Cowboy Days, Volkswagen & the 90’s Web – Meet Sheli Bowman of Hong Kong

‘Pioneer,’ was the first word that made us curious about Sheli Bowman. Volkswagen as her first client WOWED us. She created a web development company way back in the 90s when the web was in its most infant stage! This is nothing short of a remarkable journey where you could get to know first hand the evolution of web design and development as we know it today. We are also requesting Sheli to be an instructor on Woomentum and create some stellar courses for us because there is so much she has to offer! Here’s her amazing journey.

1. Your profile bio describes you as a pioneer in establishing a web development company. Please tell us about your business, your motivation and your journey as a digital leader. 
In early to mid-90’s the world wide web was in its infancy. I lived with a geek programmer, who was ecstatic about trying every new development. We would be saying ‘hello, hello, hello’ and figure out we were speaking to another random geek in Russia. Cowboy days. Since I was a designer, it made sense to start a web development company together, which we did when we moved to Hong Kong. We were actually approached by a couple of the big ad agencies who wanted to buy our company, not realising we were just two people working out of our bedroom in the evenings.

The journey has been quite a ride! I was Creative Director at a few web development companies and my own (I still have during the dotcom boom/bust. Then social media became the buzz. I went straight from being an old school creative and brand strategy specialist straight to digital marketing, kind of skipping traditional marketing. It was apparent to me that the marketing which was being taught in 2009 was totally out of touch with how real world marketing needed to be done.

2. Volkswagen was your first client. How did it feel to bag a high profile client considering you had just started out with the business? 
There were not many companies building websites in early 1996, so we honestly were just happy that anyone wanted the service we were providing. It didn’t really phase us that it was a big player. However, by the time the dotcom boom really hit we had already dissolved our company.

3. Over the years, what are some achievements that have made you really proud of your work?
I worked for one company, GS Magic, in China that made small form factor hard drives. They were used in the original iPod Minis and for digital cameras before compact flash became feasible. Within four months, I helped build a team of about 25 people and completely revamped all their branding, marketing materials, website, copywriting, packaging, expo videos, built an ERP and created a fairly impressive presence. The company was to present itself at the CES (Consumer Electric Show) and our original budget for the show itself was USD20k. My boss and CEO believed in my vision and we spent well over USD140k. The sales team signed millions of dollars in contracts and we got into channels in every developed market worldwide. 

The last company I helped build and am still a partner in (I left end of last year) is a nutrition eCommerce business. I am super proud of the team I built for that company and what we accomplished while there. But my favourite is still those four crazy months before my first CES with a totally unheard of Chinese company.

4. Who is Sheli Bowman and what does she offer to the world? At a recent workshop I was asked to split what I love doing into my silly, dorky side and my cool, super human side. I honestly couldn’t figure out what went into which column. I am a tech diver and instructor (up to tri-mix closed circuit rebreather instructor), love caving and cave diving, meditate and do yoga every morning for 1-3hrs every day, have been a Reiki Master/Teacher for 22yrs, speak Japanese, have frequently jumped off the Macau tower, have always been involved with marine conservation, love animals/ nature/ marine life and my dissertation was on the shark fin industry. Hard to build that into a consistent theme.

What I offer to the world is a cross section of my experience with digital marketing and my involvement in the wellness industry. I set up because I know a lot of people in the wellness space and, while they are very good at what they do, they are not so great at marketing themselves. It is my passion project to change that.

My main company, Brand Catalyst, is also a bit of a passion project. I seriously want to help all small businesses achieve success through automation. That is my mission.

Also I will to start organising wellness retreats, to help more people destress and deal with life better. We are organising one at gorgeous ashram in Chiang Mai in May next year.

5. If you were to teach entrepreneurs, what subject/course would be a priority? 
I am actually writing a book with basic brand strategy and digital marketing tips, written specifically for entrepreneurs and SME owners, not marketers. I currently have about one speaking event per month around this. Plus I will soon be working on course for everyone here at Woomentum on how to present from your heart to make sales and help make real change in other people’s’ lives!

7. Words of wisdom that you live by? 

  1. Meditate every morning. It is free and adds so much to your life.
  2. No matter how much you make, live reasonably so you can travel as much as possible. Experiences and connections with other people and other cultures are the essence of a life well lived!
  3. Buy/own rather than rent, even if it is not your ideal home. You’ll get there eventually.
  4. Invest in yourself. Find the best mentors you can and find a way to pay them. The return will come back to you many times.
  5. Form partnerships very carefully and with people you know you enjoy working with. I have partnered with a couple really not nice people, and it is a nightmare I would not wish on anyone.

Thank you so much, Sheli, for sharing your story with us here in Woomentum! We highly recommend you reach out to and get her amazing advice on how to use marketing for your small business.

Now, it’s your turn:

What inspired *you* most about Sheli’s story, and what’s your big takeaway from her words of wisdom?

We want to get to know you better and the work you are doing — please share your stories below! 💪

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