We’re nearing the end of Asia Pacific American Heritage Month and as a Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese Asian American woman myself, I want to make sure that I use my platform and my voice to celebrate that. I know what it means to be of a minority culture in the U.S. and also what that means as far as being a minority in the world of business as an entrepreneur. So today I’ll be highlighting 15 Asian woman owned wellness companies.
I chose to highlight Asian woman owned businesses specifically because something I’ve always grappled with as it relates to my culture, is the gender inequality issue. Traditionally, men are the focus of the family, and this is the case as it applies to most Asian cultural norms. Women were traditionally not the breadwinners and even in this day and age, I would say that these gender dynamics are very much still at play. Again, these are deep rooted cultural biases. It’s 2019 and I still hear things like “you don’t need to go to school for business, you have a good face for marriage” or “let the man take care of you” so I decided I’d take this opportunity to highlight Asian women in particular.
I chose to highlight health and wellness companies because the relationship between Eastern culture and wellness is another topic that makes me feel very much conflicted. Basically, the majority of alternative wellness practices and medicine originated in the East. Some examples off the top of my head are yoga, guasha, matcha, Ayurveda, acupuncture, crystals, turmeric, adaptogens and mushrooms.
At first, it was exciting to see that my culture was being embraced and celebrated, but soon it became clear that often, trendy new Western brands would market these ancient practices as though they had discovered them for the first time, or even worse, created them. That, or the culture and history would be completely overlooked. For example, yoga as it is practiced now has completely changed, and classes like hip hop yoga and surfboard yoga now exist. Ceremonial matcha has turned into trendy instagrammable cafe culture, and often, the quality of matcha is an afterthought. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for some Cardi B while downwards dog-ing every now and then, and I have taken many an Instagram photo at said trendy cafes, but the issue arises when the origins are not at the very least acknowledged or worse, when sacred/meaningful practices are disrespected. I could go on about my thoughts on this topic but to make a long story short, it’s a constant tug of war between being excited that things I grew up with are now acceptable in the Western world and even highly regarded and feeling disheartened seeing the culture being taken advantage of. And, if one more person asks me if I “know what matcha is” I might lose it.
I’ll follow up with another blogpost on my thoughts because we’re already running on here, so without further ado, let’s talk badass Asian women changing the wellness world. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of them personally, and I’ll share our “how we met” stories too, but all of these women are women I really look up to, and I love to be able to lift up and support Asian entrepreneurs whenever I have the chance. Oh and all of the companies are vegan, plant based or 90% vegan friendly.
15 Asian Woman Owned Wellness Companies
Stephanie Zheng of Mount Lai – Mount Lai carries beautiful jade rollers and gua sha tools you can use at home. It was started by Stephanie Zheng, a beauty blogger and Traditional Chinese Medicine herbologist and inspired by her grandmother, who started jade rolling long before it became a trend. She created this brand to make these facial tools accessible to all and has even entered big beauty retailers like Sephora. P.S. The name Mount Lai pays homage to Mount Penglai, from Chinese mythology.
I met Stephanie while on a business trip last summer, and cannot tell you how impressive she is. At the time that I had met her, she was not only running her business, but also still working her corporate job. By the way, in addition to her brand, she runs her own beauty blog and another account for her pet hedgehog.
Rachel Geicke of Snow Monkey – Born and raised in Hong Kong by parents of Chinese and German descent, Rachel is the founder of superfood ice treat brand, Snow Monkey. It’s like ice cream, but packed with protein, antioxidants and fiber (in other words, it’s actually good for you). Snow Monkey products are sweetened with maple syrup, are paleo, vegan and nut free and high in protein. It’s one of my all time favourite frozen treats because it’s made with ingredients I’d be comfortable using at home.
I met Liza of Snow Monkey at a random food show in Brooklyn, and later we realized that Liza, Rachel and I had a ton of mutual friends because we had all attended international schools in Asia.
Amy Lin of Sundays Studio – Amy is the founder of Sundays Studio, my favourite nail salon and spa and one of the first 100% vegan and cruelty free nontoxic spas in New York City. Amy started working at nail salons herself and emphasizes wellbeing not only for customers, but also staff, who are exposed to nail polishes more than anyone. As a result, they pay special attention to what goes into every bottle of sundays polish. It took a whole year to develop the perfect 10-free nontoxic, vegan, and cruelty-free formula that still delivers high-shine, and long-lasting brilliant color, no compromises.
I’ve been a customer since the salon first opened (no really, within the first week of opening) because it felt good to know that no one, animals included, were being harmed for the sake of my nails. I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Sundays team many times, and even Amy herself.
Asha Patel of Asha Patel Designs – Asha is the founder of Asha Patel Designs, a jewelry brand inspired by her Indian heritage with elements like crystals, and Sanskrit sayings. Her jewelry is intentional and mindful in design, and many of her collections are collaborative partnerships for a greater cause.
Asha and I first met through our friend Jules, and she has since been beyond kind to me. We had the opportunity to meet in person in New York this year, and she’ll often share with me her delicious cooking projects. You’ll see that I’m wearing her jewelry in probably every single photo I’m in because I never take it off!
Priyal Bhartia of Bohana Life – Priyal and is the co-founder of Bohana Life, a popped water lily seed snack brand. The seeds are grown in Bihar, India, and the company is committed to fair wages, ethical and sustainable harvesting and sustainable practices. Popped water lily seeds are an ancient ayurvedic superfood (not to mention absolutely delicious and naturally high in protein and fiber). Priyal rediscovered her childhood snack and founded this company to make it accessible to all.
Since trying my first water lily seed snack, I’ve been absolutely hooked. They are almost like a kernel-less popcorn, but nutritious and secretly high in protein. Their soulful spice flavour is my personal favourite, and it’s hard not to go through an entire bag once you open it.
Grace Cheng of Mylk Labs – Mylk Labs launched in January 2018 by model and USC Alumna, Grace Cheng, who shares a passion for healthy living and good food. all natural, non-GMO, whole grain, vegan and free from gluten, refined sugars and artificial additives. Her on the go oat cups make eating healthy convenient and portable, and we first connected over Instagram a few years ago. Since then, I’ve seen Mylk Labs cups pop up in cafés in New York and even Arizona!
Sylvie Charles of Just Date Syrup – Sylvie Charles, MD, is the founder and CEO of Just Date Syrup. Sylvie’s lifelong passion for food and healing was planted at a young age in her family kitchen, where she shared nourishing, Indian meals steeped in healing, Ayurvedic tradition. Sylvie is a UCSF trained medical doctor, who through the course of her career as a physician, became passionate about refined sugar and its impact on our health. She created Just Date Syrup a low glycemic, single ingredient sweetener and that one ingredient is medjool dates, something her Indian family used for generations to sweeten chutneys.
I met Sylvie in California while on a business trip in the earlier stages of her business. I have to tell you that I absolutely love dates, and I like to think of her syrup as liquid dates in a bottle. As someone who doesn’t consume refined sugars, I have so much love and respect for her product.
Denise Woodard of Partake Foods – Partake Foods offers gluten free and vegan, allergen friendly cookies. They are nut free and school safe–Denise’s answer to the hunt for a cookie her daughter with food allergies, could safely consume. Denise is part Korean, and her daughter is so adorable it hurts (check her out on the website!). I was introduced to the brand by Ling, who knew I had a gluten allergy and was vegan, and then introduced to Denise by her as well! Warning: the birthday cake cookie is addictive AF.
Bella Lam of Coconut Whisk – Coconut Whisk offers easy to make baking mixes that are vegan and gluten free, and formulted without dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, nuts, GMOs, preservatives or artificial ingredients. They’re taking something traditionally very bad for you (AKA box mixes) and giving it a healthy makeover so you don’t have to sacrifice convenience or health. Coconut Whisk donates to several charities and was founded by Bella Lam and her partner Miles.
I have yet to meet Bella in real life yet, but have had the pleasure of working with her through social media, and have loved every product of hers I’ve tried. Psst. I recommend the pancake mix, and chocolate chip cookies.
Nicole Berrie of Bonberi – Former features associate at Vanity Fair and former staffer at ELLE, Nicole is currently a freelance writer who has written for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, STYLE.com, NYLON, Departures and The Huffington Post and is an avid home cook and culinary explorer. She is a wellness wonder woman of Bonberi, which is not only a health and well being blog and resource, but also a business owner. Bonberi Bodega is a popup storefront in the West Village offering her juices and salads, alongside health and wellness products. You’ll see elements of her Korean heritage in the product offerings (like the infamous Korean shower scrubby pads) and some of her bowl menu items like Quinoa Bibimbap and Japchae.
I had been following Nicole for a while before I had the pleasure of meeting her and also speaking on a panel hosted at the Bonberi Bodega. Let me just tell you that the second I get pregnant, I’m going to be calling her and asking her everything.
Watt Sriboonruang of Rawsome Treats – I was going to say that Watt is a good friend of mine, but she’s more like family. I first met Watt through my uncle, who used to train at the same Muy Thai gym and introduced me to her raw vegan recipes after I went vegan myself. Yes, that means Watt was not only a Thai fighter, but was also raw vegan at one point, and is now a raw vegan dessert chef and business owner. Her raw pies orders have been coming in to no end for years now, and her storefront opened recently in Chinatown, New York. She’s been featured by the press countless times and many videos of her desserts have gone absolutely viral. All of her desserts are delicious but some of my favourites are the ones that infuse elements of her Thai background, like her Choco Mango or Coconut Dream flavours.
Jun Lee of EIR NYC – Jun Lee was born in Seoul, Korea and moved to Chile when she was seven and then onto NY. A former art curator and extreme athlete, now an avid surfer and samba dancer, she began studying green medicine in 2013 while recovering from sports injuries to deal with pain management and boost the benefits of physical therapy naturally. Jun incproprates the principles of herbal healing into her growing cornucopia of natural, functional skincare products. Eir is natural, clean, unisex skincare made of high quality, therapeutic blends of premium, wild-crafted herbs, and essential oils.
I met Jun through my friend Watt, who included me in one of Eir’s products before the launch of their clean + vegan tattoo aftercare balm. I’ve been so excited to see Eir popping up in some of my favourite clean beauty retailers across the country. P.S. I use the tattoo balm whenever I get a new tattoo 🙂
Claire Chan of The Elk – I met Claire through Nicole of Bonberi. She owns The Elk and Bar Beau in New York City and there are Asian elements in the menu items of both. For example, at Bar Beau, dishes incorporating shiso pesto, or yuzu and miso honey mustard with Chinese sausage and an avocado banh mi or soba noodle dish at The Elk. I have The Elk at the top of my to do list right now!
Priscilla Tsai of Cocokind – Priscilla Tsai started Cocokind in 2014 as a way to treat her own extremely sensitive and acne-prone skin. Frustrated with antibiotics and harsh treatments, she began creating her own skincare recipes using edible ingredients: Coconut oil, matcha tea, chia oil, and other “superfoods.” While I myself have not met Priscilla before, several good friends of mine swear by her products, and what I appreciate the most is her commitment to accessible prices for high quality clean beauty. She includes some Eastern ingredients like matcha and reishi mushrooms into her products, and I’d say some of her products have a cult fan base (or.. maybe it’s just my group of friends).
Minna Lee of Live24k – Last but not least, I wanted to highlight one of my best friends IRL. Minna founded Live24K to create something that didn’t exist. With a commitment to no BS ingredients and only the good stuff, she created a golden milk blend based off of the drink she would make for herself to support her health and well-being living with Hashimoto’s Disease. Although her product is not vegan, I just wanted to tell you about her because I love her and she is a badass!!!
W E L L
I hope you enjoyed learning more about these Asian women and their companies. If you haven’t yet already, you can enter a giveaway live on my Instagram feed to win products from many of the above listed brands. Happy Asia Pacific American Heritage Month!
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BY Remy • May 24, 2019
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Hi there, I’m Remy! Welcome to Veggiekins Blog, home to nourishing vegan + gluten-free recipes and tips to live your best balanced and holistic life. I’m a human on a mission to empower you to be well and be kind to your mind, body and soul with the healing power of plants.
Some brands I’ve had the pleasure of working with…