How to turn a dream into a business: Roxy Te, Owner of Society Social, tells all
Earlier this year, Hiscox kicked off a new brand campaign to celebrate business dreams and asked for business owners to share their stories with us about how they turned a life-long dream into a full-time business. We’re starting this story series by featuring Roxy Te, owner of Society Social (Instagram: @societysocial), a home furniture company out of North Carolina. Roxy is the host of the ABC Localish show Secretly Awesome, sponsored by Hiscox, which spotlights small businesses from around the country to showcase what makes them special.
We got special access to interview Roxy to hear about her road to becoming a business owner and how much she has in common with the small business owners featured on the show. Roxy started with a dream of owning a business that she eventually turned into a reality, just like the many courageous businesses on Secretly Awesome.
Here’s what she had to say about her journey to entrepreneurship and her advice to small business owners.
A business dream that started in a furniture factory
Roxy is the daughter of immigrant parents who moved to the US to expand their furniture manufacturing business. “My parents had a dream and started manufacturing in the Philippines and after ten years of growing their business, they moved our little family over to North Carolina, which is known to be the furniture capital of the world,” Roxy explained.
Times were tough in the beginning. Roxy’s family was new to the country and her parents were trying to care for their growing family and run a business all at once. “We lived in the furniture factory. So all of our birthdays when we were kids were on the manufacturing floor.”
This time in her life proved to be excellent preparation to one day start her own small business. “As soon as I was old enough, I would work answering phones and filing invoices. As I got a little bit older, I would start going to furniture markets twice a year in High Point,” Roxy said. But by the time Roxy was old enough to pursue her own dreams, she took a different path than what was expected.
“I kind of did the opposite of what my family wanted me to do when I entered the workforce. And I tried to get as far away from furniture as possible.” But after a few years of working in the corporate world, she had a change of heart. “It just wasn't for me,” said Roxy. “I worked in a cubicle day in and day out and worked really long hours. It was extremely stressful.
“Eventually I decided to quit my corporate job and returned to my roots to start something of my own that was also able to support my family’s furniture manufacturing business.”
Fighting discrimination to become a business owner
Roxy founded Society Social in 2011, and since then she’s experienced many ups and downs -- as most business owners do -- but she has also had to come face-to-face with discrimination. As Roxy described, racism is something she’s had to deal with her entire life, not just as a business woman.
“We definitely as children, and even now, have experienced racism; every microaggression you could probably think of. It wasn't fun, but it has made me the person I am today. I think that it's definitely influenced who I am as a business owner, because I'm used to being underestimated,” Roxy explained.
“I am very aware that I have to try twice as hard to be taken seriously. So to be able to have a business that is woman and minority-owned makes me so proud of my team and what we've been able to do.”
Focus on digital and social media helped her business survive Covid-19
Like many businesses over the past year, Society Social had to make major shifts to stay afloat during the pandemic.“We almost didn't make it,” Roxy confessed. “We opened our flagship store in November 2019, and then four months later we had to shut it down. What we learned is that having a digital presence for modern retail is so important, and had it not been for our social media accounts, we would not be here today.” Roxy said that there is much to learn from her experience as a small business owner during the pandemic.
Here are her top three pieces of advice to anyone starting a business:
1. “Focus on your digital footprint just as much as you focus on your physical footprint, because in modern retail, that's the only way you're going to make it these days.”
2. “Had not been for our social media accounts, between Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, and our website, we would not be here today.”
3. “You can't always outperform a bad situation, but you can persevere through one. There was nothing that prepared anybody for what Covid-19 did to the world and to business owners. So it's really important to take each challenge and to let it empower you.”
4. “You have to really believe and be excited about what you're doing and be a good leader. I don't think that you can grow a small business if you're not empathetic and vulnerable and know how to support and take care of your team.”
The most courageous decision of 2020
2020 made us all reevaluate our priorities. And that rings especially true for small business owners who are juggling running a successful business, family life, and self-care. For Roxy, self-care started to take a backseat to everything else, so she shared with us what she did to address it last year that turned out to be her most courageous moment of 2020.
“One of the most courageous things I did in 2020 is that I got myself a therapist and a life coach,” she said. “I think that there is a stigma around mental health, and I think society values the strong and doesn't value the weak. There is something really powerful in admitting that you need extra help and support. And so many people this past year, having dealt with unprecedented challenges, had to just take a step back and ask for help.”
More inspiring small business stories
If you can relate to Roxy’s story, drop us a line! Tell us your business dream story and you could be featured on our blog and social media. And don’t forget to check out our customer stories page to read about even more courageous entrepreneurs.