Success Story: 36paths

36paths helps students land a great finance job in Canada faster by having experienced finance professionals (not generic career advisors) coach them 1-on-1 throughout the entire job search journey. They provide 100% personalized coaching services to help students gain industry insights, create actionable career plans, perfect resume & cover letter, and improve interview & networking skills. Meet 36paths Founder & CEO, Shawn Huang, and learn about his entrepreneurial journey.

Shawn, tell us about yourself.

My name is Shawn and currently I am running 36paths.com, an online career accelerator that helps students land great finance jobs in Canada faster. Before I became a full-time entrepreneur, I worked as Product Manager at Scotiabank and Overbond (a VC-backed FinTech startup in Toronto). Prior to my FinTech Product career, I was part of the Investment Banking team at Cantor Fitzgerald and the Capital Markets group at Scotiabank. I got my Master of Accounting degree from University of Toronto and I am a CFA charterholder as well as a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA).

I consider myself a reformed finance professional turned entrepreneur. I am passionate about finance, technology, product, entrepreneurship and spirituality. I read a lot (mostly non-fiction) and try to meditate and work out daily.

Give us some background on 36paths and how you got started as an entrepreneur.

I have always been entrepreneurial since I was a teenager. My first entrepreneurial experience was to sell Nike sneakers I sourced from Alibaba to my friends in real life and pocketed the profit. That was in 2006 when e-commerce was just starting to take off in China. I have had various gigs since then from math tutor to personal stylist. 

But 36paths is my first full-time entrepreneurial experience. It was not something I planned for to be honest. The idea came to me after I realized I could not handle all the LinkedIn messages and emails from finance job seekers looking for help. So I said to myself, why don’t I throw up a landing page and see if I can create a business out of it? I did just that in August 2017 and have been able to land more paying customers over the years. 

In May 2019, I decided to quit my corporate job to devote all my time to 36paths. It was a scary decision to give up my corporate job and stable pay cheques, but I didn’t regret my decision. Since committing to 36paths full-time, I have been able to further grow the client list, expand the coaching team to 15 experienced finance professionals, and more importantly help thousands of job seekers successfully launch their finance career in Canada.

What first inspired you to become an entrepreneur and start 36paths?

It is challenging to pinpoint one thing or person that inspired me to start my entrepreneurial journey. But if I have to name one with the biggest influence, I would say it’s the Indie Hackers podcast. It really opened my eyes to see folks from all walks of life creating profitable businesses while being the solo founder. With free yet wonderful tools like Google Drive, Zoom, Slack accessible to all, it has never been easier to get started. And I am glad I took the plunge.

What are some key lessons that being a business owner has taught you?

The three key lessons I’ve learned in starting a business:

First, just get started. A lot of us have interesting ideas that never get executed. Getting started can be scary and sometimes it is the hardest thing. I definitely had doubts about 36paths before I launched it. What if it’s a failure? What if I cannot land any customers? What if my friends and colleagues laugh at me? Fear of failure and embarrassment is real but embracing it head-on and getting started is the best cure.

Second, experiment a lot. For 36paths, I tried various business models such as one-off sessions, e-commerce store, income share agreement and eventually settled on the fixed-term programs. But I am still experimenting with new ideas such as partnering with business schools, creating an online course to scale my coaching, and launching a podcast where I interview seasoned finance professionals.

Third, running a business is hard. Anyone who tells you otherwise has no idea what he/she is talking about. I have definitely had my peaks and valleys. Those dark days are still vivid in my head. Especially running a business as a solo founder, it is easy to fall into the downward spiral of depression. What I found helpful is to get clear on my purpose, reach out to my support network, and meditate often.

Fill in the blank: The most rewarding part of doing what I do everyday is…

The best part of running a business has to be the incredible agility and freedom. I mean I can change my landing page copy in hours instead of months. I don’t have to obtain approvals when I want to launch a new product. I get to decide everything because ultimately it is my business.

Any future plans or goals for 36paths that you’d like to share?

Yes, lots of exciting things in the pipeline such as a job board designed for entry-level finance jobs in Canada, an online course on how to successfully job hunt, and a podcast where I interview seasoned finance professionals.

I am particularly excited about the job board idea. I plan to launch a job board dedicated to entry-level finance job seekers in Canada. Since the COVID-19, I have been curating a weekly list of finance jobs that I openly shared to all in this Google sheet, which has received a lot of interest and positive feedback. Therefore, I plan to scale it up to a proper job board where employers can post opportunities as well.

Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Beside the three lessons I shared above, one piece of advice I have for aspiring entrepreneurs is to be authentic. You don’t have to copy what successful big players are doing. Just be yourself and you will be able to slowly but surely build up your audience. I am a firm believer that to make a living as a creator, you only need 1,000 true fans, not millions of followers.

Where can people learn more about 36paths?

Website: https://www.36paths.com/

Shawn Huang – LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/theshawnhuang/ 

36paths – LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/36paths/


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