Culture 

Meet the 3 AAPI Female Founders Changing the Game

Cocokind, Wylde One and Youthforia are the newest must-know brands.

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Meet the 3 AAPI Female Founders Changing the Game

Cocokind, Wylde One and Youthforia are the newest must-know brands.

The month of May presents the perfect opportunity to give founders of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage their much deserved attention, although supporting AAPI businesses should be a year-round endeavor. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the AAPI community has witnessed harassment and tragic atrocities, underscoring our culture’s persistent racialized gender violence.

Celebrating and uplifting the voices of the AAPI community is only one way to eradicate ignorance, but it’s also an important tool. Three distinct brands shifting the landscape and highlighting the impact of female-owned companies are Cocokind, Wylde One and Youthforia. Connecting them is their grit, ingenuity and brave belief in themselves.

Priscilla Tsai, founder of Cocokind, credits humility to the success of the Instagram-favorite skincare company. As a passionate consumer, Tsai used her savings to start her business at the age of 25 self-funding for the first five years, in addition to labeling and packaging the products herself. She shares: “We didn’t have many resources or capital in the beginning. The reason Cocokind is what it is today is that we focused on creating effective, value-centric products at an accessible price point. We would rather stand with consumers than speak at them and allow them to have a more personal relationship with us. While it hasn’t been a quick journey, our path has enabled us to learn and grow along the way.”

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With over 300,000 followers on Instagram, the seven-year-old brand’s homegrown approach is abundantly clear in its consumer-led content as the beauty company’s initial lack of marketing dollars allowed them to showcase real users, demonstrating the products’ efficaciousness and creating a fiercely loyal following.

“We would rather stand with consumers than speak at them and allow them to have a more personal relationship with us.” — Priscilla Tsai

Stephanie Park of Wylde One can certainly relate to the frugality and scrappiness, sometimes needed for an entrepreneur, as until last year, the wellness supplement brand was comprised of only one and half members — Park and her husband. Now a team of three people with part-time support, Park is very hands-on with all aspects of the business, using her background in advertising and marketing to her advantage. Similar to Tsai, Park had a longer path than initially intended, but is grateful for the journey. She shares: “As a first-time founder who wasn’t coming from the business world, I had to figure everything out from scratch. It was a really steep learning curve, but it definitely trained me to problem solve and learn every aspect of the business.”

 

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Communal support remains a helpful tool as Park regrets not seeking out a mentor in the early stages of Wylde One, adding, “believing in myself and not being afraid to be bold is something I wish I had done as well. As AAPI, we don’t like to seek help and take pride in doing things ourselves. We don’t often champion for ourselves, we were raised to not inconvenience others and not stand up for ourselves, so I’ve had to actively work towards changing that mindset.”

“If I’m doing something that no one else has done before, there’s no need for imposter syndrome.” — Fiona Chan

Being fearless and willing to try something new is paramount to creating an impactful business as Fiona Chan, founder of Youthforia, can also attest. Born out of lockdown, TikTok’s favorite color-changing blush belongs to the makeup and skincare hybrid brand, which launched just last year. After enduring countless hospital visits due to allergic reactions from other cosmetics, Chan embarked on a mission to create what at the time was the unthinkable: beauty products that could be slept in. Inspired by late nights studying and Asia’s going out culture, Youthforia is single-handedly changing the makeup game with its universally flattering blush and lip glosses, which are free from microplastics. Driven by a moral responsibility, Chan became well-versed in chemistry by watching lectures on YouTube to “develop a specific skill set,” as bio-based makeup is still a relatively new concept.

 

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A post shared by YOUTHFORIA (@getyouthforia)

Despite having gone to beauty school, Chan struggled with self-doubt, working on her business in secret during her quarantine in Asia. Ultimately pushing fear to the side, she eloquently states: “If I’m doing something that no one else has done before, there’s no need for imposter syndrome.” The idea of makeup that could be slept in wasn’t a “fundable idea,” so Chan had to trick her brain to gain confidence in her now-viral brand. Chan’s contagious experimental energy is clear as she says: “Now I just enjoy making things that don’t exist — it’s just a bit more fun for me.”

“[The 'girl boss' movement] didn’t acknowledge BIPOC women who didn’t have the same opportunities, even if they worked as hard or harder. I’m excited to see more inclusion of all women’s experiences in business, as well as greater accessibility to resource.” — Stephanie Park

As the demand for visibility of a diverse array of entrepreneurs grows, there is also a double-edged sword as the since-deceased “girl boss” trope holds female founders to an impossible standard. All three founders are in agreement that while the movement had its bright spots, it excluded women of color. Park states: “It’s not all bad as women working to better themselves and supporting each other was beautiful to see, but there was a lot of unfair scrutiny placed on women and it was only focused on the white girl boss. It didn’t acknowledge BIPOC women who didn’t have the same opportunities, even if they worked as hard or harder. I’m excited to see more inclusion of all women’s experiences in business, as well as greater accessibility to resources.”

That being said, there is an overwhelming consensus that being a women-owned business has its advantages, as Tsai believes that being a mother allows her to lead with empathy. “Our company is mostly made up of women and I think that brings a level of understanding to everyday work-life balance that wouldn’t be there otherwise. If I wasn’t a mom, I don’t know how much empathy and passion I would have towards parental leave without going through it myself.”

A bright feminine energy teeming with compassion, relatability and hard work is shared amongst all three brands as they have each set themselves apart as community leaders within their respective niches. Demonstrating what can be done with the sheer will to do what’s never be done before, our world is certainly better for Cocokind, Youthforia and Wylde One.

 

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