From Burnout in Corporate Finance to Mindful Evolution

Stephanie Wang, originally from Hong Kong, transitioned from a successful career in corporate finance to pursue her passion for botanicals and mindful evolution. She was a number one ranked equity analyst in the retail sector with HSBC Securities in Hong Kong before moving to New York to seek fulfillment. After another move, this time to Madrid in Spain, she now leads KA! Empathogenics, a company that crafts natural supplements from kanna, stewarded by the indigenous Bushmen and Khoi of South Africa. In this essay for Vivid Minds, Stephanie shared what it takes to start a new career from scratch and advocate for mental health in the world of busyness.

Stephanie Wang

Stephanie Wang

CEO of KA! Empathogenics

Traumatic Childhood

Growing up in Hong Kong, my childhood was marked by family complexities and trauma, which later led to struggles with depression. I studied at the Wharton Business School and initially pursued a career in finance, working in investment banking with Salomon Brothers and later in equity research with HSBC Securities. At age 28, I was at the top of my game, and it was also when I experienced total burnout and a crisis of purpose.

Seeking healing and self-discovery, I left finance and found solace in filmmaking, reigniting a dormant passion. Transitioning into this new career, I relocated to New York City, where I found fulfillment as a producer. However, the quest for deeper meaning continued, pushing me to explore further avenues of personal and creative expression.

 Plant Explorations

After battling chronic depression, I embarked on a journey of healing and self-discovery through various modalities, including herbalism and sacred plant medicine like kanna. 

Transitioning from finance and media production to the plant world felt like a natural step for me, driven by my deep fascination with the healing abilities of botanicals. It wasn’t just about changing careers; it marked a personal journey towards holistic well-being. My own healing experiences made me recognize how our emotional, mental, and physical health are interconnected. Conventional medicine often didn’t address the root causes of chronic issues, leading me to explore integrative and Eastern healing practices.

In 2014, I connected with like-minded individuals at Evolver in New York, sparking meaningful encounters. This journey ultimately led me to contribute to the launch of The Alchemist’s Kitchen, where my passion for plant medicine and my professional trajectory seamlessly merged.

New Venture

Through experiences with psychedelics and psychoactive plant medicines like kanna, I found profound emotional openness and connection. Kanna, native to South Africa and Namibia, offers stress-relief while enhancing focus. Recognizing its potential, I embarked on a journey to share its benefits. It is also a natural nootropic, anxiolytic (reduces anxiety) and mood lifter used to treat depression and alcohol abuse in South Africa due to its anti-addictive qualities. 

In 2018, I crossed paths with Dr. Alex Ott, a double Ph.D. molecular biologist and biochemist, who shared my passion for health and healing. His role as our Chief Scientist has been instrumental in our journey.

After four years of research and development, my own company, KA! Empathogenics was born. Our decision to create chews instead of gummies presented a challenge. Unlike gummies, our patent-pending chews are made without sugar or heat, preserving the ingredients’ bioactivity. With mental health issues affecting 1 in 5 Americans, KA! aims to restore people’s innate ability to feel alive, capable and connected, fostering a sense of interconnectedness with nature and each other along the way.

I felt a deep calling for something that resonated with my soul’s desires. However, figuring out exactly what that was took years of exploration and trial and error. What kept me going was my faith in myself and in something greater.

Entrepreneurship is far more challenging than working a stable job, but it’s also more exhilarating. To me, it’s a spiritual journey, constantly testing my beliefs and pushing me to grow in the face of uncertainty. It’s also an opportunity for personal and leadership development.

After two decades in New York, I’m drawn to Europe’s supportive atmosphere. Madrid captured my heart instantly; its energy feels like home, so I moved there without looking back. Growing my business here while navigating a move across continents has proven to be the best decision. Madrid’s peaceful environment has been instrumental in focusing on building KA!, while also managing mental health challenges.

Prepared for Vivid Minds by
Avatar photo Anastasia Chernikova Anastasia is the Editor-in-Chief of The Vivid Minds. She is also a frequent contributor to business publications, such as Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes and others.