We had the good fortune of connecting with Maggie Chui and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Maggie, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
When I had first started Asian Hustle Network (AHN) with my co-founder, Bryan Pham, we only knew that we wanted to create a positive impact for the Asian community. We weren’t sure what we were going to do, but we were determined to help uplift others somehow. The inspiration behind starting our own business came from two instances.
First, Bryan and I had visited the Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo, one of the top sights in the big city. We would see visitors write down their prayers or wishes on small wooden tablets, also called ema (絵馬), which are left in a designated area at the shrine. Upon reading the ema, many of these wishes would be aspirations in health, happiness, career, or prosperity. We understood that everyone has their own story and each story is unique to each person. We wanted to take this same concept and apply it to build a strong community through storytelling. Oftentimes, many of us want to share our own stories and connect with others who have had similar experiences to us, but the difficult part is actually finding a community that we can turn to. We wanted to create a platform for people to share their entrepreneurial stories, much like writing down wishes on ema at the Meiji Jingu Shrine. Through storytelling, we thought: if we can better understand each other despite our differences, we are never too far away from each other.
The second instance happened as I began attending more self-improvement workshops and conferences in the Bay Area with Bryan. Despite the cultural diversity in the Bay, we often saw the same issue happen over and over again at these events. There would always be a panel of speakers, but we seldom ever saw speakers or representatives of Asian descent. We understood that Asians are often underrepresented and marginalized in many different industries. Additionally, Asian Americans are the least likely group in the U.S. to be promoted to management. We wanted to change this and bridge that gap by highlighting more Asian leaders and building representation within the Asian community. We began searching for online communities for Asian American Pacific Islanders but didn’t find any that fit exactly what we were looking for, so we decided to create our own on Facebook.
In the process of building Asian Hustle Network, we envisioned the impact that we would have within our own existing network of colleagues and friends. It had turned out that there were so many others in the Asian community who had resonated with our mission and wanted to use their voices by sharing their stories as well. We garnered our community to over 1,000 members within the first three days and this was when we realized we were onto something. We have worked tirelessly to continue giving back to the community that we serve and have grown the network to over 100,000 members in 1.5 year, but this is really just the beginning.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Asian Hustle Network is an online community aimed to empowering and connecting Asian entrepreneurs and professionals globally. Over the last year and a half, we’ve garnered our community to over 100,000 members across all social media channels in 100+ countries. We provide a platform and safe space for Asians, and allies of Asians, to share their stories, build meaningful connections, learn from one another, support each other’s businesses, and build representation. When we initially created the community, we wanted to focus on storytelling because we believed that if we can better understand each other’s stories despite our differences, we are never too far away from each other and this will bring us closer together. We also hosted global in-person networking events and podcast episodes to amplify Asian voices.
Prior to COVID-19, we created a short film documentary titled “AHN Spotlight”, where we would hire our own production team and highlight an entrepreneur in AHN. We would go out to their business location and document what they do, what their workplace looks like, and what their daily operations are. Through these published short films, it helped the featured entrepreneurs develop leads and gave members an opportunity to see how these entrepreneurs ran a business. We also recently launched our AHN Directory, where members can connect with each other and find resources in a more meaningful way, and our AHN Marketplace, where members can list their products and services for sale on our community platform.
Since the start of of the pandemic and the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes, there have been many other organizations formed to support the Asian community, which is great because representation truly matters. However, what sets us apart from others is that our community focuses on connecting and creating relationships from an entrepreneurial and business standpoint. We also put a strong emphasis on next generation leaders as well because we believe that the young, aspiring entrepreneurs are really what will shape our future.
It took a lot for us to get to where we are today business-wise, but we still have a long way to go. The Asian community has historically been very fragmented, with nearly 50 different races and ethnicities and thousands of different languages and dialects. Not to mention our countries had to endure generations of war. The term “Asian American” is still relatively new as our ancestors came to this new country and had to learn to work with other Asian minority groups to fight for social justice and equality, not only for ourselves, but for all of the people around us. In the beginning of creating AHN, we noticed that there were still a lot of people who held onto a scarcity mindset, thinking that “if one person wins, another person has to lose.” We wanted to tackle this mindset and show that as long as you have community, everybody is able to win. Community helps us develop an abundant mindset and allows us to support and uplift each other when we need it the most. We’ve seen the culture of our community change in the last year and a half— members coming together to form partnerships, create meaningful connections, mentor aspiring entrepreneurs, support small businesses to keep them from closing during the pandemic, and so much more. We know we still have a lot of work to do to dismantle all of the generational limiting beliefs tied to our cultural heritage— the bamboo ceiling, the model minority stereotype, etc. We want to change the world and make space for all Asians, and allies of Asians, to amplify their voices and share their stories, because a story is all it takes create monumental change.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My favorite go-to spot to eat at in the city is Golden Deli, a Vietnamese restaurant in Temple City. I always get the beef over rice with baked eggs and fried egg rolls on the side. Another place that I go to often is Menya Hanabi in Arcadia, which serves Taiwanese-style soupless ramen and my favorite item on the menu is the Original Nagoya Mazesoba. After a delicious meal, I love stopping by AU79 Teahouse in Arcadia, which serves up a wide variety of herbal brews and milk teas. My favorite drink at AU79 is the molasses milk with pink boba.
During the day, I suggest making a stop at the Santa Monica Pier, where you can walk on the beach and dip your feet in the water if it’s a hot, summer day. It is extremely relaxing walking on the pier and checking out the little souvenir shops. During the night, I love going out to Koreatown as there are a variety of bars, clubs and great food. One of my favorites after a long night is Sun Nong Dan, a 24-hour Korean restaurant serving traditional Korean dishes, where I always get their Galbi Tang, a short rib soup.
Another location that I really enjoy going to is Perch, a rooftop bar in LA, which delivers some of the best views of the city. There are so many places and activities to check out in the city that you can never run out of things to do. I always say that LA will always have my heart.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are a number of different things that have led me to where I am in life today— for that, I am truly grateful. If I had to pinpoint to one thing, my family has definitely been the biggest reason why I have the confidence to pursue something that I am deeply passionate about. The support system that I have from my family means so much to me and helps me continue fighting. When I had quit my cushy tech job to essentially run a Facebook group full-time, I did not have the courage to tell my parents. I remember my parents saying, “Hold onto to your corporate job for as long as you can. The benefits are so good!” When my partner, Bryan, had posted in the Facebook group that I had quit my job to congratulate me, I had forgotten that my parents were a part of the group as well and saw the post. To my surprise, they were fine with it and didn’t even bring it up until I was comfortable talking about it with them. Even if they didn’t exactly understand what I was doing for a living, they knew that I was doing something to empower and uplift the Asian community. They trust me enough to know that I will find a way to take care of myself, because the more I help the community, the more I am able to find opportunities for myself to thrive in.
Another person who deserves credit is my partner, Bryan Pham, who is also the founder of Asian Hustle Network. If I had to describe him in three words, he is consistent, persistent, and giving. He continues to push me to be the best person and to create healthy habits for myself, such as reading and writing every single day. He encourages me to shoot for the moon and reminds me that no dream is too big. Bryan has been such a big part of my life and I am grateful to have him alongside me on this journey.
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