Episode Recap:

Nikki and I talked about

  • The daily habits of Passion Planner CEO Angelia Trinidad (4:10)
  • Living and working with your BFF (5:51)
  • The role of Kickstarter in growing Passion Planner (10:44)
  • The ups and downs of being a working actress (15:18)
  • How acting and entrepreneurship balance her life (17:00)
  • The magic power of writing down goals and color-coding your planner (18:52)
  • The importance of choosing good people to be around (23:44)

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Nikki Soohoo 0:00
One of the rewards that she had given was a free PDF of the Passion Planner that you could download if you shared the Kickstarter video to your social media. And I think that act of giving first and, you know, without taking really set this karmic, you know goodness into motion that I think came back tenfold for her.

Jennifer Fultz 0:40
You’re listening to Chief Executive Auntie, the podcast exploring the work lives of Asian Americans beyond the conventional doctor, lawyer and engineer. I’m your host Jennifer Duann Fultz. Welcome to the show everyone, my guest toda,y who I’m super excited about, is Nikki Soohoo. She is an actress ambassador for one of my favorite companies ever: Passion Planner. She was also the former executive assistant to Angela Trinidad, founder of Passion Planner. Welcome to the show, Nikki.

Nikki Soohoo 1:15
Thank you for having me.

Jennifer Fultz 1:17
So please tell me a little bit about your role at Passion Planner.

Nikki Soohoo 1:21
So interestingly enough, I actually know Angel–Angelia–from UCLA, we were best friends coming out of college. And so I’ve worked in many different capacities within the business, from being a ambassador for the company where you know, since I’m an actress, I would basically give the planners to a lot of my influencer friends and tell them about the product and kind of spread the word through social media influencers.

And then I moved into a–kind of more–what’s the word–kind of like an advisory role where I was doing business strategy with her. And then last year, or maybe it was two years ago, she decided to go on sabbatical and take time off to do a documentary in the Philippines where she was teaching some of the youth that she had met over there entrepreneurial skills to help them get out of the cycle of poverty. And she needed an assistant who could be out there with her, but everybody else was working in the office. So she knew that I had come from a business background. I have my MBA from Chapman University, but I also have a film background and know how production works. So she was hoping that maybe I could help her out over in the Philippines and then I was like, this is a great opportunity for sure. So that’s how it started my journey as being her executive assistant, working really close with her on a day to day basis.

And then at the beginning of this year, she decided to go back to the office full time. And in that transition, we’re trying to work out like where I kind of integrated into that because I live in Los Angeles. She lives in San Diego. So I was working remote for her and then sometimes I would do half the week in San Diego half the week, remotely. But the really cool thing about it was getting to spend those days in San Diego with her where I’d be living with her essentially for four days out of the week. And I got to see what her daily routine was like, and the way that she functions in her everyday life, and kind of pick up on those skills, of how to become, you know, a millionaire, a very successful person. I think that she does a really great job of practicing habits of excellence. You know, if you listen to a lot of thought leaders who talk about these actions that you can do on a daily basis, incorporate them into your routine.

To become a better person, she does almost all of them, you know. She wakes up at 5:45 in the morning, she starts off with a meditation and then moves into journaling and planning out her day in her Passion Planner. And right of course, and then setting her intentions for the day. That then takes her into a workout where she’ll either lift weights she has like a little gym in her house, or she’ll run on her treadmill. And she typically likes to watch TV shows while she runs and currently she’s on Carmen San Diego, but she likes to watch anime as well. And, and that just kind of what gets her started for the day and she ends up at the office by eight in the morning and works, you know, throughout the whole day until five having meetings with her president and with her different teams and trying to align everybody. And then, at the end after work, she typically will have some type of extracurricular activity like playing in a basketball league or a volleyball league. But her favorite pastime at the moment is doing escape rooms. She really likes escape rooms. I think she likes the challenge, and she’s a very competitive person. So it’s really fun for her to challenge her mind with her friends in that kind of environment.

Jennifer Fultz 5:37
And what does your day, kind of in parallel with her, what does your day look like?

Nikki Soohoo 5:44
My day is that. Basically everything that is her day, so I’m like, I work out with her

Jennifer Fultz 5:50
Do you work out with her?

Nikki Soohoo 5:51
Yeah, actually, I’m one of her bigger motivators of working out. So part of her hiring me was knowing that like, I’m very much into health and fitness. I’m an actor. So my body image and understanding that portion of life is very significant to me. So that’s kind of how we balance each other out, you know, she’s the one that helped me read a lot more and meditate, and I make sure that she’s eating healthy and working out. So we have a really great relationship of balancing each other and helping each other grow where we might be a little bit weaker in those areas. But typically, we’ll just do everything in parallel. So we’ll work out together, we’ll meditate together, we’ll go into the office and then I’ll take notes for her while she’s in her meetings, or I’ll just work on other administrative stuff if she has a private meeting and stuff like that. Go home. Typically, I’ll even go with her to her extracurriculars, because like as her best friend, I’m in San Diego and so I’m gonna hang out with her, you know, like I don’t have anything else to do or be there for except to hang out with my best friend. So it’s basically like getting to live and work with your best friend. It’s great.

Jennifer Fultz 7:07
That’s so interesting. I’ve talked to a couple entrepreneurs whose business partners are also their life partners. So it’s always interesting to me to see people who have a pre existing relationship also make it work in the business realm. It’s…it’s just funny to me, because I am pretty sure my husband and I could not do that.

Nikki Soohoo 7:29
Yeah, no, I totally understand.

Jennifer Fultz 7:32
Yeah. Do you ever butt heads or…not to gossip or anything!

Nikki Soohoo 7:38
You know what, we actually have a really great relationship in terms of working together because I think we went into this working relationship where we both knew that we were doing each other a favor. I knew I was bringing a lot to the table for her. And she knew she was providing a lot of stability in income for me. And ultimately neither of us ever needed each other, we just wanted each other. And so understanding that our friendship always came first and and that was going to be preserved over anything because…and understanding that like what we do for each other we should be grateful for because we know that we’re doing it because we love each other not because we need it. We need the job or we need the help or anything like it. We’re both helping each other grow.

Jennifer Fultz 8:33
That’s really beautiful, the element of choice. I think that you’re choosing this for each other and for yourself is really, really beautiful. And you were kind of in on the ground floor when Passion Planner started?

Nikki Soohoo 8:50
Yeah, so I remember the days when she was just thinking about it. I actually she actually had started a business prior to Passion Planner, the Macaron Studio. And I watched her go through that whole process and then not enjoy it and then want to create something else. And her and I used to do like an incubator together where her and I would just come together and work and bounce ideas off of each other but working on our own projects side by side. And it was really cool. I remember her thinking about the name of Passion Planner and being like, I don’t know, maybe something like analog and, you know, and she was trying to think of what to do, and she ended with Passion Planner. But I loved being a part of all those processes. I mean, back when it was first still in her parents’ garage. I remember coming down and volunteering to help her like package things you know, and ship them out. And that’s when I realized that I am not a very good production line person, you know, I like could probably handle 30 minutes of putting sticker into things and then I was like, I need a break!

Jennifer Fultz 10:09
We all have our own strengths and weaknesses.

Nikki Soohoo 10:16
I’m more of a cheerleader. Like I’ll just cheer you on, so that you can do great work.

Jennifer Fultz 10:20
Yes, yeah. And we all need those. We all definitely need those. So how did it go from planners in her parents’ garage to this enormous, wonderful product and company? I know that’s a really, really loaded question.

Nikki Soohoo 10:44
I would attribute a lot of that to Kickstarter, and putting it on a platform that could reach a very wide audience outside of her own network. I think she did a great job of reaching out to her network, but ultimately what catapulted her business from just her inner circle to being a social…not a social media…to be like an internet phenomenon was Kickstarter and it going viral and her using Facebook and Instagram and free marketing really to promote this product and it just took off. One of the rewards that she had given was a free PDF of the Passion Planner that you could download if you shared the Kickstarter video to your social media. And I think that act of giving first–without taking really set this karmic–goodness into motion that I think came back tenfold for her. So yeah…

Jennifer Fultz 12:02
Well, and it was also just smart marketing. I remember I found Passion Planner after the first Kickstarter was over. But what did I do? I downloaded the page from the internet to see if I actually liked the layout. And of course I did. So I’m like, Well, obviously I need to buy this. It’s just, you know, kind of try before you buy thing. It doesn’t cost anything to do a PDF.

Nikki Soohoo 12:26
Yeah, right. And they have 100% money back guarantee. So you can tell that the business is not about trying to scam people into buying the product or trying to squeeze every penny out of profit. They really just want to provide a tool that can help people and they’re willing to give it to you completely for free if you can’t afford it, but if you like it and it’s something that adds value to you. It’s continuing that karmic sense in like, yeah, that karmic cycle of like, you know, You give to what gives to you and goodness will come around?

Jennifer Fultz 13:04
Yeah. I think the idea of generosity has come up in a lot of my interviews with entrepreneurs and founders, which is really interesting to me.

Nikki Soohoo 13:16
Especially with Millennial ones, I think,

Jennifer Fultz 13:19
Yeah, for sure. I’ve also noticed a lot of–or maybe this is just because I’m looking for these things. But I’ve noticed quite a few Asian American founders who are using Kickstarter as ways to generate capital. I don’t know.Do you know if Angelia pursued any other like venture capital or anything like that? Or was it all through Kickstarter?

Nikki Soohoo 13:45
It was all through Kickstarter. She owns 100% of her company, never needed venture capital or angel investors or anything like that. She literally crowdfunded her whole project. She did take a loan from one of her friends to start, but besides like a small loan, yeah, and then mainly everything else was through the Kickstarter.

Jennifer Fultz 14:12
Yeah. I don’t know. And maybe with your business background, you know, a little bit more about this than I do. But I wonder if, you know, as, as minorities do Asian Americans–we probably have a harder time accessing venture capital. And so I wonder if that’s why Kickstarter is so much more popular with smaller…

Nikki Soohoo 14:33
I mean, there’s a lot of Chinese venture capitalists.

Jennifer Fultz 14:38
That’s true.

Nikki Soohoo 14:40
I think actually, what Kickstarter is good for is hitting the right demographics. And so maybe the parallel is that a lot of the Asian Americans that you’re seeing are create–are millennials who are creating products for millennials. And then they’re using a platform that millennials know

Jennifer Fultz 15:01
That’s very true. Switching gears a little bit, so you have an MBA, and then you’re a–then you also have, you know, obviously your career in acting. I’m so curious about how those two things kind of came about together.

Nikki Soohoo 15:18
I have always acted while being in school. And so I grew up with it being a hobby of mine, something that I just did for fun, and I really enjoyed, but it wasn’t my whole life. And when I got out of college, everyone was like, you know, you should, you should just go 100% into acting like now you have all the time you finished college like you’re good. And I tried it and it drove me crazy. It’s such an emotional roller coaster and in acting when you work hard, and it doesn’t necessarily pay off like you couldn’t be the best actor and it doesn’t mean you’re going to get the job. And so If you’re the A type personality that likes to do really well and put hard work in and know that you’re going to get rewarded for that, acting is probably a really poor career choice, because you’re going to just be disappointed and in an emotional rollercoaster.

So I ended up deciding to go back to school, for business thinking that it would be something that would come useful in my career as being someone that was going to have to market themselves. Plus, my dad owns a graphic design firm. And I figured, if I needed to go into corporate america (ish), I would just end up running his business. So I ended up going back to grad school, getting my MBA, and I was like, Oh, that’s when I realized I will never just do acting ever again. I will always have it as a–I will always have it as a part of my life but never as the full pie of my life. I need balance. And I–and I love enterpreneurship because when you work hard, I do believe it pays off. I think that you–there is a lot more in your control than in the entertainment world, especially on the performer side. So I like having both. I think acting is really great for me to self-express and feel variety in my life. But I think having business gives me something to work towards, and to strive for every day. And that’s where like the Passion Planner comes in, because I can write down these goals and dreams, set them into smaller actionable goals, create a timeline that I want to achieve them, and implement those goals into my calendar and hold myself accountable for them. And I’ve watched myself achieve so many things that I’ve wanted in my life, even within my acting career, which is weird because I don’t feel like I have that much control. But I think as you put things in motion it makes everything start to happen.

Jennifer Fultz 18:04
You know, I think so. I have to confess that I probably underuse my Passion Planner. I love it. I will probably buy it until the end of time but I don’t–I don’t use the passion maps,roadmaps as much as I should…

Nikki Soohoo 18:20
That’s like the most important part!

Jennifer Fultz 18:20
I know it is. I know, I know. But I have a small human being who doesn’t care what my plans are for the day. And but, but when I do actually stop and map things out and set them into some semblance of a timeline–like again, as a primary parent, I have to hold schedules very loosely–but at least once I get it down on paper, it does have a tendency to get done much faster than it was rattling around in my brain.

Nikki Soohoo 18:52
There is the power to writing what you want to manifest in the world. Studies do show that if you write out your goals versus typing them, or just keeping them in your head that you’re more likely to achieve them. And so, for me, when I write out my to-do list and then I have to rewrite it again the next week because I didn’t complete it, It’s literally this physical reminder or kinda like a physical punishment like, “Why didn’t you complete this?” Whereas if it was on my phone and it’s due as I never have to rewrite it, I just look at it and go, Oh I didn’t do it. Well, there’s no repercussions for it or consequences really. But I feel like I’m held more accountable when I have my planner and I have to rewrite the goal again, because I didn’t achieve it the last time I set it.

Jennifer Fultz 19:46
Are you a colorful Passion Planner user? Like do you use all the fancy pens and stickers and washi tape or are you more of like a bare bones minimalist?

Nikki Soohoo 19:58
Bare bones. I use erasable marker or erasable pen because as an actor my schedule changes all the time. And it’s super variable and variant, like I can’t stick to really any type of schedule, but I always have a lot going on. So I will make plans and I have to change them. I always am erasing but I like to write in pen over pencil. So as long as I have one erasable pen, I’m happy. I don’t care what color it is. I just need to be able to write in this day.

Jennifer Fultz 20:31
Is Angelia a fancy Passion Planner or a minimalist?

Nikki Soohoo 20:35
She–well, in life she’s a minimalist, she does use fancy colors, though, in her planners. So she color codes things so that she can figure out how she’s spending her time. For example, she will color like everything. that is time with friends, like social time, she’ll color yellow because it reminds her of french fries. I think she literally said that once in one of her YouTube videos, and, or like that’s her eating time you know, that’s yellow or she’ll do like purple, like a violet color highlighter for her meditative time or her like self care time, her blue for work. So she does see visually how she spends her time and I think it’s actually a really good tool. I don’t personally use it, but I think she gets really caught up in working too much a lot of times and will burn out. And that’s something that we’ve been working on with her is, is trying to balance her life out a little bit more and take a little bit more rest. Because she gets so excited and enthusiastic about what she’s doing. You know, but it comes at a cost.

Jennifer Fultz 21:51
Yeah, for sure. I’m curious, because you’re best friends working together. Do you have, I guess, boundaries around like, Okay, today at dinner, we are not talking about Passion Planners or do anything like that.

Nikki Soohoo 22:07
you know, sometimes we try to set those boundaries. Actually, I never try to set them because my brain is always going. Like, as an actor, I feel that you’re working all the time. 24/7, you’re always on, you’re always on social media trying to, you know, get people involved in in your life and what’s going on and be in people’s minds. And so I’m used to working crazy odd hours all the time, I don’t restrain myself to a nine to five window. So my brain is always like that, when I have an idea that I want to do it when I’m thinking about that, then I would just do it. Write that in there. But she does like to put her work time into the eight to five time slot. But then we’ll say that she’ll be like, I don’t want it. Let’s not talk about work. You know, like let’s not talk about work stuff when we go out to dinner after work. And then we go and then some idea will come up and we end up talking about it, you know? And we’re like…write-off!

Jennifer Fultz 23:05
Exactly. So this is a business meeting.

Nikki Soohoo 23:09
I mean, that’s a great benefit of working with your best friend, is anything you guys do together is basically a write-off.

Jennifer Fultz 23:17
Great, very convenient, super. convenient.

Well, do you have any advice for other Asian Americans who have a big idea? Have some big idea that they want to do? Whether that’s business or creative, or in some even in like a performance role like an actor? What advice would you give them in pursuing their dreams and their passions?

Nikki Soohoo 23:44
I would say, utilize your community. And I know this is kind of a hard one because in many circumstances, your dream is opposite of like what your parents might want for you. That makes a lot of people hesitate towards going after their dream. But there is a community of people who will want to support you and who are doing what it is that you’re doing. And those are the people that you need to surround yourself with. Like, one thing that we we say all the time is you are the average of the five people that you hang out the most with. So you should choose wisely. Like you should pick people that you admire, people that are better than you in some capacity, because they will help you grow to be where they’re at. Like you’ll only be pulled up with them. But if you surround yourself with people who are not going after their dreams, who look at the negative of life or all the bad things that could happen and why something shouldn’t work, you’re going to be in that mentality that Oh, yeah, maybe you’re right. Maybe I shouldn’t try and maybe I can’t do it. Maybe there’s all these reasons why not to. There’s always reasons why not to but you really only need one reason to do it, you know? And yeah, I mean, I think that Angel did a great job of finding the right community. So they weren’t all Asian Americans, right, who are supporting her on Kickstarter, but she actually has a huge Asian American following. Because people really admire what she’s done in terms of, you know, even standing up to her parents. Like her parents don’t want her to be an entrepreneur. And they did not think that that was a stable lifestyle for her to go after. She was already a millionaire and her mom’s like, “When are you going to get a real job?” You know, she was like, What? And then her mom was like, “You know, like with health insurance, that comes with health insurance, like your job that comes with that health insurance.” And so it was a huge milestone for Angel when she was able to provide benefits to her full time employees. Health, vision, dental and a 401k to make her mom finally proud, like, “Okay, see, I made my own.”

Jennifer Fultz 26:04
Right. Health insurance is the be-all end-all, which I mean, let’s be honest, it kind of is sometimes.

Nikki Soohoo 26:10
So freaking expensive!

Jennifer Fultz 26:12
I did notice, I think it was a couple weeks ago on Instagram, they posted a picture of some of the staff and it was all Asian Americans. And I was like, “Oh, this is so wonderful! And not just…”

Nikki Soohoo 26:23
She hires a lot of her friends. Soalmost all of the starting employees in the company were people that were in her community, people that were either her friends, or friends of friends ,or her family friends, or her family or you know, they were all connected to her. And I mean that comes from a place of how to trust people, too, when you’re starting a new business. She knew that having those second degree connections would find those people more loyal where she felt she could be safer in in trusting her employees in that way too. I think though, that it’s great to have diverse perspectives within the workplace. I think Angel is very used to being around her Asian American community. So she felt comfortable in that and typically the style of like how maybe an Asian American typically, you know, like a lot of us went to UCLA, and and are diligent, you know, workers. You go to a school like that, because you’re really good at working really hard. And kind of being a process person, like, do step a, do step B, you know and you can make something happen and so I think just being around that kind of was what she needed to do. So she brought it into her company.

Jennifer Fultz 27:46
Well, thank you so much for chatting with me today, Nikki. It’s so cool to get a behind the scenes view of one of my favorite companies ever. Where can people keep up with your acting work?

Nikki Soohoo 27:57
You can find me on Instagram. It’s just @nikkisoohoo. And you’ll probably end up seeing lots of pictures of Angel on there, because we still travel a lot together. And she’s still my best friend.

Jennifer Fultz 28:14
That’s good. Yeah, I’m not sure my husband and I would still be married if we tried to work together. I mean sometimes he’ll work from home because he does bioinformatics.

And you’re like, “Get out of the house!”

Yes. I’m like, “You have a choice, you have a lab to go to and I don’t really have anywhere else to go.” I’m glad you’re still friends. Yeah. I’m glad your still friends. Thank you so much, Nikki.

Nikki Soohoo 28:39
No problem, so great talking to you.

Jennifer Fultz 28:43
Thanks for tuning in to Chief Executive Auntie. You can find show notes, resource links and more auntie rants at chiefexecutiveauntie.com. Special thanks to SueAnn Shiah who mixed and mastered this episode and composed the music, Alyssa de la Rosa who created the branding, and my distribution partner Mochi magazine. Check out more stories for Asian American women at www.mochimag.com. See you next time!

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Guest Bio:

Nikki Soohoo is an actress based in LA, best known for her roles in the movies: “The Lovely Bones,” “Stick It,” and “Bring It On: Fight to the Finish.” She is an actress ambassador for Passion Planner and also served as the executive assistant to Passion Planner CEO Angelia Trinidad.

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