After a cooking accident left her with burns, skincare entrepreneur Sally Olivia Kim of Crushed Tonic turned to collagen to heal herself. (Credit: Crushed Tonic)
Asian business owners saw one of the greatest hits in sales through 2020. Xenophobia, which became increasingly evident during the pandemic, played a large role. [Credit: Crushed Tonic]

Nearly 2 million businesses in the United States are Asian-owned, but we can do more to recognize the role the community plays in this country. 

The flood of hate crimes against the Asian community since the start of the pandemic has reached the level of a full-blown crisis: data from the nonprofit organization Stop AAPI Hate shows approximately 3,800 crimes against Asian Americans were reported between March 2020 and February 2021. The violence has also affected Asian-owned businesses, which saw a drastic decline through 2020 as owners had to close shop due to dismal sales.

This Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are highlighting the resilience of AAPI women everywhere and sharing eight stories of their efforts to to widen access to birth control, avert future water crises and increase the number of female executives.

[Related: ‘I Am Not Okay.’ Asian-American Women Entrepreneurs Speak Out]

1

Credit: M.M. Lafleur

Georgene Huang, Fairygodboss

Most of us would like a fairy godmother, but what about a fairy godboss? This dynamic duo is here to help us find our Cinderella career moment. Haung and her co-founder Romy Newman have been helping women land jobs at female-friendly companies since 2015, when they first launched Fairygodboss.

2

Shaan Kandawalla, PlayDate Digital

Having experienced the patriarchal culture in Pakistan, Kandawalla came to the United States fully prepared to take on a male-dominated industry: tech. She founded PlayDate Digital in 2012 and became boss to a team of experts who create educational apps for children.

[Related: This International Women’s Day, Meet the 22-Year-Old Climate Activist From Pakistan]

3

Dr. Uma Gautam is finding career opportunities for executive-level female talent — and creating jobs for women herself. This earned her a spot on our 2018 Resist List.

Dr. Uma Gautam, HeadPro Consulting

In an effort to challenge India’s lack of female executives, Gautam founded her headhunting venture in 2011 and has been helping employ women in high-level jobs across India ever since.

4

Alison Chung, TeamWerks

Chung always had a special way with numbers. She now runs TeamWerks, a computer forensics firm that looks into fraud, theft and corruption for many big players in fields such as insurance or software.

[Related: Debugging Tech for Women Biz Owners of Color]

5

After a cooking accident left her with burns, skincare entrepreneur Sally Olivia Kim of Crushed Tonic turned to collagen to heal herself. (Credit: Crushed Tonic)

Sally Olivia Kim, Crushed Tonic

Kim began making her own homemade collagen powder to treat arm burns she suffered after a cooking accident. Seeing quick results to her arms and overall improvement of her skin, she decided to package and sell the product. Although skincare is a saturated industry, “Trust,” Kim says, “is such an important — if not the most important — component of who we are.”

6

Dr. Anitha Rao, Neurocern

Neurocern is a software company that provides personalized regimens to the caretakers of those diagnosed with dementia, a disorder that disproportionately affects women. Rao, who earned her doctorate in 2008, focused her time on researching the illness before she co-founded Neurocern in 2014.

[Related: Toiling for Years Behind the Scenes, Female Scientists Finally Get Respect for Covid-19 Vaccines]

7

Meena Sankaran, Ketos

Growing up with little access to clean water in India inspired Sankaran to start Ketos, a California-based startup that provides real-time testing of water quality and efficiency to prevent water crises. “If we don’t take care of such a very precious resource like water, we are not going to leave much for the generations ahead,” Sankaran says.

8

Dr. Sophia Yen started Pandia Health with co-founder Perla Ni to make birth control more accessible. (Credit: Pandia Health)

Dr. Sophia Yen, Pandia Health

Yen’s passion for reproductive rights goes back to her days volunteering at Planned Parenthood, administering pregnancy tests for girls as young as 13 — tests that sometimes came back positive. The outcome could have been different, Yen said, if those girls had received “comprehensive sex ed or birth control.” That’s exactly what Yen is trying to do today, as co-founder of Pandia Health, a women’s health care startup where doctors prescribe birth control to young women that is then mailed straight to their doors.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated. It was originally published May 20, 2021.

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