Ta, a first-generation Vietnamese-American, became a millionaire by age 27 thanks to her broker-dealer startup Vantage Investments. Now in her 40s, Ta has clocked approximately 20 years on Wall Street, including her second business, Titan Securities – acquired in 2005 – and her latest enterprise as founder and CEO of Sqeeqee (pronounced squeaky) a California-based social networthing site.
“Money is power and power is money,” Ta said. “When I was the owner of Vantage [Investments] I had the power of managing hundreds of thousands of dollars and then millions. When a woman has the power, the men will kneel with mercy. Women need to put the power in their hands.”
Sqeeqee’s concept of social networthing is one that Ta quickly trademarked. She said she’d grown tired of trying to manage the plethora of social media accounts, usernames and passwords across various organizations and decided to create a platform monetize them.
“It’s a combination between social networking and net worth, a Wall Street term,” she explained.
“Everyday actions such as adding buddies, online shopping, posting videos or photos, playing virtual games, or selling goods will earn users $Q Bucks,” according to information released by Sqeeqee. “New users will also automatically start with 10,000 $Q Bucks to begin their exploration of the site. 10,000 $Q Bucks equals $1.
“$Q Bucks can be redeemed for real life rewards including cash as well as gift cards from world-class retailers such as Starbucks, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Target, Outback, Home Depot and many others. $Q Bucks can be used to make purchases in the Sqeeqee Shop, to help create an advertisement, can be donated to charity and much more.”
When asked why consumers should monetize their various media platforms with Sqeeqee as opposed to keeping them separated, Ta replied, “Facebook, Amazon, Instagram give you nothing. As soon as you sign on to Sqeeqee you get one Sqeeqee buck. One is better than zero.
“I was raised as a poor welfare child so I always think of the people and the people are the users. We hope Sqeeqee will teach other social media platforms to take notice, respect users and give back to them,” she continued.
Ta credits her professional determination to her mother, who fled Vietnam to ensure her children’s safety following the fallout of the Vietnam War.
“When the war stopped my dad was a POW [prisoner of war],” Ta explained. “My mother visited him once or twice and they’d signal back and forth because they weren’t allowed to talk much. He signaled and gave her the permission to take the kids and go. If you stayed in the country at that time you were going to die anyway or your girls were going to be sold into the sex trade.”
Ta, her mother and older brother then spent several years in a Hong Kong refugee camp, having bartered passage on a boat, until her uncle sponsored them to gain asylum in Fresno, California. She said she never saw her father again after leaving Vietnam before around age six.
“I take a lot of the traits from my mom: she’s stubborn and determined,” Ta said. “We moved out of our uncle’s house and my mother applied for welfare. English was very difficult but and my brother and I went to regular school to learn ESL [English as a Second Language].”
Ta said the only thing her mother ever required of her children was a four-year college degree, which she earned in management information systems from California State University, Fresno, before going on to gain a master’s of business administration from the same institution.
“I flew out of college [graduating in three years] and left all of my friends behind. They couldn’t understand why I wanted to leave the parties,” Ta said, noting that her only priority was achieving professional and financial success by breaking into corporate America.
“I faxed out thousands of resumes everyday,” she recalled of life during her early 20s. “Lehman Brothers gave me $10 an hour in San Jose. I loved that world. It was fascinating to me. That’s when Wall Street really hit me. I quickly learned within two years that there was no upward mobility for women on Wall Street so I went to the library to learn how to become an independent broker-dealer.
“Whoever said ‘no’ to me that I couldn’t, I was determined to turn it to a ‘yes’. They’d say, ‘You’re a woman, you’re Asian, you can’t run a business,’ and I said, ‘Watch me!’ I am quite humble but if they treat me like [expletive], I treat them like [expletive]. When you fight brain-to-brain there is no size difference,” Ta said of men in corporate America.
“I have two to three whammies against me, the first is being a woman; the second whammy is I’m a minority as an Asian; and the third whammy is I tend to choose industry sectors that are male-dominated,” she added.
Ta isn’t one to make excuses for any perceived strikes against her, however. When asked if she believed women must sacrifice personal or familial aspirations for the sake of professional goals, she replied, “While I am a woman and I empower women, my answer may intimidate women. Let’s just say you wanted to be in a 100-meter race and your opponent happens to be a man. It’s the day of the race the man is dressed and ready in sneakers and workout clothes and the woman walks to the race in her skirt, pumps … so that when she runs this 100 meters she trips and she falls and who do we blame? We blame ourselves. The man gave us the opportunity but what did we do with it?
“We can’t change who bears the child, that’s up to God but when we’re given the opportunity to run that race, we need to put the pumps and the skirts away and be ready to be a part of a man’s world.
“I will be that man on the racetrack. Today we’re in the day where the man can be the homemaker. Put the man in the woman’s role: he can be the homemaker.
Women got it all wrong: they’re asking to be that billionaire and the homemaker. It’s never going to work. We can’t have both,” she continued.
When asked about her plans for the future, Ta replied that she wants to secure Sqeeqee as a multi-billion-dollar business and become a billionaire herself in order to give back to other budding female entrepreneurs. She also has plans to explore business concepts pertaining to hardware engineering.
“I want to set up a VC [venture capitalist] firm that is stronger than any of those out there. I’m a risk taker and I have a vision for the next generation of women,” she said. “I call it the Sqeeqee Ark, because an ark can’t sink but a ship can, and this ark will take us to the next generation of successful, empowered female entrepreneurs.”