Episode 107

Ennie Lim ·  Creating a Happier Workforce With HoneyBee

“Sometimes a no can open the door for something else and I think that's really important whether it's just part of daily life, whether it's a job, a pitch or a date; rejection's a part of life.”

Ennie Lim is the CEO and co-founder of HoneyBee, a Certified Benefit Corporation® with a mission to give free access to financial support in the workplace providing no-cost rainy day funds and on-demand financial therapy for employees and their families, creating a healthier workforce environment. HoneyBee is the result of Lim’s journey through her personal financial challenges after her divorce. They provide support for issues that disproportionately affect these marginalized groups. Ennie is passionate about diversity and inclusion initiatives and building businesses for a better tomorrow.


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Ennie Lim

[00:00:00] Maggie Chui: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! Today, we have a very special guest with us. Her name is Ennie Lim. Ennie is the CEO and co-founder of Honeybee, a certified benefit corporation with a mission to give free access to financial support in the workplace, Providing no costs, rainy day funds, and on-demand financial therapy for employees and their families creating a healthier workforce and environment.

Honeybee is the result of Lynn’s journey through her personal finance challenges. After her divorce, they provide support for issues that disproportionately affect these marginalized groups. Ennie is passionate about diversity and inclusion initiatives and building businesses for a better tomorrow. Ennie, welcome to the show. 

[00:00:46] Ennie Lim: Thanks for having me. 

[00:00:48] Bryan Pham: And we are excited to have you on the show today. We have actually been keeping an eye out for your successes for a while now, and we’re super excited to have you on. Before we get started. Want to hear more about your story? Because we are wondering, are you a Canadian entrepreneur?

[00:01:04] Ennie Lim: I’m Canadian and American. So yeah. My parents immigrated to Montreal, Canada when I was five from Malaysia. And so that’s I’m dual citizen today. 

[00:01:14] Bryan Pham: Okay. That’s awesome to hear. Yeah. We tried to have more, not just American entrepreneurs, but more Canadian, Australian, international entrepreneurs. So let’s dive into your story, like where’d you grow up? What was their upbringing like? And did your parents ever teach you a lot about entrepreneurship or even taught you like, Hey, this is a path that you can pursue besides having a traditional career.

[00:01:33] Ennie Lim: Yeah like I mentioned, my parents had immigrated to Montreal and Quebec, a French-speaking province. When I was five from Malaysia they didn’t speak English or French, so it’s difficult for an undergrad to even find work if they don’t speak French and Quebec. So I can only imagine. They face when they first move and completely unfamiliar with the environment, food people, languages, weather, very big difference than growing up in Asia.

So my parents had always taught me to take risks. Most Asian parents, as you can imagine, will want you to become a doctor or lawyer. But I guess at a very early age, they realized that wasn’t going to happen. So they encouraged me to take a lot of risks. They’re entrepreneurs themselves. And, they tried several opportunities and projects.

It just didn’t work out. But in addition to that, I think there are just a lot of unbelievable women that inspire me to wake up every day and keep fighting the good fight. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet, feminist icons, like Gloria Steinem. She was a leader in the women’s movement in the early sixties and beyond, and women like her and RBG have really paved the path for women like myself. And I’m really grateful for that.

[00:02:46] Bryan Pham: That’s the reason why you caught our attention. We’d be like, wow, you’re such a successful entrepreneur. We can’t wait to have you in this show. We were trying to think of ways to like, get your attention. Okay, what if I follow her on Instagram with I follow her on LinkedIn? What’s your response to us? 

[00:03:00] Ennie Lim: Well, thank you so much, that inspires me. And I’m really glad you reached out.

[00:03:09] Maggie Chui: Yeah, thank you. I want to know, like, how was it like growing up in Montreal, and how did that kind of shape your Asian identity while you were growing up in Montreal? 

[00:03:17] Ennie Lim: So it was actually quite difficult. I moved into a new environment, so we know with everything that was going on in the last few years, a lot of that, negative narrative definitely impacted me. I grew up just wanting to make sure that I didn’t bring up. Causing the attention. So I would try to fit in as much as I could. As we’re all familiar with today I tried to bring food that wouldn’t cause any attention. So I would watch what other kids would bring to school.

And I just told my mom, I cannot bring rice or noodles. Like just give me the ham sandwiches on a white bread with nothing else. and so those. I definitely struggled with my identity growing up, which is why most French Canadians played hockey. So I actually picked up hockey and joined the team surrounded by all white people.

And I thought like the more I’m surrounded by them, the less they will notice me. And actually that worked for a very long time. So that’s why. It was really empowering to see all the movement that was happening during the Stop Asian Hate because for the first time I felt like I was part of a community. It was really difficult growing up. I definitely struggled with my identity. I think it was only most recently that I was most comfortable with it. 

[00:04:32] Bryan Pham: Definitely everyone goes through their own journey separately, but your story it’s really relatable to a lot of people on Asian Hustle Network. I think that’s part of the reason why we picked up a lot of momentum too because nowadays a lot of Asians are finding a lot more pride and being Asian, a lot of us grew up in a way where it’s it wasn’t cool to be Asian.

There are so many negative stereotypes. You’re only nerdy, you’re not attractive, blah, blah, blah. And we want to stay away from those. But as we got older, i, why are we being teased? Our culture is actually really cool. That’s the part that is really relatable to ourselves. At least for me and Maggie. That’s the reason why we created Asian Hustle Network, and the reason why we also want you in the podcast as well.

 So we talked about your cultural upbringing, when did you move into the States? What was your career path before you decided, Hey I’m going to make that jump? I must be a startup founder. Now I’m going to be this powerful CEO woman. How did that all come together for you? 

[00:05:24] Ennie Lim: It happened about 10 years ago. I had met my prior husband in Asia. So I worked in Asia first. I struggle a lot with my identity growing up in Montreal and I wanted to, just jump right in. So I moved to Hong Kong for a few years. To work there just to meet more Asian people, to be honest, and just understand my culture just a little bit better.

And while I was out there, I met my last husband and essentially like I moved to the bay area and moving to the bay was actually difficult for me because I didn’t come from the tech industry. I had I dealt with a lot of reductions looking for work. I didn’t have the right technical background, so it was extremely difficult.

So I, Honeybee was not the first business that I try to start. I started a couple of other businesses where I try to crowdfund. I have a crowdfunding campaign to raise money and, it was definitely a nice attempt and I learned a lot from it as well. So I have to say, I didn’t really say I wanted to jump right in being an entrepreneur.

I think it just happened. the result of my very own financial setback. And so that’s why I started what I started. Just a little background on Honeybee. some of the issues we solve already existed even long before the pandemic. So as we see today, 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and have less than $500 in savings.

And what that really means is that it creates a domino of negative effects of light on paid bills, utilities shutting off and not to mention all the mental stress that it comes with it. So really what happened was I had gone through a divorce and my credit was negatively impacted.

And I found myself in a situation where I just couldn’t get access to affordable credit. And I was really embarrassed to ask for help. So I started looking at loans that I could get approved for and stumbled upon,the payday industry, what the payday industry does today is they take advantage of an extremely vulnerable population in the US I think it’s a $90 billion industry.

And there’s a reason it’s extremely profitable is because they charge outrageous interests. And I was out of the bay area. I couldn’t get approved for an apartment. And so I ended up moving everything into storage and I moved back home to live in my parents’ basement in Montreal. It was a very humbling experience, to say the least, but I reconnected with an old friend of mine from Montreal.

He’s actually my co-founder today. And he came from FinTech, but what was most interesting is that his family had restaurants and they had about 70 employees or so, and every time an employee was faced with an emergency, they would ask his dad for money. And you can imagine the friction it caused in terms of the employer and employee relationship and collecting that money back is extremely awkward.

And I felt it firsthand when my mom was the sole breadwinner for a household of five. She always relied on the loan issue with her boss as well. We knew that there was a way we can solve this through the employer channel because we kept hearing about it and employers lending money and how nobody talked about it.

So I wouldn’t say I was inspired. I stumbled upon an issue that I was facing and I couldn’t believe that this is a fundamental problem that was happening in the US where, the payday industry just took advantage of so many people. So I gave it a shot and here we are today, Honeybee is working with employers anywhere from mid-market to enterprise to really provide free access to financial health, to their employees.

And I think it’s something that’s a must-have in the workplace. And so that’s how we started. 

[00:09:00] Maggie Chui: Wow. Thank you so much for sharing that, Ennie.And I just wanted to thank you for being so transparent and honest with your story. And I think that it’s just such an inspiration to all of us, right? I think especially in Asian culture, we don’t like to ask for help.

So we always just turn to ourselves and try to educate ourselves, but we really do have to educate ourselves by asking for help asking for financial advice. And to be honest, like just reading some of your articles, you do. You did talk a lot about how they don’t even teach us about financial education in schools, which is like the biggest fundamental thing that we need to survive in our adulthood.

And you’re absolutely right. Like the marginalized groups are denied mortgages at a much higher rate and, as a person of color and as a woman too, we get tested for financial knowledge all the time compared to let’s say like men are. So I really find a lot of inspiration in your story.

[00:09:51] Ennie Lim: Oh, thank you for that. And I think like a lot of us, are, I don’t know about you, but my parents just taught me to save money. They’ll buy brand new things like just save don’t spend. And so that was the only thing I was taught. And then we’re all expected to just figure it out after school.

So I do believe that financial literacy should be at the forefront of education and in the workplace. 

Same. Yes. 

[00:10:13] Maggie Chui: My parents have always taught me to just save to like wherever we could save, turn off the lights to conserve energy, turn on the heater, but they never teach us to invest or, any like supplemental knowledge of like financial education.

It’s I feel like in Asian households, it’s very rare.

[00:10:29] Ennie Lim: Yeah, only here. It’s don’t waste money.

[00:10:33] Bryan Pham: I still have that from my parents as well. First of all, I want to acknowledge that it, isn’t easy to be in your position before to get out of that and thinking about what you want to do next. I can’t imagine how that feels. People don’t know that I actually fail a couple of businesses before to where I was like, oh no, my life is over. But I think it was humbling about your stories that you’re able to reinvent yourself relatively quickly. And this sort of think about positive things, even though things were looking really bleak, you move home, you’re reconnecting with people.

You’re thinking about probably the next venture, what are you going to do next? So I think that gives us lunch aspiration on the type of things that you’re able to do in order to recover. So my question is being a second time founder, essentially Would you say that it’s more important to focus on the product or more it’s important to focus on the distribution?

That’s a question that I like to ask second-time founders because that is a hot debate. I’m always picky about it. What is the right answer? Because there is no right answer. I’m just curious about what you think. 

[00:11:27] Ennie Lim: That’s a great question! It’s also a trick question. But essentially this time around like that distribution’s really important. So when we first started Honeybee, we had this genius idea to collateralize loans against paid time off because a lot of that sits on the balance sheet today. So although it was really great in theory once we started going out to market talking to employers, they didn’t understand the concept.

And yes, although it seemed like it was a great product at the time, but in terms of like selling and distribution, it became extremely difficult. So we have to shift that a little bit. Like about how are we going to sell this or that it’s easier for HR and employers to fully understand. So this time around, we focus a lot on distribution and how important that was.

So it depends on the business you’re building, but for us specifically, it was really important to focus on distribution. 

[00:12:18] Bryan Pham: That’s the answer I get most of the second time founders like distribution, get the product out there, find the park and market fit, but it’s a hard debate, right? I think essentially it depends on what kind of product you’re trying to build.

[00:12:28] Ennie Lim: Absolutely. It could be a great product, but nobody wants it.

[00:12:33] Bryan Pham: Let’s dive deep into your first startup. We’re curious, what kind of things made the startup fail and what kind of lessons you learned? And as we know, like as entrepreneurs, he always takes every life experience that comes your way and incorporate it as you’re making new decisions for your new company, good or bad.

So for those who are listening right now, please take that risk because it always comes back in ways. You’d never expect trust. You’d never expect to come in that way. We’ve got, oh, wow. I’m glad I went through that.

[00:13:03] Ennie Lim: Yeah. So if I’m thinking about the first company, or I guess product, I would say I built, I think a lot about Shark Tank and Mr. Wonderful. I was like, that’s not a company, that’s a product. . So, my family was in manufacturing and I built a sustainable baby product that had no packaging. We provided fair treatment and fair wages for people and women that worked in South America. So I thought about a lot of the story of the product, building the product getting the best textile, organic, and certified. I did all of that only to realize that maybe this isn’t a product that people want because once I got into a store, there were other issues that we were facing like display for the product and all of that. So that when it became extremely difficult, that’s what I learned that first time around. And if I had to look back, I would build a very different company last time around, but I crowdfunded, I learned a lot about resilience. Building resilience is super important and how to handle rejection. And so I learned a lot about that last time and this time around.

So I handled rejection, it’s a work in progress, but I’ve improved a lot over the years. And so become a lot stronger and, a lot thicker skin than I used to have. 

[00:14:13] Bryan Pham: I love that. Rejection is a normal part of any entrepreneur. Not everyone sees your vision and that’s okay.

Only you can see the vision, but all you really need in a day is a couple of yeses. You really get the lens moving. 

[00:14:27] Ennie Lim: And just remember to put things into perspective, right? Sometimes a no can open the door for something else. And I think that’s really important whether it’s just part of daily life, whether it’s a job, a pitch or a date, rejection is a part of life.

[00:14:40] Maggie Chui: Absolutely. Yes, that is 100% true. I think as soon as the door closes on you, another door will open for you. And I think that we need, we need to see failure as an opportunity. And I think this kind of led you into Honeybee as well. And which is like a good segue to talk about, how your longtime friends, Benny, and Max had approached you about this prototype idea that they had for providing financial support through their employer channel.

We want to know a lot more about, what this process looked like and how they approached you? What did that first conversation look like? And then, where did you guys go from there? What were those first couple of days and months like 

[00:15:16] Ennie Lim: I met both of them and Benny was, I knew him from back in my college days.

So I was just looking at, what they were building in terms of, what he was going through. And his personal life was his dad was lending money to employees. It was a very basic concept before. It was just like, how do we provide loans to employees in the house? And I think where I stepped in immediately was what I learned from my last startup is like marketing and branding.

And it doesn’t matter what you’re selling, whether it’s a financial product, whether it’s a consumer product beauty you really have to tell a story in a way where people need to understand the why they buy, why you do it. You know what it is. And so that was really important. Just take a few steps back and sharing his story about, why he started in the first place.

It took a lot of digging. It’s why do you want to provide loans to employees? I know that I struggle financially myself and what I would like to see for women, especially to open up about their finances. And I would love to have a startup that provided that in that kind of information, financial education, a place to go for help. Like 72% of mental health stress is tied to personal financial reasons. And I just wanted to build a product. We could have it as a financial health product benefit for employees. We talked about 401k for a very long time. I’m sure. 30 years ago when his 401k was introduced, it sounded completely crazy for employers to think about their employees’ retirement, but it’s just standard today.

So I think we have to take a step further and think about how can they Fix their unplanned expenses, Their emergencies. A lot of people are not ready for retirement. They don’t have disposable income for retirement. So I would have to say, I wouldn’t say there was the first conversation. I was part of multiple conversations and realize that we have to come up with a better product, a better story.

And then I think when it all came together as well for YC, but we didn’t get into YC then. And it was a learning experience for us is just not give up. And I would continue to try and raise money for this idea, which we thought was really a necessity. So we’re still going.

[00:17:21] Bryan Pham: Congratulations. Getting rejected at the YC is not the end of the world because I think looking at Crunchbase for now, you guys end up still raising 4 point million dollars which is absolutely amazing. So it’s not the end of the world feel and get the YC not, I would need to go YC succeed anyways.

So the next question I want to ask is you mentioned earlier that your family’s in manufacturing, right? A lot about building a business versus building a job that locks you in forever. And it doesn’t feel like you’re running a business. What advice and how can you advise us on lik growing your business?

How do you skill correctly without it taking over your entire life and be like, oh my God I’m in meetings all the time. I’m working in my business, not all my business, cause you’re a CEO. You can’t be working in your business all the time. It’s not going to work that way. So what advice do you have because you have, you’re so unique.

You have a manufacturing background where your parents did that and you have a startup background. How do you end up not confusing the two in order to be? Okay, how do I build my business on my business? 

[00:18:20] Ennie Lim: That’s actually a really great question, Bryan. I think when I was in my early twenties, I have to plan to everything where I was going to work in the industry.

I wanted to be in the skills I needed to get promoted, where I wanted to live the type of person. I needed to marry how many kids I wanted to have. And needless to say, none of those plans worked out for me. And I think a big part of building Honeybees is because life happened. And you asked a really good question about how do you separate the two as like job versus a founder or an entrepreneur is as a founder, our goal is to create a successful business by creating value.

And there are so many ways that you can choose to live, but if you choose the entrepreneur path. You need to understand it’s not a regular job. More is expected of you, your brain, your heart. So figure out what you truly want to do and how you want to create that positive impact and do something that matters and pushes society forward.

But I think one really important part about being a leader is that it’s a daily task and a daily practice. We’re responsible for people who are responsible for the results and the best way to drive performance is by creating a really safe environment where people can make mistakes.

And at the end of the day, it’s how to retain the best people, how to attract the best people. And that’s something I had to learn along the way because there are days where I’m like, why can’t I just work on the product? And solving problems in the workplace. And a lot of times I’m setting myself to manage people, but that’s part of the job as a CEO and founder is fundraising to keep this company going to have enough cashflow to keep us alive and continue to scale.

That’s really important, but a big part of scaling is making sure you bring the right people on board. And that pops up. Then we can talk about culture, building a positive culture. And also for me personally, it’s been really important to have a diversified team. That’s extremely important for me. You have to do the extra work to do that.

But that’s really been important for me and not just on our team, but in our investors. It’s important to have minorities, people of color, women. And I actually just finished raising the last round and it was extremely hard to make sure. I think I spoke to about five women. I don’t know, a hundred that I have met, and it is really difficult because you have to put in the extra work, find people outside of your network.

And yeah, just make sure that you can balance, that job that you say and that leadership, but leadership at the end of the day is a daily practice. 

[00:20:54] Bryan Pham: I think that’s super important that you continue to, build your culture, build a culture where it is absolutely sustainable, because that’s the only way that you can delegate. You can’t delegate right off the bat if they don’t understand what the hell are you thinking? It’s like a recipe for disaster. So you’ve brought a really good point about culture and delegation. The third thing that I think that we don’t emphasize enough in these types of podcasts. So as a CEO, founder of a startup, you’re always constantly fundraising a company, like you always have to network around, you always have to pass people in the pipeline. It just never ends. So I just want you guys to listen to this podcast right now. Unfortunately, if you’re scaling quickly, you’re always going to be fundraising. And the question that investors always say, are you fundraising the founders? I’m always fundraising, right? Regardless of whether you’re planning start the process three months from now or six months from now, you always have to build a pipeline and I have an entire spreadsheet, but people have constantly meeting and why they would be a good fit or not.

Definitely that process, I think most, almost new founders underestimate how long fundraising takes, it, honestly, takes forever because you don’t want to accept any type of money that comes into your company, because let’s be honest. Finding money is not that hard, but finding money that fits your vision is extremely hard.

[00:22:17] Ennie Lim: It’s a numbers game at the end of the day, right? There are millions of people out there, men and women that you couldn’t meet, it’s a numbers game and you have to just keep going.

[00:22:28] Bryan Pham: Yeah. Unfortunately, that applies dating applies to everything in life. This is fundraising. It’s hard.

[00:22:36] Ennie Lim: Even that relationship building, like the first time you have a conversation, you want to provide some information, but not too much information enough for them to stick around. So yes, it’s applicable to, dating life as well. 

Can you actually paint that picture for us? Those founders who are fundraising?

[00:22:53] Bryan Pham: What is the, what does the pipeline look like? I want to hear from your process what is your starting process? What do you look for and how do you organize everything?

[00:23:01] Ennie Lim: It’s organized in groups of people. First of all, when you look for an investor, you are not just looking for people with money, you want to have to make sure that they are investing in the right stage of the company. That’s super important, the stage of the company and what their thesis is and like what they’re willing to invest.

That’s extremely important because a lot of female investors invest in consumer products, that’s not necessarily a good thing for us. So essentially you have to look at, are they going to look, what have they invested in before? I think that’s really important.

You have to do that due diligence and making sure what are they passionate about. So that, it seems interesting for your company might seem interesting to them. It was completely outside of the realm. FinTech is not something they’re familiar with. It’s not something they ever dive into.

Chances are, they’re not going to be really interested in what you’re doing. So that’s the first thing. And you put it into categories of, yeah, there are going to be priorities of people that you want. To come in as lead investors. And that’s important. Some people lead, some people don’t. So you have to prioritize those that lead because you do need that first investor. That’s going to lead there out to kick off that process. 

[00:24:06] Bryan Pham: What is the lead investor?

[00:24:08] Ennie Lim: So lead investors essentially is the investor that’s doing all the due diligence, right? A lot of due diligence goes into pricing around for a startup and that’s. About six to eight weeks of work. And so that investor will lead around and it matters who leads around because other investors will be like do I like this investor? Do I want to work with this person? Yes, it’s a lot of relationship building and you have to do a lot of due diligence on your end as. As a founder. Unfortunately I’m not one of those that had multiple successful startups where I can just call them and they sign something on a napkin. I hear those stories all the time.

I see it from my friends. I did not go through that experience. So I had an entire spreadsheet of people that I should talk to. Who can introduce you to those people because as much as they say, pitch to us in a cold email, those cold emails never get looked at. So you absolutely need to find someone to introduce you.

You look at their portfolio companies and who you could reach out to and your founder networks. So it requires a lot of work and yes, I didn’t get it on a napkin, but I do believe that you can find the right investors with the right process in place. . 

[00:25:17] Bryan Pham: This is the reason why we want to have you in the podcast, compared to another founder who had it, let’s be honest. Someone else had it much easier. They wouldn’t give us the same answer. I went out there and I raised money. What’s hard. What’s hard about this. You want to have someone that’s struggled. That builds character and it tells us like, okay, This is actually a lot more relatable to a lot of us because a lot of us don’t have these types of connections.

a lot of us out there to be honest, very small percentage of founders like Harvard or Stanford or whatnot, we make our way around and still succeed. So we liked that a lot. 

[00:25:49] Maggie Chui: And on that topic, you talked about rejection as well. I think a lot of founders are used to rejection or first-time founders. And we do have to understand that we’ll get rejected all the time as entrepreneurs, as founders. And I read that, you went through like a hundred VCs and we’re down to $200 in your bank account. When you finally got your first check from investors. Talk about that experience. What was going through your mind at the time when you were down to your last $200 in your account?

[00:26:19] Ennie Lim: We were crashing one of our co-founder’s couches at this time, like both Benny and I were just, okay. We’re down to the last few hundred dollars in our bank account, but we just never thought of the process is like giving up. Give these remaining investors a shot and see what happens.

We just never thought of, if it fails, okay, what do we have to do? We’re going to have to start looking for jobs and it’s not the end of the world. I think a big part of it is just part of the process, but we never thought about giving up for a single second. It was always, let’s just keep going and let’s just keep pitching and I’m sure after I don’t know, like 10 more investors, we would have kept going and until we were a little bit stubborn, so he, we don’t give up that easy.

And even the last round was a very long process. I just kept going because I think I was thinking, which is different than the first time around this, we didn’t have employees back then. It was just. It wouldn’t be the end of the world. The three of us have to part ways, but this time around, I had a lot more at stake.

I have people that believe in what we’re doing, our mission. I have customers, I have employers, I have employees. And so there was a lot more at stake, but I think you’re always in the same mindset. You just got to keep going. You have to find the right investors and. Always just keep networking. I think a big part that was really important because people that invested in on this round was completely outside of my network six months ago.

And so you just have to keep talking to people. You never know where that can lead you. 

[00:27:47] Bryan Pham: Of the reason why we created Asian Hustle Network. So we could support each other. 

[00:27:51] Ennie Lim: Absolutely. And just part of Asian Hustle Network, you have a large network of entrepreneurs. I have to give props to both of you for creating that community.

I think you’ve really created a community where we feel proud to be Asian entrepreneurs. I think it was very difficult for a very long time where we found each other. No, our parents were like, oh, you’re not doctors, you’re not lawyers. You’re taking a risk. You’re, living paycheck to paycheck.

And I think that’s hard for a lot of parents. And so I really thank you both for creating this community. 

[00:28:23] Bryan Pham: No, thank you. Cause you, you are an inspiration to us. Like I said before, we’ve been keeping your eye on you and following you for a while. Look tracking your progress and finally have the courage to reach out to you and talk to you.

So thank you for that. So the next question I have is regarding the answer you just gave us, or the previous answer before that, where it’s you have to be gritty. You have to continue talking to people, be okay with rejection. So this question is like a, it’s a true or false type of question it’s do you believe that it’s more important for startup founders to be more gritty or more intelligent?

Oh, I’m going to say gritty because I think I guess in that you mean hustling, right? Hustling really hard. Of course, intelligence is extremely important, but I really believe that you need to have that hustle mindset. I know you guys call it Asian Hustle Network, but you need that mindset to think of an idea and think that, oh yeah.

I need $4 million to help fund this idea off of nothing. And that’s crazy, right? So it is you gotta have the hustle mindset and just keep going because if you fail, you got to think fast and pick yourself up and do it again. And I think I’ve done it a couple of times, I would say last year, like products less and then a company, but you gotta have that hustle mindset. And I see it from a lot of founders. Yes. They have a high intelligence, but you have to keep hustling for that money. It’s extremely difficult. So that would be my answer. I’m sure it would be a different answer from different founders, but you do need a combination of both.

And I think that’s important. I think I have if I’m going to. Fully transparent. I have more of the hustle mindset.

Now, you’re definitely very smart. I do agree. I think grit is super important as great as you go. And to be honest, you have to blindly believe into your passion. There’s no one else is going to believe in that.

Next question I’m gonna ask is kinda personal. I hope it’s okay for me to ask. But can you talk a little bit more about your darker moments of being an entrepreneur and what the moment was like, especially moments where no one’s around to comfort you. And you’re looking at yourself in the mirror at night and you’re asking yourself, why am I doing this?

Why am I continue doing this? And you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, especially as you’re continuously trying to make payroll, your revenue, you’re not hitting your target goals, your revenue. How do you continue pushing through those dark moments? A lot of us like make entrepreneurship so glamorous. So they, oh, nice car, nice house, cool network cool parties, but no one talks about the hustle, dark moments where you’re looking at yourself in so much doubt. They’re just like, damn can I continue doing this? Can you share some of your experiences with us? 

[00:31:00] Ennie Lim: Yeah, so I think what, that’s a very important topic to talk about like mental health when it comes to entrepreneurship. It is it is extremely difficult. I think I struggled with it for many years and I think what made me comfortable talking about it was a community of other entrepreneurs. They were actually all happened to be Asian entrepreneurs and share that struggle because you see them at a much later stage of their startup and you think, oh, okay.

So great now, and then they’ll tell you, it’s, it doesn’t get easier. Actually, it gets harder as you become bigger and bigger. And a lot of them would say, oh, I envy the position you’re in. You’re actually able to innovate. And you still have a small team where you can manage that innovation.

Like they can’t make changes in their later stage companies and one common practice that we all have as entrepreneurs is a lot of us have a coach or a therapist that we talked to. We write in our journals. And that was really helpful for me. I think at the beginning, you’re like I’ve never had like a therapist or, a coach, but it actually helped me put things into perspective and have a conversation with someone that is not related to my business.

And they see it from a different perspective and that’s helped me out a lot. I think a lot of the stress of investors has really gotten to me a lot of times because they want you to scale, and it’s sometimes they want you to pivot your business into less impactful and like more, make sure you monetize more from a vulnerable population.

And I think that was against everything I believed in. And I learned that the hard way. That’s why when you’re fundraising, you have to make sure you find the right investors that have the right intentions for your business. And so it’s an ongoing process to deal with. That stress. But one thing that’s helped me tremendously is a community of people that I can go to, to bounce ideas off of and use them as a sounding board.

And I think a lot of times you’re like, oh I feel embarrassed to ask for, I’ll do pitch practices with founders. There are a lot, They are veterans, I would say. And I’m embarrassed sometimes oh, to see how I’m just an early-stage startup, a lot of people are willing to help you if you just ask for help.

And so that’s helped me a lot in all of this is the community that I’m surrounded by. And a lot of them happen to be Asian founders. 

[00:33:17] Maggie Chui: I love that. That resonates with us so strongly because that’s one of the reasons why we created the Asian Hustle Network to create a community of Asian entrepreneurs and people who just resonate with you or who go through the same experience with you.

A community is really what brings you forward. My next question is I know you talked to a lot of women. One of your missions for Honeybee is to redefine diversity, equity, and inclusion at other companies. And just talking to so many women, I know you mentioned that, one of the main reasons why a lot of people don’t get divorces is because of finance reasons, right?

A lot of people are afraid of what will happen to them after, or one person depends on the other person or vice versa. And speaking to that I think at what a lot of women want to find out is if they are in that situation, because one of the reasons why I created this company is because from your personal experience as well, how did you go through that transition process and immerse yourself into, financial knowledge, educate yourself on, what you needed to know in terms of financial knowledge and what would be your advice to other women who are going through like similar struggles like that?

[00:34:19] Ennie Lim: I think that one thing I would say is, when I got divorced and I was really open about it for a while when I was doing Honeybee, I didn’t want to talk about it but I realized that was a pivotal moment when I started sharing about why I’m building Honeybee, why it’s important for women to have more control of money.

Because I found myself in a situation where I felt hopeless. And I didn’t have anywhere to go to for help. And once I opened up about that, the flood gates of women that reached out to me, whether it was personal, complete strangers asking for help, because they just wanted to relate to someone because we all, at the end of the day, we’re well put together, but we’re going through a lot financially.

I’ve heard all kinds of stories of women that are hesitating to yeah. Have divorced because they’re afraid of what’s going to happen to them after it’s a very difficult process and extremely emotionally and financially draining process for anyone to go through. And so that’s important to keep in mind, but always be prepared why you can prepare yourself or what’s the common things I wish I would have done is, opened my bank account, understand a little bit more about like how that credit score is built on when it’s a joined account. And so all of that information if I had it early, it would have been completely different process for me. It wasn’t about learning about everything in FinTech, because there’s so much to learn, but it was about making sure that people that are leaders and C-levels are sharing their own setbacks and difficulties. And that’s a big part of how we bring employers on as champions is that the C level should explain a little bit more about, how they’ve had to overcome financial setback. It will inspire other people to create that change and to start learning about financial education, passing it onto your kids. And that’s why today we have what we call the Honey Academy, where parents and their kids can learn about financial literacy together. And I think that’s the most important part is let’s have the authentic desire to continue to share our stories and our setbacks so that we can inspire other people to overcome personal finances is actually pretty basic, but it’s scary.

It’s a scary topic to learn because you have to look at your bank account, how to balance debt all of the above, and a lot of people that work with us, they have a lot of debt, they are single mothers. They are, just constantly struggling to get by. So I think let’s just give them, inspiration to continue to move forward.

And I think it’s one step at a time. It is really important. You can’t go from bankruptcy to out-of-my-house. Let’s just think about the step-by-step process. Even for me, I’m thinking about, should I renew my next, like 15 month lease because it’s something to think about. And I think that’s the thing. It’s an ongoing process for me as a founder because the startup is my baby and we work at 12 months at a time runway and that’s just how it works. So I didn’t go in learning everything about FinTech. I’ve definitely do not know everything, but just continue to inspire people to share stories is the most important thing. 


[00:37:15] Bryan Pham: That’s so humbling to hear, you always, this is a constant journey and also constantly improving yourself. I’m curious, the way that you frame the narrative for Honeybee. It’s as we know, anything with financial education is also awesome to link to scams, MLM schemes. How do you develop that narrative or your position, your company as a company to trust? Especially breaking to FinTech, how do you position that to be like, look guys, this is what we’re about,

we’re legit, we’re talking about, it’s not an MLM. I’m pretty sure a lot of investors have asked that question, like, how’s this MLM or how is this adding value people’s lives? Like how do you position your company to have a stronger narrative on your side 

[00:37:56] Ennie Lim: I think day one was extremely difficult because we were nobodies and we hadn’t done any press. I haven’t told any stories. And so immediately when we’re talking to companies, this is too good to be true. So it must be a scam. So there are a lot of things that we started putting into becoming a certified benefit corporation. What that means is it helps us balance, purpose, and profit, and that immediately, gives you the stamp of approval. You have to go through quite a long audit process to make sure who your stakeholders are. And what is your purpose, your mission, and that’s really important. So that’s the first step we did. And the second step is, I openly shared my story, and then that allowed us to bring a lot of visibility for employers, when you have an article out there and you’re like, okay, she just opened up about, the emotional and financial rock bottom that she hit. I would love it, got a little bit more interest in people finding out who we are. And after that is making sure those customers share stories so that, That’s essentially what we do continuously.

And part of my job is constantly sharing stories with other people about how it has positively impacted their lives. So what I do a lot is I listened to our customer service calls and I, every once in a while, I would want to reach out to one of those customers and hear a little bit more about her journey and how it has helped her.

We are constantly trying to put up a brand, a product fundraising, but we should never forget the people that we’ve impacted directly. So recently I spoke to a mom and she’s a single mother. She has four kids. One of them was in the Marines. He didn’t have any money to fly back home from South Carolina to the Bay Area to see his mom. And it’s been well over a year. And what the Honeybee did is helped him pay for that air to get right, so that he could see his family. A lot of that is personal travels, not covered, of course. And that was extremely important for her because it’s been so long and you can imagine how difficult it is to have, someone that’s in the Marine that’s away for so long. So those are the stories I constantly just try to pick up. So that I understand like how to build our product even better for them making sure they have a really great user experience and constantly getting feedback is extremely important because we don’t just want to hear the perfect oh, that was a really great process, but we want to hear about what’s not going right so that we can fix it. So I think that’s really important part of the. 

[00:40:27] Bryan Pham: Definitely. Thanks for sharing that. And just the clarification earlier, I didn’t mean MLM are all scams I didn’t want to cause confusion over there.

Yeah, I didn’t want that at all. Sorry. I apologize for the confusion guys for our listeners, Ennie,you’re doing a lot, you’re raising money, you’re ready and help me. How do you take care of yourself and how do you avoid burnout? Are there activities that you do you set aside time every day to meditate these set of time to exercise, play sports?

Like how do you take care of yourself and your mental health?

[00:41:06] Ennie Lim: Exercising is really important. I used to wake up really early and just get the workout out of the way. But since the pandemic, I have to say, I sleep in a little bit later. And then I work out later in the day. Before we were constantly felt like a hamster wheel that you’re on.

You have to wake up early. You have to get from the office to the workout and then get ready and then go back to the office and you’re constantly running. But this remote working has allowed us to slow down and I feel be more, a lot more productive. I think that’s my personal opinion.

I’ve been a lot more productive than I ever used to be. And so I’m working out super important. I have a spin bike, so I work out on that. And also walking around outdoors is something I’d never appreciated before until the pandemic happens. Taking a walk in the neighborhood and I’m lucky enough I live close to the beach. I’ve always wanted to walk on the beach like every day. And so that’s I have the luxury to do that. So that’s extremely important for me. But in addition to that is what you mentioned meditation, right? So that’s an ongoing process, but like I’ve been working a lot at it over the last couple of years and I do.

I think it’s important to just take a step back, unwind, and just do nothing. Think about, absolutely nothing and just be able to clear out and if you’re having a bad day, you put everything on the court one day, you just have to take a step back and do it again the next day. I think it’s hard to avoid burnout, but, taking time off is really important.

[00:42:28] Maggie Chui: I love that. I was literally just having that same thought like a couple days ago like right before the pandemic waking up at 4:00 AM like we have to stick with the schedule. I’m just like, how are we even like surviving religious in zombie mode?

But I think the pandemic has really forced us to just take a step back and reflect, okay, what is going to be in our like self-care self-love regimen and, make sure that we’re making time for ourselves. So I love everything that you’re doing for yourself.

[00:42:54] Ennie Lim: And I think we tried new things. I think you are in the pandemic I’m like, oh, maybe I’ll paint.

And it turns out I am a really terrible painter. So that didn’t last very long, I did one painting and I’m like, I don’t think I’m going to show this to anybody ever. There were like puzzles for a while, but then what I realized what do I do with the puzzles after is my struggle. And so I can’t keep framing up all of my puzzles, but essentially I try to think of other things that I could just take my mind off.

[00:43:21] Maggie Chui: Yeah, love it. Ennie, what is your goal for the next year? And for Honeybee as well? What do you have in plans and what are your like big audacious goals? 

[00:43:32] Ennie Lim: Big goals for us is of course it’s really important where we found product-market fit during some of the most challenging time the world’s ever seen, like during the pandemic.

We realize employers were willing to spend money on financial health. Regardless of whether they were cutting hours budget, reducing their workforce, they were willing to pay for it. I think for us, it’s really important to have even larger employers to bring this to their workforce and for us to bring on larger enterprise companies. And start making it a must-have rather than a nice to have. And I think that’s really important for us. And of course, like growing our team finding the right people to join our team is always extremely difficult. It’s an ongoing challenge that CEOs have to go through is to find the right people, because the first, I don’t know, 28 people, part of your company, it’s important that they have an entrepreneur mindset also, and they’re willing to adapt to the change very quickly.

So you have to find people that are willing to get on this crazy startup journey. So I think that’s going to be our next goals for the next year. We’re very excited for, just hearing more about yourself and Honeybee in the next year as well.

[00:44:40] Maggie Chui: And we have one final question for you Ennie, and that is if you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring entrepreneur, what would that advice be?

[00:44:49] Ennie Lim: The one piece of advice I would have to say is, building resilience and how to handle rejection gracefully. That is, I guess that’s 2 advice, but it’s related to each other how to handle rejection gracefully is really important not to take it all personal and always to put it in perspective.

For one example is, you’re pitching to an investor that you really want, but it’s really important to think about, the position they’re in, they’re getting deals all the time and they have to pick a handful of deals. That year. And so I put that into perspective and so just not to take things too personally.

[00:45:24] Maggie Chui: Amazing. Thank you for that advice and any, where can our listeners find out more about you and Honeybee online? Our website is meet.honeybee.com and EET.howtobe.com or you can follow me on Twitter. I don’t tweet a lot, but like @ennielim is my handle. Amazing. We will be sure to leave all of those in the show notes for this podcast episode, but, it was so amazing having you on our podcast today. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

[00:45:55] Ennie Lim: Thank you both for having me Maggie and Bryan. 

[00:45:58] Bryan Pham: Of course! Thank you so much.