Our team is dedicated to finding and telling you more about the web’s best products. If you purchase through our links, we may receive a commission. Our editorial team is independent and only endorses products we believe in.
This AAPI Heritage Month, we’re sharing the stories you may not know behind some of your favorite AAPI-founded brands. Dive in below and return throughout the month for more features – this is the second installment of three in this series.
Founded by: Alice Lin
“From the start, my co-founder Marie and I have been up against so many preconceived notions about beauty products for people of color. Our first product, the Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum, targets hyperpigmentation on melanin-rich skin without lightening the overall skin tone. This is actually the number one skin concern for people of color, yet in conversations with potential partners and industry insiders, it became clear that there is a major lack of understanding in this area. Some experts even expressed doubt that people with darker skin tones could experience hyperpigmentation in the first place; we had to show them examples on our own skin as proof!
Fundraising also presented itself as a major obstacle for us. We came across pushback that women of color simply don’t spend money on beauty products (what?!). Let’s just say there is a lot of education, and representation, needed at every level in this industry!”
Founded by: Kevin Lee
“‘I didn't want to burden you with this, but I went to the doctor for a checkup a month ago, and he notified me that I have breast cancer.’
The day my mother broke the news to me, my vision blurred, my heart sank, and her words echoed until my mind went numb. There's a feeling of helplessness every child feels when their family member gets sick. You can't help but think: ‘How did this happen? What could I have done to prevent this?’
That feeling of helplessness is one of the primary drivers why I started immi, an Asian American food brand re-inventing one of the world's most popular yet unhealthy foods: instant ramen. If we can preemptively improve people's health through the comforting foods they crave, then maybe future generations will never have to experience that helpless moment that no one should ever have to live through.”
Founded by: Michelle Ranavat
“My inspiration comes from my parents. They showed me the foundational elements of resilience and mental strength. My parents took a chance and came to this country 40 years ago to build a new life. Through overcoming hardships and life-altering struggles, they have shown me the strength and resilience that I needed to make my own big steps in founding this brand.
I try to reframe the way I think about pressure. For me, things like pressure and failure are a part of the process. Pressure, when viewed as a negative energy, keeps us from pursuing our dreams. Our team recently did an incredible workshop on resilience and stress, and how to change our mindset on stress and pressure. The key is to be self-aware of where you are on the pressure curve and knowing when to pull back and when to keep going. Success doesn’t come without failure; don’t let the pressure of failure stop you.”
Founded by: Ashley Johnson
“I worked a full time day job while side hustling Mohala Eyewear for about 5 years. I was working nights and weekends for Mohala. Then, when I took vacation days from my day job, I would simply work nonstop on Mohala – I wasn’t getting much rest. Eventually, I hit a point of burnout where I knew I wasn’t myself and my energy level was very low. Seeing a therapist was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m a huge proponent of therapy and normalizing therapy. We take our cars in for service, why wouldn’t we take care of our minds in the same way? My therapist helped me understand how to care for myself so I can be the best version of myself in life and for Mohala.
Self talk also became very powerful for me. When I’m feeling like something is impossible or if I’m feeling overwhelmed by things that are out of my control, I say to myself over and over “everything is figure-out-able.” I probably sound like a crazy person but it helps me to feel grounded, in control of my situation and move through it successfully. No feeling is final. We just have to get through the tough feelings.”
Founded By: Jennie Yoon
“I arrived in the states at age 12. Being an Asian American woman, but also an immigrant who couldn’t speak English, I was often embarrassed of where I came from and of my family. When I was in school, I was often the only Korean. There were so many times I wanted to neglect where I was from in order to fit in with the rest of my peers. In addition, I saw how difficult it was for my parents to find jobs with the language barrier and their limited Visa status throughout my childhood. It was extremely uncomfortable to live in my own skin.
With age, I’ve not only started to become more comfortable with who I am, but I’ve started to recognize that I became who I am because of my past and that’s my power. Now more than ever, I’m honored to have a platform to share my experience and support other AAPI entrepreneurs.”
Founded By: Xenia Chen
“I immigrated to Canada with my parents when I was 5. For most of my life, I thought success meant going to a great school, getting a stable high-paying job at a corporation. And that's pretty much what I did. When I had this idea for Threads, it was so far from what I thought success was that it seemed really crazy and off-script. The hardest part of taking the leap was confronting my own preconceived notions of what success truly meant and what a meaningful life and career could look like. I had to learn on my own that there is no one defined ‘path to success’ and that it looks different for everyone. What is defined as ‘making it’ is very different from one person to the next.
The pressure I put on myself far exceeds anything coming from anyone else so it's really an internal battle. I journal a lot and have done this since I was 16. I write in it every time I feel any sort of big emotion – positive or negative. As humans, we have this cognitive bias called ‘the decline bias,’ which is where we think our current situation or battle we're facing is worse than anything else we've been faced with before, which is simply not true. Journalling and having a record of all those things we have overcome in the past is proof of that. Whenever I'm having a hard time, I really love going through my old journal entries and remembering all the other times in the past where I've felt really down, and then realizing I survived that and thus will survive this too.”
Everyone goes through challenges and hardships. Through each obstacle is another lesson learned and it’s no surprise the owners of our favorite AAPI brands have been so successful. We’ll be back to share more stories next week.
Shop our favorite AAPI owned brands in this article below:
Hero image via Kinn Studio