Many entrepreneurs would have given up after nightmare experience with a fraudulent company, but the Ascend Marketing Founder is built different.
“The worst thing I feared came true when I left the company. I was accused of stealing clients’ money. Debt collectors started chasing me and I started receiving death threats from the company’s clients. I needed to speak up because it wasn’t the truth.
I was with the company for seven years and worked hard to become the top salesperson. But, I always thought something fishy was going on. The company promised to return clients their money after a product they’ve invested in made a certain profit, but they never did.
At a certain point, I had to ask myself if I wanted to continue working for an illegitimate company or get out and cut my losses. I left, but what this company did to any of its top leaders who left was to paint a false picture that they ran away with the clients’ money.
I started speaking up against the company on social media in hopes of deterring others from being cheated as well, but I got death threats. I remember gangsters standing outside my house saying that they wanted to beat me up, just to quieten me on social media.
It was traumatising. Once, I was on my way home and my gut feeling told me that someone would be waiting for me outside my house, so I made a police report. As anticipated, there were eight people waiting for me.
The police arrived and apprehended them but could not connect them to the threats. The only thing they could pin on them was illegal loitering. Ever since that incident, I stopped receiving death threats.
When I left the company, I was in debt. I felt guilty and responsible for the clients and wanted to pay them back in some way. Filing for bankruptcy was not an option. Out of fear and desperation, I started my own companies to make money, many of which failed.
My mom passed away around the time I left the scam company. Three years later, my dad passed on as well due to cancer. It was a very difficult time for me. I went through depressive episodes and was even suicidal.
When my mom was still alive, she never stopped supporting me. I remember wanting to start my own business while I was still in school. Most parents would have told their children to focus on their studies first, but that wasn’t my mom. She would say, ‘Just drop out lah’.
When I was doing my N-Levels, I told her that I wanted to do O-Levels instead because I wanted to go down the polytechnic route. She would say, ‘Never mind lah, just take your N-Levels and go to ITE. Then you can start your business already.’
That mindset that I should never be afraid of failure – and that it is okay to not go down the traditional path – has stuck with me till now. It’s allowed me to be the person who I am today. For that, I will always be grateful to her.
Being healthy, my parents’ passing from cancer came as a big surprise. But it was also a moment for me to ask what my purpose in life was. Instead of asking why these things were happening to me, I started asking how I could make the best of my limited time on Earth.
I was the top salesperson at the scam company because of my ability to sell products and services. The question then revolved around how I can use my skill set to service professionals with real products and services that can impact their customers?
Marketing generates leads, and sales closes these leads. From my previous failed businesses, I realised I was good at selling stuff; but, I didn’t know how to market. I needed to master it. So I read books, attended seminars and found mentors who could teach me.
I needed to practise this learned skill of marketing, and the best way was to do it for free. So I worked for free for two years. I approached businesses and offered to generate leads using my own marketing methods.
If I produced results, they could pay me or put in a good word so that I could get new customers. I started generating over seven figures in sales, and that was what led me to the creation of my own agency, Ascend Marketing.
Since the pandemic, many businesses – particularly small and traditional businesses – learnt how vulnerable they were when no one was physically coming to their store. Many were at risk of being phased out.
And the hardest objection for most business owners was making that pivot and shift to online. So with Ascend, I’m now on a mission to help businesses find a way to sell online and not just survive, but thrive.
Looking back, my mum left this world so suddenly, and I didn’t get to have a final conversation with her. But, while I was searching through her belongings, I found a note she had left for me in her journal.
Her final advice for me was ‘to be a good person, don’t do anyone wrong, and keep doing what you love’. And I’ve kept her last words close to me. I’m happy doing what I love with an amazingly supportive wife, and a daughter who looks just like my late mother.” – Gabriel Wong
Interview by: Cindy Abner
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