On Jan 11th, ABSA x Ascend x Buerk Entrepreneurship held a guest speaker panel event of inspiring Asian Entrepreneurs with diverse business experiences. Students gained insight on the intricacies of starting a business and tips on entering the world of entrepreneurship.
Thank you to the Buerk Center for collaborating with us! Visit their website if you would like to find more information about the Center! foster.uw.edu/centers/buerk-ctr-entrepreneurship/
Meet the Panelists:
Founder of BobaTalks – mentorship program for students to form meaningful connections with diverse mentors and receive one-to-one career and life advice.
Previously worked at a variety of tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft
Founder of Kkarenism – career blog helping individuals from around the world develop valuable skills that further one’s unique career.
Current Position: Communications Manager at Microsoft
Small Business Owner of Sweet Alchemy Ice Creamery – organic & locally sourced ice cream
Previously was the Franchise Owner of a Haagen-Dazs shop
Co-Founder of Grean Matcha – Seattle Matcha Pop-up & future cafe
Current Position: Digital Marketing Manager at Arturo + Lauren
Co-Founder of Grean Matcha – Seattle Matcha Pop-up & future cafe
Current Position: Enterprise Business Representative at GitHub
What got you into the world of entrepreneurs? What was your origin story?
Jeffrey: He created Boba Talks while he was working at Amazon. He started offering coffee chats with students to give them career or life advice and really enjoyed it. His business grew from then on.
Karen: In high school, Karen loved sushi and ran a food blog. During her university years, she became curious about combining her passion for writing blogs and career development. She loved the opportunity to share her learnings with others, and after word of mouth and sharing her career blogs, it became global and is used in Singapore and Malaysia.
Lois: She used to be the Franchise owner of Haagen-Daaz. After operating that shop for years, she approached her owner about the idea of opening her own business. In 2015, she closed it and opened the infamous Sweet Alchemy on the Ave.
Andrew: He always wanted to open a cafe and was curious about finding a way to solve the caffeine crash problem and discovered creating innovative and yummy matcha drinks. It was a chance to bring a community together and run a cafe with Steven. Origin story behind the name Grean Matcha is the “Grean” = green + tea.
Were there any challenges that that you encountered in your entrepreneurship journey?
Andrew: Overcoming perfection. It’s easy to get caught up about making something perfect right from the start, however testing ideas and gathering feedback are more important to succeed.
Lois: Finance. There are lots of financial components to consider, especially with building a brick-and-mortar store.
Karen: Time management. Other than Kkarenism, there were lots of other life responsibilities to do such as work, social life, school, and more. She advises everyone to be the master of their own schedule and find that balance between your passion project and other obligations.
Jeffrey: Picking what to do. He went through lots of different phases at the start of his career such as going to audition for master chef or becoming a photographer. He had to pinpoint the problem he wanted to solve and found that helping students grow personally and professionally was his passion.
How has your cultural background influenced your approach to business and leadership?
Jeffrey: A common experience in Asian culture is being result oriented, often overlooking emotion factors. He aimed to create BobaTalks in a sustainable and ethical way, striving to provide meaningful projects for all students.
Karen: Attending University with the mindset of settling with only one career path. After talking with C-Suite executives, she learned that there is no linear path. You will always end up somewhere amazing, even if you don’t expect it. Don’t fixate on one path.
Lois: Overcoming the hustle culture since everyone around her did it, so she was expected to follow it as well. Leadership wise, she encourages her production team to create diverse ice cream flavors.
Steven: Finding fulfillment in his career. Having work take over one’s life is something that he did not want to do. He instead wants to pursue a business that is inspirational and something that he can be proud of.
What new skills/experiences have you gained since starting your business?
Steven: He had prior experience with doing freelance photography and shot lots of cool campaigns. He then started his passion for food. They have raised money throughout the years of starting Grean Tea and selling at various pop-ups with the ultimate goal of opening the cafe in 2026.
Lois: She graduated with an Art Degree and did not have a business background, and she was open to new experiences. It was motivating for her as she hit various milestones after opening Sweet Alchemy, as well as navigating through climate of opinions of what is happening currently.
Karen: Karen had no prior communication or PR experience, but she was able to get her job as a Communcations Manager at Microsoft because she learned to be a storyteller through her blog. This helped her stand out in the competitive environment and developed her skills as a clear communicator. She advises to take ownership of one’s life and apply any skills from passion projects to your professional life.
Jeffrey: He understands the Gen Z lingo and can communicate well with the students. Another aspect is when faced with creating something, you become a great problem solver. The process of how to solve a problem is a valuable learning experience.
If you were able to travel back in time, do you wish to change or advise your past self on anything?
Jeffrey: He wished that he started BobaTalks project. He regrets waiting till he had stability in his career before starting his passion project. There is no time parameter, and anyone can start their business idea whenever they want. This is the time to start.
Karen: Everything happens for a reason and occurs on its own timeline. Don't give yourself too much pressure.
Lois: As long as you have a goal and vision of what you want to create, have confidence and you can make it. You can learn how to do it, so do not be afraid.
Steven: Have an open mindset. He thought he was not qualified to pursue entrepreneurship and create a business because he got an English degree in college. He also had a marketing job which he didn’t enjoy, however, he found a great accounting mentor that taught him more about the business world. If you are interested in something, go for it.
Andrew: Viewing failures as an opportunity to further your career. When he was a junior in college, he did not have prior internship experiences or opportunities. He also created his own clothing brand, and although it didn’t work, it was a great experience that led him to succeed in his current job. Dream big, the sky is the limit.
Thank you for reading, see you at our next event! 😊