From Mount Everest to Modern Entrepreneur: Anne Shiau’s Success Story


WE Source sits down with Anne Shiau, an attorney, to talk about how and why she went out on her own. We didn’t have space to share the whole interview so we hope to talk to her again next year to catch up with this shooting star.

Headshot of Anne Shiau, attorney and busniess owner, Asian-American with long black hair, smiles into the camera.
Why did you decide to take the leap and go out on your own? Have you always wanted to run your own business?

I finally realized I wanted to be own boss. You’re killing yourself at work for someone else. I wanted to do something for myself.

How did you know when you were ready?

I dreamed about it for two years, waiting for the right moment. There were always reasons not to. I realized I would just have to do it. On my last day of work at my salaried job, I went from the office to the theater and then the next day left to trek to Everest base camp. It was on my bucket list, but Nepal was like a boot camp for starting my business.

What keeps you motivated?

Initially fear. Utter abject fear. It kept me working even when exhausted and now my business is growing and it’s my clients that drive me. Helping protect them from disaster keeps me excited.

Did you need funding?

I saved up a cushion, but not necessarily for the business. I’m risk averse. For the business, I took a 0% interest card and used savings.

Do you have a business plan?

I didn’t create a formal business plan, but wrote out my goals and plan for the first year. I want to grow slowly and I will revisit it at the one year mark.

Who did you ask for advice?

I learned a lot from the men I worked for, but it was the strong women entrepreneurs I met that gave me the confidence and inspiration to start my own business. My “go to” are women solo practitioners and a few business owners outside of law. My legal mentors are older and have been in the industry a long time. But younger women are also very inspiring.

What’s the single biggest struggle since opening?

Lots of little challenges that add up. I didn't know where to get malpractice insurance or what quarterlies are. I asked other entrepreneurs and Google—and used a lot of free trials of software!

What are advantages or disadvantages to being a woman entrepreneur?

There’s no shortage of other women willing to help me and give me advice. Online communities have been really helpful.

What resources have been helpful to you?

Friends, family, co-workers, business incubators, the Chamber of Commerce. A website called, a solo legal practitioner website. It’s nice to know you’re not alone suffering on an island and some have made it to “Paradise Island.”

How do you view failure?

Failure is ok. I recognize that things won’t always go smoothly. You need to use that experience to grow.

What will you be celebrating in a year?

I hope to be celebrating that I feel comfortable taking an extended vacation to the Galapagos Islands. If I’m not here everything will go under. Everything is on you. All the failures. All the good things.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I hope to have an established business with some employees. Have a marketable system that I can use. Paying it forward being a mentor. I mentor a bit now, but I’m too new. I’ll still be figuring it out in five years.

If you knew what you know now would you still have done it?

Yes I would. But I wish I had known more I wish I’d done more to prepare like gotten IT skills so I could find out why my emails bounced! I’m very happy with what I’ve accomplished. I choose my clients and that makes it worthwhile.

What would you have done differently?

I wish I had started six months before I wanted to open because you need to do so much prep work. So much hurry up and wait. Building a website, business registration and bank accounts, figuring out how to do e-payments. When I started, I would speak to a client and no one has checkbooks. I can’t take PayPal or Venmo. A secure payment portal and an IOLTA account makes a faster turnaround. Legal is one of the slowest industries to go digital. I’m using Skype, online payments and I use a practice management software to create dashboards for my clients so they have a view into their documents at any time. The software I’m using is intended for photographers, but it met my requirements more than the standard legal ones and I was able to make it what I wanted.

What should people know about your business?

People should know that planning for the future is important. You need to find someone you trust. I hope I have created an environment that it’s friendly, but digital. There’s an initial client meeting in person. I work around them during off hours/weekends to develop that relationship. After that we can do video calls, emails. We do signings in person. I do whatever works best for the client.


Thank you!

Our success story Entrepreneur

Blue, double-lined hexagon with the initials AYS in the center.

Anne Shiau


A seasoned, award-winning attorney, Shiau is a graduate of UC Berkeley and UC Davis School of Law and runs AYS Law, a full service estate planning law firm specializing in trusts, wills and advanced health care directives.

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All views and opinions expressed by the entrepreneurs interviewed are their own and do not represent those of Bank of the West WE Source, Bank of the West, or its affiliates.