Asian Entrepreneurs Bring Their Heritage to NYC

Entrepreneurs are the heart and soul of The NuWa, a publication that prides itself on shining a spotlight toward the young movers and shakers of New York City who actively tie their cultural heritage into their new endeavors. Meet three entrepreneurs who are doing just that. Each creative force listed is conquering their sector of the fashion world, from creating a photography studio, to crafting a ground-breaking jewelry business model, to challenging the eco-friendly fashion status quo. Learn how they each started their business, what they love about being a total boss, and their words of wisdom for burgeoning entrepreneurs like you.


 Will Wang

Will Wang of Shio Studio

How do you bring the culture of your heritage to NYC?

  • Well, the name Shio is derived from the word “salt” and is a synonym for “ocean waves” in Japanese. Growing up, I spent 8 years in Hong Kong, 10 years in Taipei, and I have now been in New York for almost 9 years. Being a TCK, or “third culture kid”, the ocean reminds me of the way that waves carry people across the globe. A wave is an infinite loop and it is consistently moving and transferring energy: precise, humble and intimate at the same time. This is why I named the studio “Shio”. The studio provides a calming Zen-like Asian experience that is comfortable and intimate but also delivers high-quality service and hardware.

What inspired you to start your business?

  • In school, I worked with a lot of photographers and studios in different facets of the industry. Finding a space that is comfortable and affordable for up-and-coming photographers is tough. If it is affordable, then it will often have issues: space will be too small, lack essential equipment, or is not professional. I wanted to make a studio where I, as a creative person, would feel mentally and physically comfortable but that would be affordable for young brands and publications working with a budget. At Shio, you can create work that is beautiful without sacrificing space, equipment or professionalism.

Shio Studio

Tell us your favorite thing about being your own boss.

  • I love seeing happy clients who are content with the product from their shoot. That is the most rewarding thing about being my own boss. I constantly think about fixing things, from small details to the overall direction of the studio. However, when I can mend the issues, seeing happy and satisfied clients is more rewarding than anything I could hope for.

Any advice to young entrepreneurs looking to start their own company?

  • Being an entrepreneur requires you to have the grit to go through a series of “crash and burns”. Don’t do something if you will regret doing it, and plan for the best but expect the worst. There is a saying in Chinese, 船到橋頭自然直, meaning “The boat will straighten itself when it eventually docks.” Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Oh, and be aggressive, but stay humble.

Check out Shio Studio Instagram here.


Ruiwan Xu

Ruiwan Xu of Teel Yes

How do you bring the culture of your heritage to NYC?

  • I would consider myself a global citizen, being born and raised in China, moving to the USA when I was 17, and subsequently traveling to 19 countries! On my journey, I was noticing talented designers with similar challenges all around the world. They struggle to know which styles of jewelry will sell before making bulk inventory orders. So, we decided to do something about it. We started Teel Yes to work with contemporary jewelry designers to test their fashion-forward ideas before bulk-ordering. The first batch of designers are established in China, and we helping them test the water in the USA. That’s where I am bringing the culture of my heritage to NYC. I want to help the transition from ‘Made in China’ to ‘Created in China’. That’s just the start. In the next collection, we are bringing in our favourite European designers, so stay tuned!

What inspired you to start your business?

  • Influenced by a family with business backgrounds, I always wanted to try to start my own business. I founded CareerTu in 2013, an online Chinese career education platform and have successfully acquired 150,000 users. That was my first creation and the business is still healthy and growing. After gaining 5+ years of experience in e-commerce and growth marketing, including 2 and a half years at Amazon as a Marketing Acquisition Manager, I recently decided to leave Amazon and start the Teel Yes adventure! I cofounded Teel Yes in 2017 and am dedicated to taking this fashion startup to the next level.

Teel Yes

Tell us your favorite thing about being your own boss.

  • The possibility to try really bold and crazy ideas every day is amazing. Walking over to a celebrity at Soho House to chat about collaborations, or brainstorming Shark Tank pitch ideas with my team, to throwing a one dollar surprise promotion in 2 days is very different than working for a big company, but super fun!

Any advice to young entrepreneurs looking to start their own company?

  • To be honest, I still consider myself a young entrepreneur since I am in the early stages of this journey. But if you have a business idea, try to test the minimal viable product (MVP) before expending the effort to build your technology. For example, in the first stages of Teel Yes, we ordered a few pieces from designers and hosted a pop-up shop to get feedback from influencers. With a better understanding of the market trend, we then built a simple website for pre-orders to further test demand. Finally, we launched our site at TechDay in April 2017. We avoided wasting effort, collected more feedback to help us stay nimble, and can now pivot with market responses.

Check out Teel Yes Instagram here.


Kay Wen

Kay Wen of Siizu

How do you bring the culture of your heritage to NYC?

  • I have always loved New York for its limitless ability to embrace the different cultures from around the world. That is one of the many reasons why I have decided to settle down here after completing my studies at NYU. I love to give back to this city that has given me so much in the past few years. I made sure from the very beginning of starting SiiZU that we would incorporate a line of products that are made of the best silk from China. Silk has been a symbol of the Chinese quality for thousands of years, and I thought it was essential that SiiZU would be highlighting this beautiful fabric and introduce it to as many people as possible. I have personally connected with some of the most premier silk producers from Suzhou when sourcing for our first season, and we have been able to keep our silk products at a very affordable price point. More people should be able to enjoy and experience this beautiful fabric.

What inspired you to start your business?

  • I initially had the budding idea of founding an eco-fashion brand after watching the documentary called The True Cost, which highlights the incredible damage Fast Fashion is causing our environment. The start of SiiZU, however, really stems from my frustration with the lack of mass-market impact from established eco-friendly brands. I thought it was key to start an eco-friendly brand that appeals to the Zara and Topshop shoppers. We can show them that they can look great in an environmentally-responsible dress without breaking the bank.

SiiZu

Tell us your favorite thing about being your own boss.

  • The best thing about being my own boss is that I am in a position to shape and steer the company where I think it can make the most impact. All of our SiiZU founders have a consistent outlook on what our brand represents and what we’re trying to achieve. Every decision that we have made, big and small, can be an extension of the vision for our brand. This holistic ability to keep the brand on the track that we set out initially is what keeps me going.

Any advice to young entrepreneurs looking to start their own company?

  • I think it is most vital to have the courage to stay true to what you believe in. Any young entrepreneur’s bravery of giving up their steady job and investing in something unknown is massive. That determination to keep the course is even harder once you have invested time and money into the business. That courage to keep going is hard to find. Assemble the right talents in your team and the right counsels by your side.

Check out Siizu Instagram here.


Proceed through your week with a newfound sense of confidence, inspiration, and appreciation for your own cultural background. How can you bridge your heritage into your daily work life? Take heed from these three. They’re proving it can be done.

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Contributor

Madison Russell

A former Southern Belle turned Manhattanite, Madison Russell a muti-hyphenate maven, working as a writer, model, producer, actor and dreamer of dreams. She adores her rescue pup Talullah and South African hunk of a boyfriend. Follow along at @MadisonRussell__ and learn more at www.MadisonRussell.com.