Podcast by InnovatorsBox®

Curious Monica: Season 3

Take the Path Less Travelled with Designer Kimberly Wong

Curious Monica – a Podcast by InnovatorsBox®. Hosted by Monica H. Kang.

The Curious Monica podcast features candid conversations with innovators in thriving organizations across various industries. In each episode, host & founder of InnovatorsBox, Monica Kang interviews her friends in diverse fields about what they do and why they love what they do. If you’re curious too, you’ll gain incredible insight into the workplace patterns that can change the way you think about work, no matter what industry you’re in or who you are.

Tune in on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your preferred platform of choice!


Fashion designer Kimberly (Kim) Wong is not shy about building her own path. Today Kim is the founder of Cukimberly, a successful brand of original and colorful print, jewelry, clothes, and accessories in New York. But her journey into fashion was somewhat atypical, and in a way represented the very strength of her unique approaches to creativity and her work as an artist. Kim always loved art, but growing up Asian-American meant that she was encouraged to pursue a traditional career in business. Instead, she paved her own path, going to Japan and becoming an English teacher, and then starting her career in China. It was easier said than done to go to a country without speaking the language, or with a job. But her passion for food, community building, and marketing quickly helped her find her voice. She soon became the Shanghai go-to person to open restaurants and even worked in interior design. Today she is back in New York, working in the fashion industry and running her own brand full-time, but as she reflects on all these chapters, she shares how her past helped her be the better innovator and designer she strives to be.

This May, as we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are thrilled to dive deeper into Kimberly Wong’s journey into fashion, business, restaurant and more. Connect with Kim Wong on her site, Instagram or LinkedIn.

Guest: Kimberly Wong

Founder, Designer and Operator at Cukimber

I am a Founder/Designer/Operator at cukimber, a colorful fashion brand that I launched in the US in 2022 after transforming my self-taught artistic and fashion design skills into a thriving business in China. With a BS in Marketing and Management from NYU Stern, I have the knowledge and expertise to drive sales, develop products, and create brand awareness through e-commerce platforms, targeted marketing campaigns, and retail opportunities. I am passionate about bringing ideas to fruition and creating positive impact through creativity and connection. I have successfully managed and delivered projects for renowned clients in the interior design industry, partnered with healthy eating restaurants in China, and participated in multiple trade shows and pop-ups for my fashion brand. I am resourceful, optimistic, and extroverted, and I always go for new experiences and challenges that can help me grow personally and professionally. I am looking for a like-minded team and a mission-driven company that values innovation and collaboration.

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Episode Shownotes

1. Title of the Episode:
Take the Path Less Travelled with Designer Kimberly Wong

2. Host:
Monica H. Kang, Founder & CEO of InnovatorsBox

3. Guest:
Kimberly Wong, Founder, Designer and Operator at Cukimber


4. Key Topics Covered:

  • Career transitions from business to fashion
  • Influences of Asian American culture on personal and career choices
  • Experiences living and working in Japan and China
  • The importance of embracing change and opportunities in various industries

5. Highlights:

  • Kimberly’s decision to leave corporate America and teach English in Japan
  • Her entrepreneurial journey in China spanning over a decade, including roles in marketing, restaurant management, and interior design
  • The founding of her fashion brand, CuKimber, and the challenges of establishing a creative business

6. Quotes from the guest:

  • “You have to be open to embracing change and surprises all around.”
  • “I think like if you’re feeling stuck, like you won’t always be stuck.”

7. Some people suggested that we should learn from:

  • Ken Chung, Elle, Peggy Liu, and Kelley Lee for their unique contributions to various fields and their ability to navigate multiple cultural contexts.

8. Contact Information for the guest:

Kimberly Wong can be reached through her email newsletter on her website and is active on Instagram and LinkedIn.


9. Closing Thoughts by Monica Kang:

Monica reflects on the importance of recognizing diverse journeys and voices in the Asian American community, highlighting the significance of courage and adaptation in personal and professional growth.

10. Episode Length and Release Date:
Episode Length: Approximately 40 minutes
Release Date: May 28, 2024


00:00

Monica H. Kang
Have you ever looked back at your childhood and wondered, geez, I used to love doing that, but it’s been a while since I’ve done it. Well, today’s guest understands you and hears you out because that’s how she felt, too. Meet Kimberly Wong. She is the founder designer operator at CuKimber, a colorful fashion brand where she produces jewelry, clothes, and all sorts of accessories that gives you a little pop in positivity. I also have a handful of her items and absolutely love it. And what I’m inspired even more is not just her success as a fashion designer, but how she intertwined that skills with her unique business skills. You see, yes, she loved art growing up and had quite a talent for it early on. 


00:48

Monica H. Kang
I mean, even her teachers thought she was always gonna have this art studio one day and work in this mega firm. And so it was disheartening when they learned that she wanted to pursue business, aka a career path a lot of Asian Americans want for their kids. I mean, she also did well in academia as she looked back, but she also was just interested in other spaces. So she pursued business marketing at NYU and, you know, continued the career path of wanting to understand products and brands and all that jazz. But she still wanted to do something different. So she does something what, not what most typical business grads would do. Went to Japan to teach English for few years, and then she realized, well, maybe I can do this in China too, and do something different. 


01:43

Monica H. Kang
You’re going to quickly learn how the ten plus years she was in China, she ends up not only finding paving her own career path in business, restaurant business, in particular interior design, until she makes a full circle back to fashion art and her work as a fashion designer. So I’m excited for you to meet my friend Kimberly Wong. Meet Kim. So very excited to have my friend Kim here. Kim, welcome to the show. Very excited to have you as we celebrate AAPI Heritage Month. I mean, asian american identity is everywhere. I know you’ve had been both a big advocate as well as an educator in that space, but also living through that dream yourself too, foremost. I know. I guess first, welcome back to the States. I know it’s been a few years, but I’m curious you’ve. 


02:42

Monica H. Kang
One of the things that I want to first tackle is that you’ve lived in many different locations and countries. How has that experience perhaps changed or shaped how you think about your identity as an innovator, which we’ll cover in all the different gavins in our conversation. 


03:00

Kimberly Wong
Just want to say thank you first for Monica, for having me in the month of May in terms of, say, like, my own background. So I have lived the majority of my adult life in Asia. I was born and raised in the US and recently in the last two years, repatriated back. What it means for me as an innovator is obviously I have to get used to a lot of unknowns. Like, very quickly. Like, I’ve dived into two different, completely different cultures for both work and just life. And you have to be open to embracing change and suppression. Prizes all around. 


03:42

Monica H. Kang
Thank you for sharing that. And we’ll dive a little bit deeper into all your different chapters, but want to bring us back to down the memory lane of your childhood. Do you remember as you were growing up, where were you and who you wanted to be and what you wanted to do in the future? 


04:00

Kimberly Wong
Well, actually, it’s funny that you asked this question because I am sitting in my childhood bedroom right now, by the way, where I did grow up and have, like, these kinds of dreams. I grew up in a suburb of New Jersey. I wanted to be a fashion designer artist when I was growing up. And, yeah, kind of got there. 


04:26

Monica H. Kang
Well, bring us in between because I know you jumped into also different careers and skills and experience you built. So before you became and jumped back into fashion that you dreamed of doing when you were young, what are the other things that you have done that helped you, I guess, hone your craft as an innovator? 


04:46

Kimberly Wong
I have done, like, so many different things. So a couple that just helped me along the way is one. I was a restaurateur when I lived in China. I also worked as a project director and operations for an interior design firm. Firm. And then I actually started my own fashion line. 


05:11

Monica H. Kang
And I want to dive a little bit deeper into those previous chapters as well because it’s not often one for somebody to even start in one, let alone do all those different things. Tell me a little bit more of each of those different phases. And even, like, maybe in your times as a student, like, what did you wanted to study? Did you study fashion then? So bring us there. 


05:30

Kimberly Wong
When I was actually in school, like, I always knew that I really loved art, but actually, like, I was also very well rounded academically. I actually, like, applied and accepted and went to business school. And when I told my art teacher in high school, he was actually upset and he was like, no, like, you’re meant to have this, like, huge, like, studio. Like, are you sure you want to do this? And that was the only reaction that I honestly, remember, like, everybody else, of course, was like, congratulations. Like, you know, my family is very happy. The school is very high ranked. 


06:10

Kimberly Wong
Like, all of these things, you know, like, a lot of my life, like, younger was more about your parents have, like, a certain vision for you of wanting, say, like a stable future and, like, wanting you to have a very, like, high paying job. I think when I was younger, like, I really felt pressured by that and went towards that, knowing that I loved, you know, art all along. 


06:38

Monica H. Kang
Was that also pressure that you felt from the culture in asian american culture? Because I think often, as we celebrate this month, one of the things we also want to bring to surface is sometimes also the challenges and just what the history brings into contact. I’m curious what your upbringing was for you. Was it easy to bring out your interest in art, or was there a reason why you felt like, maybe I need to do business first? 


07:03

Kimberly Wong
I think that growing up in a relatively, like, competitive suburb, whether they were people were asian or not, actually, like, it was just, like, academically competitive. You definitely felt like even though you were really young, that there was something that you had to uphold, kind of like a keeping of the Joneses. And so it was kind of like a, okay, well, is this part of, you know, having to, like, make my family happy and like, to just, like, go do this and get this degree kind looking back? Yeah, that’s exactly what it was. I’m sure many people have, like, done that. 


07:47

Kimberly Wong
Where I maybe, like, veered a little bit off was definitely after I graduated, I just purposely chose, like, a different kind of, like, path where I could learn about who I was and, like, what I wanted and to actually go after my true passions. 


08:06

Monica H. Kang
And was it after business that you went to Asia to start your work? And if so, how did you first decide to do that then? 


08:16

Kimberly Wong
At that time, there were plenty of job offers in corporate America. I could have very easily stayed in new York, but I just love japanese culture. I wanted to do something different, and it was just like, oh, like, why not? Like, let’s just go do it? And I instead, like, packed my bags and moved to Japan to go teach English in the countryside. 


08:44

Monica H. Kang
How was that? And how long did you stay in Japan? 


08:48

Kimberly Wong
I ended up staying for two and a half years. 


08:51

Monica H. Kang
Wow. 


08:51

Kimberly Wong
It was amazing. I would never trade that experience for anything else. Completely different, as you can expect from, say, like, living in, like, New York or any other, like, major city. I had never studied Japanese. I looked asian, but I wasn’t japanese. So it was like, I fit in, but not and that was a real kind of, like, left turn where I think, like, my parents and, like, many other people were all like, oh, like, what is she doing? 


09:27

Monica H. Kang
And what did you feel you were doing then? If you met Kim? Did you feel comfortable or did you feel pressured by society or your parents and people talking about that? 


09:38

Kimberly Wong
I honestly didn’t care because I was busy having fun. And for the first time, yes, this was maybe not what I was gonna do forever teaching English in a foreign country. But, I mean, I had, like, time to kind of, like, start to process, like, different things in my past or, like, have some kind of, like, peace and quiet and distance from what was what I perceived as kind of like a rat race in the US. 


10:14

Monica H. Kang
That’s key. And it kind of brings then to your chapter to Shanghai. How did you decide to move to China, leave Japan? Tell me a little bit more what happened in the decision making process at the time. 


10:30

Kimberly Wong
Like, you know, a couple years out of college, like, you know, I could have very easily also at that time returned to New York and, like, joined everyone in what they were doing. But part of me kind of felt like a calling to actually go to China. After two and a half years, I had become relatively, like, proficient in Japanese just by studying on my own or, like, you know, with tutors. And so I was just like, well, if that’s possible in, like, just two and a half years, like, why can’t I do that with Chinese? Was my thought. And so I moved there jobless. 


11:11

Monica H. Kang
That’s not easy. What happened after that, once you were there? 


11:14

Kimberly Wong
I would say that definitely, like, the first six months were really tough because, like, I mean, obviously, like, did not really know, like, what I was doing. But luckily for me, like, you know, I did have family support. I lived with my aunts and uncle who had lived in Asia as expats for a very long time. He was, you know, like, nearing, like, the end of his career. I was just kind of beginning mine. So it was just, like, a great in house, like, mentorship that I had when I first moved there. When I was in Japan, I actually really loved cooking and had started my own cooking blog. Because I lived in rural Japan, I met a lot of farmers and knew about this whole growing process. 


12:01

Kimberly Wong
So actually, that became a tool for me to get my first job in China, and I was a marketing manager for a grocery delivery company. 


12:16

Monica H. Kang
That is so cool. And knowing Kim today, she does love to cook and is amazing chef when she’s behind the kitchen and integrating that, I didn’t know the origin story of how it all began and even hence inspiring to hear how that helped you find your first gig in China. But you didn’t stay there. You continued on to expand into different roles. Tell me a little bit more because I know there might be other listeners who’s like, wait, I’ve always wanted to work in Asia or had the opportunity, and you’ve really tapped in that search because you ended up staying for quite some time in Shanghai and hence building a community and being a community leader there too. But tell me a little bit more of the other chapters as well and the other jobs. 


12:58

Kimberly Wong
I definitely didn’t know, like, how long of a chapter this would be. I ended up living in China for eleven years, by the way. It’s an exhilarating place. It was an exhilarating time for me. It was so fast compared to life in the US. I think it was amazing. I mean, I was young. I really just tried to get whatever opportunity I could. So, for example, I liked animal welfare. So I was volunteering with a group that later got me a job with a taiwanese vegetarian restaurant group because they also really cared about animal welfare. They were looking for someone to help them do, like, business development, also grow it on a kind of international level. This restaurant group later did achieve their dream of becoming like a Michelin starred restaurant. 


14:04

Monica H. Kang
That’s really cool. 


14:05

Kimberly Wong
But it was just kind of like a right time, right place kind of thing. And also, like, I really wanted it at that time. Like, my mission was to bring healthy food to people and to, like, help educate them. And I actually ended up being part of, like a major, like, health food boom back in the day in China. 


14:30

Monica H. Kang
That is so cool. And I think for others who are tuning in, I think the typical notion that I would think of how you get into a restaurant is because you, that was like, you’re in, but I love that you tapped into it because of your passion and you found the connection on your own, which is a real hustle and diligence and agility, which is a key skill of Kim. You give something to Kim and it will get, it will happen, things will come true. And that’s kind of her superpower. And you didn’t stop there. As you have hinted at the beginning, you then went into interior design. Why did you then get into that space? And what was it like? 


15:07

Kimberly Wong
Well, you know, interior design was kind of like a natural thing that happened just because after this vegetarian restaurant group, I actually became, ended up becoming a partner at a different californian style healthy restaurant. And so before, like, I had just been doing, like, marketing and branding stuff afterwards. Like, they were like, oh, like, we want to actually just give you the opportunity to try to do these things even though, like, you’ve never done them. I’m very grateful to them forever, by the way, for that I learned how to open an actual restaurant from pitching the concept to a mall to constructing it to opening it. 


15:52

Monica H. Kang
That’s amazing. Yeah. 


15:54

Kimberly Wong
And I did it like, seven times. 


15:57

Monica H. Kang
Whoa. 


15:58

Kimberly Wong
Yeah. That’s when, of course, like, I learned about, like, interior design and learned about materials. Like, I was the person, like, going with the interior designer to, like, the chair supplier or to the fabric markets, like, these kinds of things to, like, go sourcing. I mean, I loved it because I like the idea of how to actually package something together in a way that’s then, like, received as, like, really comfortable and lively to someone else. And so that’s how interior design became an interest. But there was, like, one very significant time that kind of, like, pushed me even towards, like, a kind of, like, next step. This must have been at least, like, six years ago. 


16:45

Kimberly Wong
We were building a completely, like, new restaurant concept, and it was the first time that we had actually gone to, or my first time going to a design studio for branding. So people usually do go to branding agencies for this. Honestly, they did a really, like, really bad job. Like, I don’t know if you’ve ever, like, walked in anywhere or, like, gone through some experience that made you so angry that you were like, oh, like, I could do this. I could do this myself. And, like, you know, I still remember, like, when I got the deck on restaurant uniforms, I was so angry at the poor quality of work that I was like, I could do this myself. And so I actually spent the next two days putting a deck together under, like, some, it was called, like, last minute productions or something. 


17:43

Kimberly Wong
You know, like, I made up a name so that my partners wouldn’t know that it was me that did it. And so I put all of the designs together for the restaurant uniform and then sent it to my partners. 


17:59

Monica H. Kang
Whoa. And their response? 


18:03

Kimberly Wong
I mean, yeah, they ended up picking one of them and that became, like, our uniform. And so that was my first foray into fabric. 


18:14

Monica H. Kang
Amazing. And that, I know leads you later into fashion. Tell me a little bit more about that transition as well. 


18:23

Kimberly Wong
Yeah, that transition was pretty, like, crazy. But also, I’m sure people can relate to it if you’ve ever gone through, like, a really big, any big change in life. Honestly, the restaurants were exciting. Like, they were still expanding, but at the same time, like, something within me, like, had really shifted. Maybe, like, I was starting to, like, outgrow it, whatever. And it wasn’t until, like, I actually had a conversation with one of my now former business partners where she asked me, would you be happy, like, doing this ten years, like, down the line? 


19:01

Monica H. Kang
Wow. 


19:03

Kimberly Wong
I didn’t tell her right at that moment, but, like, the second she said that question, I was like, I gotta get out. All of these years, like, spent in, like, building this restaurant group, I was, like, coming to terms. And a lot of it also kind of became, like, my identity in a way. Then I wanted to get out. I wanted to finally take a stab at, like, the art related stuff. And, like, it was just. And it was time. 


19:35

Monica H. Kang
That’s incredible. I want to take a step back and kind of revisit this macro theme that you’ve shared, which is the consistent courage to tap into a new space, to open doors when you had no doors, knocking on these different ways to finding that path, but also knowing when you had to pivot. And then, I mean, that’s multitude of different courage, which is, like, one, the courage to, like, get into these different places where it’s hard, but two, after doing everything to build the expertise and kind of being on the lead, now realizing that, wait, maybe I want to leave. Like, that’s not easy, as you say. That’s, like, often, like, our job becomes our identity. And so I’m curious, like, when we think of even both of those scenarios, like, how do you find the courage to do all of that? 


20:22

Monica H. Kang
Because I think that’s not really easy. 


20:27

Kimberly Wong
Well, I would say that sometimes I maybe, like, don’t think things all the way through before I like doing them. That’s part of it. Like, yes, it is courageous, and I’m sure it seems very courageous to people listening, but also, like, it’s like a. I’m more of a, if I feel it, like, then I’ll probably do it. And that’s kind of, like, what led me towards that. I mean, it’s not that I haven’t gone through hard times after that. Like, it’s. It’s huge to suffer the loss of, like, an identity. I don’t know. There’s always, like, different phases and, like, seasons of life, you know, and not always, like, beautiful. 


21:12

Monica H. Kang
And I think this is part of the reason why as you started your chapter for your fashion as the founder and designer of Q Kimber, there’s a very unique intersection, but also very powerful start and growth, I think, than a traditional designer might have gone through now, again, like, I’m still learning more about the fashion space. You’re more of the veteran. But would you say, like, I’m curious, like, how your past unique experience, maybe atypical fashion designer experience helped you become a fashion designer more in a unique and different way? 


21:45

Kimberly Wong
Because, like, yes. Like, I could call my, I call myself fashion designer now, but I don’t have any of the kind of, like, traditional training. So for me to kind of, like, compare to that, like, I can’t really just, like, I think, like, sometimes, like, they, other fashion designers may not, like, really understand, like, what I’m doing either. I kind of, like, really, like, did it scared and, like, I did it out of passion. Before that, like, you know, when I was doing, like, the restaurants and starting to feel like some kind of disconnect, I actually picked up painting as a hobby because I wanted to learn about color composition, if fashion or art was really, like, a direction that I was going to go into. And then I ended up actually becoming, like, obsessed. Like, all of my whatever, other free hours. 


22:41

Kimberly Wong
Like, I canceled dinner with friends. Like, I was painting like crazy. My painting teachers, yeah, they got to know me, and then they were like, oh, do you think, like, we can represent you? And then at that time, I was like, yeah, sure. It was a verbal conversation. And honestly, I forgot about it because to me, it’s kind of like if there’s no contract signed, like, it’s not, you know, but, well, I forgot while I had already left, like, the restaurant group and trying to, like, figure out, like, what am I as, like, a new identity. They actually messaged me saying that they had gotten an opportunity for me at a mall. And I was like, excuse me, like, what? 


23:32

Kimberly Wong
And apparently, like, they had believed in me so much that they put together a 50 page deck about me as an artist with all of my paintings with, like, interactive art exhibitions, and, like, sent this off to a commercial developer. 


23:51

Monica H. Kang
That’s amazing. 


23:53

Kimberly Wong
Yeah, it was amazing. And it was crazy. Like, I remember looking at the first time I looked at that file, I was like, this is not real. We ended up, like, it didn’t get approved at the very end, but then I was like, well, I mean, like, these people, without knowing me that long, did this for me and for themselves, of course, but, like, they did this for me. And I was like, well, why can’t I just do that for myself? And so that’s how I ended up pitching, like, my fashion brand and got, like, a pop up in an actual, like, commercial space, like first floor of a mall. 


24:38

Monica H. Kang
That’s amazing. Oh, thank you so much for sharing that. And I’m curious where the name is inspired from. 


24:45

Kimberly Wong
Oh, honestly, it was a random name that, like, a friend gave me in, like, 2007 or something. Yeah. Because I had always been tinkering around with, like, jewelry and other things. Like, I’ve actually had this brand since, like, 2007. 


25:07

Monica H. Kang
Whoa. So it’s definitely the folks who are tuning in. If you have been a long time fan, you are in for a real treat. Diving into these stories, and we’re building on what helped you be who you are. Fast forward now. You started doing full times. You continue to do it in Shanghai, but you decided to still come back to the States. Why do you decide to come back to the States? 


25:32

Kimberly Wong
I think that the US is a completely different market that I didn’t know. And on top of that, my designs are relatively colorful, so these brands actually usually do a lot better in the US. And on top of that, like, just life wise, like, I wanted to come back to the US and to my family and friends finally. This was kind of like, my way to try to get back with my own project. 


26:02

Monica H. Kang
And I know for those who do get a chance to see us on video, they’re getting a little bit of hint. Can you show a little bit of the items so that we can admire? So she is wearing an outfit with her print, and you have a painting of that print as well. Look how gorgeous that is. How long does a painting like that take for you? 


26:20

Kimberly Wong
You know, sometimes they’re really fast, sometimes they’re really slow. It depends on how much, like, in the flow you are. But this one actually was, like, the very first painting where I was like, oh, I think, like, it’ll become fabric. And, like, I still remember I was painting this, like, my painting teacher, like, stayed up with me until, like, midnight or 01:00 a.m. Like, when I was painting in the studio. 


26:45

Monica H. Kang
That’s incredible. And then you have earrings, I believe, as well. How do you decide on those design? 


26:51

Kimberly Wong
These ones I originally made in, I think, like, 2009 or 2010 when I was playing around and, like, living in Japan. 


27:00

Monica H. Kang
So cool. And I know for those who get to follow her and as a fan and tuning into this, Kim has been very busy. She’s been present in many shows and in the marketplace and in the States. And so I’m curious, like, from just a fashion designer perspective, like, what, I guess one, like, how do you manage your time and energy? 


27:23

Kimberly Wong
Because it feels like you have to. 


27:24

Monica H. Kang
Almost be like, everywhere. But, like, you also need time offline to create, to work on your business as well and have time to generate new ideas. Like, I’m curious how that works for you. 


27:37

Kimberly Wong
Well, I’d have to say when I first came back, it kind of didn’t because it was very shocking to, like, be back in the US. And the cultures are very different. And I was, like, moving back with family. Like, all of it is just like, it was a lot. I wish actually, in the first year I had given myself a lot more time off instead of just, like, diving ahead and doing, like, so many events. They are tiring. Yes. Like, that is, like, where you learn about, like, what products work and do not. But at the same time, there’s also, like, you have to, like, give yourself time to rest. And I actually happen to be in a period of that right now. 


28:25

Monica H. Kang
How do you balance that out? Do you allocate a specific time? Do you have hobbies to make sure you rest? And I assume also as a creative, it’s important to have time to create. So how do you balance all of that right now? 


28:40

Kimberly Wong
Oh, wait, I also have to do have to mention that, like, I do some consulting work, too in the US. So it’s like the consulting projects are, you know, like two to three months. For example, this last one, I helped a fashion tech startup called Pickle open their first boutique in the west Village. That was, it was a great experience, by the way, and shout out to pickle. You should check them out. It was, you know, like, two to three months of really intense, like, you know, on a deadline to open a shop with a pretty, you know, kind of, like, green team that had never opened one for me. Like, that was just, like, the perfect kind of thing where I can help people kind of, like, realize, like, their own dreams. 


29:38

Kimberly Wong
These are skill sets that I’ve just picked up, like, over the years. Having that and then being able to take a break in between that to then actually be, like, very mindful of when I’m being creative, when I rest, and to actually, like, enjoy that time instead of worrying about what the next thing is. 


30:05

Monica H. Kang
No, thank you for sharing that. And it’s so inspiring. I mean, like I mentioned in the intro for the listeners who’ve probably heard of how the journey of how I met Kim, but, I mean, I was so blown away even from the beginning when I was first introduced to her through a friend of her friend. And more importantly, just the humility and joy she purely has in navigating all these different spaces as you’re hearing. And one of the things, Kim, that I love that you’ve highlighted, it’s just like humanizing all of this. It’s not that it’s picture perfect. It’s like you go through one at a time. 


30:40

Monica H. Kang
I’m curious, like, if we get a tip and insight into where your future is going to look like, given all the different chapters, are there other new chapters that you’re hoping to add in your business line and experience, or is it still, like, ask me maybe a few years later type of thing? 


30:58

Kimberly Wong
Honestly, I would be pretty content, at least for the next few years, to do something very similar to what I’m doing now. Like, for example, you know, pick up, like, three to four kind of like, consulting gigs on helping people actually, like, really open up and operate their businesses. And then the second part would be, especially with the fashion and actually creating, I’d have to say that one is significantly, at least to me, like, more challenging work versus, like, the things that, like, are also challenging, but, like, I’ve done them so many times, so it’s just relatively, like, easier. And so it’s understanding, like, that the thing that’s, like, a lot harder is going to take a longer time. 


31:53

Monica H. Kang
No. Appreciate you sharing that. And it’ll be remiss if we don’t get to emphasize and talk about some of themes of this month. Asian American Pacific island Heritage Month for Aapi history. For you being asian American, how has your identity influenced you also in all these chapters and who you are as an innovator? 


32:16

Kimberly Wong
I mean, all the way from starting from growing up, I always felt like I was really just in between lots of things. And so for me to go from the US to Japan to China, all of it was always. I was just like, well, I’m just an outsider. Like, whatever. I guess this means, like, I’m still gonna do, like, whatever I want to do. That’s kind of, like, what I perceive it to be. I’m strongly rooted in, say, like, having, like, collective values and, like, you know, also growing, like, community, whether that was through, say, like, work in food or even, like, creating, like, a apahm, which I did when I was in China. And so it’s more of just, like, kind of seeing, like, the opportunity for where, like, more people can connect. 


33:11

Monica H. Kang
Love that. Love that. I appreciate you bridged, you know, for some, that might have felt like the barrier, you translated that and the very opportunity of the in between experiences into being. Hence the bridge buildings skills. And she didn’t get to highlight much, but on top of all of this, she’s very active community builder and has fostered in all the different groups as she continued to live in different chapters. And so grateful for your wisdom, leadership, but also just advocacy and connecting those different dots. We covered a lot of different grounds. We want to continue our learning. One of the big thing that, of why I’m doing this theme structure for this season three is that we want to continue to expand our learning of other innovators. 


33:58

Monica H. Kang
We’re excited that we can learn from you today, but could you shout out three other innovators who happen to be asian american that you think we should learn from and how they inspire you in your journey, too? 


34:11

Kimberly Wong
Well, one would be, like, our friend in common, Ken. Ken Chang. He. I think he’s, like, hong Kong niece, but the kind of, like, I don’t know, like, who is able to say that they’ve had, like, three exits as, like, coo of companies and also, like, just knowing him personally and seeing, like, what kind of growth, like, he’s gone through as a person has been truly, like, amazing. Another woman that I can think of, her name’s Ellen. Met her because I was sitting next to her at a TED talk many years ago. And I think, like, she. She’s Thai. And then at that time, she was just like, yeah, I got hired at this company, and I told them, like, I needed three months to be able to work in Chinese. And I was like, that’s pretty crazy. But she did it. She’s excellent. 


35:08

Kimberly Wong
And then she built her own clean beauty brand in Thailand. That is, like, breaking barriers right now. 


35:17

Monica H. Kang
Yeah. Who are some other Asian Americans that you have in mind? 


35:22

Kimberly Wong
Two women that I actually have encountered as mentors. One is Peggy Liu. She is a time, like, hero of the environment. And I worked with her a lot through healthy food initiatives. She has also gone through, like, a lot of amazing growth, both personally and professionally. And I think that she’s currently working with, like, the nation of Hawaii. 


35:50

Monica H. Kang
Wow. 


35:51

Kimberly Wong
Yeah. And then the second one is another mentor to me, my former business partner named Kelly Lee, who was a very well known restaurateur in Shanghai and Beijing. 


36:06

Monica H. Kang
Folks, again, check out our blog. Can’t believe how fast time has gone by. As we continue our conversation, two final questions I have for you. Kim, is one, you shared so many wisdom and perspective. What is the final word of wisdom that you want to share with our listeners to empower them no matter where they are in their journey as an. 


36:25

Kimberly Wong
Innovator, try and look at things as if they’re really all phases, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, like things will always change. And so like especially I guess, like if you’re feeling stuck, like you won’t always be stuck. 


36:46

Monica H. Kang
Powerful reminders. Thank you for that. And last but not least, what is the best way folks can stay in touch with you? 


36:54

Kimberly Wong
Let me see. I guess it would just be through signing up for my email newsletter for my fashion brand which is on my website, www.qimber.com. 


37:06

Monica H. Kang
And she is very active also on Instagram and LinkedIn. So do check out. We’ll make sure we have the links. But with that being said, thank you so much for sharing your story, wishing you continued success and growth. And for folks, we’ll tune into another story next week. So thank you again for joining us. 


37:25

Kimberly Wong
Thank you, Monica. 


37:27

Monica H. Kang
Thank you, Kim. Bye. Well, I’m personally happy she’s back in the States as well. We met through a mutual friend while she was still in Shanghai during the pandemic, so we started to hang out and had virtual calls and build our friendship. But you know, it’s still really nice to see her in person, which we’ve got a chance to do a lot both in New York and DC. And it’s really cool to see how she has intertwined all her different skills. Business opening, startup marketing, restaurant business, interior design. This is probably the reason why even with her success, partnering with organizations like Pickle and other startups have been a unique strength of hers in addition to being a designer. So what are you waiting for? As she has says, start what you love and dive right into it. 


38:23

Monica H. Kang
I hope this conversation has inspired you and reminded you no matter where you are, your voice and stories matter. Thanks again for the past few weeks tuning into stories with us on asian american leaders as we celebrate AAPI Heritage Month in May. Next month we are going to dive into now celebration of Pride Month. Yes, it’s June coming up soon, so join us as we continue to learn innovators in their inspiring journeys and who happen to be from LGBTQ. See you next week. Have a wonderful day today. Thank you so much for tuning in to another episode at Curious Monica. I’m your host and executive director of the show, Monica Kang, founder and CEO of Innovators Fox and Little Love. Shout out to our team who made this show possible for you today. 


39:28

Monica H. Kang
From InnovatorsBox Studios Audio Engineering and producing Sam Lehmart, Audio Engineering assistants Ravi Lad, website and marketing support Kree Pandey, Graphic Support Lea Orsini, Christine Eribal, original music by InnovatorsBox Studios, and executive producing, writing and editing and interviewing and all that jazz by me. Monica Kang. I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation. Please send us a note for any feedback and suggestions and questions that you have at [email protected]. Have a wonderful day and see you soon. 

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