Anh is making a global impact in higher education with her work at Dyad. ”
What’s your story?
I’m a chef, designer and entrepreneur in Shanghai. I moved here about 3 years ago from Houston, Texas looking for adventure, and boy did I find it! From catering parties, to developing content strategy, to designing websites, teaching cooking classes and managing thousands of international clients – I’ve done a bit of everything under the sun. I don’t think my story is unique to anyone’s startup experience, but I certainly hope it gives the next person some insight and the veteran some reminiscent laughs. As I transition to the next seemingly exciting project, I’m appreciative there’s a community for me to pour my thoughts. I’m launching my first business in Vietnam next month. Like most of you, I have no idea what I’m doing.
What excites you most about your industry?
Education, at its core, is unlike any other industry. It has the potential to shape, change and inspire people to make a positive impact on the world. New technology in the field means that we can innovate learning methods and provide millions of students with educational resources they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access. The most exciting thing for me is to be able to give someone the gift of learning.
What’s your connection to Asia?
My parents fled Vietnam after the war to build a better life in America. After I graduated from university, I moved to China. They weren’t the happiest about me moving to the largest socialist country, but the enormous challenges and opportunities here are hard to dismiss. Asia houses the most dynamic developing economies and a wealth of talent and competition. I live by the words of philosopher Jay-Z, “If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere.”
Favorite city in Asia for business and why?
Shanghai is absolutely amazing. Don’t get me wrong, there are a tonne of complications and challenges in doing business here as a foreigner, but the resources, capital and market size make it attractive to even the most hesitant. I’ve observed throughout my 3 years in Shanghai that there’s a very special rhythm to the city. The tech startup scene is buzzing with folks who are hungry to make an innovative global impact and everyone is eager to share their “China hacks.” You’ll find a beautiful balance between the new app and the funky brick and mortar. Entrepreneurship is so difficult here that it honestly doesn’t matter what you start up, all that matters is that you did.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Anything is possible, everything is difficult. No matter what your vision or calling in life – it’s going to be hard. So always prepare yourself as if it’s the hardest thing you’re ever going to do and you’ll come in swinging. Don’t skate on natural talent, train to win.”
― Sophia Amoruso, #GIRLBOSS
Who inspires you?
It’s hard to think of two people more deserving than my parents. They’ve sacrificed a lot for me to be bold in my business decisions. They’re forever and always my inspiration in life. Additionally, when I was a keynote speaker at Lean In China this July, I did quite a bit of research on inspiring women throughout history… and I was surprised at how many there were. The women who don’t take no for an answer and who break those glass ceilings are the ones who inspire me to keep pushing. It would be impossible to name them all, but I think that every woman and man can find inspiration in their pioneering efforts. Women teach me patience, resilience, determination and grace.
What have you just learned recently that blew you away?
During my visit to Egypt last December, I learned that we are closer now to Cleopatra than she was to the time the Great Pyramids were built. Like staring at the stars or traveling abroad for the first time, it put into perspective how small I actually was. What mark will I leave on the world? Am I doing what I want with my time? All my biggest concerns disappeared when I learned how small I was on the universe’s timeline and how big I could actually be if I put my heart in the right place. I think we often trouble ourselves with things of little consequence and it’s liberating to know that while those problems might matter now, they will actually never matter.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have stood up for myself more. I didn’t realize it at the time, but one of my previous employers harassed and bullied me. I certainly felt uncomfortable, but my naivety made excuses for them. When they refused to give me benefits equal to other expats at the company, I told myself that I didn’t really need it and when they asked awkwardly sexual questions about my personal life – I blamed it on our cultural differences. I know now that I was just naive and a bit of a push-over. If I could do it again, I’d speak up, make them realise that treating anyone this way was not okay and sue them dry.
How do you unwind?
Stretching, reading, cooking and sweeping. The sweeping makes me think that I’m becoming more and more like my mother every day. Typically when I feel overwhelmed, I make a list of every single thing that needs to be done and then I rank them in order of priority. Making checklists and doing an inventory of all that junk living inside my brain helps me process the information more visually and take action. After you get through your checklist you can pour yourself some wine.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I get enough of the big city here in Shanghai, so I really enjoy slowing down on vacation. Swimming in Kota Kinabalu or roaming the streets of Vientiane is perfect. While the skyscrapers impress me, I’m most content on a hike or wandering old streets. It’s magical to feel like you’re lost in time and then come home to the future.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield.
Shameless plug for your business:
I’m currently the Director of Special Projects for Dyad, a mentorship platform that connects students to mentors from their target university, career, or industry. It’s hard to go through life without a little help and Dyad makes it possible for millions of people to connect around the world and learn from one another. I’ve been with Dyad for 3 years now and it’s been the best learning experience of my life. Next month, I’ll be moving to Hue to start an educational exchange program that enables local Vietnamese to develop employable skills and the Diaspora community to learn about the culture and heritage of their homeland. I think there’s an amazing opportunity here to educate, create jobs and empower people. I’m honored to play a small part in Vietnam’s development.
@ChefAnhHoang Facebook works better: Anh Hoang
“Education, at its core, is unlike any other industry. It has the potential to shape, change and inspire people to make a positive impact on the world. New technology in the field means that we can innovate learning methods and provide millions of students with educational resources they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access.”
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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