Spotlight on Charlotte Wang

23Feb
Blog

Spotlight on Charlotte Wang

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What Makes a Great Impact Entrepreneur?

We know that your business was inspired by your own personal experience as a child, as well as the birth of your first child. What do you think allowed you to overcome personal and logistical problems to start a business aimed at helping provide a more sustainable energy solution for this generation and those to come?

Charlotte: The credit for my successes should definitely go to my family, work team, friends and mentors. My husband Zhiyong, as well as my parents, have continuously supported my work and plans.  They have patiently arranged their schedules to allow me to put in the erratic and long hours entrepreneurship requires, especially in the first year of starting up the business.  Each week, we tried to determine a schedule that allowed me to be not too “far” from family gatherings, dinner time, and kids events.  They remained understanding of my odd hours and my periodic “disappearance” for last minute meeting requests from clients. They were there to support me physically and mentally.

Time with my two girls gave me precious moments to pause and rethink. Those quality times nurtured my mind and allowed me to recharge and reconnect with why I started this business and how I want a cleaner environment for their generation. We work hard to make sure the entire team understands EQuota’s mission. We have bonded together because we all carry the same passion and belief to apply technology toward a low carbon future, working very hard with great responsibilities and impact-driven mindsets. I also have created routine calls with chosen mentors and advisors, discussing the latest business growth, issues and struggles. They are constantly reminding me to step out of current tasks, and focus on the top priorities, instead of dealing with many things at once. It is quite a micro-ecosystem created to help me aim toward the goals and move forward.

We have bonded together because we all carry the same passion and belief to apply technology toward a low carbon future, working very hard with great responsibilities and impact-driven mindsets.

No doubt, there are many tough and challenging moments in making decisions, and in working with and understanding each client. I find I still have so much to learn and keep the team more grounded, understanding the needs. When times get tough, I look back to the first project site, reviewing the results. I know we are doing the right things. This is my fallback cushion which gives space to take a step back and look at the bigger picture when I feel overwhelmed. It reminds me sometimes things just need time (which as an impact entrepreneur, I tend to forget.).

You mentioned the many obstacles you had to overcome at every stage of business development. Do you think that these challenges are universal to women impact entrepreneurs?

Charlotte: I think challenges can be are universal, especially for women working in a technical background.  In traditional manufacturing and utilities businesses, the majority of decision makers are male. The challenges range from interior decision hierarchy to the expectation placed on women to be the ones to settle for less. There are pre-assumptions of women’s work, expectations of female to take on supporting roles in commercial discussions, local and culturally inflicted gender roles, conflict of conventional thinking when introducing innovative technology (even with great results), issues surrounding structural racism and bias, local recruitment problems (when they thought you are a fake company when see female leader), ensuring timely and accurate payments, and even finding a suitable nursing place during a business trip.

Often even society’s expectation of middle-aged women to spend more time with family than focusing on their career career, despite how many young females are joining the workforce, can prove to be a huge barrier to entrepreneurial success. We truly need the whole society to realize the value of women’s contribution to professionals and personal life.

What do you think the biggest challenges facing women impact entrepreneurs are today? What do you see as biggest opportunities?

To be recognized and to establish one’s voice are the biggest challenges. Today women impact entrepreneurs are still facing the situation of explaining why one has chosen an impact entrepreneurship journey. How to carry the torch and make people aware of the impact is the foremost important conversation before getting into the details of a project discussion. There are a lot of opportunities existing in the social impact field. There is a myth that we need to exchange the economic growth for impact results. Sometimes we need to rethink our approach to the public audience, the potential target customers, and onsite operational teams. They would rather see the direct results before discussion of impact results.

The biggest opportunities are the market moving towards recognizing that impact driven business, women demonstrate results-driven efforts and empathy.

What do you think are the key characteristics, particular to women impact entrepreneurs, that enable them to thrive in leveraging business as a force for good?

Charlotte: You see similar key characteristics in the quality work of professionals, like courage, persistence, integrity, strength of will and character, and ability to inspire. With women impact entrepreneurs, you often see characteristics like empathy, patience, strength and endurance when facing the tough situations and looking at the situation with the long term in mind. These traits have the ability to bring the results beyond discussion – fostering inclusivity, and assertive yet understanding dialogue. No doubt, women impact entrepreneurs are often more willing to take on an existing social problem and find solutions with great impact.

Doing business as a force for good provides a different point of view as one looks for a solution through a different lens.

Through EQuota work, we have interacted with many on-site operators dealing with terrible environments in manufacturers and coal-fired power plants. We listen for our clients’ technical and environmental improvement requests. It is hard to see people in their mid-age fighting lung disease due to polluted air, and due to the exposure to caustic dirt, being unable to get their hands clean. We also see the utility and grid network seeking the solutions for more clean energy but lacking a digital transformation path. Technology in these areas can bring tremendous changes for clients to select greener energy source, safer working environment for low-carbon future.

Doing business as a force for good provides a different point of view as one looks for a solution through a different lens. We have seen that impact results do not require the society to sacrifice or reduce economic development. It is obvious.  To solve their problems, we must provide them additional benefits for their business. In other words, we understand their needs and can demonstrate beneficial results. Finally, in building an impact community to create a platform to the public, it allows them to use the impact business instead.

You have a background in research and business development. How are you able to leverage this knowledge and skill set to help grow your business and address the problem of fossil-fuel-related pollution in China and beyond?

Charlotte: I am an engineer by training, and quite a linear logical thinker. My research experience helps me to consider problems and issues and compartmentalize my emotions.  I can directly look at the approaches on how to solve the problems - what is the pre-assumption, how to get the results, what are the possible solutions, build it, test it, then alternate, then test again. When we identify the problem, get the solution, and validate the solution with our first customers, we are on the path of scaling the product and service. My previous business experience, especially the last startup experience, directed me to understand how policy and capital play in enterprise business development. With China’s commitment to a carbon neutral plan, we have seen significant policy support on shifting from fossil-fuel-related pollution to diverse clean energy options.

It is our generation’s duty, with every effort, to look deeply into how to solve this issue from a holistic view.

If you could meet yourself a few years ago, prior to starting EQuota, what advice would you give yourself?

Charlotte: I would tell myself: Do not hesitate, work on the idea and realize it; Keep finding the people with the talents you need but who also carry the same passion on social impacts and work together. Be bold; Do not let any reason stop your dream. Ask for help (the worst they could say is no.)  Do not take social status or hierarchy too seriously. Hug your loved ones more and tell your role models (my father in particular encouraged me to establish EQuota, but passed away during the early years of EQuota) how grateful I am for all their advice and support to allow me to be who I am, despite the many traditional Chinese expectations for a girl’s life. Express more appreciation to people who help you and your family. 

Be bold; Do not let any reason stop your dream.

Do you have any last words of advice to women seeking to drive change through entrepreneurship?

Charlotte: Take a step forward, you will see the difference you made. Follow your heart, life won’t disappoint you. The journey to the West (college study, years of working experience, and then graduate schooling U.S), began with so many uncertainties as I kept stepping forward. Life granted me so many rewards, surprises and amazing friends along the way. The journey back to the East (leaving the comfortable life style in the U.S. to pursue my dream of a low carbon future for the next generation in China, and entering a tough working environment of coal-fired power plants and manufacturers), has given great rewards and positive results. Though entrepreneurship often requires many attempts and obvious challenges within business, technology and acceptance of new changes in society, staying true to who we are and our goals for social impact, I truly believe, will see our plan fully realized.

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