For entrepreneurs, success isn’t birthed from dollars, funding, donations or any other type of monetary guarantee. Those might be the fruit of your labor, tokens of earned admiration; but they’re not essentials. They are not the vision, the ethics or the tenacity that is the uniquely essential individual spirit. This year, the judges of the 2018 Greater Lansing Entrepreneurial Awards search for that gifted spirit ended with none other than Molly Chan, owner and CEO of three premier regional businesses; Alliance Payment Solutions (Alliance), HEAT and JoyRide Pedal Tours.
Despite an initial reluctance to step into the shoes of a business owner, following the passing of husband Edward, who founded Alliance in 2003, Chan’s willingness to grow into the role has placed her comfortably at the helm of two additional businesses; each with personalities of theirs own. While she can’t select a favorite amongst the three burgeoning entities, having claimed them as her “babies,” it’s safe to say that each has been raised by a mother that places pride in allowing each to come into their own.
“I think for all three of the businesses, we really strive to think outside the box. We have had growth, but I think it’s because we are innovative,” said Chan. “We have core values that we stick to and all of our decisions revolve around those. We are true to that and it’s helped to guide us – we want to be on the edge of things and push ourselves instead of being comfortable in the middle. JoyRide and HEAT, specifically, were born from passion. I learned from my husband’s regrets – to have fun and live more. Life should be fun, and JoyRide and HEAT were started because I like to be creative and have fun and bring people joy, and both of these businesses accomplish that.”
However, as any parent is quick to realize, giving each of your children the freedom to be and do whatever they want needs to be paired with a few rules and guidelines. Without structure, spirit can be perceived as insanity. But, with an ethos to pair with, spirit can become the core of one’s existence –symbiotically crafting the winning formula.
“I’m not afraid to take risks, but they need to be calculated, otherwise my entrepreneurial spirit might have me all across the board,” expressed Chan. “Your vision and beliefs are more important than a financial backing. Value being true to yourself and your vision. Sometimes, it’s hard, but you have to say no to clients and customers that don’t fit with your values. I’m not afraid to take a risk and I’m not afraid to fail. Sure, you may fall and come to a crawl, but the big difference is when you get back up, find your feet and redirect: I’m not afraid to make a wrong decision and redirect.”
Having initially been tasked with inhabiting a foreign role in a foreign, male-dominated industry, Chan was required to be forward, blunt and aggressive. While she doesn’t regret a thing, she acknowledges she may have made a few enemies in the process, however, making a seat for herself at the table has enabled her to make seats for other women – at the awards ceremony on March 8, this realization came full circle.
“It was a great honor to receive the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award. These accomplishments are the good that have come from the legacy left behind by my husband,” said Chan. “I’ve persevered and succeeded. This award was also symbolic in that I received the award on International Women’s Day. I believe that once you break the glass ceiling it’s important to reach down and help others. The more I succeed, the more I’m able to help others succeed.”
In the end, Chan believes that the key to success lies within yourself and those you allow to surround you. When met with kindness and respect, those that you lead will build trust in you even when you fail. However, sometimes you need to surround yourself with the unlikeliest of motivations, such as a prince to keep things fresh.
“You have to believe in yourself. I’m a big believer that you need to choose faith over fear,” said Chan. “Fear is only a speed bump that slows you down and make you take another look; but you need to be sure that you take challenges on and not be afraid to fail. I make my kids watch Will Smith’s online inspirational videos. He is a great motivator and has one motto, in particular, I believe is important live by, ‘Fail Fast and Fail Forward.’ You just have to go for it — don’t overthink it. We all fail sometimes, but we must remember that life is supposed to be fun, so you have to have fun with it.”