Founder Stories

Why I Left A Six-Figure Job To Build A Breakup Bootcamp

If you told me that a heartbreak would be the basis of me starting a company, I would’ve called you batsh*t crazy.

Courtesy of Amy Chan

IfIf you told me that a heartbreak, debilitating depression, and thoughts of suicide would be the basis of me starting a company, I would’ve called you batshit crazy.

But maybe I was crazy all along. Because that’s exactly what I did. I’m now in my third year of building a startup that helps the brokenhearted, having moved to the city that never sleeps, and am living a life I never dreamed possible. And it all started with a breakup.

What I wanted to be when I grew up was the stuff of little girls’ dreams: Model. Fashion Designer. Wife. What my tiger parents wanted me to be was a striver: Lawyer. Doctor. Accountant.

And what actually happened? Club promoter. Marketer. And now, Entrepreneur-author-heartbreak guru.

Growing up in a suburb in British Columbia, my idea of “making it” was to get a six-figure job, buy the occasional designer handbag, and get married. I steadily climbed the corporate ladder, knowing eventually, I’d get off the ladder completely. I was dating an entrepreneur, we were living together, and my future path was set: destination, stay-at-home-wife. It was the only dream I knew.

But then one day, my plan fell apart, way apart. The relationship ended abruptly and traumatically. I went from being a stable, CEO’s-wife-in-training to homeless, boyfriendless, and identity-less.

Plot twist.

Having based much of my sense of worth and identity on him and the idea of “us,” when the relationship fell apart, I fell apart. Desperately, I searched for a safe place where I could receive the healing I so needed. I tried everything: therapy, acupuncture, reiki, meditation, chakra cleansing, psychic readings… you name it, I tried it. It was a dark, ugly road getting back up. But eventually I did — with more strength and resilience than ever.

The breakup was the shakeup I needed to redirect my life

Out with the old dreams, in with the new. I now had a blank canvas, and I was going to paint my new life the way I wanted. I plotted my future with the starry-eyed idealism of a child — anything, and everything was possible. I wanted to move out of Vancouver. I wanted to write a book. I wanted to start a company. I wanted to help others through their heartache. I had no idea where to start, but I knew where I wanted to go. Queue Beyoncé’s “Run the World,” thank you very much.

But, my zest for expansion wasn’t met with the same enthusiasm from my friends and family.

“It’s almost impossible to get a visa to work in the U.S. You’d be better off finding an American for a husband.”

“Most businesses fail after two years. I wouldn’t quit your day job.”

“You know you won’t make money writing a book, right?”

You can’t. You won’t. My lofty goals were met with doubt, cynicism, and a spew of reasons why I could not. Loaded with good intentions and unconscious projection, my friends and family wanted to protect me… from my dreams.

After all, the odds were just against people like us.

Daughter of immigrants. Middle class. Female. Ethnic.

They were right, the odds were not in my favor. The statistics were dreary. The struggling-to-settling stories were all too real.

But I noticed that the people who questioned my dreams had one thing in common: They were either projecting their own failures on me or they never dared to expand their own vision of what’s possible. The cynicism had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with a fear-based mindset. Just because my friends and family loved me, it didn’t mean they were equipped or capable of holding space for my aspirations — especially if my vision spanned beyond their range of comprehension.

I found that it’s the people who’ve known you the longest that are most resistant to your change. They’ve put you in a box that’s comfortable for them. They know where they stand in relation to you, with the labels that they assigned you. Any changes to that will mess up the equilibrium. They unconsciously want you to stay the same because that’s what’s familiar and feels safe.

Humans are naturally resistant to change. On a neurobiological level, we have a homeostasis — a balance and order of how things have been and should continue being. Anything that alters that homeostasis, even if that homeostasis is one of complacency, chaos, or fear, is experienced as threatening. Expansion, breaking out of the mold — is just too full of uncertainty and risk.

Who was I to dare think that I could leave my hometown of Vancouver and build the life of my dreams? They were right in that I didn’t have any superior skills or exceptional… anything. But, what I did have, was tenacity. And that was my ticket to get me where I wanted to be.

I took every doubt, every “no,” every “you’re crazy” and used it as fuel to my fire. Each time I was advised to humble my dreams, to be more realistic, I did not become discouraged, rather, I became more determined.

A breakup bootcamp is born

In 2017, I founded Renew Breakup Bootcamp. My company takes a scientific and spiritual approach to healing the heart. A team of 13 experts, called “heart hackers” — ranging from psychologists and hypnotists to energy healers — assist the brokenhearted to move forward, and hopefully, like my story, use their pain as a catalyst to grow.

I started the company as a “side hustle” while I was chief marketing officer of a national lifestyle company. I tried to juggle both, until I reached a decision point where I knew I had to either give the business my 100% focus, or it would turn into just another hobby. The decision to leave a six-figure job, along with all my equity on the table — was not an easy one. Concerned friends and fellow start-up founders advised me to keep my day job, or prepare to ride the rollercoaster of chasing cash flow and trying to stay afloat.

My CEO even offered to put more money on the table for me to stay. I loved my team. I got to do cool shit. I would be leaving something great. But as much as this would have been someone’s dream job, it wasn’t mine. I was at a crossroads, so I did what every strong, independent woman does.

I called my mom.

I asked her whether, if I took the jump and everything failed, if she’d let me come back home and live with her in Vancouver. She said yes. My worst-case scenario would still entail me having a roof over my head with the bonus of my mom’s home cooking. Not bad. I asked myself, If not now, then when?

With only a three-month runway, a bit of exhilaration, and a lot of holy-f-ck-am-I-really-doing this, I resigned.

It was the best decision of my life.

Within a year, Renew received national coverage from Nightline, Good Morning America, CNN, Fortune, Vogue, and was featured on the front page of the New York Times. By year two, I landed a book deal, a movie offer, and have been labeled as the “relationship expert whose work is like that of a scientific Carrie Bradshaw.” Renew has helped countless women process the pain of separation and move forward in a healthy way.

There have been ups and downs, and I embrace that it’s this very journey that makes the entrepreneurial ride fulfilling. The growth that has come from reframing my relationship with doubt, and alchemizing pain into creation — that is what I’m most proud of.

Chief Heart Hacker // Editor // @missamychan

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