He's a Vine star, (16M loops), is verified on Twitter, has an Insta-famous dog (24K followers), and big brands clamour for his work on national campaigns. This is reality for a Millennial gamechanger: meet Khoa Phan.
Recently, I launched a series that highlights standout young leaders. The first post, Millennials - Evolving Perception One Changemaker at a Time, featured Vikas Mohindra, a 29 year old Vice-President with Merrill Lynch. The series follows quick-hit Q&A insights from leaders in tech, finance, food and more, and evolves an assumption that millennials are lazy. Uncover what drives this generation as it continues with North American animator, Khoa Phan. Named a Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2014 for Marketing and Advertising and based in San Diego, the 26 year old entrepreneur has been featured in Mashable (as "Vine's Most Creative Stop-Motion Animator), was invited to Cannes Lions in 2015 to share his niche work, had his work nominated in the Tribeca Film Festival(Animate category), and was dubbed a new influencer by PR Week in early 2016.
He's worked with mega-brands such as Target, Peanuts Worldwide, Chevrolet,Samsung, Swiffer, MTV and many more to breathe life into brand storytelling through stop-motion animation. Here's what motivates Khoa's creativity, and what inspires him the most:
1) What motivates you most? My family and my doubters. I’m want to make my parents proud – to give them good things to say about me to their friends – and to not bring shame to our family. I’m also motivated by my doubters: I always thought outside the box and explored where I saw potential, but it got me weird looks. I was made fun of for using social media many years back, and now, it’s a big and powerful tool. Who knew sharing pictures would be the norm?
2) What 3 items can you not live without? Internet access, air conditioning, and water.
3) On any given day, what are the top 3 ways you communicate? Email, messaging (texting – IM app), and calling.
4) How do you know you've made it? When my parents said that they were proud of my work (without questioning it). As typical Asian parents, they pushed me to be a doctor – and I went as far as Harvard to start that pursuit – toward a career with financial stability. I changed my route. While they were initially disappointed, they’re now very content with what I’m doing with my life.
5) Most concerned about 10-20 years from now? Will I still be working and be able to pay for my future bills? What will the state of my country (the US) be? Will there be robots blending among us?
6) Who inspires you the most? My deaf sister. She grew up without the ability to hear, something others wouldn't consider a "luxury." Life was harder for her: she was teased and made fun of. People would say nasty things because she couldn’t hear them. When you’re deaf, it makes learning harder too. Despite these hardships – she continues to live life to the fullest. If she can overcome obstacles, I can too.
7) Advice you'd give your 16 year old self? Not care what people think. I learned many people will doubt you, but they don’t deserve your attention. You will eventually prove them wrong, and all of those moments of self-doubt will seem pointless.
8) What 3 characteristics do you think millennials exhibit most often? They're great multi-taskers, are tech-savvy, and are free thinkers.
9) In your current business, what 3 aspects are a must? To have fun - not goofing around - but "fun" in that what I work on should make me happy. Second, to have plenty of creative freedom. I'm not egocentric – but I do what is best for the client and their audience. If you come to me for help, don’t micro-manage my job (otherwise, what’s the point in allowing artistic license?). Lastly, travelling: I’m young and I want to go to as many places as I can!
10) What are you afraid of? Failure. We all fail at some point in our lives, but it’s never a great feeling. I work really hard to never get to that point. I’m not perfect – no one is – but I strive to be the best in everything I do.
11) Where do you look first for the latest news/trends? Social media is where I get my latest news from. It’s a quick go-to.
12) Failure is.... disappointing my family and/or myself.
13) What you hope to accomplish by Dec 31, 2016? More free time to do “nothing” – to sit back and learn to not have work on my mind. Free time is a hard thing to come by. I don’t hate what I’m doing, so work isn’t bad, but I want to have moments I can enjoy.
14) When you leave a legacy, what will it be? I want to be remembered as someone that inspired others. I want to publish a book (but my life isn’t interesting enough…yet!), and to tell future generations how I overcame struggles. I want to show that coming from nothing doesn’t mean that you won’t have success, it just means that you’ll have more obstacles to overcome to reach your future goals.