Three Asian-American entrepreneurs who have channeled their rich heritage and unique experiences into success are now using their voices, creativity and care to give back to their communities in inspiring ways. In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Target is lifting up the voices of the Asian community by spotlighting Andrew Lee, Priscilla Tsai and Vincent Kitirattragarn. The retailer is also helping guests easily find and shop for Asian-founded brands through Target Finds.
After a near-death hate crime against registered dental hygienist and entrepreneur Andrew Lee in 2008, Lee rose above his harrowing experience to give back to members of his community that faced similar challenges. The attack left Lee with intense anxiety and PTSD that led him to develop bruxism, a stress-induced condition that caused him to clench and grind his teeth. To ease this condition, Lee created OTIS Dental, an accessible, affordable solution to bruxism that provides the quality of more expensive night guards at a more accessible price.
“As a child of South Korean immigrants, I saw my parents endure countless racially charged attacks,” said Lee. “They rose above the hate and taught me to live by the principles of hard work, endurance and integrity.”
His parents reminded him of difficulties they had overcome, telling him he was not a victim, but a survivor. They motivated him to work his way through graduate school so he could fulfill his dream to take a more preventative approach to oral care.
“Every person should have a solution to fit their needs,” said Lee. “Having access to something affordable that actually works will help anyone with bruxism experience more peace and happiness.” His tips for entrepreneurs?
- Have a supportive group of people around you.
- Due diligence is key. Research, and pay a bit more for quality results.
- Take personal time throughout your day.
Asian culture has had a profound impact on modern skincare and on entrepreneur Priscilla Tsai, who built her beauty brand, cocokind, with higher standards for ingredients, environmental impact and customer transparency in mind.
“Being Asian has inspired so much of who I am and what I do, both in terms of values as well as my inspiration for skincare,” said Tsai, a Taiwanese American born and raised in Michigan.
After struggling to find skincare products that worked both for her skin and her values, Tsai created a conscious beauty brand designed for everyone. She began building a digital presence, then partnered with Target to introduce cocokind to its guests with great success.
“Seeing our brand come to life at Target has been one of the most rewarding experiences of starting cocokind,” said Tsai. “It’s the culmination of many dreams and challenges.”
Priscilla credits her success to the example of her hardworking, determined parents and her own resilience. Her advice?
- Don’t wait for perfection to get you going.
- Understand that failure along the way isn’t avoidable; it is necessary to succeed.
- Take action — the best ideas in the world are nothing without action behind them.
Dang Foods is the first and largest Asian-American snack brand, created by Thai-Chinese brothers Vincent and Andrew Kitirattragarn.
Vincent Kitirattragarn took his passion for food and turned it into a career, working at Thai restaurants and studying the food truck business to build his company from the ground up. After he told his mom he planned to start a pop-up restaurant at a San Francisco nightclub, she gifted him her recipe for Miang Kum, a Northern Thai snack made with toasted coconut.
“I made it, then immediately called my family in Thailand because it tasted so good,” said Kitirattragarn.
The brand has developed several tasty snacks including coconut chips, Thai rice bars and nutrition bars featured at Target under their brand name, Dang — Kitirattragarn’s mother’s name.
“We believe East and Southeast Asian food is healthier because it’s plant-based, has less sugar and is less processed,” said Kitirattragarn. “Our purpose is to share our culture for a healthier and more flavorful world.”
- Seek others who share your values.
- Be bold.
- Trust yourself.
These three entrepreneurs credit much of their success to their unique heritage and experiences, understanding that their brands give them the opportunity to elevate and inspire others in the Asian community.
Another way to support Asian-owned brands? Look for the Asian-owned badge when shopping on Target.com — a new feature just in time for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.