Entrepreneurial success stories are a dime a dozen these days. There are many brave and talented individuals out there who have managed to turn their ideas into thriving ventures, proving it’s possible to make your dreams come true, despite the many challenges that the highly competitive and sometimes ruthless business environment may throw at you. But there are certain stories that stand out from the rest, serving as a source of inspiration for us all, and Khoa Le’s journey into the world of entrepreneurship is definitely one of them.
Describing Khoa Le in just a few words is rather difficult given that he has accomplished so much in such a short period of time. He’s running multiple businesses that bring in millions of dollars every year. But to say that he’s just an entrepreneur would be an understatement because he’s done a lot more than getting a few companies off the ground. He’s known for directing and co-producing the full-length feature film Walt Before Mickey and he’s been making waves in the film industry with his upcoming movie projects. But to label him as another Hollywood director would not do him justice because his connections to the entertainment industry go much deeper than that.
So, let’s say that Khoa Le is one of those rare individuals who don’t fit neatly into a category and whose creative and innovative mindset doesn’t allow them to find satisfaction in doing just one thing. Khoa is a professional with a tireless mind who enjoys getting involved in a multitude of projects and domains and somehow manages to excel in all of them. So, let’s find out more about this modern-day renaissance man and his one-of-a-kind success story.
Looking at Khoa Le’s life and achievements today you would never guess he’s had a rather rough start in life. Unlike other accomplished professionals, Khoa doesn’t come from a privileged family and he didn’t have the luxury of a wealthy upbringing. Khoa was born on June 2nd, 1980, in Chanthaburi, Thailand, in a family of refugee immigrants from Vietnam. His parents risked their lives to give Khoa and his brother a chance at a better life, so they came to the United States, and at the age of 5 Le officially became a US citizen. His childhood wasn’t easy though, growing up in the ghetto of New Jersey and living in foster care for a while due to his mother’s health-related issues.
But despite the many bumps that he had to face along the way, Khoa stayed focused on his education and graduated from Rutgers University with a music degree. He’s always been a creative guy, starting his journey into the fascinating world of music at the age of 7 when he learned to play the piano. While in college, Khoa caught the eye of indie record producer Rich Aburum who was impressed by his skills and talent, and eventually, the two started working together. That’s how Khoa became acquainted with the entertainment industry and built the work ethic and dedication that would shape his future career.
Khoa continued to further his education, earning a Master’s Degree at the prestigious Juilliard School. He also began to actively pursue his passion for music, getting involved in different music-related projects and working several jobs to support his creative work. Eventually, he got a job as a web video engineer at Ernst & Young, and in his spare time he focused on his newly-founded business, KVibe Studios.
Khoa’s professional trajectory dismantles the myth of the starving artist largely based on the belief that creative minds usually lack business skills. Art and entrepreneurship can in fact go hand in hand, and Le has proven that by building not one, but two 7 figure businesses. It surely wasn’t a simple process, as Khoa had to put in a lot of effort to turn his vision into reality.
His first company, KVibe Studios, was founded in 2005 as an e-commerce platform connecting artists, writers, and other creatives in the music industry. His idea was an instant success, with thousands of people joining the project. Le worked hard to expand his technical arsenal and skills, and given that this was happening at a time when technology in the field wasn’t as evolved as it is today, he also had to build his own music streaming music player.
As the business kept growing and new tech solutions were introduced to the music and film scene, Khoa got an interest in directing, as it provided a more fulfilling way to convey a narrative, so the transition from music to film happened naturally. Khoa’s first short film called Denial, which he wrote, directed, and produced, won the award for “Best Suspense Short” at the New York International Film Festival, so he got off to a good start.
Le went on to make two other short films, then he got hired to produce commercials, and the projects kept piling up. KVibe began producing music videos, short films, and commercials for corporate clients on a contract basis, turning into a full-fledged production studio and increasing its earnings from $30,000 to $500,000 in just two years.
You’d think that this kind of success would keep anyone busy and happy, but Le had no intention of stopping here. KVibe was already a thriving company when Khoa turned his attention to the wedding industry which provided a fertile ground for business. That prompted him to start Live Picture Studios, a company specialized in producing cinematic wedding films. The business started in a modest office space in New Jersey and two years later it reached an annual income of $2.5 million, doing 500+ weddings a year.
As you may assume, his professional achievements didn’t go unnoticed. In 2014, KVibe was recognized as the fastest growing business in the Tri-state area by the SBDC / SBA, winning the Small Business of The Year Award. The company was also included in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. His innovative business approach and effective growth strategies caught the eye of the USPAACC, the largest Asian Chamber of Commerce in the U.S., which appointed him as the President of the North East Chapter of the Us Pan Asian American Chambers of Commerce. Le was also granted the “Fast 100” award from the USPAACC in 2018-2021.
One might wonder how Khoa got into the movie industry while running two businesses. As the shrewd entrepreneur explains, KVibe and Live Picture studios are both part of his long-term plan to change the way business is done in the entertainment industry, a plan whose next phase will start with the launch of his startup, Sutudu, in July 2022. In light of this ultimate goal, branching out into feature films was a logical step. Khoa always enjoyed using his broad range of skills to help people, and that got him involved in a film project with Christian Vogeler, which led to the next big project that would mark the beginning of Le’s career in the movie business. When Armando Gutierrez, the producer of Walt Before Mickey, was looking for a new movie director, Chrisitan recommended him for the project, and that’s how Le got to direct his first feature film.
For Khoa, this was only the first step in this direction. His next projects got him on board two documentaries on Vanilla Ice (Ice Ice Baby) and Jose Feliciano (Behind His Guitar) as co-executive and co-director. But without a doubt, the biggest and most exciting movie that Khoa has worked on so far is his upcoming biopic, Bezos, which is slated for release in 2022.
Directing the live-action business movie marks an important stage in Khoa’s career, as he got to use his knowledge as a director and his business acumen to bring this movie to life. As expected, the film follows the story of Bezos, centering on his decision to quit his job as a hedge fund VP to start an online book retailer called Amazon, which would later become one of the biggest companies in the world.
In Khoa’s own words, Bezos is an entrepreneurship story meant to inspire entrepreneurs or people who have some sort of vision in their life, and want to take a risk and move their vision forward. As he likes to highlight, it’s not a movie about Bezos, but about a human being trying to do something more than themselves based on their vision, which is an example of a success story.
It’s quite fitting that a successful entrepreneur gets to do a movie about another successful entrepreneur, and inspire people who are looking to start on a similar path. What Khoa Le’s fascinating success story teaches us is that hard work and commitment ultimately pay off, and it’s possible to break barriers even in today’s harsh and competitive business landscape.