30 AAPI Founders We Love to Support
May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month and what better time than right now to highlight some of our favorite AAPI founders. From artists to creators to designers and beyond, these women are charting their own creative paths and bringing fresh ideas to the world, making it a little brighter, a little more colorful, and a better place for all. Check them out and their brands and prepare to be inspired!
Giselle Go, Cofounder of DAMDAM
The former editor in chief of Harper's Bazaar Singapore (the youngest to hold the title at just 26) turned skincare entrepreneur is Philippine-born and sought to build a clean skincare brand as an ode to the Japanese culture she loved and respected so deeply. Enter DAMDAM, a brand dedicated to preserving ancient Japanese beauty regimens, such as "osoji" and "mochi had," heritage Japanese beauty ingredients like the Shiso Plant and Komenuka Oil, and a team of partners and vendors that collaborate with the brand by creating hand-crafted atelier and preserve Japanese land through regenerative farming practices. The brand is a 5-star best seller on Sephora and one that's hoping to inspire more people to partake in minimalist routines that place an emphasis on mindfulness.
Yanghee Paik, CEO and co-founder of Rael
“I like to call myself an accidental entrepreneur," says Yanghee Paik, a former Hollywood exec who co-founded Rael feminine care products. "I was looking for new inspiration and ways to make a bigger impact on people’s lives when I met my other co-founders.” Together, they saw an opportunity to bring safe and effective technology of Korean feminine care products to the U.S. market. Rael’s first organic cotton pads launched in 2017 and became #1 best-selling pad on Amazon. All Rael period care products are developed without toxins and are hypoallergenic, soft, and breathable. The packaging is also something you don't mind leaving on your countertop.;)
Dev Heyrana, Fine Artist and Hip Hop Dance Teacher
Heyrana's particular brand of creativity is one-of-a-kind. She manages to be warm, welcoming and woke, with a focus on inclusivity, social justice and motherhood that comes through in every piece of art she creates. Born in The Philippines and immigrated to the U.S. when she was 9 years old, her family comes from the island of Cebu. "I'm a proud Cebuana. My childhood in the Philippines felt like freedom. I had my swimsuit in my backpack for whenever we decided to swim and I biked everywhere." But immigrating wasn't easy as a child. "I witnessed racism towards my family and didn't know how to make sense of it," she told us in our Creative Crushin' series."These events left a mark. I was a quiet kid and observed everything and everyone around me. I think about my grandparents, Lolo Jose and Lola Rita, a lot as I walk through life. When I make decisions. As hard as it feels, you have two choices, do you let it take you down or take it one step at a time forward. I kept going and it really shaped me as to why I am the way I am today."
Trisha Okubo, Founder of Maison Miru
Trisha Okubo (pictured center) started out as a Stanford engineer but always had a passion for fashion, sculpture and architecture. She discovered the magic of making jewelry, intersecting form and function, art and science, order and chaos. "It’s wearable sculpture, a thing of beauty that captures your magic: your experiences and memories of the people you love," she says. "Miru in its native Japanese is evocative of sight. It is a reminder to open your eyes, to see the world in a new way." Maison Miru is launching its limited edition jewelry collection today, in collaboration with Heart of Dinner, a non-profit organization that provides hot meals for the most vulnerable Asian elderly community around Manhattan's Chinatown area, in honor of AAPI Heritage Month. The Heart of Dinner System Kit features three styles curated by Heart of Dinner founders Yin Chang and Moonlynn Tsai (pictured left and right). Made to be waterproof, sweatproof, and life-proof, the kit will include the Classic Heart Nap Earrings, Shooting Star Open Hoops, and Classic Arc Ear Cuff. 20% of the proceeds from the kit will be donated to Heart of Dinner.
Lin Chen, Founder of Pink Moon
A Brit + Co Self Care Award winner, Pink Moon is an online shop where you can find eco self-care, wellness, and lifestyle brands, with more than 30 percent of them being founded by women of color. When launching Pink Moon's in-house collection, Lin made the decision to create it as an open love letter for her Chinese heritage with the launch of a gua sha tool and accompanying face oil. Aromatherapy also plays a big role in Pink Moon's self-care in-house collection with original blends in signature candles, body/hair oils and more. 1% of Pink Moon's revenue goes to a nonprofit of your choice with every purchase.
Fiona Co Chan, Founder of Youthforia
Fiona founded Youthforia from the ground up while living in Hong Kong during the pandemic. An econ major who worked in business development for a software startup, she found that frequent travel to China was hard on her skin. She founded Youthforia, a makeup brand made famous on TikTok, uses plant-based ingredients and functions like skincare you can sleep in!
Rachel and Jiyoon Han, Founders of Bean & Bean Coffee
Not only did this mother daughter duo found Bean & Bean, but they're both certified Q graders (or coffee sommeliers)! The brand first got their start in 2008, after Jiyoon's parents immigrated from South Korea and opened the first ever roastery in Queens, NY. They're focused on ethically-sourced product, supply chain transparency, and Female Equity in Coffee.
Farah Jesani, Founder of One Stripe Chai
A daughter of South Asian immigrants, Farah Jesani started her career in NYC's corporate world. I graduated from the University of Georgia with a business degree and moved to NYC to work in the corporate world. She soon realized that the chai options offered at coffee shops didn't really reflect the bold and flavorful chai she grew up drinking. That's when the seeds for One Stripe Chai were planted...Founded in 2015, One Stripe Chai combines rich, spicy masala chai with black tea for an all natural chai concentrate that even the pickiest chai drinkers will love.
Tina Chow Rudolf, Founder of Strange Bird
Rudolf's fascination with beauty and skincare originates from watching generations of mothers before her. Her grandmother would give her mother facials using egg whites, cucumber, ginger and ginseng — all ingredients from their kitchen. Strange Bird (also her husband's nickname for her) is a plant-based and crystal-charged beauty brand that combines ancient Chinese beauty traditions with high vibrational alchemy to help women create a daily practice that supports their skin goals and their life goals. Products include ingredients such as ginger, ginseng and goji berry in organic blends as well as flower and gem essences such as amethyst, rose quartz and crab apple.
Clara Jung, Founder of Banner Day Interiors
Clara left a career in corporate law to start Banner Day Interiors when she realized that legal research and courtroom appearances didn't satisfy her creative desires. Her creative and comfortable style helps her clients transform ordinary rooms into stylish spaces. Originally from Los Angeles, Clara attended Cal and fell in love with the charm of Berkeley (shortly after graduating, she joined the Peace Corps in Nepal teaching English), where she now lives.
Sravya Adusumilli, founder of Mango People
Chemical engineer turned beauty entrepreneur Sravya Adusumilli was inspired by her South Asian roots when creating the plant-based multi-functional makeup brand beloved by TikTok. She struggled to find a brand that was truly clean and inclusive of all skin-tone shades so she began experimenting and researching Ayurvedic rituals and teachings to utilize powerful plants and pigment-rich fruits, flowers, and herbs to heal the body, mind, and spirit. After five years of intensive research and several iterations later, Mango People was born.
Ming Yi and Ching Yeh Chen, Founders Of Pearl River Mart
This duo founded Pearl River Mart in 1971 as the world's first Chinese American department store. People of all backgrounds can learn about Asian history and culture beyond NYC through their online site. Pearl River Mart has two events to celebrate AAPI heritage, including"Just Between Us," a new exhibition curated by Arlan Huang in partnership with Think!Chinatown at their SoHo location starting 5/4 and Pearl River Mart's Second Annual AAPIHM Sunset Celebration in conjunction with Lunar Hard Seltzer and Gold House will be held at their Chelsea Market location on 5/19.
Jennifer Tsay, Co-Founder & CEO of Shoott
Jennifer Tsay is a SAG-AFTRA actor whose personal experience with "side hustles" led her to launch a company that puts creatives and freelancers first. Shoott seeks to make professional photography more accessible to everyone with "Insta-worthy" 30-minute outdoor photo sessions that are free to book online and allow customers to pay only for photos they love at $15 per photo or less. In spite of the pandemic, demand for bookings grew and the company is now available in 600 locations across 60+ cities nationwide.
Diane Reade, Founder of MO MI
Diane's mother and grandmother raised her with holistic, naturopathic, aromatherapy and encouraged her to seek wellness beauty rituals. Diane says her Asian heritage inspires her creative process when sourcing plant-based ingredients that have been used for centuries. Her personal care brand MO MI is animal- and planet-friendly and incorporates values from Diane's heritage and from time spent living, working and traveling in Europe and Asia.
Joanna Linton, Founder and CEO of Rae's Roots
Rae's Roots is a wellness tea brand for moms. Linton was inspired to launch her company after the birth of her second child —a time she admits was difficult physically and emotionally. "I didn't know how to balance living for me versus living for my family. Moreover, I couldn't find any products that spoke to me during this sensitive time," Linton said. "Most products only consider women as moms; I needed something that emphasized with me as a mom and a person."
Eunice and Sabrina Moyle, Founders Hello!Lucky
Eunice and Sabrina are bi-racial Chinese-white sisters who grew up in Asia and Africa. They founded Hello!Lucky in 2003 as a letterpress greeting card studio with a distinctive humor and style inspired by their Asian and Midwestern roots. Since then, Hello!Lucky has grown to become a design and licensing studio with the mission of delivering joy, creativity, and connection through their products, which include greeting cards, best-selling children's books, and home goods. They are committed to supporting the highest good of their customers and promoting self-awareness and social justice. They published Sloth and Smell the Roses, a children's board book on mindfulness and self-compassion and in 2018 published Be the Change: The Future Is In Your Hands, a DIY book for girls and women about using creativity to inspire community and civic action. Sabrina serves as Board President of @mosaicproject, an Oakland-based youth non-profit that provides immersive, experiential learning in building inclusive, equitable, peaceful communities.You can follow along with Eunice and Sabrina @helloluckycards and @helloluckykids.
Joy Cho, Founder and Creative Director of Oh Joy!
LA-based Joy Cho exploded in the world of licensing with home decor, kids, pet, and furniture collections with brands such as Target, Band-Aid, Calpak, Petco, Keds, and more. She has authored six books and consulted for hundreds of creative businesses around the world. For two years in a row, Joy was named one of Time's 30 Most Influential People on the Internet and has the most followed account on Pinterest with over 14 million followers.
Andrea Xu, Co-founder and CEO, Umamicart
Conceived by Andrea Xu to serve as a one-stop-shop for home cooks, Umamicart, an online market, prioritizes Asian American-led businesses, immigrant-led businesses, and the mom-and-pop suppliers and producers behind consumers' favorite heritage brands, as well as the inspiring Asian American founders that are reinterpreting traditional flavors with new and personal products.
Angela Chau Gray + Ervina Wu, Co-Founders of YINA
YINA is a beauty and wellness brand based in California whose mission is to demystify and enliven Chinese Medicine. Co-founded by Dr. Ervina Wu, a licensed in TCM, the brand features products for skincare, wellness and more.
Vicky Tsai, Founder of Tatcha
One of our favorite Teach Me Something New podcast guests, Tsai's personal skincare routine (equal parts skincare + meditation) is as impressive as it is inspiring. Her customers include celebrities like Meghan Markle and Kim Kardashian who are fans of her Japanese skincare products, which are based in ancient Geisha beauty practices. For Vicky, skincare *is* self care, and we all need to take time for ourselves to wash away the day, and start fresh each morning.
Syama Meagher, Co-Founder of Rendall Co.
Syama Meagher originally planned to launch Rendall Co. as a home goods brand featuring aprons but pivoted to premium face masks at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. The styles were bestsellers and now the brand finally launched its collection of aprons, which feature durable chambray and denim fabrics and professional quality workmanship. We love our Bistro apron!
Hanna Chiou, Co-Founder of Habbi Habbi
Hanna Chiou grew up in the U.S. speaking her parent's native language Mandarin but not reading it. "It's challenging because Chinese is character-based so most books from Asia are intimidating because there are a sea of characters — and speaking doesn't translate to reading," she told us. Habbi Habbi was her answer to accessibility and ease of learning with a set of language books that kids can tap with the simplicity of a translating wand (our kids love theirs!).
Justine Tiu & Adrian Zhang, Co-Founders of The Woobles
We love this online learning platform for crochet. The brand sells beginner crochet kits that have been designed leveraging UX research and customer feedback to push through initial frustrations of learning a DIY art through remote learning.
Kirstie Wang, Founder of A Jar of Pickles
Kirstie Wang started A Jar of Pickles with $200 as a side hobby business that eventually grew multi-6 figures in revenue while she worked full-time jobs in UX design and marketing. She started it as a hobby Etsy shop in college after teaching herself digital design. She recently took the leap and quit her full-time job to grow A Jar of Pickles, pursuing her passion to share what she's learned by coaching other small business owners. You can enroll in her Selfmade course, Organic Social Media Growth, starting on May 25.
We are also big fans of our Selfmade members, including Christine Tong (above), founder of Christine My Linh, Shannon Huang, founder of The Soul Edit, Justine Pon of The Ponnery, Sruti Bharat of FutureMap, Koyun Fan, co-founder of Sticky Rice Sisters, and Poy T. Granati of Summer Space Studio.
To support the fight against anti-Asian racism, visit Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition documenting and addressing anti-Asian discrimination.
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This post has been updated.
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Theresa Gonzalez is a content creator based in San Francisco and the author of Sunday Sews. She's a lover of all things design and spends most of her days momming her little one Matilda.