This story is part of CNBC’s Make It’s Millennial Money series, which introduces people around the world and details how they make their money, spend and save.
Shan Shan Fu can pinpoint the exact moment when she was inspired to become an entrepreneur.
It was March 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic was quickly spreading in droves across the United States.
As she watched, the San Francisco resident found that doing nothing no longer felt good. So she decided to start a sideline. Their idea: sell high-quality face masks. “When the surgeon general said everyone should wear face masks, none of my friends had good face masks,” Fu told CNBC Make It.
She started Millennials in Motion in April 2020 and worked in business nights and weekends while keeping her full-time job at a consulting firm during the day.
There was no free time in the first few months. I worked seven days a week, every waking minute.
“I would work in the consulting firm from 9 am to 5 pm and from 5 pm to 1 am [on my side hustle]”, she says.” There was no free time in the first few months. I worked seven days a week, every waking minute. “
After six months, in October 2020, Millennials in Motion’s income was close to what they made at the consulting firm, so Fu decided to focus on that. In total, Fu made $ 115,000 in her consulting job in 2020, and her business brought in an additional $ 111,000 for a total of $ 226,000.
Grow your business
One of Fu’s favorite quotes is from Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind”. “When a civilization grows, you make money slowly, but when a civilization collapses you make quick money,” says Fu.
Although the outbreak of a global pandemic was a risky time to start a new business, Fu saw an opportunity to help people while benefiting from a burgeoning industry. She knew that she could make “quick money” while helping others. Millennials in Motion donates a portion of its proceeds to Feeding America.
Shan Shan Fu, 33, in her San Francisco apartment.
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Fu had no experience in e-commerce when she decided to start her business so turned to YouTube. “I swear I learned how to start a free ecommerce business on YouTube from top to bottom,” she says.
She used family ties to find an overseas factory that could make masks and invested $ 3,000 in inventory and supplies. She started slowly, selling a couple of masks a week. But within a few months she was selling 20 to 30 masks a week.
As the business continued to grow, she got a feel for which products her customers liked best and began selling them through Amazon and Walmart as well.
Shan Shan Fu works on her Millennials in Motion business.
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In order to keep the business profitable in the long term, Fu wants to move on to other projects, she says. Because masks appeal to such a broad consumer base, she assumes that she will have to sell a wide variety of products in order to continue to generate the same income.
“After all, I want to have all the products a millennial wants, especially a trendy millennial,” she says.
Build a better life
Part of the reason why Fu cares about success is because she grew up. For her parents, “money was probably the number one stress factor,” she says.
Fu was born in China, where her parents were educated and respected throughout their careers. Her father was an engineer and her mother was a doctor. When Fu was six, they moved to the United States and found they could no longer use their degrees to find work. So they worked in grocery stores to make ends meet.
“I remember my father telling me when he was working in the supermarket that all the workers were Asian and all of them had masters and PhDs,” she says. “At that time, a lot of people had problems.”
If you’re immigrating from China, it’s so difficult because you are judged by your appearance and your accent. Your education is not as appreciated as it is in the USA. There are so many forces against you.
“If you immigrate from China, it is difficult because you will be judged by your appearance and your accent. Your education is not valued as much as it is [it were from the U.S.]”, she says.” There are so many forces against you.
“It’s hard to go through so much adversity and be hated for it [a pandemic] it has nothing to do with you just because you look like that. ”
Shan Shan Fu moved from Vancouver to San Francisco in 2015.
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Although her parents worked long hours, the family never had much. “Watch out [my] The parents’ struggle was really tough, “says Fu.” Children made fun of me because I wore the same clothes every day. I’ve only ever got clothes from thrift stores. “
That’s a main reason why she’s working so hard now. “Unsuccessful just wasn’t an option,” she says. “Because we grew up like that, I never want that to be a problem in my future family.”
Fu is in the US on an O-1 visa that cost her $ 6,020 to go through the application process. It is difficult to get a visa, says Fu, because you have to prove that you are exceptional.
Eligible candidates must demonstrate that they are “one of the small percentages that made it to the top,” according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
Fu plans to become a US citizen at some point, but her background has made the process of obtaining a green card difficult.
Fu and her family lived in the United States until she was eight and moved to Vancouver. Although she lived in Canada for most of her life and is a Canadian citizen, the government considered her Chinese for immigration purposes when she decided to return to the United States in 2015.
As Fu explains, the waiting list to get an EB-1 visa varies by country. It is part of the immigration quota from China, not Canada.
How she budgeted
In 2020, Fu did not receive a salary from Millennials in Motion. She invested every dollar she made back in the company. To cover her cost of living, she relied on her consulting salary and savings.
Here’s a look at their spending as of December 2020:
Shan Shan Fu’s typical monthly budget for December 2020.
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- Business expenses: $ 26,444
- Rent and utilities: $ 2,810 (her rent is $ 2,635; WiFi, electricity, sewage, and water are an additional $ 175)
- Apartment in Vancouver: $ 2,028 (includes mortgage payments, homeowner insurance, and HOA fees)
- Savings and investments: $ 2,000 (Fu plans to put $ 500 in her savings every month and invest $ 1,500 in her Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, SIMPLE IRA, and Robinhood accounts)
- Discretionary scope: $ 600 (includes food and housekeeping)
- Insurance: $ 413 (including health and renters)
- Food: $ 400 (including $ 100 per month for HelloFresh boxes)
- Carpooling: $ 200
- Phone: $ 115
- Subscriptions: $ 43 (includes Netflix, Spotify, YouTube TV, and Disney +)
This is how your business expenses are distributed for the same month:
Shan Shan Fu’s business expenses for December 2020.
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- Inventory: $ 15,788
- Amazon fees: $ 4,008
- Advertising: $ 1,909
- Shipping: $ 1,692
- Other: $ 1,031
- Deliveries: $ 961
- Subscriptions: $ 504 (FeedbackWhiz, Shogun, Helium 10, eRank, Canva, ShipStation and more)
- Etsy fees: $ 279
- Walmart fees: $ 272
In her 20s while living in Vancouver, Fu worked for a digital agency where she could earn unlimited commissions. Finding that she was putting all of her extra cash away with no plan for it, she decided to dive into real estate.
Fu found a property full of amenities, including a communal rooftop and lounge with views of downtown Vancouver. “I knew this was the Millennial Dream, so I bought a condo there,” she says. “Since then the value has almost doubled.”
Fu bought the house in 2014 for $ 500,000. She wagered $ 100,000, or 20%, on the commission money she had saved.
With a long-term plan to stay in the US, Fu has no plans to make the Vancouver apartment her primary residence and she wants to eventually sell it. For now, she continues to pay the mortgage, HOA fees, and homeowner insurance.
Fu rents a one bedroom apartment in San Francisco.
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Another of Fu’s biggest monthly expenses is renting her one bedroom apartment in San Francisco. “As a kid, I lived in cold, dark basements most of the time, and now as a [an adult] That’s the last thing I want, “she says.” I want to live in a place that is beautiful because this is where I work, entertain and live here. “
Fu previously lived in a studio apartment in the same building and paid $ 3,039 a month in rent. But when the pandemic hit and people fled San Francisco, she was able to negotiate an upgraded apartment and a discounted rent.
A millionaire mindset
YouTube didn’t just teach Fu how to run a business. It also introduced her to the FIRE movement, which focuses on financial independence and early retirement. The idea of becoming financially independent has been well received by Fu, although she has no plans to quit anytime soon.
Instead, she is interested in the flexibility that financial independence offers. “With this flexibility, I can advise companies. I can help others build their businesses. I can even get creative. I’ve always wanted to write books,” she says.
Shan Shan Fu cooks a meal in her home.
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She is well on the way to achieving these financial goals. Fu hopes to double the revenue of Millennials in Motion in 2021, which would allow her to outsource more. That would give Fu the freedom to focus on strategy and growth, and give her more time to devote to new projects.
After all, she would also like to buy more real estate than additional passive income stream.
Fu’s other big goal: to be a millionaire by 36. And with a current net worth of around $ 700,000 without her company valuation, she is on the right track.
When I was working at the consulting firm, I saw money as a finite resource. But now that I’ve started Millennials in Motion, I see it as an infinite resource.