Mike Ang: The Pursuit of Happiness Across His Land of Dreams

Mar 2023

Mike is a creative writer, a producer and a serial entrepreneur in the lifestyle and entertainment industry. Trained as a civil engineer, Mike never gave up pursuing his dreams on the journey of self-discovery and limitless creativity. He is the Founder of Planet X, a multimedia production and product marketing agency, as well as the screenwriter and co-producer of a romantic comedy, Asian Persuasion.

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“It's okay to fail and it's hard. You think you're never going to be able to do something again because the pain is so acute sometimes. But then you'll find a way and you just have to have faith in yourself.”
Mike Ang: The Pursuit of Happiness Across His Land of Dreams
"Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever."
by Walt Disney, an American animator, film producer and entrepreneur

About The Episode

We live in a volatile, complex world. It's easy to get stuck in our daily routines, and even easier to never start something or give up when things don’t go as planned. For one man, however, taking the road less traveled has been a journey of self-discovery and limitless creativity.

Joining us in this episode is Mike Ang, a serial entrepreneur in the lifestyle and entertainment industry. Trained as a civil engineer, Mike never gave up pursuing his dreams in music, creative writing and entertainment. 

He is the Founding Partner of Planet X, a successful international multi-media production and product marketing agency based in New York, currently launching an ultra-premium, zero-additive tequila brand, Tierra de Ensueño. 

As a published author of a children's book, Mike is a first-time screenwriter of a romantic comedy Asian Persuasion, directed and co-produced by Jhett Tolentino, a Tony and Grammy Award-winning Broadway producer. Through his various endeavors, Mike is also a tireless advocate of advancing culture and creating greater opportunities for youth, women, and minorities. 

During his spare time, Mike runs a successful manufacturing facility for rolling paper in the Philippines, still consults professionally as a civil engineer, and is also the producer of a Netflix documentary premiering in April 2023. 

Is there something else that Mike doesn't do? Where does the innate desire to create something out of nothing come from?  TUNE IN now and be inspired!


Mike Ang is a creative writer, a producer and a serial entrepreneur in the lifestyle and entertainment industry. Born in the Philippines, he immigrated to America at an early age and founded his first business venture traveling between the two homelands. 

Trained as a civil engineer, Mike never gave up pursuing his dreams in music, creative writing and entertainment. With much curiosity, naivete and not much experience, he founded a hip hop record label based in Miami. Though eventually the project did not pan out, it did not stop him from founding Planet X, a successful international multi-media production and product marketing agency based in New York. He is currently launching an ultra-premium, zero-additive tequila brand, Tierra de Ensueño, with its market introduction in May 2023. 

As the published author of a children’s book called Love, Daddy dedicated to the love of his daughter, Mike is also a talented writer. During the lockdown in 2020, he wrote the screenplay for a romantic comedy named Asian Persuasion. As a first-time screenwriter, Mike convinced Jhett Tolentino, a Tony and Grammy Award-winning Broadway producer, to not only co-produce but also direct the film as his feature debut. The film wrapped up its post-production at the end of 2022 and is currently being considered for several international film festivals. 

Through his various endeavors, Mike is a tireless advocate of advancing culture and creating greater opportunities and positive impact across communities, particularly focused on empowering youth, women and minorities. He is also a partner in Black 6 Coffee, a veteran-owned specialty coffee company whose proceeds go towards disaster relief and humanitarian aid efforts.

During his spare time, Mike runs a successful manufacturing facility for rolling paper in the Philippines, still consults professionally as a civil engineer, and is also the producer of a Netflix documentary premiering in April 2023. 

Mike holds a Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering from Santa Clara University and a MBA in Marketing and Management from University of Illinois. 

Episode Transcript

[00:05] Jennifer Wu:  Hi, everyone. Thanks for listening to the Founder Spirit podcast. I'm your host Jennifer Wu. In this podcast series, I'll be interviewing exceptional individuals from all over the world with founder spirit, ranging from social entrepreneurs, tech founder to philanthropist, elite athletes and more. Together we'll uncover not only how they managed to succeed in face of multiple challenges, but who they are as people and their human story. 

Our guest today is Mike Ang, a creative writer, a producer and a serial entrepreneur in the lifestyle and entertainment industry. Born in the Philippines, Mike immigrated to America at an early age and founded his first business venture traveling between the two homelands. 

Trained as a civil engineer, Mike never gave up pursuing his dreams in music, creative writing and entertainment. With much curiosity, naivete and not much experience, he founded a hip hop record label based in Miami. Though eventually the project did not pan out, it did not stop him from founding Planet X, a successful international multi-media production and product marketing agency based in New York. He is currently launching an ultra-premium, zero-additive tequila brand, Tierra de Ensueño, with its market introduction in May 2023. 

As the published author of a children’s book called Love, Daddy dedicated to the love of his daughter, Mike is also a talented writer. During the lockdown in 2020, he wrote the screenplay for a romantic comedy named Asian Persuasion. As a first-time screenwriter, Mike convinced Jhett Tolentino, a Tony and Grammy Award-winning Broadway producer, to not only co-produce but also direct the film as his feature debut. The film wrapped up its post-production at the end of 2022 and is currently being considered for several international film festivals. 

Through his various endeavors, Mike is a tireless advocate of advancing culture and creating greater opportunities and positive impact across communities, particularly focused on empowering youth, women and minorities. He is also a partner in Black 6 Coffee, a veteran-owned specialty coffee company whose proceeds go towards disaster relief and humanitarian aid efforts.

During his spare time, Mike runs a successful manufacturing facility for rolling paper in the Philippines, still consults professionally as a civil engineer, and is also the producer of a Netflix documentary premiering in April 2023. 

Mike holds a Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering from Santa Clara University and a MBA in Marketing and Management from University of Illinois. 

Hi, Mike, welcome to the Founder Spirit podcast. It’s so great to have you with us today, thank you for taking the time.

[02:59] Mike Ang:  Thank you, Jennifer, I'm really excited for this opportunity. 

[03:02] Jennifer: Great, Mike, after reading your biography, I can't help but wonder, is there something else that you don't do? You seem to have this innate desire to create something out of nothing, which is definitely a recurring theme in your life. So tell us where does this drive come from?

[03:21] Mike: I think it really comes from the desire to actually be happy. I think that's at the core of it, why I do everything that I do. I think the purpose in life really is to find happiness in the one life that we do have here on this earth. 

So whether it means you have to make some mistakes along the way, it’s just important to live something that makes you happy. And those around you will be happy if you're happy, because you're surrounded with people sharing the same energy with you, so I really believe a lot in energies. I don't think it's necessarily selfish to want to be happy. 

And for me, I'm just such a crazy person that I have so many interests that I feel like I can pretty much do anything I put my mind to. I never really know until I go out there and try it; so it's a lot of trial and error, and a lot of times more error than anything. But it's part of what makes everything beautiful. And I love all the successes, I love the failures as much as I love the successes, really.

[04:23] Jennifer: I think that's really important, absolutely, because life is full of ups and downs. So it's really important to embrace those moments of failure, as well as celebrate your wins.

I want to go back to the beginning of your journey, Mike, you grew up in a Chinese-Filipino family in the San Francisco Bay Area, and you spent much of your life traveling back and forth between these two countries. What were some of your formative experience growing up in this multicultural environment? And how did it contribute to the pursuit of happiness that you have today?

[05:00] Mike: Sure, I have a different sort of immigrant story than a lot of other people that I know here in the States. A lot of people say they had a hard time, and their parents didn't have any money, and they came here and parents saved up all this money, and tried to put them through school, and all that kind of stuff. 

And sometimes I look at that and I wish I had that same experience. But my experience was a little bit different, because I actually had a lot of things that other people didn't have. And I think a lot of that was part of why I am the way I am today. 

Because when I grew up in between San Francisco and the Philippines, whenever I would go to the Philippines, I would feel like it was almost like a playland, I could have anything that I wanted. When I was in San Francisco, it was always just regular old me, I was just a regular kid. 

When I got older and became more aware of things around me, I started going to the Philippines and looking beyond what we normally do over there, 5-star hotels and all these different things. And then I would always see that there's poor people everywhere, how the country was so poor, and how a lot of people in the same social status as my family, they weren't giving money and giving help to the people in the Philippines. 

And I kept saying why can't we just find ways to help things out in the Philippines somehow. Of course, I wasn't super civic-minded when I was a kid. But somewhere in the back of my head, I was like, something's wrong with this picture, and we need to figure this out. 

And as I just grew older and my networks grew larger, I started realizing there was a way to sort of integrate these things together, and find a way to use the power I have back home in the Philippines to help, giving opportunities to people I knew here, finding opportunities for people in the Philippines or brands in the Philippines to come to the United States, different sorts of things started popping up. 

I got more involved in international business related things, and then it all coalesced at some period of time in my adulthood. But it was very formative as a kid, growing up and seeing these things and being a kid who was from both cultures of Chinese and Filipino and then also being American at the same time, then processing all that. How do we tether all this with the American foundation? 

And I'm almost like that universal plug, because I know all these different cultural things innately within myself. I think that's what's helped me along my career, because I'm so malleable, and then people can just plug into me from any kind of culture, and it seems to just flow through and work out well.

[07:26] Jennifer: I could relate to that, because I'm Chinese-American and also European now, I could definitely relate to your experience. 

But you also come from a large family, you have over 15 aunts and uncles and 30 first cousins, which is very common in the Philippines. How do you think that had a major impact on your life growing up from being from such a big family?

[07:51] Mike: I think it really made me feel so loved, like really, really loved because I had so many relatives from everywhere, and my family is the kind of family that gets together all the time. And we actually had like a thing, every Wednesday, we go to my grandparents house, all the cousins, all the aunts and uncles, we would all show up. 

And then there would be all this food, and my family - we're just ravenous - you just see this huge long table and there'd be all this food. and you would just like see it one moment like a whole crowd of people getting into the dining room. And then 5 minutes later, the crowd goes and there's like bones and empty plates just left on the table, because we just would eat so much. Our family is all about eating and talking, just being real and sharing our experiences with each other. 

We grew up just like a very close knit family and me being the eldest, I felt like the big brother to everybody else and that also made me feel great. And I love people being able to be honest with me and tell me their situations and then trying to help them. I'm a big helper, I just like to be there for people because I would like people to also be there for me. It goes both ways, if you give this much love, you get that much love back.

[09:01] Jennifer: I love what you're saying, it's all about love. And you're certainly love music and entertainment and everything that's creative. So my question is, why did you decide to become a civil engineer? Because it seems to me it's very left-brained versus right-brained. Why did you how did you translate this love of music into being a civil engineer? 

[09:23] Mike: Decide to be a civil engineer is a very loose term because as a kid in an Asian family, you don't really get to oftentimes decide, especially being the eldest kid, I didn't have much choice to actually do anything. My mom and my dad were like, yeah, if you want to do something liberal, you can be an architect, and that was about as liberal as it would get in my family. 

So I had the math scores, I had the science scores, it made sense, I guess, that I just did engineering. Yeah, it wasn't really much of a decision, to be honest.

[09:55] Jennifer: Well, you must not dislike it, because otherwise you wouldn't be doing it today. And by the way, I just want to mention that Mike is a very credible engineer, because he co-authored a paper in 2021 by the American Society of Civil Engineers called Automated People Mover Performance and Safety Standards

I literally didn't know that Automated People Mover was a thing. So I, and I bet it gave you a lot of street cred when you were trying to start the hip hop record label 12 years ago, so there you go.

[10:29] Mike: Totally, I'm all about that engineering street cred translating it to my other parts of my life.

[10:34] Jennifer: Exactly, so speaking of starting the hip hop record label, I'm not really sure what you were doing at the time, but I do know that quite a lot of people thought you were crazy, like completely lost your mind crazy. Can you tell us what motivated you in starting this hip hop record label?

[10:53] Mike: Sure, it goes back to the happiness thing. I had been in engineering school, and then I had worked for about 8 years in the transportation consulting world. Going through the motions and knowing that I have a really good salary, I have all this, I just don't feel happy. 

Sometimes money makes people happy, but I guess it's just not me, I would rather have experiences than money. Of course, I don't devalue money. I mean, money is important, but money is only like a tool, as far as buying you more time to do the things that you love, right? And then so for me, I wasn't feeling the happiness being an engineer. 

And I just randomly came across a person that was involved in that industry as a producer, as a rapper. And then it became like, hey, why don't you come to my studio, and check out some stuff - I'm cutting some new tracks. And it was a really great studio in Miami, same place where Shakira records, it's a really awesome professional studio with amazing sound engineers. It was just something that was super interesting to me, because I've always loved music.

Growing up in the Bay with Filipinos in the 80s and 90s, in my opinion, the best hip hop was 80s and 90s, maybe early 2000s. I love the golden age of hip hop, and so I've always been super interested in music. And Filipinos, and in case any of you don't know, we all love to sing and dance. Karaoke is in my blood, I love karaoke, it’s the best thing ever, it's all music to me. 

Because when you're in a studio, for people who've never been in a music studio during recording, it is (an) otherworldly experience. It's like going to church, you're surrounded by this music that is 360 all around you, it's music that no one else up until that time has ever heard, so it's new things being created. They're all surrounding you, just everywhere, the environment around you. And then the lights are dim, the sound is perfect. You see the sound engineer with his control board, and it looks like the Starship Enterprise. And then you see the artists through the glass, and if you're a lover of music, and anything creative, you're gonna get hooked into that space, because it's so cool and interesting. 

And so it started off initially as, hey, let's try to help get a few of these songs out there. The songs (were) doing well, and things (were) happening, and then focusing really hard on building a base of followers and fans in Miami, which is a hard city anyway to begin with. 

Not having any, any background in this at all, it was probably the most entrepreneurial of things, because you're just trusting faith and trusting people that you meet through another person, through another person. And so by state, we did lose a lot of money, but we did gain a lot of experience. And there's a few experiences that wow, I can't even talk about on the air. But I mean, there were some things I am like, oh my god, if this happened to pretty much anyone else, I almost feel like somebody would just like quit, like right away and just say never do it. 

But I still kept on going and me and my partners kept on going because we're crazy. Maybe we're suckers for punishment, but we always saw the light at the end of the tunnel. And actually things were going well for a while, and then we just made this decision at some point to part ways and transition that record label into what is now Planet X, which still has some of that DNA in there, because we come from the music side, which I think is the most valuable part. 

Because some people will say it was a failure, I don't look at it that way because a failure would mean like nothing came of it. But we had a lot of experience that we learned that helps us now in our entertainment related things, just the contacts that we made were amazing.

My agency represents a few brands, a Filipino rum that's called Tanduay Rum, an Indian vodka called Smoke Lab Vodka, and then Tierra de Ensueño, which is the tequila that's coming out in May. But when we launched Tanduay Rum in the United States, we did it at the Barclays Center with the Brooklyn Nets, because we were the official rum of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center. And we got Cardi B (American female rapper) to do our launch over there at the Barclays Center on Biggie tribute night, like 6-7 years ago. 

But suffice to say, that was something that happened because of the years that I put in in the music industry. So people might say like, hey it was a failure, hey you didn't do anything, but we really got a lot out of it that now is part of our DNA in our new life. Doing what we do right now, and we know what not to do and who not to trust, and what kind of things to avoid. 

[15:33] Jennifer: What lessons did you take away from this experience? from the hip hop record experience?

[15:39] Mike: Honestly, the biggest one is that I don't want to ever be on the label side; it's very hard to be at the beck and call of creative artistry. 

I learned this about myself that I can't be in that position where I'm managing creatives, because I wouldn't be able to do that, I don’t think. And I know that's something I wouldn't want to do in any iteration moving forward. But really, it was more things I learned about myself and what I'm comfortable (with). It’s almost as important to know what you don't want to do as much as what you want to do - so that probably was the best lesson.

[16:17] Jennifer: Like you said, you managed to develop an amazing network of influencers and celebrities, so you were able to capitalize on that to found your current company Planet X. Sometimes that's the silver lining if some things don't pan out, because it leads to you down a different path, but somewhat associated to past chapters in your life. 

I want to talk about master blend tequila brand that you're launching soon, it's called Tierra de Ensueno, the Land of Dreams in English. One might say that this is a very saturated market, and there's already so many tequila brands out there. So I want to know what opportunities did you see in launching Tierra de Ensueno?

[17:03] Mike: Yeah, so this brand is a really interesting brand, unlike any others that we've worked with. It's a brand that is, I want to almost say, the anti-celebrity tequila. And the reason I say that is there are so many celebrity tequilas out there, I almost feel like it's a vanity project for every single major person that wants a side hustle. 

And so this tequila is an interesting tequila because it's not a vanity tequila. That's a tequila that’s actually the opposite. It's a tequila that's going to start with a foundation of community as the base, and it's a tequila that is a zero-additive tequila, which is also important because there's not that many zero-additive tequilas out there. A lot of the tequilas that people do know about that they really love right now, I'm not gonna name names, but those have additives in them, like caramel coloring, added sugars, glycerin for mouth feel, vanilla flavoring, it's not natural. 

And so, for me, it's the same way that I live my life, I only want to be associated with things that are that are really pure and authentic. So having something like this that is co-developed through partnerships in Mexico with some amazing people that are very highly regarded in the Mexican tequila industry, makes this tequila, first of all, very traditional and very authentic, but at the same time, very forward-thinking because it basically incorporates the traditional ways of aging and distilling. And then taking that to the next level and saying, you can have those things very traditional and very authentic, but also appeal to something that is modern. 

When the tequila gets released, it's going to be about community first. People are going to be able to be part of a platform that celebrates and elevates people that are rising stars in different types of areas, and pairing them with a mentorship but in a way where you can create cool content but at the same time for everybody that wants to celebrate their individuality, celebrate something about their culture, and share that with the world and partner with the brand to enhance that message of community and sharing.

And we all deserve something good. I feel like that's part of it, we all deserve something great. And you don't have to be a celebrity or follow anybody, you just need to know that you're worth it, and you deserve something really great. And if you want to have something really great to celebrate with, here's something really great to celebrate with, and look who else is celebrating it with you. There are all these amazing people that are celebrating this thing with you too, and that puts you in great company. When we build something from community ground up, and it's not tied to a celebrity, I think the messaging for that tequila is going to be very strong, and the packaging is beautiful. 

I'm all about bringing products to the market that are different and that have a you know, a sort of different identity to them. So this Filipino rum, this Indian vodka, and now this zero-additive, amazing Mexican tequila that's going to even be sold in Mexico, Mexicans are going to drink it…

[20:20] Jennifer: I wanted to ask you, why the Land of Dreams?

[20:23] Mike: Because it's a very aspirational kind of brand, and a lot of things tie into the same way I feel about life. It's about finding your own happiness, finding your own dreams. So a brand that's all about finding your dreams and sharing that with others is such an important concept, I think. And then when you drink, you share conversations, your share experiences, you connect. 

That's such a super huge undercurrent of this particular brand because it's a community brand.  We all are individual, but we can share a dream together and elevate each other, lift up the people below them to carry them up to the next level - we need to bring up people. 

If you've made it and you have wisdom to share, then it's almost your moral responsibility to go out there and share that wisdom with others and help them. 

[21:16] Jennifer: I love that concept of elevating people, and bring them along with you. I think maybe it comes from your civic obligations. 

Now, I want to switch over a little bit to talking about your book in 2015, you published a book called Love, Daddy, when your daughter was just two years old. Can you tell us what inspired you to write that book.

[21:41] Mike: It's so simple - it’s my daughter, it's being a dad, it's being amazed at bringing a new life into into the world, being a dad is my number one thing. So you listed all these things on my resume, and it's crazy to me hearing it, but the thing I'm most proud of in my life, honestly, is being a dad, and I pride myself in being a good dad, and not sacrificing my daughter. I always put her ahead of all things in my schedule in my life. 

I became acutely aware of a lot of things that I didn't know until she was born. And then when she was born, I started realizing how time is fleeting. The Beatles are my favorite band of all time, and they have a song, “When I'm 64” - will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm 64. 

And then so I was thinking about it as I was feeding her one night, and I was like, does the love continue? Is it gonna get passed down again for generations? And then so I just wanted to leave something for her to know that I love her, also for her to know that I had this feeling. It made me very aware of being a dad and being a son at the same time when my daughter was born. And then so from that feeling was born the Love, Daddy book.

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[24:10] Jennifer: During the pandemic, you wrote a movie script called Asian Persuasion. I don't want to jump the line here, but I do want you to tell the audience about the storyline.

[24:21] Mike: So the story is actually about a guy who's in his 40s, he hasn't really achieved much success, but he's going through a divorce, and he just can't afford the alimony. So he and his best friend come up with this crazy idea to create a fake dating profile for his ex-wife on a dating site. 

And they wake up the next morning, and they're like, what did we do? What just happened? And they realize it's the worst idea we've ever had. They basically just go like, oh wait a second, look at how many people are like responded to this ad like, no, no, we have to do this, we got to find a guy, we’ll coach this guy. And so they end up getting this guy from the site, and then the guy starts dating his ex-wife, and everything's going great and in fact, so great that she starts falling in love with this guy. 

And then he realizes in the process of coaching this guy through an earpiece that he still loves his ex-wife and the whole divorce was his fault. And he realizes all the things he was saying to him about how he never grew up and how he never just took control of his life. All that was really him and he's oh my god, now I gotta like try to get her back after he's already done all this crazy stuff. So then the rest of the story is does he try? Is he successful? Can he actually do that? Can you actually as a guy, go through all these crazy things and still win your girl back? 

And what I love about my movie really is that it's not an Asian subject at all. In fact, I would dare say it's some things are very taboo that I'm covering in my movie. And it's irreverent in some places as well, but it's most definitely not a movie that utilizes Asian tropes of any kind. And it's just a movie that just happens to have Asian people in it. But it's not about being Asian, which is I think what's out there a lot that I've seen at least are movies about being Asian, this is about just being, and then there's an Asian flavor to it. 

We have over 93% of our cast and crew are either women, a person of color, or LGBTQIA. And so it's really a labor of love and, and a true testament to diversity in movie casting and crew, and we really walked the walk, and we did it. This is a project that we made the way we wanted to make it, and it came together great. For lack of a better word, it was just community that brought this thing together, love and community to make a movie like this. And I'm so proud that we're on the the film festival circuit right now; it's been a fun ride, and it continues to be a very fun ride.

[27:00] Jennifer: What you said about love and community, I think that's what you need in everything, right? Everything we do. The tagline of the movie is “every great marriage could use a good divorce”. Mike, where did you get the idea for this script? And please be honest.

[27:15] Mike: Okay, so I was actually going through a divorce at that time. And I was actually had just got off the phone with my divorce lawyer, and we were talking about alimony, a very difficult conversation anyway for anybody going through a divorce. And so after that call, I was actually on the phone with my two business partners talking about something else, and they could sense that I was just flustered like, hey, what's going on. 

And I was like, oh, I just got off the phone with my lawyer just talking about alimony. My lawyer was like, Well, there's only two ways you're gonna stop paying alimony. One is if your wife dies, and the other one is if she gets remarried. I would never want my ex-wife to die, she's a wonderful person. 

[27:53] Jennifer: I'm glad you said that on the air. It could be the follow-up to Asian Persuasion, the dark version. (chuckles)

[28:00] Mike: My friend was like, oh, it's simple that, all you gotta do is find somebody to marry her, there's gotta be somebody you know. He was telling me that and I was like, that is hilarious. And then I was just thinking about how funny that would be. 

And then it was almost like, maybe I could write a screenplay about that; and I had just gotten done watching Tiger King at that time, an entire documentary about nothing. I said I could probably be doing something more creative with my time. 

So then I bought the Final Draft software (for screenwriting and formatting screenplays), and I just started writing. I just started saying, what is screenwriting at the end of the day? It's this happens at this place, and here's a bunch of dialogue. And then for me, what I found out about myself, which was really interesting in this process, is that I could actually see a movie as I was writing it.

And then in my brain, it would just be the scene after the scene, and I would just keep writing until I stopped thinking about what would happen on the next scene. And then it would come to me, and then I just started writing, writing until I stopped again. Before you knew it, in two months, I had 100 pages. And I was like, I wonder how long a movie script is supposed to be. So I googled it - about a minute for per page, that's a whole movie. 

So I started reaching out to some people that I knew that are in that space, but a lot of people were really busy at that time and I didn't want to bother anybody. So it just happened to be like a few months later, I had Jhett Tolentino, who was my director and co-producer, he came to my studio to do some other work, we got around to talking about this movie. And then it ended up happening that he wanted to direct it as a directorial debut, and then co-produce it with me, which is wild, because he's beyond qualified. He's got 3 Tony Awards, he's got a Grammy, probably one of the most humble and nice people that I know, and a person that is all about the culture in the most authentic way possible. So I knew that it was going to be a good pairing, it was just a good match for both of us to do this.

He always says, you know, my name is not Jhett for nothing. And it really is not, he really moves fast, faster than anybody. Within a few days, we had cast members already attached to it, we had a casting director, we had all these people. He's produced some amazing things on Broadway, and he's made amazing things happen. And he also is an incredible entrepreneurial guy as well, he has actually a documentary called “Life Is What You Make It”, but it's all about him starting off his life is one of the poorest of the poor in Iloilo, a province in the Philippines, and then making it all the way to Broadway, and through several iterations. He worked as a nurse, he worked as an accountant, and in so many ways, he and I have the same story, how do we get to where we are, we face adversities, we do so many diverse things, and we get to where it is we want to be and we're doing what we want to do.

[30:51] Jennifer: I actually researched on him as well as part of the movie. And he is, in many ways, an inspiration himself,from his life in the slums in the Philippines to achieving his American dream as a Broadway producer, and I love to have him on the show one of these days. 

I got a sneak peek of his autobiographical documentary “Life Is What You Make It”. Like you mentioned, it's really really moving, where he actually goes back to the Philippines for the first time since he moved to the US to elevate the other people who are in similar situations. 

I know you made it seem so easy, but how did you really convince them to co-produce and direct your film?

[31:31] Mike: Actually to be perfectly honest, when I first told him about it, and this is also a testament to probably the kind of person I am, I don't really ever take no for an answer at the first blush. I had told him about it, and of course, he knows me as the guy who does all these other things. So when he was telling me that he's focusing a lot now on films with the Asian narrative I was telling him, oh really, how coincidental because I wrote a screenplay over the pandemic. 

He was, of course, incredulous, and he's a good friend of mine. He's like, there's no way you wrote a screenplay during the pandemic, there’s no way. I was like, yeah, I did, it’s like 100 pages. He goes, okay, what's it about? And so I had a very clunky version of what I explained to you a while ago, and I've gotten so much better at it now since I first started. 

So I told Jhett about it, and he basically told me, don't quit your day job, man, it's okay if you're not a screenwriter, not everybody is built to be a screenwriter. You might want to watch a few more movies, and then you can maybe like sharpen up the storyline a little bit you can keep trying, but as your friend, I don't want you to go to too much trouble to try to dedicate so much of your time to this thing, because it's really not a commercial. I'm a commercial producer, and I can tell you this is really not a commercial thing. And I was listening and this is my friend, mind you, but we all need friends like this. 

And so I drove home that night, and I was fuming in the car. And I was like, man, he didn't even read my script, he doesn't even know what it's about. So I sent him and I said, my elevator pitch probably was awful, and I need you to read my script, and then tell me it's awful, because I want the honest opinion of my script, not my elevator pitch, but my script. And as my friend, I would just ask you to please do that. And Jhett always goes, Yeah, Mike pulled out the friend card on me, so I really couldn't do anything about it, which I did. 

Then he sent me a text about two weeks later, and he said, Hey, just finished your script, give me a call. And then so when I call them, he actually said like, oh, I actually have to apologize, I judged this way too soon. There's a lot of things about the script that are not formatted right. He said, there are some scenes that you need to add into this thing, and probably some scenes you need to modify. But he said, if you're willing to modify some scenes, add some new scenes in and then listen to me as far as the way certain things should be changed on a script, I'm willing to come in on this with you, and co-produce with you and be your director.

So then I was like, what? so you went from two weeks ago telling me don't quit my day job, and I'm the worst whatever. He’s like, yes okay I just didn't read your script, and I wasn't expecting that it would be like this. And then we had worked for 15 different revisions over a two and half week period of time. And then we got it all done, and then we registered it with the Writers Guild. 

And then right after that was done, Jhett goes okay, I’m sending this script out to people that I know, for that I want to be actors in the movie. And then before I knew it, people were like, okay here, I'm on your project, committed, committed, committed. Then I was like, Jhett, whose script did you send them? Was it mine? Or was it somebody else’s? You know, it was like, no, like, real actors read my script, and they liked it?! Maybe I do have something I don't know, but I am honestly still on pins and needles, because I don't know how it will be received, what's gonna happen. 

At the end of the day, there's two things I'm just really proud of what we did, and how we put this thing together. And the entire integrity of the movie, I'm very proud of that. And no matter what criticisms I get about the movie, no one can ever criticize, what we did to create this movie, which I think is so important to me as a human being existing on this earth and as a creative, that I didn't mess that part up. 

And then the only other thing is I don't really need to win an award, I don't need any of that, but all I want is that my investors make their money back. Because I hate people having put faith in me in something and then not delivering on that side. I can take all of the negative criticism as a creator, I have a very thick skin, I don't mind. I just want to make sure that whatever happens that my investors end up recouping their money. That's it, that’s all I really hope. 

[35:52] Jennifer:  I'm sure you do very well.

[35:54] Mike: So we'll see, but but it is, I'm sure it'd be a fun ride.

[35:56] Jennifer: I'm sure that it will be very, very interesting to watch and I look forward to seeing it. But I want to dial it back a little bit, because I think there are a lot of entrepreneurs out there who are listening as well. 

I want to understand a little bit how you and Jhett raised money for the film. I know you ended up raising 2 million within 12 months which is amazing, right? So tell us, how did you raise the money for the film?

[36:22] Mike: Being a producer is really interesting, because I had never known that what I've been doing my whole life is really building me up to be a producer, because it's all about the networks and the people that you know. So it's coming to people and telling them this is the idea, this is what we've done; not even having the finished process and our product, but just having something that you can tell people this is what the story is about, this is how we're going to do it. And this is who we have so far on the the cast, and then just talking to people about would you be willing to put some money into it. 

And of course, if it was just me as an as Mike Ang going out to people as a never before proven anything, I don't think we would have done what we did it; a lot of it has to do with Jhett having his reputation for being such a prolific producer on Broadway, given his track record. And so given all these different things, the actors are involved, the process that we were involved, the current zeitgeist of Asians within cinema and everything, I think it really helped, it was the right story at the right moment. 

One thing I learned also in the music industry, it's not necessarily talent that wins you the game, because there are so many talented people, and I'm probably far less talented than some other people that have never been discovered. If you are in the right place at the right time and have the right connections, then you'll succeed too, but you have to have talent - talent is the foundational piece. And so it just happened to be right people, right time - Jhett having his track record, and then my network of people that believe in me and that have money.

And the way we did this is we split things up into bigger chunks, because we felt it would be easier to sell things in bigger chunks, versus trying to do it in small bites. Luckily between Jhett and I, we know enough people of means that they're able to come in and we have a big sponsor for our movie, the biggest network in the Philippines ABS CBN, and Ginebra San Miguel also is a big sponsor of ours in the Philippines. 

So there are some some big people that came in to really, really make this happen. And then we we actually achieved a lot of cost efficiencies from the networks that I have, because of the locations we shot, and just wonderful people in the community that that came out that really supported the movie. Wen Zhou (CEO) from Philip Lim who allowed us to use their store on Great Jones Street to shoot there. We had people from amazing restaurants like Sushi By Bou and Osamil and the Chinese Tuxedo, they let us shoot at their places, Noodle Love, Kabisera, which is a Filipino cafe here in New York City. 

So there's like so many people that came out of the woodwork that were just like, hey, we want to give you support for this and that, it was just wonderful. We got support from everything on every level. So the locations was a huge thing for us. Like I said, community and love made this thing happen, and the love and community is also how we raised that money because people were like, we love you. we love what you do, we're confident that this is going to be something that’s gonna work, and it was just that faith. 

But it's hard, anybody tried to make a movie, oh, you know, God bless because it is incredibly hard to raise that money, incredibly hard. And then we actually had one of our actors had contracted COVID during the filming, we had to delay the shooting. So we incurred about $150,000 worth of cost, and then we ended up running a campaign for the movie on Seed and Spark to raise some of that money, and the community that came together behind Seed and Spark was also huge. we raised $80,000 from people in the community that came out of pocket to support the film, which was also really incredible - that came from grassroots community stuff. 

[40:20] Jennifer: Well, that's amazing. But the fun doesn't end with wrapping up production and post-production, now you're in the new phase, which is film distribution. How different is this adventure from what you had expected at the outset? Did you have any expectations before you started?

[40:39] Mike: Yeah, that's the funny part is I actually had zero expectations, so everything to me is gravy, because I can't even imagine happening this way. Because I talked to friends of mine and people that I know that are screenwriters and been doing this for years, and they still haven't had a movie made, right? I just was writing something in my pajamas, I have no credentials, and then here I am. So I have no right to have any expectations whatsoever. 

And so I'm just happy about everything. And like I said, my happiness has been sustained through this whole entire process. I always live in a space of gratitude, I think you were saying something earlier about living in abundance or living in fear of not having anything, I always feel like, if you are grateful for the things that you have, and you're grateful for everything that happens to you, you will always live in abundance. And you'll always feel like you have something to share with others. And you'll have less fear because you have other people there for you, that are on the same journey as you. I can't stress how important it is to have networks and people around you on your journey that can support you.

Otherwise, you're going to be all alone. And fear comes from, I think, partially from just being alone, and no one wants to be alone. When you have to lift all the weight yourself, it becomes so much more daunting. And then so for me, what made this movie and everything else that I do, honestly, a lot easier is that I know other people that are there to help me lift this burden. And it's not even burden, it's fun. 

And so this movie, if it really gets to where it needs to be, I think it's going to elevate the Asian narrative. And in many ways, it's going to then create a lot more opportunities. My dream would be if this thing makes it big enough that people start having conversations around the Asian narrative in a way, in a way that's fruitful and and in a way that people aren't talking about now. That's the point you need to have a spotlight in a way to make an impact and I don't shy away from trying to influence something and make things better from a position of power and influence. It's a people who have power and influence that do absolutely nothing with it that are that are the worst.

[42:50] Jennifer: What is the Asian narrative? And how has it changed over the years?  

[42:55] Mike: As an Asian kid growing up between the US and the Philippines, I loved American pop culture. I mean, all the movies, the music, the morning cartoons, but there was always something missing for me that I couldn't quite pinpoint until I got older. As much as I loved growing up American, I never really saw anyone like me that was going through the same stuff as me on television or in the movies or in mass media in general, everything Asian was always hyper-exoticized or a caricature of typical Asian stereotypes. 

This was Asian narrative that was my reality. I mean, the first Asian kid I even saw in a mainstream movie was in the Goonies and Indiana Jones. Now we all know where that went. And then later what a Filipino kid named Dante Bosco in Steven Spielberg's Hook? But it still wasn't enough for me. Deep down, I wanted to see a normal story with Asians in it, that was not a fantasy or adventure movie, or not an over the top movie or a super artsy one. I started to think that it could be done and I guess I always felt like if I had the opportunity I would create something like this, and that's what I did with Asian Persuasion. 

[44:03] Jennifer: One story I want to highlight in this episode today is when we first met. So I recently wrote a short blog post about it on LinkedIn and Medium, it’s called My Inner Journey of Launching the Founder Spirit Podcast, where I talked about the initial fear and doubt that I was going through. And for those of you who haven't read it, feel free to check it out, and we'll include the links in the Show Notes.

I know Mike, you didn't know this at the time, what I was going through, because we just met and we had a 10-15 minute conversation. But do you ever encounter fear and self-doubt like the rest of us?

[44:41] Mike: Literally all the time. I have less of it now than I did before, because I've been through some pretty bad things that I feel like, wow, it couldn't be worse than this. But I tell you, part of what gets me through is what I was saying before, having my network, having my family and friends. And that in itself is a huge comfort to me on the foundational side. 

For me, I always say, everything is fleeting to a certain degree. So the failure that you feel or something that happens, that will pass too. Happiness is fleeting, pain is fleeting. So you might think you're going to die, and it's the end of the world. I used to have a civil engineering professor in college, he will always say, Mike, nothing's the end of the world, except the end of the world. And it's not the end of the world right now, so get up and you'll get there, right? 

And I think that failure gives us perspective - it's okay to fail and it's hard. And you think you're never going to be able to do something again after because it's so acute, the pain sometimes. But then you'll find a way, and you just have to have faith in you. It sounds so cheesy, but you really do - you know yourself better than anybody else knows you. And that's why when people tell me, that's a really bad idea, I don't want you to do or like oh my god, that's the worst, you're never going to recover from that. I tend to say like, well, that's what you think, but I know that I can do this. 

And you really have to have that attitude as an entrepreneur, or as a person that is going to try to make it in a world where you control your own destiny, be the master of all these things, because it's much easier to just ride the wave. But if you really want to venture out there for the happiness thing, at the end of the day, when you look back I had a life that was really lived versus just existing. I always say people need to get out of your comfort zone and you experience new things - you get perspective, because that helps you to on the journey of life.

I'm scared all the time, but I'm diversified now that I feel like if one thing fails, I have some other things going, but it wasn't like that always. When I started my first company, I was so poor at one point where I quit everything. I had gone through all my savings, and I had coins in a coin jar. And I had to use that coin jar money to buy my groceries for the week. And it was just a bunch of Lean Cuisines, because that was all I could afford - and it was just the coins and the Coinstar machine. And you know, I had my parents going, you have an MBA, you have a civil engineering degree, what are you doing, this is the most embarrassing thing. And parents always love to brag about their kids, but they couldn't like brag about me because I'd quit my job. And I was on the verge of not being able to pay my rent. And I still had faith in myself through that, because I knew that things were going the right way. 

And for me, what I always do is I set a long-term goal, this is what I want, I want to be happy. Have your long-term goals, have your intermediate goals and have your short-term goals. What you really want to find your happiness goal, that should be your long-term goal. Then your intermediate goal has to be things that you're going to do to get there to that thing, and it can't be way too hard, but it's got to be baby steps. And then you'll feel like you're achieving things by achieving all your intermediate goals along the way. But you have to meet your short-term goals of survival first, but then you'll eventually get to your long-term goal by parsing things out, but people get overwhelmed, so break it down into smaller pieces, that’s what I do.

[48:12] Jennifer: Yeah, that's what I do as well. I totally agree with you on that point. You're involved with a number of charities in the New York area including Apex for Youth, Girls leadership just to name a few. 

One of these projects, as I mentioned, is Black 6 Coffee, which is a veteran owned coffee company created to fund the non-for-profit, the Black 6 Project, focused on disaster relief and humanitarian aid efforts. Why is this project so close to your heart?

[48:42] Mike: I actually became involved with this project because there's a friend of mine who is a medical technician here in New York that used to be in the Marines. He is a Marine Corps veteran, he's Filipino and he had suffered a lot of PTSD from his experiences in the various deployments that he had. And what he found was when he retired from the Marines, he started doing a lot of humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts overseas in different countries that had earthquakes or floods or different things. 

And then he started finding that this was a very healing thing for him for all the PTSD that he had to go out there, instead of all the stuff he was doing in the war, he was actually helping people build and saving people. And that inspired him to continue doing that, and so he started going to all these different countries, and doing all this humanitarian aid. 

And then he started getting introduced by the locals, to coffee, because all these countries that he was going to do all these missions, they would have coffee farms. And he started becoming really interested in the process of growing coffee, how to roast it, how to do everything with it. And so he started becoming a coffee connoisseur, learned how to roast coffee, and then selling this coffee to fund his humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts, and also also as a way to bring other veterans who have had this similar trauma together to really find some healing, and also in a way to actually create a really great product at the same time, and share their stories as veterans. 

And because he's Filipino and because he's a veteran, these are also topics that people don't really talk about as much, and you don't get as much shine on them as other topics nowadays. And for me, it's really important to elevate things that don't really get the shine. Mental health issue is such a big thing for me, people going through something like that, I can't even imagine what it's like. And my friend Joe Zoleta, who founded Black 6, he is a very well-balanced human being right now. You talk to him, and he's just one of the best people you'll you'll ever meet. And a lot of that has to do with his healing, that he's gone through, by being part of these missions. 

And seeing what doing good can do for somebody who has gone through trauma,it's miraculous what you see. So for me, that's so inspirational to be involved with a product, with a project, with an organization that helps heal trauma. 

[51:24] Jennifer: It's really, really beautiful. So goes back to your original principle of love and community, that we are actually one at the end of the day. 

So we're soon coming to the end of our episode. I have two questions for you. Where can people find Mike Ang, and your book, your movie and Planet X?

[51:42] Mike: So Planet X, it's on www.PlanetXStudios.life. And Love, Daddy, you can find on www.lovedaddythebook.com. And me personally, you can find me probably best is on Instagram. It's at mangstermind, so m-a-n-g-s-t-e-r-m-i-n-d, like mastermind but Michael Ang like MAng, Mangstermind. That's me. That's the best way to find it. And and if you want to find Planet X on on Instagram, it's also PlanetXStudios.life.

For the movie, it’s www.AsianPersuasionFilm.com, and also on Instagram, @AsianPersuasionFilm.

[52:30] Jennifer: And, Mike, my last question, what does the Founder Spirit mean to you?

[52:34] Mike: Because to me, it's about the journey. The Founder Spirit is about finding something worthwhile in this lifetime, no matter how long or how short. And it's kind of that knowledge that we are all, human beings. We're all born beautiful, we're all born with that spirit, we all have the ability to do these things - to fly, to achieve anything, to do anything you can dream of. We're all born with that capacity, it's not just me, it’s not just other founders, it's all of us. 

And we all have the right to enjoy our lives and be happy, so why don't we just have the courage to go out there and do it? And that's the Founder Spirit - the people that have that spirit are the ones that do the crazy stuff, the dreamers, the people that say we are all born with that capability. We harness it, and we say, we can do it, let's do it. 

[53:27] Jennifer: We're now coming to the end of our interview. And as you know, we end every episode with a quote, and for this episode, we have a quote from Walt Disney, an American animator, film producer and entrepreneur. 

“Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.”

Mike, many thanks for joining us today and taking us to your land of dreams with love and community. I wish you all the best with the movie Asian Persuasion, your new book, tequila and whatever you're going to dream up next!

[53:58] Mike: Amazing, thank you so much, Jennifer.

Show Notes

(03:21) Mike’s Drive to Create Something out of Nothing

(05:00) How Did Growing Up in a Multicultural Environment Contribute to His Pursuit of Happiness? 

(09:22) Why did Mike Decide to Initially Become a Civil Engineer?

(10:52) What Motivated Him to Start a Hip-Hop Record Label? 

(17:02) Launching Tierra de Ensueño, a new Tequila brand

(21:41) What Inspired Him to Write His Book - Love, Daddy?

(24:10) Asian Persuasion: Storyline, Inspiration and Funding

(42:50) What is the Asian Narrative and How Has It Changed Over the ears? 

(44:03) How Does Mike Handle Fear and Self-Doubt?

(48:12) Why Is Black 6 Coffee So Close to Mike’s Heart?

(52:30) What does Founder Spirit mean to Mike Ang?

Social Media Links:

LinkedIn: Mike Ang

Instagram: Mike Ang (@mangstermind)

Company: PlanetX Studios

Film: Asian Persuasion

Links Mentioned:

Company: PlanetX Studio

Film: Asian Persuasion

Jhett Tolentino & Life Is What You Make It

Book: Love, Daddy by Mike Ang 

Black 6 Coffee

My Inner Journey of Launching The Founder Spirit Podcast

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