Wilson Wong: Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur

Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Visual Communications, Wilson Wong has been busy wearing two hats – running a creative agency and a film site dedicated to the local Calgary movie scene keeps this young entrepreneur’s agenda full. Between running events, dreaming up his next big pitch, and spending time with his family, he took a few minutes to share his insight on being a young entrepreneur…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
Depends on which hat I’m wearing.

As co-owner and VP of Creative Services at Everbrave, my role is leading our creative team to solve complex creative challenges in a simple and powerful way. Each day, I am fortunate to help our clients achieve business success through the development and creation of meaningful brand solutions. Our goal here at Everbrave is to dig deeper for brand insights and help transition our client’s brands from good to legendary.

And for my other hat…

As co-owner of CalgaryMovies.com, I lead the company’s marketing and sponsorship development and work with aspiring filmmakers, writers, producers, and distributors to promote their latest and greatest films. Working closely with local film festivals, film events and organizations, our goal at CalgaryMovies.com is to help build and elevate Calgary’s film scene.

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I should probably go a little ways back to explain where it all began. At a young age my older brother was recognized as a very talented artist and taught me a great deal about drawing fundamentals and later on, shared his knowledge of creative programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Quark Express. He was my inspiration and led me to embark upon my own creative path. I graduated from ACAD with a Bachelor or Arts degree in Visual Communications in 1999 and started working at a small design and advertising agency called Space Relations (that later merged to become what is now, Strut Creative, here in Calgary). Six years later, I decided to go out on my own and give freelancing a try. During this time, I worked with some great agencies here in Calgary (WAX, Tag Advertising, ZGM and Highwood Communications to name a few). In 2006, I partnered up with a fellow ACAD grad, Brianne Hamilton, and we incorporated Squeeze Creative. We were looking to make a mark in the industry and provide top-notch creative with a very strategic and meaningful approach. In September 2014, we made our next big move by merging with RFX to become Everbrave Branding Group.

And how does CalgaryMovies.com fit in? The website was born in 1998. I had designed the second and third versions of CalgaryMovies.com between 1999-2003 for the previous owner, Blaine Wasylkiw. In 2006, he moved to Sacramento and put the website up for bid. Over the years, the site had become my baby too so I didn’t want to see it go. My long time friend, Christopher Lee, joined me in purchasing the site in 2006. We’ve since updated the site to what you see today. Because of the love of film and our great city, we’ve kept the site alive and further enhanced the site to support and promote our local film scene and local talents. It’s now one of the oldest and longest running websites born-and-raised in Calgary. 

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best part is definitely being able to work and collaborate with passionate and talented creative people and amazing clients. The most challenging part is feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day and wishing I could do more.

What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
Technology is great and it gives us the ability to do our jobs much faster and better. BUT this also means we are expected to do it faster and cheaper. Back in the day, we would have had at least one month to work on a creative piece, but in this day and age, we are expected to turn it around in less than a week. I still remember the days when we would shoot on film and then have it developed and scanned and this process alone would take a couple weeks! Because of the advancements in technology, we’re pressured to come up with creative in a very short timeline so it can be tough to find that balance at times. 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I would love to oversee an even larger team of talented, creative people as part of Everbrave’s new and exciting core offerings and be working with a passionate network of clients. On the CalgaryMovies.com side, we’re considering growth and expansion plans. And personally, I’m hoping I could be teaching part-time at ACAD.

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
In 2009, we had our most successful year but also our worst year to date. We branded two major international events here in Calgary and at the end of the contracts, the client defaulted on their payment and filed for bankruptcy. It resulted in a huge financial struggle for us, outstanding debts to our suppliers and partners, layoffs and definitely took a toll on our moral. It took us about three years to recover and get back on track. Although it was a challenging time, we learned a great deal about who we are, what we wanted to do and how to protect ourselves moving forward. It was an expensive lesson to learn but what we learned was priceless.

As part of overcoming the challenge, we hired a business coach to work with us. We had some great moments of discovery as individuals and as business owners. The process helped us make some very tough decisions and, at the end of the day, helped us open new doors and opportunities. We also found the strength of our relationships with our families, friends and partners develop even more during the tough times.

What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Although money is important, it is not what I work for. My success is measured by how I can empower others to do more or do better.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
When I made the decision to leave my job to start my freelance career. I had no clue what I was in for but everything worked out and the rest is history.

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
This may sound cliché but follow your passion and work your ass off. Be authentic and build good relationships. Don’t be a jack-of-all-trades and align yourself to other experts. Share everything you’ve learned with people who want to learn.

Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
My favourite place is NOtaBLE. Casual atmosphere, amazing food and service is consistently good.

When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
Having two businesses and numerous activities with my kids, doesn’t afford me a lot of “me time”. But when I do, I like to take my classic mini for a drive around town – stop at Higher Grounds or Purple Perk, order a cappuccino and then catch up on my reading and sketching.

Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
It doesn’t matter where you go it’s about whom you’re there with. But my most memorable trip was when my wife, girlfriend at the time, was teaching in Japan and I went to visit her. It was my first time in Japan and I hadn’t seen her for over half a year. Japan is amazing in so many ways. It’s modern, polite, perfection, traditional, orderly, hardworking, clean, secretive and sexually messed up. All of these characteristics are reasons why I love that place. Japan has their own take on everything and they make it 10 times better. The food is amazing because of their perfectionist nature. Most restaurants serve one item and it’s their best item. They give great care in their presentation.

If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
“Seven Army Nation” by The White Stripes

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I would be a furniture restorer and/or furniture maker.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
First, my church, my faith and my God. Here are some other charities that I personally support(ed) with my company, either in terms of time, money or both:

Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area – Helped rebrand and build all of their marketing materials.

Kelly Kirsch Breast Cancer Gala – Supported for two years to design everything required for fundraising events.

Children’s Hospital – My daughter had complications at birth and had two surgeries before she was one. We couldn’t have handled the situation as well if it wasn’t for the amazing doctors, nurses, and support staff.

What to you is notable?
Giving unconditionally. Being thankful of everything. Teaching and being taught.

Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
iPhone all the way. 


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