Romy Samuel and Sophia Chang

Faces of Entrepreneurship: Sophia Chang and Romy Samuel, Common Ace

Our 'Faces of Entrepreneurship' for the week are Sophia Chang and Romy Samuel of Common Ace

Romy Samuel and Sophia Chang

Common Ace, a one-stop shop for women’s sneakers where technology and intelligent design connect to deliver a superior online customer experience, was launched this Spring by founders Romy Samuel and Sophia Chang. Sophia, who hails from Queens, New York, has managed to champion a name for herself in the art, design and streetwear community worldwide in less than a decade. Romy, born and raised in Australia and an avid sneaker collector, has strong ties to the streetwear community globally in addition to her long career in IT, telecommunications, publishing, banking and digital media.  

What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
Common Ace: Entrepreneurship means more than having just accomplished some sort of business venture with some level of success. It’s the specific innate desire to create an endeavor that stems from one’s passion, creativity and drive with a strong sense for other’s needs to make a shift in this world. So much of entrepreneurship to us is about building a great brand coupled with an ethos that provides a purpose to contribute to the greater good for our market.

How did your company come to be?
CA: We met at a sneaker event and instantly became best friends. Romy had moved from Australia to LA recently to jumpstart her idea of creating an aggregated marketplace for women’s sneakers. As soon as we met, we both realized we had to bring this vision to life as a team! Romy was one of very few women in the male-dominated industry of IT in the late 90s, creating a 15 year strong career in telecommunications, publishing, banking and digital media and in less than a decade I managed to champion a name for myself in the art, design and streetwear communities worldwide. With our immense professional and creative backgrounds in the industry we joined forces to create Common Ace, a curated one-stop shop marketplace for women’s sneakers.

How has your business changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
CA: We kept going and never stopped! We already had a finished product when COVID unfortunately took over the world and we looked at each other and knew it was time for us to launch. The world needed something new, something positive to look forward to and we wanted to jumpstart the journey to empower and rally the entire female global community to join us on the mission. The wave of support has been overwhelming and this is just the beginning!

What is your proudest and darkest moment so far? Share a key high and a key low from your journey if you can.
CA: Without a doubt the day we met was probably one of the biggest highlights in our journey! It’s been only upwards since then, no lows to speak of. We are big fans of Dr. Joe Dispenza who’s an expert in neuroscience of change and epigenetics. We’ve been huge advocates of his work and we truly believe that our goals, dreams, beliefs are all already a reality for us. We’re here to do the work and bring it to life! Quantum!

How is your company changing the landscape?
CA: As avid sneaker collectors ourselves, we were always very aware of the voids in the industry. Women have struggled for decades shopping for sneakers and even in the digital age, we’re still limited with options and trawling through the interwebs to find what we’re looking for. As collectors ourselves and active voices in the sneaker space, we wanted to create something for women by real women. Really venturing out to serve HER in every aspect, powered by our authentic voices and real intentions to bridge the gap.

What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
CA: 1000% we wouldn’t have done anything differently. Quite honestly everything thus far has been a fantastic learning experience and we love pivoting and adapting as our business grows. We are here to embark on the journey together and so blessed to have each other!

What advice/credo do you live by as you grow the business / what is your professional and personal mission statement?
Sophia: I’ve always loved the quote “Sky’s the Limit” truly this is something I fully live by. I have fully bought into the concept that if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything. We are on a long journey and we are tired of the mundane, we are here to pioneer the changes we want to see.
Romy: The biggest piece of advice that has resonated within and that I remind myself constantly is that this journey is a marathon and not a sprint. This vision will take time to manifest and for our northstar to come to true fruition we must have a well-paced rhythm that will ultimately complete all the strides it’s meant to take in due course.

Where do you find inspiration when faced with challenges?
CA: Inspiration is all around us. Though we don’t spend too much time obsessing over other people as we are focused steadfast on our mission as we know that we aren’t doing it just for us but for our global community. The female streetwear market is constantly overlooked and underserved so we are here to offer a unique curated marketplace. It’s clear that there are very few people really owning this space and fully serving the community.

What does “success” look like for you? What do you think will help you achieve it?
CA: So much of success really is about growing through learning about others, their needs and how we have made an impact to better serve our market. Staying the course, working with a team that is in alignment with this mindset will only bring this level of great success to life.

Romy Samuel and Sophia Chang quote

Has personal or professional “success” changed for you since the COVID-19 pandemic?
CA: We know we are in a very fortunate position to be embarking on such an exciting business venture with nothing but a bright future ahead of us but we are clear that many people are struggling and suffering. COVID has shed a lot of systemic issues within America from our education system, healthcare systems, justice systems and the list goes on. We know there is a long exciting road ahead and we’re blessed to be in the leadership positions we are in. Our long-term goals do include filling a C-suite that looks like the United Nations, full of diversity, and developing a pillar of our business that gives back to our communities. These things take time and the work we do now will build the foundation for us to meet these goals.

What’s it like to work alone or with your partners? What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs about building and leading teams?
CA: We are really lucky that we have a great personal and professional dynamic and sync with each other’s energies perfectly. We have a great balance with our responsibilities and strengths. Romy handles our tech and dev department and Sophia spearheads the marketing, strategy and creative. While the perfect chemistry is hard to come by we are really fortunate to have found each other — our dynamic and strengths really amplify more power to Common Ace’s success!

Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day? How has it changed in recent months?
Sophia: Maintaining a daily routine has been especially challenging since COVID. Every week has been different than the next (especially in the beginning of COVID around March) but we’ve been steadfast in adapting daily. My recent routine has been 10min yoga, followed by 10-15 meditation (from what I learned from Dr. Joe Dispenza) and I dive right into work. I am extremely organized and aim to make the most out of every minute every day possible. I am a huge fan of Cal Newport’s work and implementing different productivity techniques to better my workflow. I do a lot of pre-planning on a daily and weekly basis so I can optimize my workflow to stay on track with goals and tasks.
Romy: As a mother of two small kids, 3 cats (and a husband) routine has never been more important! Waking early for a meditation followed by some form of exercise whether it’s lifting weights, yoga or hiking always set’s my day in the right motion! COVID was the ultimate challenge as a working mum yet making space in the day to focus on Common Ace was so important to keep the train moving.

What keeps you motivated during this time?
CA: Just knowing the ripple effect our work will really have within this market. No one is speaking to this community at all in the right way and we are here to change all that. We are also working on a lot of exciting internal projects that will create a huge shift in our industry. We know there are many women that hold positions of influence in corporations but often need support to win the budgets, and get approvals on their ambitions. We’ve got a lot in store to support our consumer but even bigger, the global female sneaker community.

What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as, as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
CA: We want to be known as business owners that created a shift and flipped the industry on its head with the work we do.

What is a quote or some words of wisdom that help get you through the tough days?
CA: Each day is a new day, so if we have one bad one we’re sure the next will be the same. We’re both mature and seasoned to know what life brings and we’re good at striking the balance between our personal and professional lives. When one door closes another opens. We’re clear on our short term and long term goes and aim to never stay idle. We make sure that every day and every week is a stride towards our collective goals!

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