We had the good fortune of connecting with Jade Chang Sheppard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jade Chang, how do you think about risk?
My appetite for risk has been an evolution. When I was in my mid 20’s, I decided to start a business that I had no previous experience in. I decided to go for it because I had nothing to lose. I had grown up without a whole lot and I figured up was the only way to go. I spent a few years in corporate America after college but the cubicle life wasn’t for me and the daily 9-5 schedule didn’t suit me well. I cashed in my 401K’s, maxed out my credit cards, and my mom took out a home equity line of credit on the little house I grew up in. For many years, as the business made its journey through the first 10 years, it was a struggle and I still lived with the philosophy of trying anything I could to make it work despite the odds because there just wasn’t any downside to giving it a try. I love risk. Since the business has become successful and I have children, the scenario has shifted a bit. Now, I have all sort of insurances in place and even got a financial manager this last year. Previous to this year, any money that I made, I invested in real estate of all types, including risky foreign properties like a surf resort in Nicaragua. I have no idea if I’ll ever make a return on that investment, but it sure has been fun and there’s no value that I can put on the experience that owning this hotel has given me. These days, I’m diversifying more and dipping my toe into some less risky investments. My business now has a lot of families that count on us to put food on their table, so my business strategy has to be less risky as well. I have always believed that I have enough. Even when I had very little, it was enough. Now, I’m blessed beyond anything I could have ever imagined in my life, and it’s enough. Taking big risks isn’t for everyone and there is certainly huge elements of both luck and hard work, but as they say, with great risk comes great reward.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I have a few different entrepreneurial ventures. The most important one in my life is my military construction business. I started it when I was 26 years old with nothing but some credit cards and cashed in 401K’s. I reinvented it a few times over through the recession and different political climates and today, it is one of the top companies in its field of work. People always say that you need to be passionate about the business you start, but I can tell you that that is not the case. I was never passionate about construction but I am passionate about the game of business. Making a profit is a challenge for me, a puzzle to be solved, and that is what I love about entrepreneurism. I didn’t care what by business was. If you were going to pay me to sweep your floor, I would do it. Wherever I saw an opportunity, I wanted to be there to fill the need. None of it was easy. I’ve owned the company for 15 years now and I didn’t draw a proper paycheck for probably the first 7 years. Every time I think I’ve seen it all, something else happens. Ultimately, the most important steps that I made as the owner of the business was to hire the best talent that fit with the culture and what I wanted to achieve, and give them the authority and space to do their jobs. I was in a unique position because I didn’t have any hands on experience in this field so I never could micro manage anything. I always had to rely on people much more talented than me in operations and execution to get the job done, but in the end, it was the key to our success. I’ve always surrounded myself with employees, advisors and mentors better and smarter than me. Another entrepreneurial adventure for me was purchasing a boutique surf resort in Nicaragua a few years ago. This was a decision based on passion, as I love to surf. When I executed this transaction, I was at a place where I could make this educated decision knowing that the intention was to fulfill a passion and not necessarily purely an investment opportunity. Still, I had no experience in hospitality and this has also been an incredible journey. Malibu Popoyo is one of the nicest luxury boutique resorts in the country and I pride myself in bringing the same values and energy from my other business into this one. I love this hotel so much and love sharing the beautiful country with people. If I could just run it as a non profit and let everyone go for free, I would. It is a space of inspiration, adventure and magic.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Hermosa Beach and call me biased, but it is the best place in the entire country to spend a week. If you came to visit me, I would definitely take you around on a tour of SoCal’s best surfing beaches and beach towns. Hermosa Beach is part of South Bay – Manhattan, Redondo and Hermosa Beaches. We are quaint, charming and fun little towns about 5 minutes from LAX. The location couldn’t be more perfect. You can go from plane to sand within minutes. The beaches of South Bay are famous for their fine and deep sand. As a matter of fact, all of the sand in Waikiki Beach, Oahu, is from Manhattan Beach, exported in the 1920’s. The beaches are so wide and flat, it’s no wonder that we are where the pro beach volleyball players train. When you jump, sometimes, you sink 6 inches deep in this fine sand. In the summer, you will find many pro volleyball tournaments every weekend and every day, groups of friends are playing on the sand. You can rent a bicycle and ride the Strand for miles from Redondo all the way up towards Santa Monica. The nightlife in Hermosa and Redondo is so fun. Just walk along Hermosa Pier at sunset for a beautiful view and some fun restaurants. Downtown Redondo is really alive as well with some really great restaurants. From South Bay, I would take people north to visit Venice Beach, Santa Monica, and Malibu. Walking the Venice Boardwalk is a must for its people watching. For surf culture, nothing beats Malibu Pier and what surfers call First Point, or Surfrider Beach. It’s an iconic break, one of the most perfect in the world and the origin of surf culture in Southern California with it being the location for the Gidget books. Malibu Pier is a perfect place for a coffee and snack. Lunch or Dinner at Nobu Malibu is a must also. There are a lot of Nobus around the world, but none compare to the incredible scenery of Malibu’s location with the ocean lapping the patio as you sit and dine in the perfect Southern California weather. I never take it for granted that I live in paradise. I know people are moving to Texas and other places to escape but having moved here from Texas several years ago, there’s no amount of money you could pay me to move away from here. I live where everyone else goes to vacation.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Aside from my parents, who supported all of my crazy ideas and never second guessed me when everyone else did, my tribe of ladies at the Young Presidents Organization are my saving grace, the main people in my life to lift me up when I need it and to share in my happiness. The organization has very few women, maybe 5%, so we are all pretty close.