Pinsi Lei is the founder and CEO of Pinsi Lei Creative. Pinsi Lei Creative is a boutique creative agency in New York that specializes in branding, digital marketing, and design. They serve clients in industries ranging from fashion and lifestyle to education, real estate, and technology. Their team comprises top strategists, marketers and designers who have worked with the most prolific and fastest growing brands in America. They are driven by the desire to deliver exceptional results utilizing cutting edge strategies on the ever-evolving forefront of digital media and marketing.
Pinsi is a celebrity photographer and digital consultant serving fashion and lifestyle brands as well as high net worth individuals, including Warren Buffet, Kate White and Sheryl Sandberg. Previously she was also a coordinator for TEDX events and New York Fashion Week. Pinsi sits on the Young Professionals Board of Friends of the Children NY and is an active member of the Clinton Foundation 20/30. She is a classically trained pianist and competitive equestrian. As a Williams College alum with a triple major in art history, studio art and psychology, she serves on the executive board of Williams’ New York Alumni Network. A Guam native, she currently resides in the Upper West Side of New York City. We became fast friends when we worked together a few years ago, and I always love learning more about all she has accomplished.
Pinsi Lei, Founder and CEO of Pinsi Lei Creative
What inspired you to start Pinsi Lei Creative?
I’ve always loved design and thinking outside the box, but never knew I could monetize my passion until my first client found me on LinkedIn. I distinctly remember sitting down at our first meeting when he asked me, “So how much do you charge per hour?” I was shocked. I thought we were just chatting about online marketing.
After college, I moved to NYC and continued to freelance while working full-time jobs. I would go to client meetings at 8 am before going to my day job. I remember thinking, is this what being an entrepreneur is like?
After working at a couple startups, you quickly amass skills you’d never thought you’d learn in departments you’d never thought you’d work in. I was in sales, marketing, and operations. I realized that I had most of the skills I’d need to start my own business, so I did!
How did you decide to make the leap and start your own business?
I was always a rule-breaker, trying to create better processes and figuring out how to do something faster and better. This trait was not always appreciated by my managers.
Being my own boss was the only way I could fulfill my own potential. It’s the best career decision I’ve ever made.
You’ve worked with influential people like Warren Buffet, Kate White, and Sheryl Sandberg and brands like Google, Guggenheim, Random House, Journelle, Cosmopolitan, and Vera Wang. What was that experience like?
Many large companies come to us to act as a part of their marketing and creative department, whether it’s for a specific project or for the long-term growth of the company. Our work ranges from social media management, graphic design and photography to digital strategy planning and consulting.
Most of the time, our project is a piece of a larger puzzle. It’s important to know what that larger puzzle looks like because only then can you listen beyond what is directly asked of you and deliver past the expectations of your job. The goal of a consulting project may be a new marketing plan and the end goal of that marketing plan may be a certain increase in sales. It’s crucial to understand the big picture and find creative paths to reach those end goals.
One thing I’ve learned from working with powerful people is to not be afraid to question or challenge ideas that could have more depth. You know the saying that you’re supposed to hire people who are better than you in specific tasks? Even when your client is a high-powered individual, you have to remember that you may have more skills to contribute in your field than your client does. You were hired for a reason.
How do you go about finding and retaining new clients?
People remember you when you do good work. Most of my clients come from referrals! Networking has also been a huge source of business for me. Whether it was in my days working at startups or freelancing to the entrepreneurship conferences I attend now, I am always creating new relationships and meeting potential clients.
What is a day in the life of Pinsi like? Walk me through a day!
A typical day starts with walking my dog, Perry, followed by half a cup of coffee to jumpstart a workout. After breakfast, I look over my to-do list for the day, the week and month and see if I need to edit my priorities. It’s important to have structure, yet stay flexible within that structure to have maximum efficiency in your work day. Since most of our work is digital, I work mostly from home, but sometimes on-site at client offices if they are located in NYC.
I also travel often. When I’m away, like I am now, I have to organize my activities around the Eastern Time zone workday. I’m currently in Seoul, so I sleep from 6 pm to 12 am and work from 12 am to 8 am Seoul time, which is actually 10 am to 6 pm in NYC.
What advice do you have for other people who want to start a business?
Get all the help you can in the beginning. There’s no shame in asking for help. Build on others’ experiences! Never be afraid to take on more than you think you can handle. You can never reach your full potential because you can always outperform yourself. I’m not sure if that’s comforting for other people to hear, but it’s true.
What are some of the best things, and on the flip side the most challenging things, about starting your own business?
The best thing is working on projects you like and learning new skills you’re genuinely interested in. The most challenging thing is knowing when to turn your laptop off and recharge your mind, body, and soul. Entrepreneurs never know how to stop. It can turn into a big issue if you let it.
What have you learned about yourself as a result of starting your company?
What is on your desk right now?
Well, I’m currently in a hotel room in Seoul. I don’t have anything on my desk right now, but I can tell you that I’m looking out into the Seoul horizon watching the sunrise.
What is your advice for other young professional women?
Ask yourself: If not now, then when? If not me, then who? People care about action, not talk. If you can deliver, you’re golden.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Anything is possible.
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