Discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is nothing new in this country. Since the beginning of the pandemic, however, violent hate crimes against the AAPI community have increased significantly and unfortunately continue to rise. Asian and AAPI-owned businesses already struggling during the pandemic were hit even harder due to discrimination and xenophobia, and some were even vandalized and had their windows smashed. Many businesses were forced to close forever, and Asian American unemployment rates spiked by more than 450%.
There are many ways to stand in solidarity with the AAPI community, from donating to organizations that are working to #StopAsianHate to reading books by Asian American authors and books by Pacific Islander authors to learn more about the AAPI experience. Another way to help is to support Asian-owned businesses with your wallet. Here are some Asian and AAPI businesses in home, food, entertainment, lifestyle, and beauty and their remarkable stories. Note: The AAPI community is a vastly diverse and rich culture, and this growing list only scratches the surface. Not only will you be contributing to a good cause, but these amazing products will surely bring you joy. Win-win!
Asian houseware, furniture, apparel, and accessories
Originally natives of Taiwan, Pearl River Mart founders Ming Yi and Ching Yeh Chen opened a “friendship” store in New York City’s Chinatown to bridge the cultural gaps between China and the United States. What started as the first Chinese American department store in the world is now “a beloved New York institution and a symbol for the creativity and ingenuity of Asian Americans in this country”. You can find anything from traditional Chinese clothing to graphic tees, chopsticks to tea sets, books to home decor, and more.
Sustainable cleaning products
The daughter of immigrant parents from Thailand and Korea, Sarah Paiji Yoo, the CEO and Co-Founder of Blueland, wanted to eliminate plastic waste when she became a new mom, and she channeled her concerns into a sustainable solution. Blueland offers hand wash, laundry detergent, and dish soap.
Eliza Blank, founder of The Sill, wanted to make the experience of owning and caring for plants more accessible and less daunting to those who are new to the horticulture world, so she started an online direct-to-consumer plant delivery business that now has physical locations in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Visit the site or one of their locations for beautifully designed planters, a wealth of resources and workshops on plant care, and, of course, plants!
Hand-picked Chinese porcelain
Wing On Wo is the oldest operating store in New York’s Chinatown. It started as a small family shop in 1890 selling everything from canned goods to herbs and meat with a “very selective collection of porcelain”. While they no longer sell groceries, all of the teaware and dinnerware available in the store are hand-picked during annual trips to Hong Kong and China.
Indian restaurant and made-from-scratch frozen meals
Founded by an Indian-American family with the purpose of sharing India’s cultures and cuisine with everyone, they believe that “each of us has a light to shine to help guide each other toward good (and delicious) things”. Deep Indian Kitchen has multiple locations in New York City, and they also have frozen Indian meals, always made-from-scratch, that are available at a local grocery store or with free 2-day delivery.
Healthy, Hawaiian tea
Woman-led and co-founded by Oʻahu born and raised Bella Hughes, Shaka Tea offers tropical, plant-powered teas that are all brewed with sustainably sourced, herbal māmaki leaves. Bella identifies as multi-ethnic and has an immigrant mother from Central Asia. Shaka Tea is zero calorie, zero sugar, no caffeine, and lightly sweetened with monkfruit, and is diabetic-friendly, easily fitting into a plant-based or keto diet.
Asian hard seltzer
Taiwanese-American and Kevin Wong and Korean-American Sean Ro noticed a lack of Asian representation in the drink menu at their local Korean fried chicken spot after a late night out. So they got brewing, and Lunar was born – the first craft hard seltzer made with real, premium fruits and ingredients from Asia with flavors like lychee, plum, yuzu, pineapple cake, tamarind & rice paddy herb, and mango & chili salt.
Korean meal kits
Doofood provides Korean meal kits that are tasty, fresh, and, most importantly, super easy and quick to make! After learning that many people found Korean food difficult to make, founder & CEO DooJin Kim wanted to make Korean home cooking more accessible and healthy. Budding chefs can choose from a wide variety of options and recipes from their site and whip up their very own bibimbap, sundubu-jjigae, or kimchi pancake in 15 minutes or less.
Asian sauces and meal starter kit
Daughters of Vietnamese refugees Vanessa and Kat Pham co-founded Omsom to bring proud, loud Asian flavors into everyone’s kitchens. The sister duo grew up with their mother’s Vietnamese cooking and wanted to proudly reclaim and celebrate “the multitudes to be found in Asian flavors, stories, and communities”. Omsom is the perfect meal starter to create authentic, flavorful Asian food.
Asian grocery delivery
Weee! founder Larry Liu noticed that Asian grocery stores were often far away or difficult to access, and many local stores did not have the ingredients he needed to re-create nostalgic dishes from home. So, in 2015, he created Weee!, an e-grocery site and app that sources authentic, difficult to find ingredients to a community of over 7 million Asian immigrants. Fun fact: their top selling item is green onions, followed by enoki mushrooms. Yum!
Asian music and production
88rising is a music entertainment and label company for Asian and Asian American artists in rap and hip hop. Founded by Sean Miyashiro and Jaeson Ma, 88rising wants to bridge the cultural gap between Asian and American music and support emerging Asian artists. 88rising represents artists such as Joji, Keith Ape, Rich Brian, and Niki. Check them out on YouTube or Instagram.
Desi Chaat by Culturally Inclined
South Asian board game
Desi Chaat is a small, family-run business working to develop South Asian games that will bring people together with lots of laughter. Indian-American founder Priya Shah describes the game as the “South Asian version of Taboo”, and she created the game with the goal of sharing desi culture and bringing South Asian families together. It’s a fun way to celebrate and learn about South Asian culture – even Lilly Singh is a fan!
Short films and comedy sketches
For many Asian Americans, the first time they ever saw themselves represented in media is in short films by Wong Fu Productions. One of the most well known and popular YouTube channels among the Asian American community, Wong Fu is an independent digital production company with dramatic shorts and comedy sketches that tells authentic stories of the Asian American experience.
Boutique for apparel, jewelry, home goods, and accessories
Founder and creative director Ruoyi Jiang believes that “the best way to dissipate xenophobia is to make your own culture more accessible to others” – and Chop Suey Club sets out to do exactly that. This small boutique store in New York City amplifies the voice of young Chinese creatives by showcasing their work and offers products with contemporary Chinese designs.
Japanese-American actress Ally Maki created fashion and lifestyle brand Asian American Girl Club, lovingly known as AAGC, to redefine the modern Asian American woman through normalization and unity. They believe that visibility across all media, including what we wear, is important for representation. From tanks and t-shirts (like this I’m From Here tee) to sweats to accessories, there is definitely something for every Asian American girl.
Bags for commutes and travels
Helen Lo, who fled from China to Macau during the Chinese Civil War when she was a young girl, founded Lo & Sons when she was 65 years old with the encouragement of her sons. Lo & Sons offers lightweight, functional, and attractive bags for travel and daily commutes with thoughtful design features such as adjustable sleeves that easily slide over suitcase handles and pockets for tech essentials.
Apparel, tote bags, stickers
Made in Chinatown, an initiative by grassroots organization Welcome to Chinatown, aim to support businesses in New York City’s Chinatown and amplify community voices. The name is “a deliberate subversion of the Made in China label and its connotations”, and the profits from the high-quality products go towards the shops that have faced so many challenges and hardships during the pandemic. Made in China features collections from various shops in Chinatown, from apparel to tote bags to stickers.
Crystal Ung founded Ren after realizing how difficult it was to search for jade jewelry in New York City. With a background in fashion, Crystal “wanted to create a brand that Asian Americans can see themselves in and a way to celebrate Asian beauty, art, and creatives”. Their opal, pearl, and rare Burmese jadeite pieces are made-to-order in a family studio.
Korean beauty products
The wife-and-husband team of Charlotte and Dave Cho launched Soko Glam in 2012 to help people discover Korean skincare, beauty trends, and cosmetics. Now, the platform they’ve created is one of the most popular online marketplaces for Korean beauty products, and Charlotte has published a book and launched her own skincare line. They regularly travel back to Korea to consult experts and curate new product selections for Soko Glam.
South Asian eyeliner
Kulfi founder Priyanka Ganjoo did not see her South Asian identity (or skin tones) reflected in the beauty industry that she worked in for years. She took matters into her own hands when she created Kulfi, a brand that celebrates South Asian culture and beauty. Kulfi is a type of South Asian ice cream, and the brand is “an ode to the girl growing up in Delhi spending summers eating kulfi and to the woman [she is] today”.
Born to Taiwanese-American parents, Victoria Tsai was suffering from acute dermatitis when she was inspired by Japanese secrets on a trip to Kyoto. She created Tatcha based on the anti-aging superfood trinity of green tea, rice, and algae. Tatcha works with scientists in both Japan and the United States to create their formulas from scratch to be gentle, minimal, and effective.
JUARA was founded by four friends: Metta Murdaya, Yoshiko Roth-Hidalgo, Jill Sung, and Tami Chuang. With roots in Indonesia, Japan, Germany, China, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, and the United States, they combined their knowledge and passion for Eastern and Western cultures to create JUARA, a line of skincare products for every skin type based on the ancient Indonesian healing traditions of Jamu.
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