ACE NextGen Member Stories: Get to know the ACE NextGen community, what we do and why we’re here.
MEET COURTNEY PONG
Tell us about your business.
CSz Boston teaches improv as a life skill for people who want to work together better, be effective communicators, and have more fun in what they do. We’re most known for ComedySportz, our long-running, award-winning show performed in 30 cities across the U.S. As it turns out, the same skills we use as professional comedians performing this show for the past 35 years are applicable to how successfully we adapt to change, do business, and connect with others.
What is the origin story and inspiration for your business?
In 2015 I was running a 5k with friends and tripped and fell so hard I flipped my intestines (apparently a Cecum Volvulus is rare in humans, but common in dogs…). I knew that the Boston location had been seeking an owner. Because I had two abdominal surgeries, I had a LOT of time to ask – and then answer – some important questions, like What’s that next step after 15 years of teaching and performing with this current team in San Jose? What happens if I leave the comfort and rhythm of Silicon Valley? Where could I have more impact – staying here and Doing or going there and Building? The CSz Worldwide family had my back the entire time as I shifted across two hospitals in two different states, medical bills, and varying degrees of support needed. Emerging from that, the necessity to bring that type of community and support to new and more people was too great to stay put in San Francisco.
What’s been the happiest moment of your business? And your lowest? Any lessons learned?
I’m happiest when I’m listening to reflections at the end of trainings – I love hearing what people are learning and taking away from a session. My favorite is when someone says “I wish more people knew about this.” That, or any time someone approaches us after a show to tell us we helped them get through a stressful day with a few laughs.
Lowest: We were doing a show for 200 2nd graders at a summer camp, outdoors, and our individual wireless mics all took turns cutting out because I forgot to put the antennas on the receivers. Summer heat + mosquitos + 200 8-year olds…I feel like we really earned our stripes after that one.
Lessons: Checklists and processes may seem like the boring part, but they help you remember the antennas.
Why ACE NextGen? What brought you to the ACE NextGen community?
I first heard about the ACE NextGen community through their women’s event. It was a powerful experience – to be in a room with other women who are not only welcoming and innately collaborative, but deeply understanding of the challenges you have faced as an Asian American Woman in business. As a Chinese American navigating underrepresentation in entertainment, improv comedy, and comedy, I left feeling inspired to continue boldly, and empowered to identify and create more opportunities for others, just as ACE NextGen is leading others to do by example.
What advice would you give to rising entrepreneurs?
Your attitude determines what you learn – if you’ve got gratitude, you’ll always be learning and improving.