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The Importance of Community to Overcome Entrepreneurial Challenges with Carol Shih

Jun 18, 2024


In this episode, Carol Shih, founder of Qode Space, a Shopify web development and creative agency, shares her journey and the ethos behind her business and community work. Her approachable and outgoing personality, combined with a deep understanding of the challenges and nuances of being an Asian female entrepreneur in tech, allows her to connect and uplift others who face similar challenges and experiences. Not only does Carol share valuable advice for e-commerce business owners, she also shares about the impact of creating meaningful connections, embracing one's identity, and openly giving and asking for help from peers in the industry and wise mentors. As she balances her professional goals with motherhood, Carol also shares her honest perspective around “wanting it all” and how certain aspects of American Westernized culture can create challenges for mom entrepreneurs.

About Carol Shih

Carol Shih is an Australian-Taiwanese immigrant and the founder of Qode Space, a female and minority-owned web development agency. With a focus on Quality, Community, Transparency, and Purpose, Carol is committed to fostering inclusivity in the tech industry for women and minority leaders. She aims to balance the industry by delivering outstanding and high-quality design development work for e-commerce business owners. Additionally, Carol serves as a senior partner for Major Asians, an organization dedicated to providing exclusive and unique branding strategies to the AAPI community.

Contact info

Website: ⁠⁠https://qodespace.com/⁠⁠

Instagram: ⁠⁠https://www.instagram.com/karolz/⁠⁠

LinkedIn: ⁠⁠https://www.linkedin.com/in/shihcarol/


  • Leaning on your network and mentors can provide valuable support and insights as a founder.
  • The vision and mission of a company should align with its core values and target audience.
  • Understanding customer behavior through data analysis is crucial for effective website development.
  • Avoid the common mistake of trying to replicate competitors without considering your own unique customer base. Using data and analytics is crucial for making informed creative and development decisions.
  • Balancing design aesthetics with conversion optimization is a challenge, but it's important to prioritize functionality and best practices for better conversion rates.
  • Having mentors and a supportive community is essential for overcoming entrepreneurial challenges.
  • American Westernized culture which tends to be more individualistic than other cultures can create challenges of isolation for mom entrepreneurs who think they have to do it all.
  • Qode Space aims to continue supporting e-commerce clients for web development as well as be an incubator for young females in tech, and support Asian-founded brands.
  • The A Major Asians podcast highlights and supports Asian-founded brands and aims to create a more inclusive community.

Interview themes

How does being in a community benefit entrepreneurs both professionally and personally?

Carol’s community, including peers and mentors, has played a crucial role in her journey. She relies heavily on a network of female entrepreneurs and industry experts, and has found that mutual support and advice have been essential in overcoming challenges. Her network provides her with resources, guidance, and a collective of like-minded individuals who collaborate to navigate the complexities of entrepreneurship together.

As a mother, Carol says she “wants it all”, to be a successful business owner, a good mom, and serving her community. As an Asian immigrant to the US, she observed that in American Westernized culture, there is a lot of personal space and people who want to keep to themselves—which in turn creates isolation for female founders who feel they have to “do it all”.  She credits her “village” (partner who is a hands-on dad, friends who offer to babysit, helpful professional network) for enabling her to manage her professional and personal life effectively.

Why should entrepreneurs spend and invest in market research?

Investing in market research to look at data and analytics allows you to make informed creative and development decisions. Carol stresses that data analysis in business, particularly in user behavior, is essential for understanding customer interactions with your website, such as where users click, linger, or fail to add items to the cart. Many brand owners invest heavily in creating visually appealing content for platforms like TikTok and Instagram without knowing if it effectively attracts and engages users or improves sales conversions. Entrepreneurs often make the common mistake of trying to replicate competitors without considering their own unique customer base. Carol advises businesses to focus on analyzing and understanding one's own data rather than comparing with competitors.

What can entrepreneurs do about their strengths and weaknesses in order to build a successful business?

Carol advises entrepreneurs to assess their skills honestly, identify gaps, and seek out partners or employees who can complement their abilities. Recognize your limitations and borrow the strengths of others to create a more balanced and effective team. Focus on what you do best so that you can maximize productivity and efficiency in those areas.

For example, while Carol excels at networking and business development, she recognizes her limitations in finance and technical project management. To compensate, she partners with individuals who excel in these areas. This strategy not only strengthens her business by covering all bases effectively but also frees her to devote more energy to her areas of expertise, driving growth and innovation.

How does personal experience as an immigrant to the US and Asian culture impact business and purpose?

Carol initially moved to the U.S. from Australia at 19, aiming to expand her opportunities. Her professional journey began in the digital marketing agency world, heavily involved with fashion e-commerce. After gaining extensive experience and realizing the underrepresentation of Asian and female leaders at the top tiers of businesses, she felt compelled to take control of her own destiny. This realization led her to join and eventually take over Qode Space in 2018, aiming to break through the glass ceilings she encountered and drive change within the tech industry.

Carol envisions transforming Qode Space into an incubator for young women in tech, emphasizing the need for enhanced STEM education in North America. She advocates for programs that engage girls in coding, SEO, and data analytics, aiming to empower a new generation of female tech leaders by providing essential skills and knowledge.

Furthermore, Carol plans to devote more time to A Major Asian Podcast. The platform highlights the unique challenges and successes within the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. It allows Asian entrepreneurs and leaders to share their experiences, challenging stereotypes and celebrating achievements. The podcast seeks to inspire and empower its listeners by promoting a deeper understanding of the diverse identities within the AAPI community.


00:00 Overcoming Challenges and Leaning on the Network

10:13 The Vision and Mission of Qode Space

15:26 The Common Mistake of Replicating Competitors

29:39 Using Data and Analytics to Inform Creative and Development Decisions

32:57 Balancing Design Aesthetics with Conversion Optimization

38:37 The Importance of Mentors and Community Support

43:53 Impact of American Westernized culture on mom entrepreneurs

46:40 Future vision for Qode Space

50:49 Major Asians: Highlighting and Supporting Asian-Founded Brands


Carol Shih

You know, it's a constant three wheel problem that keeps coming up. And I think that how do I overcome it? There's many different ways. One, I utilize my community. I think a lot of us are on texting basis for that reason. I'm open to sharing my challenges and I find a lot of female founders doing the same thing. So I always say, it's kind of like your phone a friend list. I would text you like, my gosh, this is happening to me. Do you have an SOW issue? Can I share?

And I really lean on my mentors as well. I try to gather a lot of very knowledgeable mentors in my industry. And I lean on them to give me some insights, whether or not it's a growing pain of mine or it's a personal challenge when it comes to becoming an entrepreneur. So it's leaning on my network and leaning on the shortness of my knowledge and gaining more from the people around me.

Glynis Tao

Welcome to Chase Your Dreams, a podcast for fashion entrepreneurs who want to build a purposeful and profitable clothing business so they can make a living doing what they love. I'm your host, Glynis Tao, an apparel business consultant and SEO specialist with 20 years apparel industry experience. I'm also a mom to a wonderfully energetic little boy named Chase.

Carol Shi is an Australian Taiwanese immigrant and founder of Qode Space, a female and minority owned web development agency. With a focus on quality, community, transparency and purpose, Carol is committed to fostering inclusivity in the tech industry for women and minority leaders. She aims to balance the industry by delivering outstanding and high quality design development work for e-commerce business owners.

Additionally, Carol serves as a senior partner for Major Asians, an organization dedicated to providing exclusive and unique branding strategies to the AAPI community.

Welcome, Carol. It's so nice to have you here today. Thanks for joining me on the podcast. 

Carol Shih

Thank you so much, Glynis. You did such a great job introduction and for a lot of these guests, I think I want to bring you everywhere I go now. Like, you're such a good intro.

Glynis Tao

I'll help you do your intros. If you want me to. I don't know. Thank you. I've never been given that compliment. So I'll take it. We had met through the 10th house, which is a membership community founded by Rebecca Minkoff and Ali Wyatt. That's part of the female founder collective. We chatted a few times and really hit it off. One of the things that really struck me about you is your outgoing personality that's very open and approachable.

You're like one of those people who's funny and easy to get along with and you make people feel at ease.

Carol Shih

Thank you. I, to be honest, you and I have been connecting for so long, I forgot how we met. So good, good note to bring back to 10th House.

Glynis Tao

No, I had to do some digging there.

Carol Shih

But yeah, and I did remember it stood out because 10th House was such a big organization with so many female founders. And one, it was easy for you and I to spot each other because we were both in tech. And two, we were also one of the few that are Asian and female founders in the group, I feel like. So I don't know, I feel like you and I connected right away there, but thank you for the compliment. I am known to be quite the talker. And I think that's why I got invited to your podcast.

Glynis Tao

And you're also a mompreneur like me too. You have a little boy, right? And how old is he? 

Carol Shih

Yeah, I have a little boy that's about two and a half, almost three. And I am also in my second trimester welcoming a second one soon.

Glynis Tao


Carol Shih

Thank you.

Glynis Tao

So we're going to be talking more about balancing business with motherhood a little later on in this podcast. But first, let's talk about you. Something I recently found out about you is that you are super connected. You're like a super connected person. Like you've introduced me to a few really awesome people in your network. You come across to me as being extroverted. Are you an extrovert? Would you say?

Carol Shih

That's a good question. People think that way. But in order to be perceived as an extrovert is not just, you know, you're very outgoing, but I think that as an extrovert, you depend on that based on how you gain energy. And to be honest, even though my husband's very quiet, he's actually more extroverted because he likes to be with people and he gains energy when he's outside. Whereas I have the spark of energy to go and network and connect with people. But then I want to be at home three days straight and talk to nobody.

So I don't know, I think it's an introvert extrovert kind of a thing. But but I am a super connector. Because I feel like it started off when I was an immigrant, and I'm still an immigrant. I'm Australian Taiwanese. And I came to the States when I was 19. And I realized that when I come here with no family, I don't have anyone to depend on but myself and my network and my community. So I was very big in joining in communities, being in part of organizations. Even when I was in college, I was like the Taiwan Student Association president because I really want to be inclusive and bring people like me together. And I guess that extended to my career. And I just found a lot of success when I bring in the right people and connect people to the right groups. And it's, it's a passion of mine. And I think I can still see that.

Glynis Tao

Okay. So it's something that you saw as a need that you needed to do, I guess, when you first moved to the States, and just kind of became more natural to you. And then you built your community and network that way.

Carol Shih

Yeah. I mean, I came in and I think the label that I got was I'm a FOB, fresh off the boat. I speak fluent English. I went to an American school in Taiwan. But I don't know anything about the American culture, lingo, slang, how to use a credit card. I came from a country that only uses cash, right? So a lot of times how I survive is asking questions, be shamelessly asking questions.

And I start to realize that's kind of what community is for when you build yourself around good friends, people you trust. Some people use this like a church group, some people use this like different organizations. And those are your kind of safety net to ask these dumb questions. And of course, back in the day, not gonna share our age group, but we didn't have Google to always give you the answers. So we have the neighborhood and the people around you to kind of support you and give you some tips. So yeah, I find that very valuable and I still do. I still think that helping people is the most genuine way to build long-term relationships.

Glynis Tao

And so you still apply that to your business. Like, do you have any tips to give to someone who, you know, wants to start building their network?

Carol Shih

Yeah, I think that I work a lot with brand owners, business owners, and I always tell them like, listen, let's say you are a brand owner for a shoe company. You are an expert at making shoes, which means that your network is probably through textile production manufacturer, right? You might be an expert in all that, but that's not part of just doing business, right? You also have to know 3PL. You have to know, you know, maybe some development work, web development, or like e-commerce, marketing. Like there's all sorts of things that's outside of your wheelhouse and you just simply can't do it all.

As much as you want to be a unicorn, if you spend time and try to go outside of your expertise, you really stretch yourself too thin. And I think the best way to approach it as a business owner is to recognize number one, your weakness and your strength. And once you know that, my suggestion is find the people around you that will fill in your weakness.

Like for me, I'm like you said, I'm very good at networking. I'm very great at business development and sales per se, but, maybe I'm not great at finance. I am not good at like maybe understanding project management when it comes to technical skills internally. So I have to lean on a great partner that can really fill in my weakness.

And I think that recognition, I found that very early on in my career to understand like, I need somebody like you who understands SEO and I need a good partnership. So then when clients ask me, hey, Carol, do you have anybody that you know that can do SEO? Then I know where to pull you in. So I think you and I already see a lot of examples of how we can work together based on our weaknesses and strengths.

Glynis Tao

So true. So, let's take a little step back and talk about starting your company, Qode Space. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what inspired you to start Qode Space?

Carol Shih

Great question. So like I said, I came to the States when I was 19 and I'm an Australian citizen. And I knew that early on I wanted to stay in America to expand the opportunities. So in order to do that, I picked a very broad major in order to apply from working visa all the way to getting a green card. And so I picked communication and marketing. And while I was doing all of that, I had to start applying for a job right after my senior year in college. And it was very difficult because even though it's a very broad major, I have a lot of options. Not a lot of corporate companies supported work visa sponsorship, as well as green card. So it has to be very specific. And I was very lucky and I'm still grateful today because I fell into the digital marketing agency world. And at the time that digital agency was heavily invested in fashion e-commerce. So I then dove right into fashion, which was also one of my passions at the time.

Prior to that, I interned at Louis Vuitton. And so that was an easy step in for me to understand the fashion life cycle. And then I step into fashion e-commerce where I touch a lot of big brands such as the Juicy Coutures of the world, Seven for All Mankind, Splendid Alamos, especially a lot of denim brands because that's where the digital agency was growing from. So the Paige, the Hudsons that was born in LA, I was able to touch that as an e-commerce business from front end to back end, meaning like I was involved in studio production. I was involved in front end, back end, warehouse production, as well as marketing, SEO, paid search, paid ads. And I became an account director there.[

After seven years, I touched more than like 40, 50 brands, including beauty and fashion, some CPGs as well. And that's kind of how I gained all my experience. And then after that, of course, there's rise and fall of digital agency. Unfortunately, I got laid off due to the, I don't know, was it the political climate at the time or was it just how, you know, businesses get acquired, but I was let go. And then I worked at Alibaba for also a year and I gained a lot of cross-border experiences.

And after that, I kind of hit an epiphany. I realized that, you know, I work for so many years tirelessly without vacation. I finally got my green card obtained, but you know, I'm really working hard for another brand, for somebody else. And people like me and like you who are Asian and female, I don't see a lot of us at the top. I don't see us at advisory boards. I don't see us as CEOs, C levels. I always see us as middle management and we work so hard. And when it's time to cut budget and when it's time to let people go, we are always the one on the chopping board. And it was very hurtful for me because it kind of hit that, this is where my glass ceiling is. This is where I cannot move forward anymore. And so that was really hurtful and.

You know, again, through luck, while I was looking for a job in between, Qode Space was actually started by two developers, and they were great developers, but they didn't have any connection when it comes to building a business, networking, building in leads. So they were like, hey, Carol, you know, why don't you come forward and help us out? And then gave me a little equity. And that was 2018. And then before we know it, the two founders actually exited and I took on Qode Space in all, and I also found another partner, also a mom and also minority. 

We really aligned on our core values and we rebranded Qode Space two years ago and it's been flying off since.

So it's a fantastic journey and I learned so much and as well as for myself and as well as how that industry works right now.

Glynis Tao

Amazing story. Wow. Thank you. I didn't know all of that background on it. I didn't know that you had acquired the company. Okay, so what were some of the initial challenges you faced when you started Qode Space? And how did you overcome them?

Carol Shih

My goodness, Glynis, how do we even? That's the big question.

Glynis Tao

Let's get those out of the way.

Carol Shih

You and I talk about this, right? I think being especially an agency owner, we worry about three things. It's client, sales and employees. So it's like always playing whack-a-mole. You're either worried about your sales pipeline. You're like, how do I survive next month? Right. Or you worry about the current clients complaining or you have to update or fix your operational system. There might be a pricing issue. There might be you know, technical issues within your services that you're providing. And if everything goes well, you might have an employee issue who's telling you like, I need a raise. I want more from this company or, you know, it's a constant, constant, a three wheel problem that keeps coming up.

And I think how do I overcome it? There's many different ways. One, I utilize my community. I think a lot of us are texting basis for that reason. I'm open to sharing my challenges and I find a lot of female founders doing the same thing. So I always say it's kind of like your phone a friend list. I would text you like, my gosh, this is happening to me. Do you have an SOW issue? Can I share? Like, can you share your insight to me? Or, and I really lean on my mentors as well. I try to gather a lot of very knowledgeable mentors in my industry and I lean on them to give me some insights, whether or not it's a growing pain of mine or it's a personal challenge when it comes to becoming an entrepreneur. So honestly, it goes back to what we talked about in the beginning. It's leaning on my network and leaning on the shortness of my knowledge and gaining more from the people around me.

Glynis Tao

Yeah, that's so interesting. And important to be able to have a community and network people who you can turn to for support. I'm just wondering, like, women seem to reach out more maybe, and share their problems, maybe more so than men would. I'm just guessing because sometimes I think men maybe it's harder for them to kind of admit that, I need help with something, but in the case of women, I find that almost all the women I know, women business owners are just there to help one another and to support one another. And there's just like so many like now, fortunately, like communities, groups, just like the 10th house, right? I was talking about earlier that has all these people there that not allowed us to meet, right? And now, feel like we're like peers to one another as well. And we're sort of on that texting basis, which is, it's nice, right?

Carol Shih

Yeah. I mean, I feel like it's also culture. I mean, in the beginning, it was difficult to be vulnerable and admit that you don't know something, especially in our world as female founders and as Asians. We're always taught, at least in my culture in Taiwanese, it's like, hey, you're a girl, shut up and go to the corner and just do what you're supposed to do.

But it's hard to raise your hand and be like, hey, I need help. How do I do this? What does this mean? How do I get to the next level? And I think it's trial and error. The more I do it, the more, just like you said, these female founders just gather and lean in and be like, I got you.

Let me help you, let's go on a Zoom call and I'll share everything with you. No gatekeeping, let me just share my insight. And that was so heartwarming. And I realized, like, I need to do the same thing. The more I extend myself to help, the more help comes my way as well. And you're so right. It is that female founder community that I found a lot of comfort and also found a lot of success.

Glynis Tao

Yeah, absolutely. Let's just go talk about, okay, I want to ask you about your company's vision and mission statement. Because I saw that it's, you have it on your website. Do you want to talk about that? What is your mission and vision of Qode Space? And how has it evolved since its inception or has it evolved?

Carol Shih

It definitely evolved because one, the founders changed. And two, we kind of honed in on our branding and realized that we need to step out and put a lot more emphasis on who we are and who we would like to serve. And I think that the uniqueness of being in the tech industry and in the web development industry, like we're not just doing marketing or social ads, where it's a little bit easier to market.

We are actually experts in web development, which means we are doing engineering work, development work, which is a very foreign ground for a lot of owners, right? Because when it comes to development, it's always like, you just, you know, zeros and ones. And a lot of times there's a lot of miscommunication as well as translation issues.

And that's kind of where I come in is to bridge that gap because I understand both business owner perspective, business perspective, and then I also understand development and engineering progress and process. So to bridge that gap, I think we kind of stand out. Number one, we are all female founders and we have extensive knowledge when it comes to development work. This is not just a men's world where everybody is in computer science, but there is a high rise of women that's in the tech world right now that have great knowledge, especially like my partner, her background used to be in SpaceX and she manages a team of developers as an excellent quality assurance. Nothing passes her eyes. She's the best quality assurance person I've ever met. And having her as a partner really gave me more confidence to sell who we are. And I think that that identity really brought us into our core values. And one of the biggest ones we added as of last year when we were rebranding is transparency.

So on top of quality being first, that's the reason why Qode Space starts with a Q is we put quality first, which is something that in the development world is very challenging. Cause you never know, people are like, I built a beautiful website. And then we flip and look under the hood. It's like, man, this was garbage. This is like Jenga. Like if I add another line of code, your entire website breaks.

And you're an SEO expert, you see through that immediately when you see how taggings work, product tagging, everything is a mess because they charge high, they shorten their timeline and whether they did it cheap or did it expensive, nobody knows what development really means. So I really pushed out quality.

And we talk about community, which is how our entire network was set up. And then we added being purposeful, who we intentionally wanna work with. And that's where, again, our female and minority identity comes in. We really wanna give out our talent and our skill sets to those that are more in need, who don't always get the eyes of the big agencies out there. And then we added the fourth core value, which is transparency. So, you know, a lot of people, especially you're talking about challenges, a lot of people from the same industry people have laughed at me when they looked at my proposal and be like, you're showing too much Carol. You're telling them way too much of our secrets because line item by line item. I tell them exactly how many hours it's going to take. Even though it's an estimate, it's like building a house. Yes. Building this bathroom could take like, you know, five to 10 days, right?

but I still give out that range for people to understand this is the effort that's gonna put out. I'm not everybody does that. They padded hours at random places, they lie or they add other services that might not even take that long, but then they'll say that's 40 hours, but you and I both know it takes 10 minutes because they're lying or being deceitful to people that doesn't understand development.

So I see through a lot of that working in the tech industry and I really, hone in and really, really kind of push for that four major core value, which brings into our statements that are and mission statement is that we're here to support help, even though our approach is a little different. And even though our margins not be as high, but we're not here to grow fast and big, we're here to grow long term as a boutique agency that serves.

Glynis Tao

That's great. So your your four core values, quality, community, purpose and transparency, right? Yes, so great values. I just wanted to ask you a question just sort of like, what is a common mistake that you see for most econ brands when it comes to their website development work? Like sort of the back end stuff, you've sort of touched on it earlier and I find having too many apps installed slows down their site. And, you know, most of them are not necessary. Like, is there anything else that you have seen?

Carol Shih

Yeah, good question. I think like, even when you say multiple apps, like way too many have really drags down the website. But I think it comes from the mindset of a business owner. And I see a lot of business owners get triggered when their competitor is doing something new. So for example, if you're a pet brand, like you're, you're selling pet products and you see your competitor coming out with like a new feature, like, Ooh, a bundle or like a buy one, get one off or something like that. Or they did a refresh or rethink or something like that, that in your eyes you might feel like, my gosh, you're making so much money because of this new update.

And then they come to people like us as a third party service provider and be like, I want the same thing. And the first thing I'll always say is number one, you don't know how much they invested. And number two, you don't know how much they are putting into researching what their customer wants.

And this happens so often because even if your competitor is selling the same thing as you, your customer behavior could still be different because you have different marketing strategies, you have different approaches and you have different eyes on your brand. So I would always say, and this is something that's so important and I'm still continue to tell my current clients and the new clients that I see is that spend and invest in market research.

User behavior research is so important right now. Data is key. Your data should be telling you exactly where to go. If you don't know how to build your website, you don't know what features to add, you don't know what apps to do, and you're just twiddling your thumb, and let me tell you, your marketing team will always ask you to spend, because you spend more, you get more. That's just how the marketing world works. Because you're fighting before the Q4 big hit holiday season,

Glynis Tao

So everybody wants you to know like, hey, spend now, spend now. And then so you can gain a tub of the funnel. So then by Q4, you have enough email lists so you can blast and then you have drip campaigns and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. They're all true, but at the same time, Q1, Q2, and Q3 even towards the end is a great time for you to data layer your website, making sure that your GA4, your Google Analytics or any reporting you're there.

You have a data analyst to tell you what those data mean. That's not your expert. Find somebody to tell you what is my user behavior? Who is he? Who is she? Where is she clicking? Where is she not adding to cart? Where is she lingering too long? Is she clicking onto the videos? And a lot of brand owners spend so much money on branding, content making, because of TikTok and Instagram.

They're just spending so much money on creating beautiful photos and beautiful videos. But do you know if people like it? Do you know if people aren't clicking into it? Do you know it's helping your conversion? And that's where the user behavior analysis comes in. So I always say, don't look at what your competitor is doing because they will panic you. It's just like back in school, right? Everybody else is getting a certain grade and you're like, why am I getting this? Before panicking and start self-doubting.

Look at where your mistakes are. That's pivot accordingly. And because everybody is a little bit different. So I would say that's like one of the most common things is I have to have a come to Jesus talk with a lot of my, my clients and say, okay, let's just, let's take a deep breath. Let's do some breath work at the zoom meeting. And number one is let's look at your Google analytics. Let's pull that up and see what that looks like month over month. And then we can use that data to see how you wanna tweak the website accordingly.

Glynis Tao

I think that's one of the big things that you mentioned on your site, I noticed that put an emphasis on that your agency is mission. It's like you're driven by data, right? Like you use data and analytics to inform creative decisions and development decisions, the creative designs and development designs.

Carol Shih

Yeah, I don't feel good when I tell people to do something that I know down the road they're going to change it again. I mean, money is scarce right now. It's not like back in the day, fashion people just have like tons of money to just change things, you know? I always say, let's do some A-B testing before you put all your eggs in the basket. Right? Let's change it up and see if this landing page works better than the other. Let's see if this add to cart button moving it up is going to help you with your conversion, right?

And I always say that because I think that it's maybe it's the Asian in me, spending money, you got to spend it smart, instead of throwing money at it and hoping it works.

Glynis Tao

Yeah, so true. And I think with maybe a lot of designers, creatives, especially they're very emotional and very have the emotional connection, perhaps more to their brand and design. So maybe it is very hard for them to step outside and look at things more from an objective point of view. But, you know, it's business at the end of the day, they need to make sales. So they need a website that converts.

Carol Shih

I mean, all the pretty stuff, you know, that you see is important. The pictures, but you're so right. It's the emotional talk always, always because it's your baby. Number one, nobody wants to hear that your baby's ugly, right? Nobody wants to hear that. But sometimes it's our job, right? To be like, listen, we got to do something about this. Like, I know you think it's beautiful, but this is not a magazine spread. This is an e -commerce website. And there's still such a thing as best practices. We still have to follow that rule because it connects to conversion, right? Unless you're like the Gucci, the Louis Vuitton's of the world, you don't care and your website is more of a brochure and you have tons of stores that you can still drive in traffic. Like we really look at, the science. We need to look at the data, right? So yeah, the emotional part of it is so true. 

Glynis Tao

Yeah, it's a hard part for my job as well to have to crack and overcome it as well. I just kind of have to be gentle. You can't say someone's baby's ugly. Yeah. Sometimes, you know, you just gotta tell them the truth. Somebody has to break it to them.

Carol Shih

Yeah, I'm a little too straightforward sometimes and I have to be like, so I just wanted to let you know. Show you some examples. So I feel you.

Glynis Tao

Most of your clients when they come to you, are they looking for a new site or are they looking to refresh or are they looking to replatform?

Carol Shih

I feel like a lot of the brand owners, going back to what we're saying, their expertise lies within their product. So when they come to us, a lot of times there are probably, there might be some glowing issues, like glaring issues about their website. Like, I'm just not converting and I don't understand why. Or I know my performance is really bad because I opened up my mobile site and 60, 70% of your traffic always goes through your mobile. And we would run a free audit, which by the way, audience that are listening right now, we do offer free audit. And it has been a tremendous help for a lot of business owners because it's a report showing you where your website health is at.

And when you take a look at that, that's basically letting you know what issues you have on your website. And that is when we have more conversation. But I want to say a lot of times clients come to us with a glaring issue that they must fix immediately. And that issue usually leads to 10 other issues. It's whether the previous development team didn't really do a good job building your foundation or you know, you over exceeded like you and I talked about, you just downloaded way too many apps and you don't understand that certain theme could help you eliminate half of those apps cheaper because apps on Shopify store could be very expensive. 

One of them's $30, $40, $100 per month. And then before you know it, you're spending like 20K a month on all these apps when you can spend $300 for a theme that has half of those features up there. Then that project became re-theming because that re-theming project is gonna help you save money down the road. So a lot of these explanations, a lot of the planning is what I do is, okay, let's stop for a bit. Let's look at your whole P&L and financial planning for 2024, 2025. If you go this route, this is how much you're gonna spend. If you go the other route and just make us do better cleanup, it will be a patchwork. And then a year later, you and I are gonna have another phone call about how to spend more to save more.

So yeah, it really varies. I always go back to do an audit first. One, let's do an app audit. And I want to tell you, nine out of ten times, too many apps. It's like the biggest one. I was like, all right, we got to cancel 20 of these apps. You really don't need it. And then number two, it's always tied to performance.

Glynis Tao

So interesting. I kind of think of it as like, you know, when you start to have car problems, it starts with this, like, it's the cars making a funny sound. And then you're like, shoot, what's that? You know, I better go take it to the mechanic and get it checked out. And you're like the mechanic, right? And they bring this, this website to you. And they're like, I have a glaring issue. Obviously, it's so do we, and then you open it up and look under the hood.

Carol Shih

I always tell my clients, I was like, I feel like I'm like a plumber because you never go and call a plumber until shit hits the fan.

Glynis Tao

Literally. Yeah.

Carol Shih

And by the time I'm in, first of all, plumbers visit you and we already have to pay them whether or not there's an issue or not. Just for them to show up. Yeah. And that's kind of how we are. I have to get a developer that knows, understands the function of a  website, pop up of the hood. And you know, a lot of times this is not a problem. We just have to fix your piping. You know, not a big deal. Couple hours, we got you. But majority of the time, because the shit hit the fan already. It's like, you got a molding issue. You got pipeline disconnection. You have this and this, this and this. And you know, and it never feels good as a business owner to realize that I really need to use this bathroom and how long is this gonna take and how much is it gonna be?

So it's always a big headache and they treat us really like a plumber. It's like, they're just like, can we go anywhere cheaper? I'm like, yeah, of course, of course. There's a whole country, India, that you can find that is a lot cheaper. But again, it goes back to quality, right? And transparency and how much trust we have with each other to know that I'm really here thinking for your good. And I'm building a much better foundation so that in the future, when you call me, it's for maintenance, not because really things are flying around.

Glynis Tao

So I just wanted to go back and talking about, you know, your business and sort of overcoming challenges part. If you had, do you have any mentors or people that have worked with you throughout your entrepreneurial journey? Who has been your biggest supporter and mentor through your entrepreneurial journey and how important is the community? We've kind of talked about how important it is already how your community support has been in overcoming challenges?

Carol Shih

Yes, I have mentors, but I also like to call them my office therapists. Because a lot of times, you know, it's during panic moments, right? When we're like, my gosh, what am I going to do? And in my previous digital agency, I came across a female VP that was always so even keen and I watched her as she is in a room full of dominant men and she can speak so powerfully and so confidently and that draws me near her. And I think one of the questions I asked her was like, how do I be like you one day and not let my anxiety or my insecurity drive my conversation with my team? Then we talked a lot more about, you know, managing up, right? Managing our own insecurities and really putting a mirror in front of myself and understanding where I'm vulnerable and where I need help as a leader. But I think like every season, the support that you need, especially entrepreneurship, we keep growing, we push ourselves to a new level. Your mentors and the people that you need around you keep changing.

And I think that's one of the best things I love about networking is I also learn from my peers. And like right now, I joined the senior partner in the firm, Major Future, and then we branch out to do Major Asians. That group also was so beneficial for me because I then learned about the beginning stages of building a brand, like brand DNA, understanding brand story.

And then later on, they start building a website, which is where I come in. So I realized that my expertise lies within about stage three, stage four of a branding cycle. Whereas the branding part of the DNAs and beginning of stages and you then come in more like stage one, stage two. So then my mentors change and my expertise has to change and I continue to learn. So in that field, I try to find people that are like-minded.

I ask a lot of questions. Again, I think I'm relentless in asking questions. I pull people in like you and I go, hey, let's get on a call. I just wanna ask you some questions about what else I can learn more and how can we mutually help each other out. So it's a constant learning stage being an entrepreneur in my opinion.

Glynis Tao

Constant learning and constant juggling because not only do you have a business, you also have a little kid as well. So it's like, I feel this constant juggle of not feeling guilty when you have to do your work and then you're like, not being able to pay attention and play with my kid right now, because I got to get this thing done or I'm like with my kid, but then I'm like, shoot, I got to apply back to this client. So how do you balance running your business with the demands of motherhood?

Carol Shih

I think that was like the most common question I get. And I don't know if I particularly like that question of like, hey, how do you do it all? Because men don't get asked that question. Men don't really get asked that question when they're an entrepreneur. How do you do it all? You're a dad and you're like an entrepreneur. You do everything.

Honestly, when I get asked that question, I think about my husband. He also works from home and I am so grateful, so lucky that he's a very involved dad. He's the one who picks him up. He also cooks and he is very involved in the day to day of my child. Hence the reason why you and I can get on calls and I can pick up sales calls or go to conferences and moderate events at night and all that.

And when you say like, how do I deal with guilt? I think the mom guilt never leaves, right? It's like, we're never doing enough. And that's something, it's biological. Like the baby comes out of us, we know how they feel. And it's, even if I'm not there, I'm thinking about them, right? And now I'm pregnant again. One, I'm like, why did I do this again? Did I forget how difficult this is? I'm gonna do this all over again. But it's also part of like, you know, a certain age group, we want our kid to have siblings, we still envision being that family that we always wanted. And it's like, you want it all.

I don't think it's like, how do you do it all? I think it's because we want it all. We wanna be a business owner. We wanna be a great mom. We wanna be a great leader. We wanna be a good friend, you know? And how do we balance that out? It's like every day is a little bit different. And if you have an amazing partner and you have amazing community, that's why they say it takes a village.

And the American Westernized culture, I know you're Canadian, I'm very much looking forward to seeing if I can move there. But I am already Australian, I already have two passports, maybe I need to calm down. But I truly think that I learned that the hard way about American culture is that there's a lot of personal space, people wanna keep to themselves, but that part really has been hurtful to a lot of female founders is that, you gotta do it all. And I just don't believe that. And I feel like it's all about your community and your village that helps you out. I have great friends that are willing to step in and be like, hey, you and your husband should go take a break. We're happy to watch your kids, you know? And that's like without grandparents' help as well. 

So I don't do it all, but I want it all. And so every day it's whack-a-mole. Like today I might not be a hundred percent of a mom, but I know I did amazing being a founder. And some days I am very tired being a founder, pushing for leads, getting conversions, right? But I know today I spent a lot of time with my son in the backyard and we played catch. And I think in his eyes, I scored a hundred percent.

So you just have to, you know, tell yourself, don't score yourself too low. I think you're doing the best you can. And that's what we strive for in life.

Glynis Tao

Amazing. I love that. I think I need to find a better way to rephrase that question in terms of the balancing cart, but maybe it's more of an integration. It's like part of your life, you know, your work, your life, family, it's like, things that you want, you want to do it all. But how do you get that done? How are you, you know, and some, some way, somehow, we figure it out. Like, you know, not like it kids come with a manual, right? They're not born with a how to guide how to parent, how to, you know, so, you know, I have to give credit to all those hardworking mommas out there.

Carol Shih

Not easy. Yeah. You're on the same boat.

Glynis Tao

Let me just ask you quickly about the Major Asian podcast that you are working on. So how did this all come about? How did you get started on it? And why was the reason like that you got involved in this project?

So Major Asians stems from the Major Futures Foundation and organization. And they are a New York founded branding firm with a handful of very talented senior partners. And I came in as a new senior partner around, I wanna say like three months ago. And I think the couple of Asians in there, found us to have a lot of mutual connections as well as mutual interests in really being inclusive in supporting Asian founded brands. And we also see a huge opportunity where Asian brands such as the Korea, Singapore, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong's of the world that want to enter into the North America region, especially like with the buying power of North America.

I think a lot of Asians brands are looking to see, well, you know what, if you're already manufacturing in our country for so long, we want a piece of that pie as well. And you and I both know like when we go back and visit Asia, we always want to bring some of these brands back. We're like, my God, this face mask is amazing. Or like the snack is amazing. We want to like, you know, blow it up here in LA or in Vancouver or in like all these different places that has a large population of Asians.

And especially during AAPI month, we talked so much about how to, I think one of our quotes are, you know, rising tide, raise all boats. So, and there's also a saying in Chinese that, you know, the good nutrient flows within your own family. You don't really share it out. And so that kind of brings us to hone in on this Asian community of how do we support each other to elevate the brands that want to expand in the North American region. And I think there's also culturally a trust that is unspoken, especially with Asian communities. It's like, if you're Korean and then you bump into somebody in, let's say, like you said, like Canada or somewhere that's like the diversity is not as widespread and you see another Korean. Just like me, when I see a Taiwanese in the middle of a random place in LA and we don't find ourselves very often. It's like immediate connection, immediate trust. And that's just kind of how that connection works. And we're kind of rolling off of that. So that's kind of how Major Asians came about. And that podcast we are starting is focusing on highlighting a lot of Asian brands that are starting off as a startup here in the United States and in Canada and what their journey looks like and really just highlight a lot of these brand owners and product owners and see where they're going and how can we support as a community.

Glynis Tao

Amazing work that you're doing and I love that and I feel like there is that connection just between us as well, both as being you know, Asian women, business owners. I mean, I don't think it doesn't matter what geographically where you are, whether you're American or Canadian, I still feel like we face a lot of the same things, same issues. And so that's great that you are part of this podcast to really spread that awareness and talking, actually just talking about these issues that the AAPI community is facing and addressing that through your podcast, using it as a platform, right? To bring that awareness and have those conversations often don't talk about?

Carol Shih

Always. I think, like, especially as Asians, we suck at talking about our own problems. We suck at asking for help. Right. And so I was telling my partner, so I was like, we just got to ask some tough questions. And I remember I was at an Asian founding network event, and I was hosting my small group. And I kind of had to force people and say, like, hey, go around and tell each other, how can we support? Why are you here in this networking event? And then you kind of see everybody like, well, you know, we're just here to network. And I had to stop and I go, no, no, no, no, no. You and I both know you came in here for something, right? Do you need an investor? Are you looking for a web developer? Are you looking for an expert? Let's be bold and ask because you never know what you're going to receive.

And then you start seeing the people start opening up. And I think that's such a cultural thing, right? No matter what Asian you are, we're always about being respectful. Don't ask, don't be too bold. But I think that's a mentality we need to change because one, people can't read your mind. And two, we need to overcome that culture in order for us to grow to another level. So it's time for us to really stand up, ask ourselves what we want and how can we get the universe to help us out by speaking out loud about what we need.

Glynis Tao

Cheers. Here's to that, you know? I want to give you a high five. It's so hard to have those conversations. And even as Asian women ourselves, kind of like, yeah, we know that's there, but we just don't want to talk about it. Let's just kind of pretend it's not really happening.

Carol Shih

And just not talk about it ever. And like, I love one of my mentors, she told me she's like, what's the worst is going to happen? I don't know, we're gonna get no, then you get a no. And then you move on. And once you recognize the biggest damage, it's not your reputation, it’s just people going, sorry, I can't help. That's it. Let's keep asking.

Glynis Tao

Yeah, it's an automatic no if you don't ask.

Carol Shih

See, you get it. We all get the concept, but it's hard to step out of your comfort zone.

Glynis Tao

It really is. And it's like taking me almost a lifetime to learn those lessons. Yeah, it's a process. But that's awesome. And before we we end off here, I want to ask you about your future plans for Qode Space and A Major Asian podcast. What do you see yourself, both your company and podcast? Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

Carol Shih

Five years is far. I'm a planner myself. I'm a Virgo and I love to plan. And I think the last couple of years being an entrepreneur, I learned to not plan too far because our long-term plan is like, I'm gonna be a millionaire and I'm gonna get in five years. But I think there's always that realistic step that you really need to plan out. And for me, the short-term is I am pregnant right now, I'm having a baby in November. So my biggest thing is I wanna take a maternity leave and really take care of myself because I need to make sure I am watered so that I'm able to provide for the team and for my family. So the biggest thing for the Qode Space future is looking for somebody to fill in my spot during maternity, which we already have things planned out.

But in the long-term, I see Qode Space really being an incubator for a lot of young females that want to learn more in tech. I am very big in education. I think that whether it's Canada or United States, there's a lot more investment that needs to happen in the STEM program to encourage girls to learn about coding, to learn about like what SEO is, what paid ads are, and a little bit deeper into data analytics, push them to do some computer science classes, you know, which is again, still an unpopular category in a lot of the educations.

So I see Qode Space continue to grow as a boutique agency. And I see myself investing a lot more time in A Major Asians because my passion personally is still to be very inclusive and support the people that look like me, that understands the struggle. Because I think being an immigrant here in the United States really taught me one, of course, the importance of community, but also to support. And I think that brings me so much joy when I see the younger version of me getting that help when I didn't have it back in the day. So that's kind of like always been my strive and my motivation to keep pushing on to do what I do.

Glynis Tao

So from that point, I just let me ask you one more question. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs based on your own experiences and lessons learned?

Carol Shih

I think that I always say this. If you're looking at your business, James Clear said, you don't rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems. And I think that's a quote that I really pulled close to my heart because I'm an operational and process person.

And I think that before you're thinking too far, like you said, where is your five-year, 10-year plan? I think before you even do that, you have to look at your systems in your business and see, is this system really going to lead me to that goal that I want? So one, asking for help, understanding your own weaknesses and surround yourself with people that will be willing to help you to kind of fulfill that weakness, but also really understands that your system, the process, your operations, everything should align with your long-term goals. So I truly live that by the heart.

Glynis Tao

Amazing. Where can people find you if they want to get in touch with you?

Carol Shih

You can find me on LinkedIn. I do post quite a bit there. You can also add me on social. My social name is Carol Shih, but my Instagram name is K-A-R-O-L and Z as in zebra, karolz. And my husband is a photographer, so a lot of the photos is a lie. I do not always look like that in person. Glynis knows that, but yes, you can find me in a lot of places and you can also find me on QodeSpace.com when you contact us.

Glynis Tao

Thank you so much, Carol, for being here today and talking to me, sharing your journey, your entrepreneurial journey with us. I had such a blast.

Carol Shih

Thank you so much. This is such a wonderful podcast. We'll be spreading the word for you and I appreciate your friendship and your partnership. It's been so great connecting with you.