She Quit Her Job and Built a Business: Now She Works 3 Hours and Earns Over $1.7 Million a Year

At the age of ten, Jenny Woo learned to read non-verbal social cues. She had no English skills and had to emigrate from China to Houston, Texas (USA). She primarily communicated with her peers by observing their body language and listening to their voices to learn what excited, inspired, or angered them. Her story of overcoming adversity has gone viral on social media.

Woo honed her ability to communicate better with managers after utilizing her emotional intelligence (EI) skills at corporations like Deloitte and Cisco. She also worked at her children’s Montessori school in Southern California for a while.

While working on her master’s degree at Harvard University in 2018, she invested $1,000 from her savings to launch Mind Brain Emotion, which sells EI-focused card games on Amazon. Last year, the side business generated $1.71 million on Amazon. Woo estimates that 40% of those revenues are profits.

Working 3 Hours a Week
Between her side business and her other three current income streams: lecturing at the University of California Irvine, running an online course on EI, and independent business consulting, she works between three and 30 hours a week, she tells CNBC Make It. Her workload depends on the season, and her multiple income sources allow her to completely disconnect when her three children are home.

How She Manages Her Business
Woo discusses how she set up her side business, why she chooses to run it alone, and her advice for anyone wanting to replicate her path. “It’s a very intentional choice for me to be the [sole] founder. From my experience in the corporate world and at Harvard Innovation Labs, I’ve seen co-founders really spiral out [and ruin friendships]. I really wanted to avoid that,” she shared.

“It also helps with scheduling. I started this as a full-time student and mother. Now, I like being able to travel with my three kids. I can have control without feeling like I’m letting down [a partner],” she revealed. “As my kids grow up, I’d eventually like to operationalize and grow the business globally. I’m definitely looking to delegate and bring people onto my team, but only if they have the right talents,” she added.

Woo holds five academic degrees and a decade of experience working for corporations. Her advice for success: “First: never stop learning. I tell my students that I am first and foremost a lifelong learner and then an entrepreneur.”

“You also have to be your own cheerleader. When I was still learning English in high school and junior high, there were so many incidents where I felt so embarrassed, where I felt I wasn’t good enough, where I felt I knew nothing. [Navigating those] challenges can give you coping skills and make you more resilient. There will be critics and copycats. You just have to keep moving forward,” she shared.