Planning Ahead

When Linda Tong started playing around with bullet journals, she never suspected it would turn into an entrepreneurial endeavor. But, after creating one for herself that impressed her coworkers, who placed orders for their own followed by friends and family, the idea of a business formed.

Before she knew it, word of her unique hand-designed planners spread and more orders, this time from complete strangers, started flowing in. As a current student at Iowa State University, Linda had no intentions of starting a business at the time but decided this was something she wanted to pursue and maintain.

That was three years ago. Today, Linda is completing her senior year of college with majors in vocal music and event management, with entrepreneur added to her resumé.

Linda Tong smiling as she stands outside.

“It kind of just fell into my lap when people started making orders,” Linda said. “It started more as a side hustle to do during my free time but kicked off one summer. I’ve always been entrepreneurial and wanted to come up with more ideas.”

With a new opportunity to use her natural art skills and learned entrepreneurial skills, Linda embraced the life of a small business owner and student. With art skills that stemmed from a childhood filled with art lessons from her dad along with art classes, Linda first saw the bullet journaling trend and fell in love with the idea of personalizing her own planner.

She toyed with designs throughout high school and into college, where she was then introduced to her entrepreneurial talents in a required course where she won the class’ showcase competition. From there, she went on to participate in and win several pitch and business model competitions and be accepted into the entrepreneurial business accelerator program where she received mentorship and had weekly meetings with a cohort of young entrepreneurs.

After growing her planners business from her apartment and finding a balance between running a business and staying on top of school work, Linda Tong Planners now has its own website and mass produces planners each year with themes that are voted on by her customers each January.

Though her website offers a great way to interact with customers, Linda was searching for a more intimate connection. Though she wasn’t big into social media before starting her business, she found a unique opportunity and community of small business owners and artists on the app TikTok and began creating videos of her own. One video went viral and has since garnered over 50 thousand followers to her TikTok page as well as her Instagram account.

“I was really hesitant on joining TikTok at first, thinking it was for younger people who wouldn’t like my content,” Linda said. “But I got hooked and saw there was a platform for small business owners and other artists, and seeing their success inspired me to join.”

It began as an educational platform with lessons and advice in bullet journaling, such as how to create and customize her journals’ lifestyle pages, which include different pages for tracking anything from your mood, favorite Bible verses and finances to workouts, productivity and homework. Then, she started making videos offering small business advice to others just starting out.This interaction with fellow small business owners inspired Linda Tong Planners’ newest product, a small business planner, that will be offered in 2021 alongside her usual planners and personalized orders. With a bright future ahead as her college graduation looms closer, Linda looks forward to finding a new space for her business along with helping and investing in other small businesses.

Published October 8, 2020

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