top of page

Lessons Learned at Xiaojie's Startup Story- A Teen's Perspective

I took Leo Yu, my new teen mentee, to a story night by Startup Grind where I was invited to talk about my startup journey with CandleX. I remember my teen years, spent in school and at home, I always wanted to learn more about the world, the real world. It looks so exciting, adult, and cool. Growing up in the 80s in Sichuan, I could only wish. Now that I'm at a place where I can offer that, I do, to be the adult that makes a meaningful impact on a young person’s life. I love mentoring teens because they are at the age where they can be shaped and hit their potential when they are given the right opportunities. I created the Teens Empowerment Project for this reason. I remember that night, Leo, another team member, and I were sitting on the rooftop, and I asked Leo: what would you be doing instead if you weren’t here for your first task with us? He said: ‘I’d probably stay home and do my homework. This is interesting.’

Yes, life is interesting, and let’s keep it that way.

Xiaojie Qin

Psychotherapist, Director of CandleX

Nov 2023


As a mentee in Candlex’s teen empowerment project, I recently attended the event named Startup Story Night hosted by StartupGrind as a participant listener and an assistant for Xiaojie, the speaker and founder of Candlex, a mental health organization. It seemed as if the challenges and obstacles brought to her never ended, but she continued her pursuit. Listening to her story, as the only teenager in the room, I couldn’t help but feel inspired and relate to her experiences in my journey as a high school student.

One challenge I specifically remember and that seems to have long resonated in my mind is the management of money. Hearing the speaker describe her struggle with running the organization she had created that required funds and investments, I have learned the balancing of idealism and practicality. I learned the significance of considering sustainable models, exploring partnerships, and seeking innovative solutions to ensure the longevity as well as sustainability of our business projects.

Xiaojie said, “We all have our comfort levels.” The concept of comfort levels reminds us that everyone has their own boundaries and preferences. When starting a business or organization, it should be a crucial reminder that we have our own comfort zone and to work within it. Through this, we should understand our strengths, values, and limitations that could enable us to make reasonable decisions and build a venture that aligns with who we are. She added that “when you do your hobby in a way that others want,” we will soon lose our interest. Xiaojie’s comment highlights the importance of maintaining the personal connection and enthusiasm that we have for our chosen endeavor.

I asked myself, what if I’m never ready simply to commit the leap of faith and belief in pursuing psychology as a career? Unexpectedly Xiaojie made another point: “We are and never will be ready.” I was never ready to break free from the chains that peers and relatives fabricated. Still, I was willing to change the current circumstances in which I was situated - lost, unknowning of the future and what I aim for as an occupation. For far too long, I had allowed myself to be confident in the perceptions and limitations that others imposed. I find myself often waiting for the perfect moment or seeking the validation of others before pursuing what I truly want. The weight of familial and peer expectations pressed heavily upon me. I lost myself in the 'role confusion' stage of Erik Ericson’s psychosocial development. Pressures and aspirations conflicted with one another, causing my mental health to degrade. But I yearn for a sense of purpose and direction. As Xiaojie previously stated, I am reminded that readiness is not a destination for one’s success but a continuous process of growth and self-discovery; to be quite honest, it is in the moments of uncertainty and stepping into the unknown where we find the strength and resilience to create a future aligned with our true desires. This is one of the most important takeaways for me during this event. I realized, truly, that I’m under the influence of my peers and parents in the field I’m stepping into, although I sometimes struggle with the idea of whether I should take these influences into account. However, I should take these influences to a certain extent in the belief that some are beneficial while incorporating them into my inner voice, where I observe and answer this situation holistically.

Attending this panel discussion has been a transformative experience for me as a high school student. With each step that I take in the future, to forge my path with a renewed sense of purpose and determination, I will continue to honor and challenge my comfort levels by embracing the uncertainty and striving for a future that stands with my values.

bottom of page