We had the good fortune of connecting with Shaochen Wu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shaochen, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
My career for over a decade was very left-brain focused, not at all like what I do now as a wedding calligrapher. I led teams of enterprise client managers and operations managers at software companies in Silicon Valley, but have always had a curiosity for all kinds of crafts. I’ve tried my hand at pottery, glass working, macrame – the list goes on. Because of my obsession with handmade goods, I would go to every craft fair in town and follow tons of artists on Instagram which eventually fostered what felt like a pipe dream to start my own small business. In early 2019, I ended up leaving my tech job abruptly due to health reasons. As I thought about what my career aspirations were, I had no desire to keep climbing the corporate ladder to that next VP title. But I knew I would regret not giving my dream of starting a small business a shot. My excuse had always been that the timing wasn’t right, and this was the moment of truth where I asked myself – “if not now, when?” There would only be more responsibilities and inertia over time. I had learned Chinese calligraphy when I was young, and had started taking classes for English calligraphy to ease the stress from my corporate job. I not only loved it but was pretty good at it, so I spent a few more months honing my craft, then started Monstera Gold Calligraphy Studio!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I’m a big fan of building a business with multiple income streams. My main business is day-of wedding calligraphy and signage, including a small collection of rentals. I’m really proud that in just over a year, I established this part of my business and also created a business mentorship program for calligraphers, as well as started building out a passive income stream. I also have a calligraphy artist representing Monstera Gold in the San Francisco Bay Area, where my business was before we moved to Denver, so that I can continue to serve those clients. Many of these were business ideas that I thought were probably five years out, but when the pandemic hit and every single one of my weddings was postponed, I saw that the opportunity to build these new services wasn’t in five years, it was NOW. I credit my tenacity to the years I worked at startups in Silicon Valley, which trained me to have grit and to live in discomfort. I don’t take failures personally and I believe that being a successful businesswoman means learning to embrace the discomfort of growth. As far as my art goes, I absolutely love experimenting with and writing on different mediums, such as leaves, leather, tile, geodes, and glass, and nearly all my work is handwritten or hand painted. As I continue to evolve my business, my priorities will stay focused on my clients and my community. I am equally driven by those two aspects – sparking joy on my clients’ big day and fostering my fellow calligraphers’ growth and opportunities.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This one’s a toughie for me since we moved to Colorado last June, in the middle of the pandemic! Needless to say we haven’t done much exploring, but if my friends from California came to visit, no doubt we’d be doing lots of snowboarding. I just discovered Strawberry Hot Springs so we’d go there after, and pig out at Bacon Social House once we got back to Denver. We’d spend a day in downtown Estes Park (where my husband and I got married in October!) and do a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. I myself have only scratched the surface of what Colorado has to offer and am looking forward to much more exploring of the great outdoors! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Absolutely, hands down that person would be my husband, Joe. His woodworking and photography skills have come in surprisingly handy in my business, haha! He’s always helping me behind the scenes and is my rock when I get frustrated or need to talk through way too many ideas that swirl around in my brain. Also, as weird as it is to shout out social media, Instagram has been a game changer in terms of building community. Creative entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey especially for an extrovert, and I’ve met amazing friends, business partners, and collaborators all through an app, which is pretty crazy when you think about it. The real value of social media is the genuine connections that you make, so I try to be authentic when I show up there.
Jill Houser Photography Michelle Jost Photography Catherine Lea Photography Yoohoo Photo April O’Hare Photography Paper Airplanes Photo Joe Chrzanowski