Sahra Nguyen // Ep 29 // Transparency and Authenticity in Building a Business

Welcome to Episode 29 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have Sahra Nguyen on this week's episode.

We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
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Sahra Nguyen is the founder & CEO of Nguyen Coffee Supply — the first-ever Vietnamese-American & woman owned importer, supplier, and roaster of green coffee beans from Vietnam. On a mission to transform the coffee industry through diversity, inclusion, and transparency, Nguyen Coffee Supply has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, VICE, New York Magazine, New York Times, Forbes, Fortune, and honored with the 2019 StarChefs Rising Star Award. Early January 2020, Imbibe Magazine featured Sahra Nguyen as one of the #Imbibe75 — people, places, and directions that will shape the way you drink in 2020.

Nguyen graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a double major in Asian American Studies and World Arts & Cultures, served as the Director of the Writing. Success Program at UCLA, has worked in non-profit youth arts, grassroots organizing, and freelance journalism.

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Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, My name is Bryan. 

And my name is Maggie 

And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals.

We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Maggie: (00:00:23) Hello everyone. Welcome to the Asian hustle network podcast. Today, we have a very special guest. Her name is Sarah Yan. She is the founder and CEO of the in coffee supply. The first ever Vietnamese American and woman owned importer supplier and roaster of green coffee beans from Vietnam on a mission to transform the coffee industry through diversity inclusion and transparency. Nan coffee supply has been featured in the wall street journal, vice. New York magazine, your times Forbes, fortune and honored with a 2019 is star chefs rising star award early January, 2020. And by the magazine feature, Sarah, and again, as one of the imbibe 75 people, places and directions that will shape the way you drink in 2020, Sarah. Welcome to the show.


Sahra: (00:01:13) Oh my gosh. What a kind introduction. Thank you so much for having me.


Bryan: (00:01:18) Sarah. You’re such a bad ass out there right now. And you’re a bad,


Sahra: (00:01:27) It’s just really ending my year strong right now. I need all the positivity I can get right now.


Bryan: (00:01:34) So walk us through your journey, Sarah, what was your childhood like? How did it shape who you are today?


Sahra: (00:01:40) Yeah. I mean, some of it’s a start. So, you know, I was born and raised in Boston mass. My parents like many, many Vietnamese immigrants or beverages in this country were part of the movement of folks called bull refugees, which means they escaped Vietnam after the war by boat. Um, and my parents didn’t meet until they arrived in the U S but they have similar journeys. They both escaped by boat. Um, took them a few months before they arrived at a refugee camp, um, in Hong Kong. And then they stayed there for a few years before they were a sponsor to come to the United States, Boston, specifically where they settled and that’s where I was born and raised. Um, so growing up, you know, I think for a lot of first generation, um, children, immigrants, um, lots of similar experiences of like, for me, Growing up in an immigrant household, I definitely felt like different at a very young age. Like I felt like my culture, my parents like, um, limited English skills, you know, our food, we’re all like. Differentiating factors. And at that time growing up in the late eighties and nineties, they weren’t like cool factors. Like nowadays it’s like super cool to be easy and super cool to like rep your culture. But like in the late eighties and nineties, it, I never felt really proud to rep my culture, everything. I felt like it was a source of shame or embarrassment. Um, so that definitely just shaped a lot of my. You know, my journey growing up as a BDB American in Boston. Um, and you know, there’s so many pockets of that time that I could go into if you ask me specifically. But I would say my journey in kind of in pride in my culture, um, really changed in high school. When I joined a youth organization called the coalition for Asian Pacific American youth, we were a social justice oriented youth activist organization that works. To organize community, organize rallies and conferences and public demonstrations. And I also, during a time I met my mentors who helped me shape my critical consciousness. Right. And so that was kind of like my awakening. It was like maybe becoming woke before woke was a word like it was conscious back then. Um, but all of that really. As far to my entire life’s mission from there, you know, I applied to UCLA, um, as Asian-American studies major. And I was so passionate about, about learning more about my community, about deepening my connections community, and also about community organizing. So then my dream took me to California, where I studied at the university of California, Los Angeles, double major in Asian American studies and also world arts and cultures. And it just kind of goes on and on and on, but I’ll pause right there for. Any other questions?


Maggie: (00:04:19) No, that’s amazing. And so, you know, growing up in Boston, you know, how did you feel in terms of like your Asian identity? Were there any instances where you felt like, you know, you didn’t belong for a lot of Asians, especially in America, they often feel that no, when they go back to Asia, they don’t feel like they belong, but also in America, they also don’t feel unique.


Bryan: (00:04:39) Asians. Now it’s like, we don’t, we’re not Asian not to be an Asian. And in Asia, we’re also like not American in some ways.


Sahra: (00:04:47) Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I mean, again, I think like within our lifetime, I think for like the millennial generation, right. The folks who grew up late eighties, early nineties, um, we live in such a unique time because I feel like we experienced both ends of the spectrum. So for me growing up, you know, and late eighties, early nineties, like. I struggle with my Asian identity because there was, this was pre-internet pre YouTube pre Instagram, right? All these platforms that now actually have increased level of representation. Like if I was a young kid, you know, growing up with internet, I couldn’t find reflections of myself for YouTube. Right. But. I grew up with it. I know we, I was like literally the first class to sign on to Facebook, right. The first or second class. And so that’s the marker of like my experience. So I grew up with like traditional television, like knowing Netflix, like where there was like one show the same hour every week we had to wait for that show to come on. You kind of just binge watch. So during that time, when we talk about lack of representation today, And lack of diversity. It was even more extreme back then in the nineties. Right. So growing up in the nineties, I didn’t have any sources of like, I didn’t have role models. I didn’t see them on TV. Definitely them in the movies definitely see them in the magazines and I didn’t have internet. So. It was, you know, like, like it was hard growing up as it’d be me as American and feeling so different, feeling alienated, um, growing up in the public school system, feeling like your peers, understand you, your teachers don’t understand you, you know, they don’t know how to say your last name. You know, if I opened up my mom’s like cooking lunch in the cafeteria, that was also another source of embarrassment. It was really hard. I feel growing up as a first generation Vietnamese American, um, in the nineties. And so, and you know, I think for so much of my child, I’ll say I just felt really invisible. And I felt like people didn’t see me and they didn’t understand me cause there’s so much. Explaining to do. And this was when, again, referencing the nineties, there was there, wasn’t this level of collective consciousness that we have today as a culture society, where conversations around fluidity and like gender identity and like in racial consciousness, consciousness it’s so norm today. But back then, it wasn’t a, well, what was known back then was all Asians were Chinese. Right. That was the social and political context within which I was living in. Like everyone thought we were trying these like the chain Chongs where like those thirds is less common, everywhere. Right? It was such a lack of nuance, understanding of racial identity. Let alone Asian American identity let alone Southeast Asian identity, let alone refugee immigrant identity. Right. We didn’t have those nuanced layers race as a concept. Back then the nineties was very dichotomous. It was just black and white. And of course like now, now that we’re like in 2020, like so much has changed. And I’m like, and as I look reflect on where we’re at as a culture and society, how we’re able to talk about all these nuanced, like intersections of identity, I feel so proud to be part of like, this generation has carbon space. Um, but definitely grown up in Boston as a first year should be this market. It was a very different time and definitely very challenging.


Maggie: (00:08:13)  Yeah. Wow. That’s amazing. And so, you know, we understand that you were also doing freelance work in New York city as a film writer and a writer, a filmmaker, and a writer. And so can you talk about, you know, that experience and how you were able to make your way from Boston to New York city?


Sahra: (00:08:28) Um, yeah, so actually it was more like it was Boston and then to LA for undergrad. And then also I worked in LA for several years and then it was LA to New York city that brought me here. So at that intersection, that was definitely kind of like a fork in the road in my life. It was. Um, 2012, I was working full time, um, in student affairs. And I just basically had this feeling where I wanted to live my creative career, because even though I haven’t worked in student affairs, I’ve worked in nonprofits. Um, I’ve always also been an artist. I’ve always been a creative person. I’ve been a writer. I’ve, you know, I’ve came up and spoken word poetry. I love storytelling. Through the medium of poetry writing performance film, because I was so hungry for more representation. Right. Right. So in 2012, I just had, you know, kind of like a moment in my, in my path where I wanted to pursue my creative career, I wanted to go full, full on into my, my journey as an artist. And as a filmmaker and as someone who was amplifying stories or our community from there, I decided to quit my job. I’m in LA and I moved to New York city. And that was the last time I had at a nine to five job for another company. Right. So since I moved to New York city in 2013, I was a full time, freelance, creative, working in journalism, writing, and also documentary filmmaking. I did that for six years, um, before I started, when coughs CLI.


Maggie: (00:10:04) Wow. That’s amazing. Yeah. And how did you feel during that process? We have a lot of members in age and obviously trying to make the jump from their nine to five into entrepreneurship full time. And so what were you doing in LA as your career or your nine to five.

And did you know that, you know, you wanted to make that jump essentially? Or were you, you know, kind of feeling it out?


Sahra: (00:10:23) Yeah. That’s, that’s such a great question. Um, so when I was in LA, I was working full time as. The director of the writing success program at the university of California, Los Angeles. So I worked in the world, students theaters. I basically ran a writing program, working with undergrad students, helping them to develop their critical thinking skills and their writing skills through the writing process. And while I was working full-time I actually had multiple side hustles, which I think is really common with our generation. Right. I, I work full-time nine to five, but then once I was off the nine to five clock and the evenings, and on the weekends, I was dedicating all of that time towards building my creative career. So I was doing things like making press kits and, you know, publishing my blog. I was like really big into blogging, like in the early two thousands. Um, you know, I was touring, I was traveling for like, You know, gigs, um, working on chapbooks working on, you know, um, poetry books working on videos. Like I really treated, it treated my side hustle as a S as a second job, really? Like people have two shifts. Right. I treat it as my second shift. And I did do that for a few years, knowing, like I did do that for a few years with the intention of. I’m going to make that switch eventually. Right. And I didn’t quite know how or when, but I just knew that I was working towards that moment because I think for me in my heart, I know that I’m not the type of person that arrives long-term in a structured environment. I’m like a nine to five. So, and that’s one thing I want to kind of mention, and too, for people who like, are thinking about making that leap or switch from their quote, unquote nine and five to, uh, entrepreneur freelance life. Entrepreneurial life is not for everyone. Right. And I think it takes a certain type of person and Dean DNA to want to do it and to be able to do it right. And I also want to say, there’s no right or wrong. I know many people who are built for Nana, right. They thrive in instruction environment. They thrive in being a part of a company culture or being a part of forwarding a mission. Right. And so I don’t, I just want to clarify that I don’t think like being your own boss or being entrepreneur is like, Less is less or more, a better or worse. It’s just, everyone’s, DNA’s different people thrive in different environments. And so with that being said, I think being entrepreneur it’s extremely difficult. Um, and I think the idea of like quitting United five and like making that leap into being a full-time entrepreneur, it sounds really sexy, but it, it sounds really sexy and it’s very, very difficult and very hard. Um, and I. I think people need to really be honest with themselves. Like, do they want to be a full-time entrepreneur or do they want to have a successful side hustle in business? Right. How much is financial security important to you? Right. Are you able to have a luxury to not have steady income? Right. Do you have family obligations, right? Do you have to support your siblings? Right. And I think all of these ideas and questions and things that we don’t talk about enough as like how you make the jump. Right. Um, so. With that. I just want to put that out there. And, but for me, it’s like, I am that type of person, like that’s in my DNA because, and, um, and so for me, In making that jump. It was, uh, um, it did require planning. I, I was, I was planning and preparing for years, mentally and emotionally to, to walk the path of entrepreneur that comes with a lot of insecurity and stability. Right. And I was also preparing myself financially. I sat as much as I could while I had my nine to five. To offer myself a cushion to transition. Right. Um, I think that when people talk about that leap of faith, it sounds like there is spontaneous and like out of nowhere and maybe a part of it is, but I think he actually comes with a lot of planning and a lot of intention to be able to do it well. Right. Like. Do you have a cushion? Do you have, um, savings? Like what is your runway with a savings? Right? Like how many months do you, are you allowing yourself to be a freelance entrepreneur to build it, your client list and building your revenue streams? Right. I think it comes to a lot of planning, a lot of intention and that, um, You can’t be successful if you don’t have a plan and an intention.


Bryan: (00:14:41) Absolutely agree with that statement. You know, entrepreneurship is sexy right now because everyone’s like talking about it. You see people on Instagram wearing nice suits and airplanes and everything. Cool. I’m going to have to sacrifice six months to two years of my life to achieve goal. And you’re like, all right, this is such, Hollywood’s self. You know, it’s not real at all. Like take a step back to like your Asian American experience. It’s like, One of those stories that we hear over and over and over on our podcasts. You know, your story is one of the reasons why we exist is because we keep hearing these stories from our friends, especially in college too. And people feeling like they don’t have a place in this world. And the crazy thing is. On top of that, we feel like even though we’re Asian, we don’t quite fit in with Asians in Asia or Asians in America, which is really unique, you know, work or old self category for her own mental problems that only, only we understand each other. Like, I, I talked to my mom about this before, too. She’s like, what are you talking about? You know, all these opportunities in America, we completely you’re like, you just don’t get it.


Maggie: (00:15:45) They’re excuses, you know, you understand English, you can speak it, you know, very well. Like why is it a problem for you?


Bryan: (00:15:51) And every time you bring it up, they always said like, Oh, we come to America, we can’t speak English. We still made it. And yet you’re complaining. What’s wrong with you? Yeah. By going back to your entrepreneurial explanation. Completely accurate. You know, it, it takes so many years of preparation even while you have a job, because there’s no such thing as jumping right into it because there’s a lot of things you don’t know, you know, they could become, they should come from a wealthy family. The dad or parents should be entrepreneurs. I grew in them for years. You know, no one, the thing about entrepreneurship is that no one ever does it alone. You need a lot of support from your friends and family and especially yourself to get through. All the, all the crappy you do, you deal with on a daily basis where you wake up and you’re like, why am I doing this to myself? Like, I’m just like on my nice vacation, but yeah. I still choose this line because it’s meant for people like us, you know?


Maggie: (00:16:52)  Yeah, absolutely agree. And so, you know, talking a little bit about new coffee supply, how did the inspiration come about and what made you, you know, Want to achieve this goal with your brand?


Sahra: (00:17:04) Yeah. I mean, there’s so many motivations and inspirations behind when coffee supply. Um, I would say it kind of, it really started around 2016 when I. Was noticing in New York city and really around the country, getting these food and culture was really having its moment. Right. Um, not that it’s new to any of us who’s limited. Um, but I guess in mainstream American society, maybe sort of culture was kind of having a moment emerging the mainstream, where people were exploring things beyond fun, but me. They were exploring one sale and like one bill and like, Ooh, what’s that? And it was just like a marker of where we are in this society. And on a similar Waveland, I noticed that Vietnamese iced coffee as a concept and as an idea, it was awesome coming very trendy. I started seeing it pop up on cafe menus, like non mom and pop. Like restaurants where I’m like, uh, like a specialty coffee shop menu, right. It would be like their regular, the express program, a mantra try and these iced coffee. And so that. Was an indicator and a signal to me like, Oh, there is this growing level of awareness around, face it at. But then literally every time I try the coffee and I ask them, what’s in his coffee, they’d be like, Oh, we saw  or it’s a house Colombia. And we ask, we can then sell to it. And that. Signal the problem that I wanted to solve. And I was like, you know, this is wrong on so many levels, right? One it’s miseducation to the consumers, you’re calling iced coffee and it’s just simply not to it’s wrong to the farmers, Ethiopia and the farmers to Columbia who actually produced this coffee bean. And you basically render them invisible because you want to hop on a trend, call something demons says coffee, right? Three, um, it’s wrong to these farmers and producers who, um, do not get to benefit from this transaction, uh, using a trendy word, like baby’s iced coffee. Right. I feel like it’s wrong on so many levels. Right. And I think that, you know, you know, sometimes people, maybe they just. Don’t know better, or they don’t have this level of insight or thought or consideration. So that’s where people like us, like our generation, we come in to educate and we come in and say, Hey, actually, I appreciate you trying to leverage and share our culture, but let’s, if you really want to do it, let’s do it the right way. Right? Like let’s connect, let’s learn. Let’s build. Right. And then as I looked into it, I actually was really interested to learn that. Um, you know, in my research, I will look up all of like the craft roasters in the country, all the specialty coffee brands. And there was so much excitement around this concept of like single origin, right? Um, especially coffee direct trade. And there was, um, in the coffee industry, there was a movement for transparency, where we went from, like the Maxwell’s, the Folgers to Dunkin Starbucks to now like to blue balls and some towns where everyone wants to talk about. Cool. The farming is and where it’s coming from. And I thought that that was great. This, this idea of transparency for the industry was really wonderful, but I noticed that none of those values were actually being applied to Vietnam. Right. Right. If anything, the moment the conversation got to Vietnam, they were just as supposed to be now. And I was like, Oh actually, no, they’re not a part of this special community. Oh, nothing is cheap. Coffee is instant coffee, coffee is not specialty. Right. And then my question was like, well, why not? Right, because we would think about specialty coffee as an industry, as a culture. We think about how Ethiopia has a huge food and specialty coffee industry. Now in Columbia and Brazil, especially coffee did not appear out of thin air. It didn’t happen on its own. And it definitely didn’t happen with just the farmers on the ground. It was a Colombian investment. Of people all along the supply chain who wanted to make things better, right? Whether it was a buyer or a producer or distributor saying, Hey, farmer, partner, Hey, Hey producer, partner, if you do X, Y, Z to your crop, if you improve it with these organic practices and being used this biome for fertilizer, if you focus on picking it, rather than just the machine shaker, you’ll get a better harvest. And you could sell it for a higher rate. You can make more money and then we sell it for more money. Right. And that is the collective, the global Colombian investment, especially coffee as an industry and the culture. However, no one was willing to have a conversation with the Vietnam. They immediately dismiss it as they’re gross, they’re cheap. They don’t have, there’s no room for them as fresh to coffee. Right. And I was like, well, of course, there’s not going to be any room for them. If we don’t invest in this, in this movement. Right. Then that’s really where. The idea for when conscious supply came up, because I just felt like it was such an extreme injustice happening on so many levels of representation, of information of culture and just of agriculture and just the farm industry in general, while I was like, well, someone needs to step in and change this. And so that’s where we, you know, where really the, the idea and like the motivation for when costs, if I started it. And I just thought if all these other coffee companies were just going to ignore us and write us off, then we’re going to step in and change the conversation. We’re actually going to create a channel and a pipeline to start importing, especially coffee into us, roasting it in the U S to be a part of the conversation. Right. Um, so. Yeah. And since then, the feedback, as you know, you all have seen has just been so wonderful, like people are, we’re changing perceptions now about Robusta coffee, we’re changing perception of the coffee, um, were bringing more poultry and diversity to brewing culture in the us cause we’re elevating the feed filter, but also a lot of people don’t see is we’re in literally changing the landscape of Vietnam. Because we’re able to help more farmers convert from commercial pockets production to premium specialty coffee production, which is which leads to economic advancement for their lives. And it also leads to more long-term cultural. I mean, long-term agriculture sustainability for the land, right. So it’s been really exciting. I’m doing this on top of all of that in addition to just bringing really bomb ass Vietnamese coffee beans to the U S yeah.


Bryan: (00:23:13) Yeah. I mean, it’s, you’re so caused, driven. We love it. You’re just, you’re, you’re more than a brand, you know, your vision, your passion right now. Okay. I don’t know. I don’t know what I want to do today, but I want to drink even these coffee. definitely, you’re a passionate lot. And I think your brand represents more than just a company. It represents a personality. And what you believe in, and that’s so important for companies nowadays to just exist as a company. Now, you know, what is your, what is your, why behind your company? Why do you exist? All these things mattered. And I feel like he tapped out really well. And your branding. And on top of that, you capture it really well, who you are as a person too, because that reflects into your company. Um, so really commend you for that. There’s something about, I do want to bring up as well. I mean, we want to recognize you for raising $90,000 for undocumented. Workers. Like we saw an article, we shared it on her Facebook, but we want to make sure that people recognize what you’re doing. And that’s amazing, you know? And thank you so much.


Sahra: (00:24:21) Thank you so much. That’s so thoughtful. Thank you, Brian. Um, I also just, I always insert, I have to say I did not raise it alone. I helped raise it. Sometimes headlines get sensational. I had to. Yeah, I’m the editor, the, of the, like, can you please change that caption, like, like, um, but, um, that was really cool. That was like, so cool. And, um, It is it’s crazy because like, Mel was kind of a while ago, you know, she, it wasn’t, it felt like so long ago March felt this, you guys just been so crazy. It felt like so long ago. Um, yeah, I don’t know. Yeah, that was really cool. I think, I think at the heart of everything I do at the end of the day, it’s just. I just wanna like be here for our community, you know? And like you were saying earlier, like, well, like we were both saying earlier, like, oftentimes we feel like we don’t belong. Right. I feel like there’s no place for us. We feel like people don’t understand us. And for a fact, we don’t have enough people looking out for us in this country. Right. Whether it’s the government or leadership, we just don’t have people looking out for us, whether that’s the age of my community, the Vimeo community. Uh, immigrant community, the marginalized community, underrepresented community in general. And so I feel so strongly that like, we have to look out for us, you know, and that’s why I think even like what you do with Asian health center network, like you all just create such a powerful space for us to look out for us and you know, the way you cheer, everyone came on and just like affirming us. Like, it’s just. So beautiful and wonderful and powerful, and, you know, I’m so like honored and happy to be in community with you all, because we really are looking out for us while making space for everyone to be seen and heard and to thrive, you know? So thank you all for doing this


Maggie: (00:26:17) for all that you do. And I love what you said about, you know, transparency. I think oftentimes especially in the food business are there or. Or the beverage business, they just hop onto the latest trend without really, you know, telling people what exactly goes on in the background. But a lot of people now like consumers, they really want to know the truth. Right. And transparency is so important. And you talk about that a lot and it benefits both the consumer as well as the company. And so I guess my question is like, what can we do as consumers and supporters, um, to like increase the visibility of Vietnamese producers and help them remove from property.


Sahra: (00:26:54) That’s a great question. And I would just broaden that question as well, too. What can we, as consumers do to increase transparency and just like ethical practice in general? I think what one is continue to align your buying power with your values, right? Like money talks and the only way. Like companies both small and big are going to change their practices or build in more social responsibility into their company. Mission is its consumers. Say and matters to them. Right. I think that consumers didn’t show that with where they place their dollars. And also by seeing up and holding brands and companies accountable or asking more questions. Right. Um, even if, even if it was consumers asking questions about. Hey, where’s my seafood from, Hey, where are these coffee beans from?It just says coffee beans in the packaging, but I’ve actually where’s it from, right. Well like, Hey, where’s my, where’s my meat from, I think this idea of transparency, how it relates to purveyors and producers and all industries, including seafood, including coffee, including, you know, fruits and vegetables.I think consumers getting into, you know, the, the behavior of always asking where, where does literally let’s trace the supply chain and where did it come from? Because coffee really is coffee industry. So Vietnam is a number two. Largest producer coffee in the world. And many of you will know that because of lack of transparency, because their coffee beans basically get rented and visible. Once it enters other porous enters other products, and it’s no longer beating these coffee, it’s just coffee. Right. Which. You know, it just doesn’t hurt anybody. If it actually said Vietnamese coffee or coffee from Vietnam, right. How does that hurt anybody? If anything, it was, it would have been an opportunity for people all around the world to build this culture connection and his appreciation for Vietnam as a major contributor to coffee experience on the world. And so I’m thinking of consumers in general, I’ll just start asking, Hey, where are these coffee beans from? Or like what coffee you seniors are like, where’s your fish from? I think we really helped to improve conditions all along the supply chain.

Bryan: (00:29:12) That’s really? Yeah. That’s a really valid point too. And that’s so important when you hear that being Asian hostel network, like we hear is how are you sourcing yourself? How are you doing those same things? You know, we learn a lot more managing the community, then we think, yeah. When I switch the focus back to you, Sarah, like how do you find a balance between your personal life and your work life right now? It’s so merged. And I think mental health for now is such a huge topic that we need to talk more about for the Asian community. At least like it’s a very taboo, you know, even for us posting mental health events, when the community people will show up to the event, but they will not comment underneath the thread. So we can’t tell if they’re intricate or not.


Sahra: (00:30:01) Oh, wow. Yeah, absolutely. And thank you so much for creating the space again and you all too. Had to talk about mental health and talk about issues that are taboo, quote, unquote Lampoon in our community. Um, you know, for me, I would say that since then, as I say, like, I feel so grateful that I started this company in my thirties, then. In my twenties, because in my twenties, I did not have a good work life balance. Right. And in my twenties, it’s like, I was really like, I kind of set into the idea of like hustle porn. I was like, I’m working so hard and I’m hustling all day, all night. And I could sleep when I die. Like I was in my twenties. Right. I thought that made me, I thought that validated me as hustler. When in reality, it’s, it’s a sick way of. Thinking about success. I think it was totally driven by this capitalistic mindset of like, you got to go Google by any means necessary, crushed everyone and just ended up at the top. Right. I I’m, now that I’m in my thirties. Um, and I think this is part of the preparation that I’ve done as entrepreneur, like the mental and emotional preparation, right. Um, of how to. Be mentally and emotion sustainable for the long fight and the long haul or the marathon of entrepreneurship. Right? Because entrepreneurship is unstable for many reasons, it could be financially unstable, but really we never talk about how it can be mentally and emotion stable. If you don’t have the right tools or the right support systems in place.To, to really endure right. The journey of entrepreneur. So I would say that going back to the question of mental health, I would say that for me, I have been very committed to building, um, my mental health practices and tools for many, many, many years. And that comes through a process of. Self-reflection um, getting coaching, getting mad sure.Is getting advisors to constantly reflect and unpack and deconstruct and talk, and then build tools for how to process and how to think through and how to just move forward. Right. Mentally and emotionally. And when I haven’t talked about tactical yet or strategically yet, right. It’s a purely mentally, emotionally. And so it is work and it’s like years of practice and it is still a constant practice. Um, and so for me today, some things that I do to maintain my mental health is, um, you know, I stay committed to mental health. So that’s everything from. Um, I, you know, I work with two different cultures that are kind of like my therapist, you know, I engage mentors and advisors.Um, I start my mornings with stretching, deep breathing, light meditation. Um, I incorporate daily intentions into my work right where I’m literally. I sit down and writing my intention for the day. I also, so, you know, as much as I can, I try to write a gratitude list, right? Where I’m literally sitting down and writing things I’m grateful for the day and doing things like making a gratitude list and writing my intentions. It basically sets my mindset, um, into a framework of abundance. And gratitude and positivity rather than scarcity and, um, insecurity and, um, you know, um, pain or loss, whatever. Right? So again, small things, very, very small. Um, but it’s an intention and a commitment to being mentally healthy, immensely positive.


Bryan: (00:33:30) And thank you, Sarah, for sharing that it’s so important because I feel like half your entrepreneur battle is licked yourself. You’re like I can do the work, but mentally I’m not there today. Yeah. And it is a very lonely journey in some ways. And I do want to reiterate this too. Like no matter where you are in your entrepreneur journey, you’re always going to feel stressed. Well, it’s going to feel like get that imposter syndrome. You always want to feel a sense of doubt. You know, and it’s crazy hearing that from the pilot high level of tiers, like yourself and other people, but it takes to take time to find that balance. It can’t be Texas to be glorifying, hustle, hustle, hustle, you know, we’re in a different generation now, like, you know, back then and generation was like, you know, it’s not good to work. Your friends and family. You’re going to ruin your relationships. Not, but nowadays it’s like, I can’t work at you unless you are my friend or family.


Sahra: (00:34:30) Like we think about like our parents’ generation, you know, their conditions and their contexts are so different from ours. Right. And we talk, I like to think I’d like to. It’s a lot about like the abundance mentality. And I think our parents just simply we’re dealing with so much scarcity and it’s not that they were like, you know, intentional about having a crabs in the barrel mentality. They were literally operating from scarcity as refugees and immigrants. And I think that was their reality. Right. And so, and their reality allowed us to have our reality where we have more abundance in like more resources. I think more room for life. Collaboration, which is so cool, but our generation, um, and I will say one more thing that I’ve been practicing a lot for, for balancing, um, you know, the personal, the work and just my mental health in general is I’ve. I’ve been practicing a lot of setting boundaries and saying no. And, and I’ve been working on this since, since like my late twenties of like how to say no, how to draw boundaries. And it’s still a challenge and it’s still an active commitment, but I will say over the last few years, I’ve gotten better because I’m flexing my boundaries, muscle more rice. I’ve gotten better at identifying what’s a priority. What’s not a priority. Um, how does they know without feeling bad and guilty? Right. How does it boundaries? Right. And I would say I’ve gotten much better at setting boundaries saying no, but it’s actually really helped me maintain my mental health, um, because I’m not stretching myself too thin and I’m not, um, overextending myself. Right. I’m I’m because every time I say no, or I set a boundary, I basically. Harbor more time for myself. Um, otherwise, you know, in a previous version of myself, when I was younger, I would just say yes all the time where I would feel bad, I feel guilty. So yes, but it actually has ended up like hurting me because I wasn’t able to like preserve and replenish myself. And I was just constantly like, Extending


Bryan: (00:36:25) why you didn’t say a and why you didn’t say no to us. and


Sahra: (00:36:33) all this thing. Yeah. This is the easiest stuff. Be silly.


Maggie:  (00:36:36) Thank you, Sarah. Yeah. It’s amazing hearing you say that. Just hearing you talk about, you know, all of these mental health tactics that you use, it shows that you’ve grown so much as a person, you know, and I love that. You’re just, you know, exemplifying that. Exactly. And you know, all those habits, it’s, it’s all habits that like successful people have, you know, setting boundaries, making sure that you’re making time for mental health. I just in gratitude, you know, all of those things. Yeah.


Bryan: (00:37:00) They’re kind of curious to Sarah, like what is 2029, 21 look like for you? Because this podcast being release as a first episode of the year. So what is 2021 look like? And what are your goals?


Sahra: (00:37:11) Oh, wow. It’s so crazy. I feel like. I feel like we’ve all been drowning in 2020, especially for us right now with like the holidays on this, like just drowning and trying to crawl out and get some space. Um, I haven’t thought too much about it, but I will say, um, you know, we definitely have a lot of big plans in 2021. Um, and really. The goal is just to, just to continue growing wind cost supply, continue growing our influence, um, in the industry and in culture, continue growing opportunities, abroad, and here for us to be leaders in the industry so that we can continue to shape culture and society. And so that we can continue to be in a position of decision-making and influence that we can be a part of creating the world in the culture that we want. Right. Where. Where the young generation won’t have to feel how I felt growing up, which was invisible, unseen, and unrepresented. Right. And I think with my mission with when classified, the more we can grow our Michelin, when costs climb, the more we get to be a part of creating this world where people feel seen and represented. Right. In a nutshell, in a brief version, that’s, that’s our goal for 2021 to continue building and continue growing so that we can be continued to contribute, um, to create the world that we, that we want, that we want to be a part of.


Maggie:  (00:38:40) Yeah, very amazing goal. And so I feel like in my opinion, we just see so much authenticity within you and your brand. I’m very curious, you know, like how do you ensure that you and your business and, um, you know, to like make sure that you stay so authentic and what it stands for on a consistent basis. Oh, that’s a great question. How do we ensure that we say so authentic, what you stand for a lot of businesses. They feel that they need to. Fluctuate or, you know, change their values or change the way they frame their mission based on what other people think. But, you know, Brian and I, we just see you so authentic and so true to yourself and just very curious, you know, how you stay so authentic all the time.


Sahra: (00:39:26) Oh, thank you so much for that reflection. I’m very happy to hear that. Um, you know, I would say, I think any business. It all stems from the leadership, right? So if you have a toxic work environment, the leadership is probably toxic themselves, right? If you have a positive work environment, essentially. So it all starts in the leadership. So the first thing I say is you have to be right with yourself, right. And that means doing the work to know who you are to know your voice. No, your values know what you stand for, know what you believe in, right? And that is this internal work that I’ve been doing my entire life. And I stayed committed to that was with, you know, my work, you know, with youth activism, with being an Asian American studies major with community organizing, like what being quote unquote woke, right. Which is what everyone understands today. It was this commitment to developing my critical consciousness and, um, you know, my voice identity as an Asian American. Knowing who I am, has allowed me to remain authentic to this day. And so that’s the first thing, right? You need to get right within me to know who you are. And then from there, everything else just kind of stems almost naturally. Right. Um, but the next step is with the business. I think more tactically is. I think it’s very, very important to get down on paper. Like what your mission is, what your values are, you know, what your company culture stands for and what your ultimate goal and objective is. Right. Um, it’s in my head. And I think, as we’re thinking, as I’m thinking about growing and like our team’s growing, it becomes so important to put it down so that every time someone enters the company it’s there. Right. And also for me, you know, as I think about as I encountered challenges or dilemmas, If you just roll back to your North star, right. Your compass, like your, why that’s already written down, it just makes it so much easier to make decisions. Right. And, um, yeah, I think that’s how I continue to steer the ship. Just, just remind if I ever get confused, I just go back to our North star, our mission and our why, and that I make all decisions to basically move us forward towards that goal.


Bryan: (00:41:40) Yeah, that’s absolutely powerful. It’s super important to have your wine place. Um, cause that is North star organization at the end of the day. It’s the reason why you guys exist. You know, if he ever had diverse school, uh, you know that you haven’t written down somewhere. Original intention is so super important.


Maggie:  (00:41:58) Yeah. And very curious, you know, from what we understand, you know, we know the inspiration behind you in coffee supply. And after that, after that inspiration, you went to Vietnam, yourself to go to a relative’s farm and that’s how it all started. And, you know, there goes nearing coffee supply to be created. And so, yeah. How would an aspiring entrepreneur with no industry experience like you at that time, start a business from the ground up.


Sahra: (00:42:27) Um, I would say you gotta start asking questions, right? When you don’t have the answers because you don’t have industry experience or A’s have experienced start asking questions. Whether that’s asking Google, Google has been a huge support for me in my entrepreneurial journey. Right? Asking questions on Google. Asking anyone around you questions, asking your colleagues, asking your peers, asking your friend, ask your network’s questions. And I think there’s something to be said about not being scared to ask questions, not being scared to look stupid or dumb or not be scared to inexperience like. You have to get over any type of Eagle you have here about not knowing or about the experience and ask questions. That’s something that I did from day one, as I continue to do. And something that I think, um, could be a first step to helping someone figure it out. Right. And I’ll maybe done for more it’s it’s asked, it’s being very specific. For example, when I was like learning, you know, if I didn’t know how to like, maybe. But you know how to roast? I’d asked my friend who works at cafe. Hey, how do you roast, right. Oh, this is how I was. Oh, can I, can I shadow you? I right. Oh, what’s this? What’s that? Hey, do you know somebody who teaches a roasting class?Right. Oh, okay. It’s literally like, like I wouldn’t describe it as. Um, work on a puzzle, right? You, you, all you need to do is find that one next piece when you lay it down. Okay. That question is answered, lay down, and then you go look for the next piece and then you lay it down, right? You don’t need to have the whole blueprint, the whole plan laid out because.It’s just, unless you have someone who literally examine your blueprint, um, that’s the process of building business. You just tackle it one question at a time, one step at a time to get you just one step closer. And once that moving forward, and I think as long as you just kind of break down your master vision, your dream into these really, really small, manageable steps. As long as you’re moving forward each time, even if it’s like a detour set aside and you go off track, as long as you continue to move forward, that’s all that matters. Right. And don’t worry about time. Don’t worry about people around you. How fast, slow they’re going. Just worry on. Just worry, just stay focused on your course forward. And everyone’s journey. Everyone’s path is going to be unique. And so really, if you just say, focus on taking a step forward. Each day, each moment. And again, detours are okay. Breaks and pauses and pit stops are okay. But as long as you stay committed to moving forward and growing and learning, then I feel like you’re going to be, you’re headed towards success. If, if, if you’re not already.


Maggie:  (00:45:20) Yeah. That’s a great analogy.


Bryan: (00:45:22) I really like that mentality too. I feel that common trait of successful entrepreneurs is don’t be afraid to ask questions. You know, at the end of the day, like I’m not gonna think any poorly. You asked me a lot, a lot of questions that, you know, for everyone’s benefit. So they re reaffirms that person’s knowledge of their industry and it helps you learn. And I liked your mentality too. Like, you know, just move forward. You know, I do a little bit every day to reach your wall, like your goals. It has to be so gigantic that it scares you every day. Oh no. Well, break it down into sub steps because any, any goal can be accomplished through too many steps, many steps, many days consistently.


Sahra: (00:46:03) Right. And Brian, I just want to build off of what you said. I also want to add like, In the process, ask some questions, also just be open in the class, ask some questions is very possible that some people will not answer you. Right. They either will answer you or they don’t want to answer you. And that’s okay too.Right? Because we can’t control what someone else does, but we can control what we do. So let’s say we ask them a question and they don’t reply to you. Right. Keep it moving. Ask someone else on it on the way, right? Cause I’ve asked you the questions and they don’t reply to me, or I’ve asked questions when they kind of like Dodge it, right.Or whatever the reason is, it doesn’t matter whether they’re too busy or they don’t want to share like that part doesn’t matter. What matters is you keep moving. Right. Because I’ve experienced that. So I don’t want you to think that, Oh, you ask questions, you get all the answers. Like it’s not about that because people are coming from different places.I think just practicing that muscle. I’m not having an ego about wanting to learn is important. Um, yeah, because you know, I’ve asked questions when people like don’t get back to me and they don’t answer it or they Dodge it. And to be honest, sometimes people ask me a question and I just, I don’t answer because I’m either just too busy or I still think it’s the right fit or whatever.I lost it for reasons, but that’s not important. What’s important that you’re flexing your muscle. I’ll ask some questions, moving forward, overcome an obstacle and not let any stuff in your way.


Maggie:  (00:47:26) Yeah, absolutely agree. And we just have to like put our vital away sometimes. You know, I feel like a lot of people have like a wall because they think that they can do everything themselves, but we just,


Sahra: (00:47:39) you know, also it’s such a mentality and I feel like my parents also, like this it’s like saying like, come  right. You know, you don’t want to burden them. Like don’t ask them, don’t burden them with someone that was taught growing up.


Maggie:  (00:47:55) Oh, yeah. Yeah. And so for your personal goals, let’s say in like the next five to 10 years, what would that be? Personally,


Sahra: (00:48:03) personally, Oh man. So many, so many goals, so many golf balls. It’s like 2020 has just like sucked us into my let’s. Just survive this moment. Uh, personal goals, you know, I always say that my goal is, is to my, my, I always say my goal is to. Achieve freedom. And that’s freedom to travel freedom to spend money, freedom, to give money, freedom, to create something.Right. I think growing up in an immigrant household where there was a lot of scarcity, we didn’t have a lot of money. We felt restricted. I couldn’t buy Loreals. I could have been too expensive. We couldn’t even buy the deadlock bags so expensive. It was always a of flat bags, right? Like there’s a lot of, like, you could not.Or even like being a freelancer or on my journey as a working professional, like not having enough money. Right. I couldn’t do this, I couldn’t do that. And it wasn’t just like financial restraint. I didn’t have the, the mental freedom to do stuff. Right. I felt stressed. So when I say it, like my goal is to achieve freedom.It’s just like, I just want the freedom to. To live without restraints and to live without limitations and to be able to do and create a world with like an abundance of resources and knowledge and network. Um, I think that’s just like the ultimate.


Bryan: (00:49:32) Yeah. I love that series. It was very abundance mindset.


Sahra: (00:49:36) I don’t want any restrictions, you know, me, I hate them.


Maggie:  (00:49:40) It’s amazing. And so. Sarah, you know, this has been an amazing podcast, was learning about your journey and yourself and helping our listeners learn more about you online. And do you have any final remarks that you would like to share?


Sahra: (00:49:36) Oh, wow. Um, you know, I think definitely, um, if you’re listening, you can follow our journey by following our Instagram page. At wind cost supply. Um, Instagram is our number one social media platform. So all of our updates and news goes out there. Um, you can also learn more about us on our website when Costa And do I have any final words? Um, you know, I just wish everyone a happy, happy and healthy year and, you know, I just. I hope that everyone continues to push forward because our role is going to be a better place with more. Well, more people just bring in their own unique vision and flare and style to things.


Maggie: (00:50:44) Yeah. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for bringing your vision and, you know, being true to who you are and being a part of the Asian community.


Bryan: (00:50:51) Yeah. Thanks for making the world a better place.  


Sahra: (00:50:58) My we’re to place. And thank you for, you know, this community. I’m so stoked to be a part of it. And I I’m, I really look forward to our journey together. Both the is shared moving forward.


Maggie: (00:50:44) Likewise, thank you so much. 


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