The month of May is full of heritage celebrations, highlighting the present-day importance and historical impact of diversity within the United States. Celebrated in May, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month recognizes the challenges faced by Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians and their vital contributions to American history. As an expansion to the annual Haitian Flag day, Haitian Heritage Month is also celebrated in May every year. It is a time to celebrate the vibrant culture, distinct art, unique cuisine, and origin of Haitian people.
In honor of these heritage celebrations, we asked AANHPI- and Haitian-owned brands on RangeMe about the stories behind their culture and the obstacles they have faced within the retail world.
AANHPI-owned brands on RangeMe
Nona Lim grew up in Singapore, the tiny island known as a melting pot of Asian cultures, full of outdoor markets and street food vendors offering signature dishes perfected over decades. After leaving Singapore for a consulting job in London, Lim eventually moved to San Francisco’s Bay Area to follow her passion for competitive fencing. As an athlete, she realized the importance of fueling the body with clean foods, leading her to become a Certified Nutrition Consultant. She soon started her mission to create Asian street food options that didn’t include the bad-for-you ingredients. The Nona Lim brand was born in 2014 and has since expanded as a national brand with noodles, broths, and sauces.
Nona Lim’s clean, quick-prep versions of authentic Asian favorites invite Americans to experience faraway flavors at home, building awareness and appreciation of Asian culture. Lim has also helped numerous minority founders find their CPG footing through her involvement in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color) groups. In 2018, Nona became the first female Asian board member selected for the Specialty Food Association and is now the first female Asian Vice-Chair of the Specialty Food Association!
In the beginning, Lim had a tough time forging relationships with retailers, “I hadn’t grown up in the U.S., so it was a challenge to find common ground to connect,” she explains. “Buyers weren’t familiar with Asian broths, soups, or fresh noodles.” Yet she persisted and learned to educate her audience about her products. With Americans becoming increasingly interested in cooking Asian food at home, the demand for products like Nona Lim has increased. Lim encourages fellow entrepreneurs looking to make strides in CPG to think big and spend carefully: “You can make plenty of progress without a lot of cash!”
RangeMe offers access to retailers and I really appreciate the targeted diversity programs and other category-specific programs. It’s more cost-efficient than trade shows, which can be very expensive.
Nona Lim, Founder, Nona Lim
Nona Lim is excited to promote their Stir-Fry Starter Kits, which include fresh noodles and authentic sauces that provide a lot of creativity and versatility to any home looking for a quick-prep, restaurant-quality meal. Plus, they are thrilled to be launching as a Kroger Fresh & Local Supplier at the start of June 2022!
Koa is a skincare brand for everyone under the sun, including reef-safe mineral sunscreen, facial cleansers, toners, body wash, and moisturizers. Founders Hiro Shinn, Ty McLaren, and Kapono Chung grew up on the Hawaiian Islands, spending most of their time in the sun and ocean. They were taught the importance of skincare as self-care by their parents and communities at a young age. They create clean beauty products that celebrate their Asian and Hawaiian heritage, while also being mindful of the planet. The Hawaiian phrase, “Malama ‘Aina,” which means “care for the land” encapsulates their belief that we’re guests on the planet’s land and it’s our responsibility to take care of it. Koa infused this idea to build a better skincare company from the ground up, reflecting their heritage and values.
As entrepreneurs in the AAPI community, it is common to face challenges when running a business. The three explain how they have faced challenges in partnering with vendors, but fortunately, they found solidarity with a fellow group of Asian beauty founders who share the same journey. “Sticking together has ultimately made up for any slights we endured along the way from people who didn’t understand what we we’re doing or didn’t want to do business with us,” explains Shinn.
RangeMe has been helpful for us to connect with large U.S. retail accounts, who rely on the platform to weed out companies who maybe aren’t ready to take the next step in a retail strategy.
Hiro Shinn, Co-Founder, Koa
Koa has had great success with their Mineral Face Sunscreen, so they are excited to announce that they are in the final stages of developing a new mineral body sunscreen. They added extra water resistance to the product to ensure that none of their customers gets sunburned this coming summer and beyond.
Haitian-owned brands on RangeMe
Founded by brother-sister duo Rubens and Freddie Amedee, Papa Rozier is a 100% natural handmade beauty product line with core ingredients like castor oil, moringa oil, or vetiver root, all organically grown on their 50-acre farm in Haiti. After each harvest they ship the seeds to their farmhouse in Brooklyn, NY, where the oils are cold-pressed, naturally cleaned, and bottled. Papa Rozier Farms was born out of necessity to fund their BATI School, a K-12 institution that provides transformative education in St Michel, Haiti. Through Papa Rozier, they can create long-term economic development and sustainable change in Haiti through direct reinvestment in education, agriculture, and community.
Amedee explains that being a Haitian-owned business has its ups and downs. “Positively speaking, we benefit from experiencing Haiti’s beauty and abundance of rich resources,” he says. The proximity to the U.S. is another benefit, as their goods can be exported in a timely manner. Their brand also receives a lot of support from the large contingent of Haitian Americans living in the U.S. From a negative standpoint, Amedee explains that operating out of a country with unstable leadership and constant political unrest can be challenging. “It can be tough to deal with paying gang tolls to get our products through roadblocks and adjusting to price gouging of basic materials needed to run our school and farm.”
A piece of advice to fellow entrepreneurs is to keep pushing and be inclusive! Yes, we are a minority-owned business, but our products are created and designed to help everyone stay beautiful, naturally!
Rubens Amedee, Founder, Papa Rozier
While Papa Rozier is relatively new to RangeMe, they find that it supports the core of what they do. “As the farmer, manufacturer, and seller we see this as a strength in providing a high-quality product with unapparelled transparency,” says Amedee. At the end of this school calendar year in June 2022, Papa Rozier plans to start construction on their second school building which will enable them to enroll 30 to 40 new scholars in the fall! And to top it off, they aim to plant over 1 million castor and moringa trees by the end of 2027.
In the Kitchen with Alexandra™
Alexandra Marie-Jude Roumain Baker, proud wife, mother, and businesswoman, loves sharing a taste of her Haitian culture with the world. One of the dishes she grew up with was pikliz, a pickled relish or slaw. She now has her own brand, In the Kitchen with Alexandra™, and the flagship product is Alexandra’s Pikliz Spicy Pepper Relish, made with thoughtfully sourced seasonal chile peppers produced in small batches. Alexandra is also an award-winning TV personality with a presence on HSN, and the founder of the lifestyle brand Home with Alexandra®.
Alexandra started her entrepreneurial journey in hopes of sharing a taste of the Haitian flavors she grew up with. She saw the opportunity to create her brand when she realized how difficult it is to find pikliz at retail locations, even in South Florida, just north of Haiti. “I am proud to place a spotlight on Haiti and let people know about this little island gem.”
When sharing advice to fellow minority business owners, she explains that it is essential to know “You are a victor, not a victim.” While it is easy to feel disadvantaged as a minority founder, she emphasizes to focus on the many strides being made to level the playing field for all brands. Brand owners need to have faith and be determined to succeed. She explains that brand owners should never stop learning and, “Be a student of your business and the essential aspects of entrepreneurship.”
RangeMe is an essential part of our Go-To-Market strategy. Having the opportunity to participate in submissions with some of the largest retailers in the world is always exciting. The tools and resources via RangeMe are so helpful. I can create sales sheets, see who visited my brand or product page, or contact services like The NonGMO Project.
Alexandra Baker, Founder, In the Kitchen with Alexandra™.
Alexandra looks forward to submitting to more Retailer Opportunities with more products to come in the future! She also recently submitted to KeHE’s 2022 May Trendfinder via RangeMe, winning her brand a coveted Golden Ticket!
While May is a great time to celebrate all of the success, contributions, and influence Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Haitians have in the United States, it’s important to honor these communities outside of a one-month period. Celebrating diversity is the first step to real inclusion and acceptance. By gaining exposure and communication with people who are not like us, we can learn how to relate to differences in a way where diversity is a positive experience.