Fireside Chat: Kathy Fang and Christian Siriano in a conversation about reinvention
Running a business

How reinvention fuels business success for designer Christian Siriano and chef Kathy Fang

When your small business is poised for growth, reinvention is the key to fresh business success.

It's been at the heart of business evolution for designer Christian Siriano and San Francisco restaurateur Kathy Fang, who joined Emmy award-winning journalist Lisa Ling during Small Business Success Month for a conversation about the ways that reinvention leads to small business success.

You can catch every moment of the QuickBooks + Mailchimp Fireside Chat with Christian Siriano and Kathy Fang in the video below:

The last three years have underscored the importance of reinvention and problem-solving for small business owners across nearly every industry. Siriano and Fang's conversation highlighted ways small business owners can feel confident putting their own innovative ideas and adaptations into practice to find business success.


Reinvention is a nonnegotiable for Siriano, a designer who first made a splash with audiences on Project Runway in 2007. His line of work demands constant change.

"Fashion moves very, very quickly. We have four collections a year, and it's always on to the next," Siriano said during the chat. "That's the biggest challenge in my business: The need for a quick change and growth comes very, very quickly."

Fang, on the other hand, has the challenge of reinventing within an established culinary tradition. She's iterating on the flavors she was raised on in her father's restaurant, San Francisco Chinatown's much-loved House of Nanking, while bringing her own spin to her venture, Fang Restaurant.

"I like to compare it to needing to create a sequel that can live up to a blockbuster. And how often are sequels as good as a blockbuster?" Fang joked.

Paying homage to a legacy while finding her own voice sometimes felt like a lot of pressure — but reinvention doesn't have to be intimidating. Like Siriano and Fang, business owners can reframe it as an exciting part of the industry or an evolution of a tried-and-true favorite.


Both Siriano's and Fang's businesses have benefited from having a clear differentiator. Siriano realized that the star of his designs was his evening wear. With that in mind, he was able to reimagine his eveningwear lines at different price points while maintaining quality.

"[We took] something that we knew we did really great — we felt like we were really good at making a beautiful gown or a beautiful dress — but making it a bit more accessible," Siriano said. "That's how we were able to really grow and grow a lot."

Fang has found it important to give Fang Restaurant a voice and identity that's separate from her father's House of Nanking. But the restaurants share a similarity: Right now, the magic of the family restaurants is the family.

"We're always there front and center, so the superior aspect of it is us, our presence, us being there and cooking for them," Fang said.

As a benefit, knowing that their presence is a competitive edge has helped the Fangs make tough financial decisions. Between a good accountant and their own in-house cooking talent, Fang said she's been able to make the right decisions for her business about where to dedicate financial resources.


Social media can be a sticking point for small business owners. It's one of those tasks that can feel like one more to-do on busy entrepreneurs' plates. Fang, who was initially reluctant to share posts on social media, said she's found it to be an important place to drive her own narrative to connect with guests and fans.

"The reason why I thought social media was daunting was because I felt like it had to be perfect. Oh, it has to have a perfect post, a perfect picture, a perfect caption, a perfect hashtag," Fang said. "When I did the show [Chef Dynasty: House of Fang], what I realized that people gravitated toward was just us being real."

Despite his sizable following, Siriano said he and his team still personally interact with fans on social media. It's a way to stay engaged and grounded while forging authentic bonds that can last longer than the spend for a digital ad campaign.

"My fans that were following very early on in my career, the connection to them is very, very important, making sure that you're just engaged and connected with them," Siriano said. "That just, at some point, always leads to a transaction with them in some way or another, whether we see it right then and there … or if it's a long-term game that you're really trying to get people engaged for years to come."

A social media strategy that focuses on building relationships with followers by bringing them into the world of food or fashion might fly in the face of metrics-driven marketing. But it's on social, Siriano said, that consumers figure out what they love. Often, what they're ready to fall in love with is you.

"When people come to our restaurant … the number-one thing that they say is, hey, we came here because we want to meet you, we wanted to meet your dad. That is the true testament to the power of social media," Fang said.

As a late adopter of social media for business, Fang said she was sold on getting a free avenue to control her brand and connect with customers. She began to see potential for social media content all around her and gave fans a peek into her world.


There are moments in a business owner's life when they have no choice but to adapt to the unexpected. Like, for example, when Siriano had to figure out what to do with the extra 9,000 dresses that showed up in his living room because of a typo. (We're hoping there was a flash sale!)

But innovation doesn't always have to be stunning or spectacular. For a longtime family-run restaurant like House of Nanking, bringing business technology up to date represented a massive reinvention for Fang's parents.

"It was very apparent to me, but not to them, the advances had to happen within the technological space," Fang said. "Something as simple as upgrading your POS [point of sale] system."

Underscoring the constant nature of change, 2 in 5 small business owners have created a new innovation or technology within the past three months, according to a recent survey commissioned by Intuit QuickBooks.

39% of businesses have created a new innovation or technology in the last 3 months.

"I grew up in the food business," said Fang. "There is only a handful of places that are still around, say, 30, 40 years later, and I think what keeps them around is the ability to actually adapt to the times."

For herself, Fang knows that complacency and routine are the signs that it's time for her to innovate.

"You can't get too comfortable. Behind every successful business, there's a bevy of hungry, hungry eyes. People who are like, 'I want to do that,' 'I can do that better,'" Fang said. "You're going to have to take note of that and say, ‘Okay, I'm going to stay ahead of that curve. I need to innovate, I need to reinvent, I need to do something differently.'"

Competition is a driving force that you can use to motivate change, along with other environmental business factors like economic conditions and customer preferences. After all, necessity is the mother of invention — and reinvention!


Ultimately, the way you choose to reinvent your business should align with your definition of small business success. As the owner, "success" is yours to define — and that definition might evolve along your journey.

Fang said she's noticed a clear evolution of her business goals. She started Fang Restaurant simply wanting to survive. Then to become profitable. With more breathing room, she developed other career-driven aspirations. Today, she's toying with a new goal: finding time to spend with her aging parents and young children.

"You could say I'm going through another reinvention at this point," Fang said. "Continuing to grow my business, expand it, means a different thing for me now. How do I do that and maintain what we've created, inspire growth but also make time for my family?"

Fang's de facto business goals might now come with a significant personal sacrifice, and vice versa. Her current reinvention will help her define what that success looks like, tying together her personal and professional lives.

Reinvention supports your business success goals, whether they're for world domination or work-life balance. Still not sure whether you're up to the task of reinventing within your business? Borrow Fang's favorite pump-up song, "Positions" by Ariana Grande, to kick that imposter syndrome to the curb and get to work.

If you missed Intuit’s live Small Business Success Month fireside chat about the ways reinvention fuels success, you can watch the full replay on your own. And for more inspiration, check out the stories and successes of real small business owners or listen to an all-new podcast from QuickBooks and iHeart. 

Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Insights Survey 2023: Online surveys commissioned by Intuit QuickBooks in September 2022 and December 2022 with a total of 2,850 respondents for each wave: 1,500 in the US, 750 in the UK, 600 in Canada. All respondents are over the age of 18. More than 95% of respondents are over the age of 25. Overall, 3 in 5 respondents are small business owners. The remainder are senior decision-makers within small businesses who have good knowledge of the business’s finances, operations and strategic priorities. For the purpose of this survey, small businesses are defined as having 100 employees or fewer. Roughly a quarter of the businesses surveyed have no employees while around two-fifths have 1 to 10 employees. The remaining third have 11 to 100 employees. Annual revenues range from less than $5,000 per year (or equivalent if based in the UK or Canada) to more than $5 million (or equivalent). In general, the largest cohort of respondents have annual revenues of between $100,000 and $499,999 per year (or equivalent): 23% in the US, 16% in the UK and about 25% in Canada. More than half of the small businesses surveyed are service-based while roughly a quarter sell products. The remainder sell a mix of products and services.

This content, report and materials are for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal, accounting, financial, investment, or tax advice or a substitute for obtaining such advice specific to your business. Additional information and exceptions may apply. Applicable laws may vary by state or locality. No assurance is given that the information is comprehensive in its coverage or that it is suitable in dealing with a customer’s particular situation. Intuit Inc. or its affiliates do not have any responsibility for updating or revising any information presented herein. Accordingly, the information provided should not be relied upon as a substitute for independent research. Intuit Inc. or its affiliates do not warrant that the material contained herein will continue to be accurate nor that it is completely free of errors when published. Readers should verify statements before relying on them.

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