We had the good fortune of connecting with Crystal Ung and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Crystal, how do you think about risk?
As a daughter to immigrants who were small business owners, I view risks as necessary endeavors in which any risk can be mitigated or hedged. In business school, I studied how risk was defined and quantified in finance, which offers some elegant examples of how I have thought about it in adulthood. First, it is universally understood that the higher the risk, the higher return. It was up to me to define my risk tolerance. I have a high tolerance for risk and believed the uncertainty could be mitigated through hard work, grit, and resourcefulness. After all, studies have shown that the single biggest predictor of success is grit. An interesting element highlighted in behavioral finance that is also applicable here is one’s perception and experience of loss and benefits or known as Loss Aversion – the idea that some investors associate twice the pain of a loss than the positive feeling associated with a profit. For me, the loss of the status quo was not bothersome, especially in comparison to the potential, alternative “upside” scenario. Risks have played a big part in my life and has made me feel both empowered and alienated as I have not and continue to not take obvious steps in an upward path. I have zigged and zagged all over, but another way to make sense of it is by looking at risk is through the lens of regret – by not doing X, will it be a big regret in my life? Will I look back at the end of my life and regret not doing it? If yes, I will take the leap.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I am currently operating two businesses: THE MAKE NYC – reimagining the work from home wardrobe, we create garments cut from luxurious, tech-inspired fabrics and Ren – a modern twist to the most coveted gem in the East, jade. THE MAKE NYC is an evolution of a concept I initially launched in the nascent days of athleisure. In the work from home culture of 2020, it may be hard to recall, but when we launched our beta concept in 2014, it was unheard of to merge activewear and workwear. Fast forward to today and the clothes we make – comfortable, stretchy, machine washable, yet still refined – perfectly suits what people are looking for. Ren makes spiritual treasures that connect us to our past, present, and future. I started Ren because I wanted to wear jade jewelry to reconnect with my heritage, but the more I searched for jade jewelry, the more frustrating the process was – I couldn’t tell what was real or fake, where the stones were sourced from, and the designs didn’t resonate with me. Additionally, after working 8+ years in fashion, I saw the need for more representation. I saw an opportunity to create a brand Asian Americans could see themselves in, and a way to celebrate Asian beauty, art, and creatives. I felt it was urgent for the Asian American community to unite, and Ren is my way of creating community and rallying people together. Entrepreneurship has been increasingly glamorized in the past several years. It seems everyone wants to be a “founder” but it is an endeavor not everyone is fit for. What people don’t talk about enough is the hard work, sacrifices, and opportunity cost. It is incredibly hard, especially if you’re a normal person (no trust fund here!) with bills, student loans, etc. to give up stability and pursue starting a business. One lesson I’d like to share is to strive for progress not perfection. You can easily waste a ton of time and lose opportunities because something wasn’t perfect.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Eat: Sugarfish, Kogi Truck, Din Tai Fung, Father’s Office, Broken Spanish Drink: Any rooftop bar in LA Visit: The Getty, the Magic Castle, Hotel Café for a show, the Laugh Factory or any comedy club – they’re all great! Hang: Malibu Beach, Barnsdall Park, Chateau Marmont
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Obviously, I would not be here today without the loving support of my family and in particular my father who was a single parent. But, I would like to dedicate this to my supportive partner, my fiancé Ryan. I could not have achieved any of my goals these past several years had it not been for his unwavering support and encouragement. I have also suffered from anxiety and insomnia for years and he has always been there ready to listen and help; he’s simply the best!
Christina Emilie, Madison Voelkel, Jenna Elizabeth