Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Tsai.
Stephanie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I had always loved media and communications and come from a newspaper family. After majoring in Mass Communications from UC Berkeley, I moved to New York City to work in public relations. I stayed in PR for most of my career, taking a brief two years break to get my masters in International Affairs from Columbia University. I was fortunate to have worked with incredible brands and incredible people over the years.
Though working with big name brands like Clinique, Maybelline, Nyx Cosmetics, Shiseido, Target and CVS/pharmacy is always helpful to have on a resume, my best experience was working for some amazing people who invested time and resources to helping me learn and grow. All these positions taught me that brand and storytelling are indispensable for driving people to care and buy about your products.
After moving to LA and having kids, I refocused my priorities on my family but still wanted to learn and grow – especially as social media was fast replacing PR as a key revenue driver. I was fortunate enough to have the incredible opportunity to help drive marketing efforts for Sonix, a very cool tech & lifestyle brand known for their fun phone cases.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Moving from college to the fast-paced world of New York City PR was a culture shock. People in New York were driven, fast, smart, driven, and I had to learn fast to keep up. One of the key challenges along the way was boss, not unlike Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada. She was known to make everyone on her team cry. There were a couple of people who managed to earn her respect, and I figured out how to how present and communicate like them. Learning to communicate to someone who could care less to listen has been one of the most invaluable skills I’ve learned over the year.
Two other challenges:
After graduating with a master’s degree, I found myself totally unqualified for any appropriately titled jobs for my age range. With my tail between my legs, I ended up temping. The temp agency sent me to Clinique as a marketing administrator, which meant for 8 hours a day, I got to input the exact sales numbers into a spreadsheet for EVERY single lipstick and eye sku they had. Tedious, boring, uninspired grunt work.
However, Clinique opened more doors for me in the long run than any other. Even though my position was low, I was working for an industry leader, and I was able to sit in on every single meeting to learn the process of product development and marketing at a very high level. I was able to take everything I learned to almost every job thereafter.
So the moral of the story – it is OK to take jobs that are beneath you. And it is very important to humble yourself to do some low level grunt work, just to gain invaluable experience.
2. I didn’t start off as the best boss
Though I loved my employees, I was never taught to be a good boss. I had two incredible bosses who decided to invest in management training for me. They hired three different coaches – one for presentation, one for time management and one for project management and “managing up.” To this day, I am forever indebted to Liz Kaplow and Evan Jacobs from Kaplow who cared enough to invest in my growth. These skills truly are life-changing, and they help in every aspect of my life.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
Though it started out as a tech accessories company, we are expanding our offerings to focus more on millenial lifestyle products. Sonix had built a heritage in prints and designs that generate a cult following. As a result, our customers are loyal, vocal and invested in everything we do. They keep us on our A game, and we love truly how interactive we are with our community.
Because we’re a small company, we are nimble and can respond to the market faster. Some recent examples: when the Australian Fires were devastating that part of the world, we designed and launched a new Koala case in 2 weeks to benefit the World Wildlife Fund. At the onset of Covid-19 this year, we were able to tap into our manufacturing relationships to quickly turn around a truly innovative face mask. And to further our support of Black Lives Matter, the Sonix design team created and produced a 3-piece Unity patch set in 2 weeks – with 100% proceeds going to support mental health initiatives among Black women.
These are three examples of how Sonix is paying attention to what’s happening in the world and developing products that people truly want.
Our company is collaborative, creative and innovative, and we make very cool products.
What were you like growing up?
I had always been shy and soft-spoken. I loved art and sports, but as an only child, I really didn’t get to talk to people much. I hated public speaking, and even the thought of speaking to a small group of people in a meeting was intimidating.
I don’t know what changed, except as I grew in my career, if I wanted to get ahead I had to speak up. Especially in New York corporate culture, it was do or die. And for all those shy folks out there, just do it. Write it down, rehearse and SPEAK UP. The more you do, the better you’ll get and the less intimidating it is.
I realized I had overcome my fear of speaking when I asked to present to a room full of sales reps on how to use social media to help sell products. I actually WANTED to speak to a room of 200+ people.
- Sonix Phone Cases, $35-$40
- Bondir by Sonix Air Guard Fitted Face Mask, $20
- Sonix Patches, $4-$15
- Website: www.shopsonix.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/shopsonix
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/shopsonix
- Other: www.pinterest.com/shopsonix
Stephanie Tsai, Marketing Director, Sonix