Phoebe is a Chinese-American college student, entrepreneur, and activist. Her self-launched, Forbes-featured business Cuddle Box connects artisans to the public via selfcare boxes. Here, she shares with us insight on entrepreneurship, model minority, and supportive immigrant parents
Samantha: Tell us about yourself!
Phoebe: I’m Phoebe, an 18 year old Chinese American from Jersey, born and raised. I’m a big fan of cupcakes, conversation, candles, cats, and alliteration. Soon, I’m going to be moving across the country to attend Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, so I’m super pumped!
Samantha: What’s your favorite/least favorite part of being Asian-American?
Phoebe: My favorite part of being Asian-American is the community. I think that because of my respect for Chinese culture, I’ve been able to connect with many other Chinese Americans from simple things like boba to more complicated matters like the need for Black-Asian solidarity. My least favorite part of being Asian American is probably being viewed as the model minority. As I’m sure many other Asian Americans have experienced, people tend to view my family and I as the “prime example” of how minorities in America should act, thereby reducing any racism that we may experience.
Samantha: How have you/your family reacted to the latest accounts of racially-provoked violence?
Phoebe: Frankly, these recent events took a pretty big toll on my personal mental health. My family as a whole became much more reserved in terms of leaving the house. Even visiting colleges became a pretty big deal, and my parents have been much more cautious regarding our personal safety.
Samantha: In one sentence, describe a societal change you'd like to see in the next decade.
Phoebe: I would like to see more open conversation among all political parties about the tangible steps that can be taken to create a safer space for minorities.
Samantha: I think immigrant parents tend to inspire a strong work ethic in their children which renders them academically successful and passionate about learning at best, reclusive and burned out at worst. How did this culture of hard work and academics affect you? How did you strike a balance to achieve success while still (at least I think) finding time to enjoy life?
Phoebe: My parents definitely insisted on me having a good work ethic in school, but I think outside of school, they definitely gave me much more freedom. I think also innately, I really valued pursuing my passions beyond societal expectations, which allowed me to gain opportunities I would not have otherwise. Therefore, I feel like a lot of the work I have done and the stress I have encountered have been results of my own pursuits, unfortunately. One thing I’ve heard a lot is that work-life balance doesn’t exist. Many people within the entrepreneurship sphere tend to believe that work and life coexist and are not mutually exclusive. While I agree with this to a certain extent, I also recognize that as people, we must have a life outside of work. I personally find myself to live a more fulfilling life when I’m able to separate the two. Overall, I try my best to avoid burnout by setting aside a good chunk of my time to be with loved ones and pursue interests outside of entrepreneurship and academia.
Samantha: In my experience, Asian-Americans aren't regarded as leaders or entrepreneurs by others--of course, the stereotype that "all Asians want to be doctors" embodies this. Did you ever experience pressure from these negative beliefs, and how did you overcome them?
Phoebe: I’m not quite sure how much this pressure pertains to me personally because my parents have always given me the privilege to pursue what my own interests are. I’ve been very lucky in this way. I know my mom wanted me to become a professor when I was young, but she dropped it once she realized how much I enjoyed entrepreneurship. Ever since my parents recognized this passion of mine, they have been some of my biggest supporters and have even helped me out in packaging orders and shipping them when I’ve been overwhelmed with schoolwork.
Samantha: What's next for you, on a personal and professional level? I'd assume you're going to continue business, but what role will advocacy/activism play in your future?
Phoebe: Something really important to me that I try to bring into my business as well is the advocacy for economic stability. I think this is really crucial during times like this, where the world is divided and in panic, because economic stability is so global and requires us all to work together to play a part in reducing the wealth gap on an international scale. This means that everyone, regardless of race, creed, or color, must come together in solidarity. In college, I am receiving a concentration in global management so I hope to definitely work on more social impact driven initiatives in the future!