There’s nothing more beautiful than women supporting women.
By Austin Woman, Photo courtesy of Getty Images
In May, we recognize and honor our AAPI community. One of the best ways to do that is show patronage and support for local woman-owned small businesses. These women have shared their entrepreneurial spirits with the Austin community. Allowing us all a glimpse into their cultures and their hearts. Ranging from cosmetics to baked goods, fitness to art, these businesses open up a wide range of experiences for everyone.
Women-owned AAPI Businesses
(Compiled by Cy White and Gretel Perera
Native Austinite René Graham founded Renzoe Box in 2017. But before submitting the first utility patent for the company, she was already accomplished in architecture, real estate and community development. Graham conceived of the concept of Renzoe Box to provide luxury cosmetics options that were not only affordable, but sustainable and simple to use.
According to her bio, “It all started when…Graham was riding the Houston metro to her job Downtown. She was a graduate student, making ends meet by working her way through school. For quick changes from class to work, she always carried her makeup bag and a change of clothes. One day while riding the metro, she (yet again) had to dump her makeup bag out on the seat next to her to find the eyeliner, notoriously buried at the bottom. She thought to herself: there has to be a better way. A few sketches later, Renzoe Box was born.”
A self-professed “Creative Skill Hoarder & Entrepreneur,” Sarah Lim is the founder of OMG Squee, a purveyor of 100% gluten-free desserts. With everything from macarons to mochi donuts and the ever-popular bubble tea, the shop offers traditional Asian American sweets with a twist. They practice environmental responsibility, specializing in small batch desserts. A third-culture Asian American and self-taught baker, Lim started by making cartoon-character macarons and selling them at farmer’s markets, baking out of her home with her partner Michael DeAnda in 2017. In 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, they opened the first and only brick-and-mortar in East Austin. (You might remember seeing Lim on an episode of Queer Eye when the Fab Five made their way to Austin for their sixth season.)
Paper Craft + Pantry
Founded by Pei Sim in 2015, Paper Craft + Pantry is a retail stationery shop and workshop. They specialize in custom designed paper goods as well as hosting monthly workshops. With offerings from over 100 different artists from small businesses nationwide, Paper Craft + Pantry offers a unique creative experience for customers. “My goal for this small business has always been simple. Provide our retail guests with the very best independently designed stationery and paper goods,” Sim says. She also owns, runs and co-hosted one of the bigger Lunar New Year celebrations at her store this year, with Kathy Phan, founder of Kathy Phantastic.
Founded by Winnie Hsia in June 2010, Sky Candy is an aerial arts studio. Hsia began the studio after her own struggle to conquer the silk. With no prior background in dancing or gymnastics, in 2009, she finally approached the apparatus with confidence and found she could climb it. She’s been dedicated to the aerial arts ever since, even landing the titular role of Charlotte in the ZACH Theatre’s 2016/17 production of Charlotte’s Web. “Circus is for every body,” Sky Candy’s website proclaims. “Our mission is to make circus accessible and empowering for everyone. We offer classes, camps and performances that emphasize safety, cultivate creativity and celebrate diversity.”
Wife and husband duo Teresa and Anthony Kwon founded Bom Bakeshop in 2016, the first mochi doughnut pop-up in Austin. After discovering she had celiac disease in 2005, Teresa adapted but struggled to find the same enjoyment out of food she’d always had. She met her husband in 2011, whose love language is food. The two embarked on a journey to allow Teresa and others like her to enjoy the baked goods they have to forego. In 2020, when the pandemic forced a global lockdown, they went all-in with Bom Bakeshop. (“Bom” is the Korean word for “spring” and “joy.”) The duo are still the only two working the bakeshop. Their core philosophy is to keep it simple, keep it joyful and fully embrace creativity. “It’s less about perfection and more about satisfaction.”
Founder Raeka Morar created Raeka Beauty in 2017 to give South Asian women a wider range of options to suit their skin and hair care needs. The glaring lack of diversity in the beauty industry inspired her to create something for her community. With a staunch commitment to sustainability, all of their products are derived from plants. Their policy of transparency means you can see what ingredients they use right on the website. Their unique blend of traditional remedies and modern technology means Raeka Beauty can ensure everyone has the same access to skin and hair care. “We believe in creating a better future with self-care in mind. And we are proud to champion the South Asian narrative and lead the conversation around South Asian beauty.”