Featured Story By: Jon Stojan

Having a vacation request denied six years ago was one of the best things that could have happened to e-commerce expert Melisa Vong.

In 2017, Vong was denied a time-off request for a trip she had already booked and paid for, despite having given over a month’s notice. This incident made her realize that even though she was entitled to two weeks of vacation per year, her employer controlled when she could take it.

With the cost of living at an all-time high in Toronto, Vong only had a $32,000 salary to sustain her lifestyle, with the rent on her 650-square-foot condo eating away most of her paycheque like for many others eager to live in a big city. “I had to look for ways to supplement my income if there was any chance of my being able to survive, let alone have that white picket fence and family I’ve always dreamed of,” Vong says.

She learned basic code and taught herself how to develop e-commerce websites for clients, which she could complete over a weekend. Seeing some of her clients selling products online and generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales, she decided to start her own company and developed her own line of branded botanical skincare and beauty products, which brought in over US$30,000 in the first month of listing her products on Amazon. This was more than what she was making in an entire year at her job, and it gave her the confidence to quit and focus on her business full-time, all while taking back her life and going on that vacation she had been so wrongfully denied.

That same beauty brand was acquired in 2019, and Vong also co-founded Orphic Nutrition, a sports supplement company, alongside Bryce Alderson, a former professional soccer player for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Orphic Nutrition was then acquired shortly after by SellerX, an aggregator with a billion-dollar unicorn valuation that has raised over $750M to date and buys companies like Vong’s that have a strong presence on Amazon, the global online retail giant.

Vong notes that “what many people don’t realize is that when they are purchasing a product on Amazon’s marketplace, it is very likely that they are buying from small businesses like mine.” As of 2021, third-party sellers accounted for approximately 58 percent of the total sales on Amazon. There are over 2.5 million active third-party sellers on Amazon worldwide, with their average annual revenue being around $100,000.

After working hard for five straight years, Vong can now say it was all worth it and jokingly adds, “Jeff Bezos basically paid for my house.” Today, Vong is an instructor for Foundr, teaching people the fundamentals of selling on Amazon, and operates an incubator, Buzzin Brands, to accelerate the growth of her own brands as well as service companies she is an investor for or advisor to.

Vong’s incubator is the catalyst to her most recent rising-star company, Zoomi Pets, which offers a line of functional supplements for pets and was inspired by her dog, Mochi, whom Vong calls her “pandemic pup” since she adopted the furry companion during the height of lockdown in 2020. Mochi is even featured on the brand’s first-ever launched product, the Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil Skin & Coat Supplement for Dogs.

For decades, the concept of “having it all” has been a common goal for women. It involves being successful in every aspect of life, including love, health, career or business and personal life. However, many women have struggled with achieving this ideal, leading some to question whether having it all is even possible. Vong’s inspiring story seems to shatter glass ceilings and limiting beliefs.

Vong has had over $25M in sales on Amazon alone across all of her brands, allowing her to do what she loves, build her dream home in the Silicon Valley of Canada, finance her mother’s retirement and invest in other passion projects and businesses, like the Waterloo Trapped escape room facility she plans to open in the fall of 2023.

With the right mindset, strategies and support, women can absolutely have it all. Here are some of our takeaways from sitting down with this impressive Canadian businesswoman, who provided insight on how she built her dream life and how you can also achieve success and fulfillment in your own life.

What does “having it all” mean to you, and how does one even begin to achieve that?

“‘Having it all’ means different things to different people. For me, it’s about achieving a balance between different aspects of my life—business, family, health, love and personal growth. It’s not about having everything perfectly in place but, rather, feeling fulfilled and content with where I am at any given moment.

“In terms of how to start achieving this balance, I think it starts with setting clear priorities and goals for each area of your life. It’s important to be realistic and honest with yourself about what you want to achieve and what is feasible given your current circumstances. From there, it’s about making consistent efforts to work toward those goals while also being flexible and adaptable when things don’t go as planned. Also, setting your ego aside and relinquishing the need to do everything yourself are important steps to being able to scale in business and life in general.

“Ultimately, I believe that achieving a sense of balance and fulfillment in life is a continual journey, not a destination. It requires ongoing self-reflection, goal-setting and course-correction along the way. But with patience, perseverance and a growth mindset, it’s definitely possible to move closer toward fulfillment in all aspects of your life.”

What advice would you give to someone who’s looking for that level of fulfillment in their life, which you’ve accomplished at such a young age?

“The first step is setting clear and achievable goals. Start by identifying what you want in each area of your life, whether it’s a promotion at work, a million-dollar business, a fulfilling relationship or a healthy work-life balance. Once you know your priorities, work backwards and make a plan for how you will achieve them. This could involve seeking out mentors or coaches, attending networking events or taking classes to develop new skills.

“Another important aspect is learning to prioritize your time and energy. It’s impossible to be everything to everyone all the time, so you need to identify what matters most to you and focus on those things. This may mean saying no to certain opportunities or delegating tasks to others. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help or support when you need it and, most importantly, to find a support network or tribe to keep you accountable and inspire you to go after what you want.

“Also, don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20. It’s easy to get caught up in the highlight reels on social media and get discouraged when it seems like everyone and their dog is doing better than you. Remember that everyone’s life journey is unique and comparing yourself to others is not productive. You may encounter challenges and setbacks along the way, but it’s important to stay focused on your own path and trust the process. Keep working hard and stay true to your vision and you will eventually reach your own epilogue.”

How do you choose what products to sell and why?

“I like to sell products that I personally use in my everyday life, and naturally a lot of those products are consumables. Consumables are goods that people purchase typically for immediate consumption, such as food or household items. By using data from plug-ins like Helium 10, I am able to make strategic decisions about whether a product is worth pursuing or not, and then I find ways to brand and differentiate my products. I just love that I can make even the smallest difference in someone’s life, whether it’s helping them feel more confident, giving them more energy or helping their pet live their best life through the products we bring to market.”

Do you have a special someone in your life?

“Yes! My fiancé is one of my favourite human beings in my life. He’s my biggest cheerleader and gives off ‘golden retriever’ energy, which I love.”

How did you meet?

“We met at a business conference, believe it or not.”

How did you know he was the right partner for you?

“When it comes to love and relationships, it’s important to be intentional and proactive. When my fiancé and I first started dating, we treated it almost like how we would a start-up or business partnership. We outlined everything we wanted in a life partner to make sure we were on the same page and because we highly respected each other; we didn’t want to waste each other’s time. Within three months of dating, we went on vacation together—the same vacation I was denied from, actually—and that was sort of our litmus test. You learn a lot about someone when you travel with them. And within eight months of dating, we were living together, which was the ultimate test. Seven years later, we’re stronger than ever! Thinking back, quitting my job and going on that vacation were two of the best decisions I ever made.”

It’s interesting how you approached your relationship like a business. I would imagine that dating when you’re a busy entrepreneur is difficult. Any advice on how to balance your work life with your love life?

“First and foremost, it’s essential to have a partner who supports and understands your passion for your work. Communication is key, and it’s important to have open and honest conversations with your partner about your schedules and make sure they understand the bigger picture of why you are doing what you’re doing and how it will benefit you both as a team.

“For me, it was super important that my partner be either an entrepreneur himself or also ambitious with his own goals. It’s hard to build a business if the person you’re with isn’t supportive or doesn’t understand the hectic lifestyle that comes with the territory, especially during the early stages. No one’s perfect, and whenever there’s a problem, it’s important that we understand it’s not me versus him but us versus the problem so that way we can tackle the problem as a team.

“It also helps that we make sure to schedule time with each other, just as I would for an important meeting or deadline. Whether it’s a weekly date night or a weekend getaway, carving out time for your relationship is crucial for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. For us, we like to cook together, and dinner is our time. We always wind down in the evening with a show or we’ll play a board game or Hogwarts Legacy together.”

Vong concludes our conversation by saying “Having it all is possible for women, but it requires intentionality, planning and support. By setting clear goals, prioritizing your time and energy, balancing your work and personal lives, being proactive about relationships and building a support system, you can achieve success in every aspect of your life. So go ahead, dream big and go after what you want!”


KO Media newsroom and editorial staff were not involved in the creation of this content.