it was not so much coding, but it’s more strategic. So I was like, I have an advantage, cause I can’t outsource that as well. Right. Ah, so more or less, I had no experience, but I just like, so I got some contacts.

My dad gave me some contacts. Got some other contacts from some other friends, pursued them, talk to them. And they’re just sold like small SEO packages. I was like, I’ll help you with your consulting, like 500 bucks a month or something. So I was doing that already for a couple of years, just making some money.

And then, and I think, I think at one point when I had really focused in, on acting like I really gave acting a hundred percent, like I even spent a ton of time and money going to London and doing drama school there. Learning like Shakespeare. So as I really gave it like a fair shake, I like, went all in, and I think when I went all in and afterward a few years, I was just like, man, this is so unstable.

I was like, this is so like, I just didn’t see the end at the light of the tunnel, the light at the end of the tunnel. And in addition to that, acting is something that is very not in your control, it’s so heavy, like usually certain endeavors or a portion of luck and a portion of hard work. I just felt like acting was 80% luck, like 90% lock and 10% hard work and skill.

Some people might disagree with me, but honestly, like after fibers are really dedicated to it, it was just, it’s such a like everything is such like a crapshoot. And there’s so few opportunities and roles, but when you build a business, that’s something where it takes some luck, but it’s also just like it’s hard work and intelligence can get you pretty far.

So I can actually predict that if I spend the same amount of energy and time investing that into a business, I was like almost 90% success rate I’m going to do really well. Versus acting I could, every single day I spent all my time and it just like, I was like, I don’t even know the things I’m doing are helping you work towards the goal.

You’re just like literally constantly throwing noodles at the wall, trying to figure out what works. So so I was like, you know, I’m just gonna focus on my business. And then I fell in love with the business. I started growing it, doing a really good job. I had a knack for it and I was really good at sales.

I’m good at talking and good at building relationships. And a lot of those things came from doing the acting. Five years of acting training, when you do improv all the time, when you’re putting yourself in uncomfortable situations and you have to listen to people, you have to understand and see the subtext of what people want.

That’s all stuff that there’s no better training for sales than that. And also running a team, leading other people. It’s all the soft skills I learned in acting. I carry that over and then it really, that resulted in the business. Growth.

Bryan: [00:24:11] I really liked hearing stuff like that too, because. I feel like when you become an entrepreneur like you draw on every single point in your life as the starting block or the foundation block for you to do other things, you know?

So when people tell me, Oh, I wasted so much time being this, I waste so much time doing that. It’s never, I never think is wasting time. I think that you’re building that skill set to do something better.

Dominic: [00:24:36] Yeah. A hundred percent. I mean, you’re only wasting time if you’re just if people are just not giving it like a serious effort, you know?

Like you can’t like, I don’t know if like you guys like swear on here. I just don’t eat. I don’t like to half-ass to stuff, you know, like, like when I did acting, I didn’t half-ass it, when I did anything, I didn’t half-ass. Even when I did study for MCAT, I didn’t have ass it. I just didn’t do very well.

You know, so, but I learned a lot at each point in time, and then that helped really just come together and, and, give the skillsets for something else.

Bryan: [00:25:10] And that’s a huge thing, too. You know, like you, how you do one thing is how you do everything.

The fact that you spent all your life focus on each thing, but you found, you finally found a niche that you’re finding good at, you know, you’re story.

And then you have the work ethic and years of discipline and knowing yourself and building your, you know, your skillset when you got to your right niche, you blew up.

Dominic: [00:25:31] Yeah. Yeah. That’s a good point. Cause I always thought like the purpose of university and school, it’s like, I don’t remember anything from it, but I learned how to like, make deadlines and work hard, I guess. And how to get good grades and also college and university and getting good grades it’s a game it’s like I could have had a significantly worse GPA if I didn’t know how to play the game of like getting good grades in college.

Like, I mean, for example, if you want get good grades, make friends with the person that gets really good grades and gets all A’s on every exam then study with that person, you know, they’re going to be like, Oh, by the way, I have all these practice tests. That’s perfect. Let me get those. They can answer your questions and then you get good grades.

And then, or it’s like sit in the front row with the teachers. Like if there’s a TA teaching the class, sit in the front row, go to office hours because the TAs are just normal people. And if you have questions, that give you a lot of mad hints of like, what’s going to be on the exam. They’ll be yeah. Maybe you should look into that. You know, it’s a small, extra thing and they have the ability and power, which I realized to bump your grade off. If you’re on the cusp. If you’re at like an 89.5, they can bump you to a 90 or like a 93 or whatever. And that’s the difference of an A versus an AB versus like AB and a B.

And that’s significant when it comes to your GPA, there’s all a game.

Bryan: [00:26:49] I’m kinda curious too, like, you know, as you’re transitioning over to your marketing agency, what was that rise life like from the point where you start picking up momentum and start to think that, Oh, wow. This would be bigger than what I think it is or bigger than who I am.

Maggie: [00:27:05] And how have you seen it grow since you first started it? And what are you working with partners or, you know, where you’re just kinda like solely working by yourself?

Dominic: [00:27:15] Yeah, in the beginning, I think, The biggest thing I realized. In the beginning, it’s like every deal, it was just really, really important. It was like life or death. I was like, I got the closest deal and you put so much into it. And like, the amounts are a lot lower, you know, like it’s like a 500-buck retainer or like, you know, just some hourly work and stuff like that. The moment that I started to realize that it’s like real is when we started.

So like one website for $50,000 and we did a really great job. And then we got like a $5,000 a month retainer from it. I remember the beginning, one of my friends and business partners. He was just like, there was like a pitch call. Someone wanted SEO. And he was like, yeah, man, we got like pitch like a $4,000 retainer.

And I was like, no way. I was like, I never charged that much. Like, I’m like, let’s just pitch 500. We’re going to like scare them away. Now every time we pitched retainers, it’s like 5k, sometimes 30K a month, you know? And it’s just like, but also in the beginning, you just don’t quite, you have imposter syndrome, you know, everyone has imposter syndrome.

Like I was like, you know, it’s not worth it. Why would anyone pay me for 5 thousand a month? That’s ridiculous. You know, I’m not worth that much. Now when I do believe it’s worth it, it’s like, cause I understand the value. It’s an entirely different story where I can with a very straight face, tell them that that’s $30,000 a month to do these things because I kind of know because I know the value that I’m going to create for them.

And to me, way more than 30,000 a month. So that’s when you kind of realize it. And I don’t think, I think it takes some time to realize that it is something in her where I think the shift of not feeling like an impostor. And then when you don’t feel like an impostor anymore, I think you’ve started to become an expert.

Now you’ve put in 10,000 hours and that’s when it starts to get real and everything becomes easier because you, everything just falls into place.

Maggie: [00:28:56] Yeah. What’d you say you have like a set of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs to kind of get over the imposter syndrome or is that something that you kind of just fall upon?

Dominic: [00:29:08] Yeah, I think you have to put in, I think you have to really confront every single situation that makes you a bit nervous, not just in your work. But in your personal life and stuff like that, you know, things that give you some anxiety, like, I mean, acting class was so scary. Trust me, going up in an acting class and a whole bunch of people that were way more experienced than you, that work in the industry and putting up your scenes and your arts and just being judged, like pretty much you’re literally just like emotionally naked, like so vulnerable, just like everyone’s judging you.

That’s not easy to do. And then you’re listening to an acting coach that you respect tremendously. Critique you. You know, so years of my life, I was constantly just like in some state of nervousness, you know, I’m performing in front of other people. I was never like a great public speaker. I was very shy, extremely shy.

And then, but also by doing those things, you realize that you always come out alive and, hopefully, you come out alive and if you do, then it gives you the confidence to really not feel like an impostor. I think the, I think that’s just a balance or once you start having confidence, you don’t feel like an impostor anymore because you’ve already addressed the issues that were making feel like an imposter.


Maggie: [00:30:28] Great advice. Yeah. Yeah. So, we know that you’ve been traveling a lot. We know that you’ve been in China recently, in Europe recently, and now you’re living in Puerto Rico. And so we’ll want to know, you know, what made you go out to China, Europe, and what made you move out to Puerto Rico for the time being?

Dominic: [00:30:49] Yeah. so moving to China, art, sorry. I was just thinking I just got distracted for one second. Cause I was just thinking as a podcast host. Like oftentimes I’m like some people talk, way faster than other people. And I was thinking, I wonder if I’m talking way fast because I had this one guest on Bing Chen and he talks so fast and I was thinking, I was seeing it like.

I must be talking very fast, straighten out too, you know?

Maggie: [00:31:18] No, you’re good.

Dominic: [00:31:19] Yeah, but I don’t know. It’s just, I think the thing I’m just excited to share a lot of stuff and…

Bryan: [00:31:25] We’re excited to hear your story too.

Dominic: [00:31:27] But, yeah. So you mentioned, so, the path like going to China and Puerto Rico, the traveling through Europe and what, what was the, can you repeat the question?

Cause I was spaced out.

Maggie: [00:31:35] No, you know, you’ve been traveling so much and I know we didn’t, we know that you’ve been traveling to over 30 countries. And what brought you to, you know, these countries and what brought you to Puerto Rico to now?

Dominic: [00:31:47] So, for Europe, after China just had nowhere to go and no home. I was just like, Oh, so I’m not working in this industry anymore.

I don’t like living in China. I don’t like living in a place where it is so small that I can’t even go outside without feeling like it’s like one day I like when my friend came to visit and there’s like this like an app that tells you the quality of the air. And I just remember we went outside and it was, he looked at the app and there’s just like, there’s like different levels of like, you know, under 100, it’s like, smiley face like 200 it’s like frowny face.

Remember he opened it one day and it was just a deathly skull. It’s literally a skull and it said, do not go outside. It’s like the air quality is like 800 or something. You couldn’t even see. I was just like, I gotta get outta here. Cause I was like, it’s just making me so depressed. So so I just laughed and I was like, ah, let’s just travel through Europe.

I’ll work as a nomad. I lived in Berlin, spend time in London. I really loved London. I love the theater. I love watching theater, you know, so it made a lot of sense. But at some point, I think there’s like diminishing returns to travel.

It’s hard to be very focused on your career and work and even personal life when you’re always moving from place to place. You only get us. You’re unable to get deep into something. For example, let’s say I wanted to do get really good at jujitsu. You’re not going to be able to do that. If you’re constantly moving from place to place finding a new gym.

Right. And then, then also relationship. Let’s just talk about friendships. The depth of the friendships that you make are very shallow. Cause no, one’s going to invest the emotional energy and time and to becoming your friend, if you’re just going to bounce and I’m not going to do it either, frankly.

So all, so everything comes shallow, your relationships, the things that you want to get really good at. And so then I was like, you know, I really want an end to this. I want to just like be in a place and stop moving around. So then Puerto Rico naturally came up. Puerto Rico is actually a few people who know about this as becoming more popular.

Puerto Rico is a territory of the US and that means that they get to set their own tax rules. So as a result, Puerto Rico said their own tax regulations, where if you’re a resident here, they sat their own. You don’t have to pay the federal tax. Puerto Rico has their own tax, and that’s really attractive for people that have their own companies or their investors to move their companies here because you get a ginormous tax break.

And what’s really great about that is, Hey, you saved more money cause you’re not paying as many taxes to be for a startup or a smaller company by saving like, let’s say 20% more of your profits. You can reinvest that into the company without getting any external investment and it’s a lot of money and then it helps you grow a lot.

Right. So as a result, I’ve been able to really spend a lot more money, creating new jobs and hiring people because I’m not paying like 20% less tax or something then in the U S you know, so that’s the reason why I’m here. And, it’s a nice community, you know, I can’t complain, but yeah.

Maggie: [00:35:00] Yeah. Yeah. So, what type of advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur? Cause we have a lot of people in AHN, and we actually, we’ve actually interviewed a lot of people who are in the, you know, acting industry, in marketing, in SEO, and would love to know, you know, what type of advice you can give to, aspiring entrepreneurs and one or the other, industries, or just in general.

Dominic: [00:35:26] I also just don’t. I mean, there’s a lot, I mean, I think there are the things that probably everyone will say. It’s, I don’t really need to say those things again, like taking risks, like, reading books, you know, reading self-help, books, reading other things. I think probably one thing is, just making sure you have like, People were really glorifying, like not sleeping and working so hard, pulling all these all-nighters and like all this stuff.

I don’t think it has to be like that. I think Gary V really glorifies that. And he’s like, I worked my face off for 10 years and nothing happened. I got nothing. It’s like, are you going to work your face off? Work your effin face off? I’m just like, you have to work smart too, you know, like you can work hard, but work smart.

Be really adaptable. But I’m also just as important, just as importantly, don’t forget that a lot of times, you know, as an entrepreneur, you’re making sacrifices and those sacrifices sometimes come at the expense of your personal life and other things, but just make sure to nurture your friendships and your relationships.

And don’t forget about those because, I don’t know yet I’m only 30, but I’m sure most people from what I’ve heard say that your community and your friendships are probably the, one of the biggest contributors of happiness. Even if you have a ton of money and a company, like if you don’t have any friends to share that with, like, it’s kind of lame, you know?

I dunno, maybe, but I think it probably is lame, but yeah. So just make sure it’s still, still spend time with friends, family. Don’t just go crazy with like, thinking that you have to like work so hard. And also people, people tend to like fall in love or like really glorify, like working so hard that they can’t do all these things.

Bryan: [00:37:08] And a lot of that stuff is just like, you can actually run a business and grow a business pretty pretty well and still have like life too, actually.

Yeah. And it comes back to perspective mentality, you know like you’re only eliminated what for why, but what you think is possible. And a lot of it is just breaking the mold of all these other people, what your life should look like.

If you can dictate your life as well, balanced, be able to, you know, grow your community, grow your business and have a well-balanced life while being successful. You can.

Dominic: [00:37:36] For sure. It’s possible. I mean, look, I grew the business and I was doing two things at one actually for a long time. I was doing acting, traveling the world.

I was still like, more or less finding free time to do whatever I wanted, you know, but I would just get the things that were important though, you know, and like, but, don’t just, don’t forget to live your life to twenties is a really fun time. And, I’m sure thirties is too. And if you’re, you know, it’s always a fun time, but just like go enjoy life a little bit too.

Bryan: [00:38:05] What’s your favorite country that you visited so far?

Dominic: [00:38:11] Well.

Bryan: [00:38:12] Besides London, because I know you mentioned you like London.

Dominic: [00:38:15] Everything, every single one is so different, but I can tell you that recently I’ve really fallen in love with France because, first of all, my girlfriend is French.

So I spend a lot of time there. And when you start started to spend more time at her place and you start to, the other, take some classes and understand the language and like, see the way of life, you know, hang out with her family. Like, no, he just got back from the South of France and I’m hanging out with her family.

Like I would hang out with her dad and we’d just like, do like Aperol, like, you know, they drink, like, it was just really relaxed. It’s just, they just take more time to like, hang out, you know? And it was a slower pace of life. And I really liked that. Like, well, like have a drink, beforehand, you know, and, And the food is so good.

The food is incredible and it’s literally incredible. So, so I would say, recently that’s probably my favorite place I’ve been to.

Bryan: [00:39:06] Yeah, we liked France a lot too. We actually were in Paris and London a week before the US shutdown. So we got back.

Dominic: [00:39:16] You got back. I was there as well, but I did not get back in time.

So I just stayed. So I stayed in an Airbnb, close to the Louvre in Paris for three months, then go outside. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh, it’s so beautiful. I have all the places I’ve ever been to. I don’t think any of, to work compares to just the beauty of Paris. I will say. I spent some time in Seoul and that’s the closest, second Seoul is so cool.

Like it’s just, I just liked the people there and I like how they do things and, I like the culture and, and you know, I’m sure you guys know food is, food is amazing. So yeah,

Maggie: [00:40:01] We were also in Seoul as well, and yeah. It’s we love the culture there as well, and that we were talking to other people saying how it’s like extremely safe and

Dominic: [00:40:11] yeah, that’s exactly right.

Maggie: [00:40:13] When you come back to in America, it’s like your spidey senses go up and you just have to yeah.

Dominic: [00:40:16] Yeah. It’s so, yeah, just the people it’s so safe and, I don’t know, everything just so like nice there, you know, and, Yeah, I don’t know. I just like Korean people, I guess. I’m not sure.

Maggie: [00:40:28] Amazing. Well, thank you so much for being on our podcast today.

Dominic, how can our listeners learn more about you on social media or your website or, you know, hear about what you’re currently working on?

Dominic: [00:40:42] Yeah, I would say just check out, my own personal handle is Dominic Zhai. So, DominicZhai on Twitter, Instagram. Just made a Tiktok. I made my first video.

No, I will. I like it. I like the platform, you know, it’s, it’s so engaging. Like it’s well-designed. Yeah. but also, you know, the podcast is Why You No Doctor, so you can go, we have an Instagram, which is. @WYNDOCTOR. So Why You No Doctor, and the website,

I’d definitely check those out. but you know, I think that’s really the core of it. 

Maggie: [00:41:22] Great, awesome. So all of those links in our show notes, it was incredible hearing your story, Dominic, and just wanted to thank you for coming on today’s show.

Dominic: [00:41:33] Thanks for having me. Hopefully, you know, if you guys visit, if you’re in Europe, I’ll be in Paris quite a bit.

We shouldn’t, you know, if just to stay in touch, you know, if you guys are there, we’ll hang out.

Bryan: [00:41:42] Yeah, sounds great, man.

Maggie: [00:41:44] Thank you, Dominic. All. Alright.

Dominic: [00:41:46] Cool. All right guys. Thank you.

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