This week we find ourselves inspired by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ethan Song from Frank + Oak.
As a first-generation immigrant from China, Ethan understood the importance of making your mark. His Bachelor’s Degree in Computer and Electrical Engineering from the University of British Columbia was tempered with his creative mindset. Armed with his education and his ambitions, he set out to explore the intersection of art and technology with the intention of creating new experiences.
Ethan used the world as his workplace. Travelling from Shanghai, to Paris, to Vancouver and Montreal, his career developed on various continents and in various contexts, making his mark by redefining commerce. He understood that companies should be defined by the convergence of people around spaces and common interests instead of trends.
In 2012, Ethan reached out to his childhood friend and fellow entrepreneur, Hicham Ratnani. Together they co-founded Frank & Oak with an inventive approach to integrating design and technology. Today the brand continues to set itself apart as a company that redefines commerce on all fronts, from product to marketing campaigns and online or in-store shopping experiences.
These days Ethan continues to redefine the world around him by collaborating on a wide array of creative and entrepreneurial endeavors. Most recently, Frank + Oak has created a new fund to help new entrepreneurs on their own journeys. Called the 50/50 Founders’ Fund, this disruptive program, formed in partnership with General Assembly, equally helps female and male founders build tomorrow’s world by supporting their business ventures. As a natural extension of Frank + Oak’s mission to champion daring in moments that matter, one per cent of every item sold will fund seed-stage grants of $10,000 to support and provide access to educational opportunities to advance transformative ideas in social enterprise. Several times a year, an independent board will award 50 per cent of the grant funds to female founders and 50 per cent to male founders – not one cent less.
In Ethan’s own words: “We’re at a pivotal juncture in our economy where the old paradigms no longer work. O ”Our competitiveness as a society depends not on big, slow-moving businesses, but on nimble innovators with purpose at heart. We’ve partnered with General Assembly, the pioneering school for 21st century skills, to nurture these doers and support equal access to opportunity.”
By committing to support equal opportunity to both female and male entrepreneurs, Frank + Oak and General Assembly are proudly partnering to counter the sizeable gender gap in entrepreneurship and startup funding. Check out the video below for more information:
For his ambition, generosity and incredible accomplishments, we find Ethan Song incredibly inspirational.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child, I always wanted to be a movie director in order to travel the world and tell stories. I realize today that it’s close to what I actually do!
What is your WHY? (The reason why you do the work you do)
I think the reason why I founded Frank + Oak is pretty simple. I believe in the journey more than in the results. I experience pleasure on a daily basis when working with passionate people and this is a meaningful reward to me. This is the real definition of success to me.
What are some of the successes (big or small) you’ve had?
As I mentioned before, success to me is defined by who we’re collaborating with on a day to day basis. We started our journey as two high school friends to now lead a team of over 200 people. Seeing how this team has evolved and realizing the impact that the brand has had on our customers is definitely what I’m the most proud of.
What piece of advice would you give to someone trying to do what you do, or trying to follow their own dreams?
The very first piece of advice I would share would be to start with your own path and don’t try to be similar or better than someone else. The second thing that I feel is really important is perseverance. Through success, you’re going to have to experience failure and learning to never abandon your dreams will help you become stronger. A lot of people talk about innovation, but perseverance is more important in order to drive long term success.
If you had one wish to help make the world a better place, what would it be?
My wish would be to have equal opportunities for all. No matter your nationality, background or gender, I hope one day that everyone will have the same chance to live the life they want.
If you could pick one charitable organization to ask our readers to donate to or volunteer with, which would it be?
We recently launched an innovative approach to social entrepreneurship: the 50/50 Founders’ Fund in partnership with General Assembly. Instead of focusing on putting product forward through a philanthropic initiative, the 50/50 fund provides equal opportunities for male and female entrepreneurs via a 360 support approach, regardless of their background or origin. Indeed, although monetary support is allocated, we also offer an educational component as well as a mentoring system. We strongly believe that this is something that demonstrates Frank + Oak’s commitment to supporting tomorrow’s doers and entrepreneurs.
First-time social entrepreneurs residing in the U.S. or Canada are eligible to apply for a comprehensive package of grants and support. For complete terms and conditions, and to apply now, visit frankandoak.com/50-50.