May is American Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI) and there are a few businesses here at Recess that we believe you should know! AAPI embodies a wide range of diverse cultures, with approximately 50 ethnic groups that have connections to Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Hawaiian, and other Asian and Pacific Islander ancestries.
7.3% of the U.S. population are AAPI.
Why should you know about these brands? Support is the first thing that comes to mind – since the pandemic, many Asian-owned businesses across the country had to close. It also helps business owners foster increased generational wealth while dismantling the idea that AAPI businesses don’t need support, when in actuality they are suffering in silence. In a Harvard Business Review, they are described as “…the forgotten minority in the glass ceiling conversation.”
Continue reading to learn more about a few amazing brands that are making a phenomenal impact in health and wellness.
“My heritage and how I grew up, as an Asian-American, plays a role in probably all aspects of my creative life.”
-Bee Shapiro, founder of Ellis Brooklyn
Ellis Brooklyn is a clean, luxury fragrance and body care brand founded by Bee Shapiro. As an Asian-American woman, she saw a gap in the market and wanted to create a clean and responsible fragrance line.
“My heritage is tremendously important to me. I started Ellis Brooklyn because I wanted to create a clean and responsible fragrance brand, but also because I had something to say in the fragrance world. When it comes to the way we see or hear the world—like photography and music for example—we are aware of and consider diversity. But when it comes to our sense of smell it’s not something we give much thought to. The scent world has been dominated by Caucasian French men for decades. They have influenced what we consider “clean” or “baby-like” or “sexy.” Oftentimes these ideas of smell and scents are social constructs. Did you know in France, the scent of babies is orange blossom? That’s because many baby lines are scented this way. In the US, of course, we think of baby powder. For Ellis Brooklyn, I wanted to approach scent from a completely different place. I wanted to create a scent to live in and breathe in and be integral and intimate to the wearer. My heritage and how I grew up, as an Asian-American, plays a role in probably all aspects of my creative life,” explains Bee
YINA embodies personalized modern wellness rituals that are deeply a part of traditional wisdom. Founded by Angela and Ervina, the two wanted to share wellness rituals that were inspired by Chinese Medicine. The pair each have unique backgrounds and have come together to create products that are transformative inside and out. The product line is made in California by doctors of Chinese Medicine. The brand is cruelty-free and made with clean ingredients.
Elix encourages the thought process of healing your body naturally. The founder Lulu grew up knowing the power of superfruit tonics and medicinal mushroom soups. She found her way back to herbal medicine when she decided to get off birth control. Lulu wanted all women to experience the benefits of herbal medicine which is why she launched EIix. Backed by medical advisors, you can actually have the opportunity to manage your menstrual pain holistically
“The idea of being a “female founder” was associated with being white, skinny, and rich, of which I’m not. We’ve made strides in highlighting diversity over the years, but we still have a long way to go.” -Denise Lee founder of Alala
Founded by Denise Lee, she describes Alala as representing what the modern woman aspires to be. The clothing is empowering, sophisticated, and modern. Encouraging the idea that the universe is your oyster and every day is an opportunity to make a mark on the world.
Denise says “My heritage and upbringing are so important to me. My parents taught me a lot of traditional Asian values such as hard work and humility which serve me so well as an entrepreneur. I’ve had to learn to balance those with more “western” values such as being comfortable with self-promotion, which is also very important but not as intuitive to me. Growing up and when I started on my entrepreneurial journey, I didn’t have a lot of role models who looked like me. The idea of being a “female founder” was associated with being white, skinny, and rich, which I’m not. We’ve made strides in highlighting diversity over the years, but we still have a long way to go. Part of my desire to be more active on social media is to be a mentor for other minority women who want to be entrepreneurs. One of my near-term goals is to start coaching other minority female founders and giving back to them through my experience and knowledge.“
Have you ever wanted your strength to be visible outside of the gym? This is the concept behind WILL LANE, founded by Emily Soong. The designs are driven by concepts that represent our core values of strength, empowerment, authenticity, and perseverance. Inspired by New York City, WILL LANE represents the intersection between urban, active, and fashionable living. Emily focuses on functional design features that allow for breathability, ultimate support, and the accentuation of a woman’s natural, beautiful shape. “We stand with women who want to live and wear their fights out in the open, both in and out of the gym. Wearing WILL LANE is an act of wearing your intention, even in the face of adversity. It’s a state of mind, a point-of-view, an inner mantra,” says Soong.
Founder of Bright Littles Tara Ballentine creates tools to help parents talk about real topics with kids, from discussing healthy choices with kids, to food and movement, as well as tackling mental wellness.
Tara says “I lived with my Obachan (grandma) for most of my childhood, so I grew up immersed in Japanese culture, food, and traditions. It wasn’t until I started school that I realized I was “different.” I was the only one eating rice balls and fish in her lunch. When I started to face the name-callers “slant eyes” or “fish girl,” my grandmother’s teachings played a massive part in my ability to deal with bullying. She had planted a seed of a tree that had taken root.
That tree continues to ground me throughout my life; even when storms pass by, I have been able to stay rooted in who I am. The bullying and being left out hurt me because I wanted to fit in, but I never was ashamed of being a Japanese American girl.
At Bright Littles, I create products for families that start conversations around diversity, safety, self, nature, and health with their little ones. Our products teach self-love, kindness, and understanding while being an alley using our voice and standing up for injustices. We are planting seeds of change to raise the next generation of Bright Leaders.”
Lisa Li, created a brand that is closely connected to her childhood memories growing up in Northeast Beijing. She remembers drinking lots of tea with her grandmother and having the fondest and most nourishing memories from that time. After working in the demanding fashion industry for 10 years, she wanted to go back to the time when she took care of herself and felt good doing it. After traveling to Shangri-la, Yunnan, she discovered Rose tea and the idea for The Qi started to formulate in her mind. The Qi is a wellness brand that empowers its customers to feel more joy, beauty, and inner calm in the midst of their busy lives. All of this can be achieved through the power of healing whole flower tea rituals.
Simran Kalra fell in love with skincare 6 years ago out of necessity. This all happened after she moved to the West Coast and her current skincare routine no longer worked for her. After self-educating herself on ingredients and formulations she started to discover what products were causing harm. Kalra has a small passionate team that builds custom skincare routines one customer at a time.
Dr. Kien Vuu, is the founder of the VuuMD clinic, Thrive State podcast, and a best-selling author of the book “The Thrive State”. His approach is cutting-edge and personalized. He is passionate about empowering people to reclaim their health and live in abundance.
“Heritage plays a big role in my brand and business. Surviving as an infant spending 8 months on a refugee boat, and then another 3 months in a refugee camp prior to coming to America, gives my brand and business a huge sense of gratitude and hope whenever faced with challenges and obstacles. Being persecuted for growing up as a minority in America, gives my brand more reason to promote universal love and inclusivity. And being a growing brand sharing a face that I seldom saw in media when I was growing up, gives a huge sense of pride that the world is starting to celebrate all cultures and hopes to encourage anyone who may feel alienated with permission to shine,” explains Dr. Kien Vuu
This is just the beginning get out there and explore new brands that you can support.