Asian-American and Pacific Islander women gave out insightful advice for female entrepreneurs at the first Celebrate Asia Pacific Entrepreneurs (CAPE) panel on March 30 at Hing Hay Coworks.
The panel, called “(Her)story: Conversations with Entrepreneurial AAPI Women,” included Lorraine Yu, founder and president of Sirius 6 Corporation; Susie Lee, chief executive officer and co-founder of Siren; Maureen Francisco, co-executive producer of NW Productions; and Mina Yoo, founder of Lulabop, Inc.
Prior to entrepreneurship, these women worked in different careers. Yu’s industry involved computer-science and chemistry, Lee’s involved biophysics and art, Francisco’s involved media and entertainment and Yoo’s involved academia.
The CAPE project is a four-month-long enterprise run by Hing Hay Coworks with the goal of showcasing the stories of creative entrepreneurs with deep ties to the region’s Asia Pacific Rim community.
The (Her)story panel is CAPE’s first event since the project’s launch on March 3.
The end goal is to create a community of Asian Pacific Islander entrepreneurs by sharing their underrepresented stories with the neighborhood, said Quang Nguyen, manager of Hing Hay Coworks.
“I saw that there were a lot of API entrepreneurial women in the industry,” Nguyen said. “So this is an opportunity to host events and get underrepresented communities in the space and exposed to our community.”
The panel was formatted as a fireside chat. So with the help of the moderator, Shelly Kurtz, the panelists weighed in on topics as they best saw fit.
Their personal stories of inspiration and overcoming obstacles differed, but their advice on how women can achieve entrepreneurial success shared common themes.
The panel agreed that it’s important to encourage future generations of women to share their stories.
Lee referenced her own article, “Who Are Our 21st Century Heroes?,” published by The Huffington Post, and said that society does not see many women’s stories because women do not feel the need to own the spotlight.
“Is it more important to have one spotlight or 10,000 points of candlelight?” asked Lee. “How do you frame those stories? It’s not about a single hero, but instead a collective. This definition is changing.”
Moreover, CAPE provides an opportunity for this change to occur because it works to share these stories through events, panels, videos, and articles, said Nguyen.
“CAPE is a place for ideas to germinate and collaborations to be made,” Kurtz said. “It is creating a collaborative moment within the International District.”
“We’re here because we don’t want to be the only ones doing the things we’re doing,” added Lee.
Each woman addressed the fear of asking for help during the panel.
Francisco said that when she was younger, she thought she needed to make personal sacrifices, such as surrendering the notion of creating a family, in order to become successful. At the time, she said she had no women role-models showing her otherwise. But then she met them.
“You can do it all,” said Francisco. “Just don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Yoo observed that only women are asked, “How do you do it all?” And she explained that societal biases paint the picture that men are workers and women are caretakers.
Yoo recommended, “Don’t outsource yourself.”
The panel agreed that both men and women can communicate the same messages, but interpretations and meanings may differ.
Lee said that men should stand up for women.
“Declaring it to the public, especially to other guys, that you are an ally to women is important,” said Lee. “Regarding gender, nowadays the medium is the messenger.”
Yu suggested that men tend to problem-solve, but they need to listen instead.
“Men try to solve the problem for her, and men interrupt. But women tend not to,” said Yu. “Don’t try to talk over them or for them. Let them problem solve. They’re people too.”
And Yoo advised that men provide different means of validation.
“Ask women for their opinions,” said Yoo, “rather than just assuming they will give it.”
About 50 people attended the panel. At its end, many attendees stayed to network with the panelists and each other.
“To hear their stories makes me understand that women have a lot of power,” said Pamela Hawkins, an attendee and an independent contractor. “It reminds me to just be fearless.”
Project planners beamed at the success of the first CAPE panel. Nguyen said he wants future CAPE panels to continue injecting new energy of innovation and creativity into C-ID.
“We want to bring in entrepreneurs, so that it would be complimentary with the more traditional mom-and-pop businesses we have here,” said Nguyen. “By attracting more of those businesses into the neighborhood, we create more customers for the mom-and-pop businesses.”
The neighborhood still values its traditions and history, but from a business standpoint it is not good to be left behind, said Nguyen.
“There’s a lot of vacant space that needs to be filled, so if something new is brought to the table, then that’s awesome,” said Rachtha Danh, an attendee and project manager of RN2 Office.
CAPE is set to host monthly panels until June, but with unprecedented amounts of positive feedback, the events might run until December, said Nguyen.
“This is a good event, as it redefines what is happening in Chinatown and helps the area not be so isolated,” said Devin Cabanilla, an attendee and community member. “When you get a lot of diversity, it opens up the neighborhood in a different way.”
The next panel event, titled “(Her)story: Conversations about the Startup Journey” happens April 27 at 6:30 p.m. at Hing Hay Coworks, 409B Maynard Avenue South. Panelists include Julie Pham, Swatee Curve, Tammy Bowers, and Nellie Fujii. For more information, visit capeproject.org.
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CAPE Project is a forum connecting and engaging innovative entrepreneurs by sharing stories of their entrepreneurial journey. It’s a growing community of diverse entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors with connections to the Asia Pacific Rim community. CAPE Project is an initiative launched by Hing Hay Coworks, a program of the Seattle Chinatown-ID Preservation and Development Authority.