Female Asian American Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2019
When I first started my business, all of the people I looked up to were white. I don’t say this in a negative way, I’m only stating a fact.
As my business grew and as the growing pains became more pronounced, I found myself craving stories from women who looked like me. The problem was that I kept waiting for them to show up at my doorstep leaving me disappointed when my mental list fell short.
When I began keeping track of other women in business who mirrored my cultural experiences, I was amazed at both the quality and quantity of women I found.
What struck me even more was the number of Asian American women doing incredible work that wasn’t being recognized. Despite their rich stories and sound advice, they weren’t being featured the same way that white women of the same calibre appeared to be.
I’m on a mission to change this - to add more diversity of color, story, and heritage to our mainstream media cycle.
However, on the list I’ve compiled below, there are still women of various perspectives absent - members of the LGBTQ community and women who are disabled among other underrepresented or marginalized groups. If you know of any women who represent these facets of our society, please tell me about them. I want to hear their stories and support their work.
Asian American Female Entrepreneurs to Support in 2019
Esmé Weijun Wang (Taiwanese-American) - Esmé was one of the first Asian women that I saw working in online business; she was selling digital products for journalists when I first discovered her work. What I found most fascinating about her was how transparent she was about her experiences with late-stage Lyme disease and schizoaffective disorder. Since then, she has become an award-winning writer with the publication of her first essay collection, The Collected Schizophrenias.
Find her on Instagram @esmewwang
Jaclyn Fu (Chinese-American) - Jaclyn is the co-founder of Pepper, a bra company that caters specifically to small-chested women. I’m obsessed with the way they’re using a product to shift the cultural narrative about our society’s body standards.
Find her on Instagram @wearpepper
Stephanie Buttermore (Thai-American) - When I started getting serious about the gym, I began to look for women on YouTube who had achieved the results I wanted, and who had done so with an academic foundation. Stephanie checked both of these boxes. Her videos are creative, fun, and high-quality, plus she’s setting herself up for a brilliant business model alongside it.
Find her on Instagram @stephanie_buttermore
Meera Lee Patel (Indian-American) - Meera is an author and writer-for-hire who has worked with companies like Free People, Esteé Lauder, and Target. What I love most about her is how she connects her creativity with the effort to preserve and experience her ancestral heritage.
Find her on Instagram @meeraleepatel
Candice Kumai (Japanese-American) - Candice began her professional career as a model and has since become a professionally trained chef, best-selling author, wellness + food director/writer, influencer, and speaker. She turned me from coffee to matcha -- which is what she’s known for -- and has been called the “The Golden Girl of Wellness” by Elle Magazine.
Find her on Instagram @CandiceKumai
Joy Cho (Thai-American) - When you go to the About page of Oh Joy!, the first thing you’ll read about Joy is “To boba or not to boba? That is the question. This should immediately give you an indication of the fun and approachable energy that she brings to her design projects and products. Apparently, the outlet TIME thought she was pretty rad too because they’ve named her as one of the 30 most influential people on the Internet two years in a row. (Also, this blush velvet daybed she designed is dreamy.)
Find her on Instagram @ohjoyco.
Victoria Tsai (Taiwanese-American) - While Victoria is the CEO of a Japanese skincare brand, she’s not actually Japanese. Everything she creates is based on the Japanese diet - green tea, rice, algae - and values. Plus, she’s the person who inspired me to donate proceeds from my business to the nonprofit organization: Room to Read.
Find her on Instagram @vickytsai
Payal Kadakia (Indian-American) - Payal is the founder and executive chairman of ClassPass, a subscription company that allows members to find and book classes with various studios and gyms in select cities. She’s a classically trained dancer -- and oh, no big deal -- also has a degree from MIT in Operations Research and Economics.
Find her on Instagram @payal
Miki Agrawal (Japanese-American) - Miki is one of the most innovative entrepreneurs that I have learned about to date. A Wall Street dropout, a former professional soccer player, and a published author - she was the founder of THINX, ICON, WILD and TUSHY, which is a modern and affordable bidet attachment.
Find her on Instagram @mikiagrawal
Aileen Xu (Chinese-American) - While Aileen can be considered an influencer first, it’s clear that she has a strategic business mind. Originally the founder Lavendaire Lifestyle - a Youtube channel focused on self care - Aileen has expanded her platform to include a popular podcast, workbooks, and planners.
Find her on Instagram @lavendaire
Ally Maki (Japanese-American) - In an interview with Elle actress, Ally Maki said, “I never saw anyone who looked like me on TV when I was growing up. I wasn't represented in any way. I want [Asian girls] to be like, 'If she can do it, then I can do it, too.'" When I read that and saw the work that she was doing with the Asian American Girl Club, I knew I had to keep my eye on her. She’s the kind of person who models what it looks like to blend professional pursuits with social impact.
Find her on Instagram @allymaki
Find her business on Instagram @asianamericangirlclub
Sonja Rasula (Chinese-American) - A native to LA, Sonja renovated and opened a coworking building in the Arts District called The Unique Space, which also hosts events. It’s beautiful, functional and creative, and I desperately want one in my city too. Before opening this space, she curated other events to gather people together like Unique LA, a made-in-America shopping event, and CAMP, “a business conference for creatives who hate business conferences”.
Find her on Instagram @sonjarasula
Jen Rubio (Filipino-American) - Jen is the co-founder and chief brand officer of Away, a functional and minimal luggage company with features that solve problems travelers routinely run into such as an ejectable battery, a built-in nylon laundry bag, and a TSA-approved lock. In their first year of business, they hit $12 million in revenue.
Find her on Instagram @jennifer
Find her business on Instagram @away
Nitika Chopra (Indian-American) - I first learned about Nitika’s work when she spoke at an intimate conference in NYC about being an advocate for those with chronic illness as she is diagnosed with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. I was immediately drawn to her bright, loving energy and have watched her evolve into a host of a talk show called Naturally Beautiful, an on-air expert for Fresh on QVC, a mentor, and an influencer.
Find her on Instagram @nitikachopra