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Learning Entrepreneurship From My Immigrant Mom

the nunchi download


May 11, 2023

My mom has been a single mother my entire life. While my father stayed in my life until his abrupt departure in high school, he wasn’t present. And when he left us, the loss remained as a dull ache. Yet through personal volatility, my mom persisted in building her children a life where possibilities were boundless as long as you had grit and integrity.


Beyond being a single mother, my mom is an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship to immigrants is often not a choice - it’s a means of survival. Immigrant parents endure overworking and being underpaid to make sure their American born children won’t. The jobs that are often available to new immigrants are often ones that demand long hours and low wages with minimal opportunities for upward mobility. Without family nearby for support and a language and cultural barrier, she became a resourceful architect, building a life far from perfect but one that was on her terms. I remember the diligent planning etched in her tightly lined schedules, the restless weekends, and swift but determined way of life. But amidst the organized chaos, there was always the comfort of lovingly curated dosirak (packed lunches) and her unwavering presence. I recognize now that it must have been incredibly isolating and demanding, especially as a single parent raising two children.


I’m a first generation Korean American. For the longest time, this meant pressure: pressure to fit in rooms where I was the only Asian, pressure to gain acceptance in rooms with other Koreans, and pressure to succeed. During my adolescence, this pressure evolved to a quiet but palpable shame. But where I resigned, my mom resisted. Her polished clothing and jewelry were her armor and conviction was her arsenal. When confronted with condescension or dismissal, she’d overturn rejection through effective negotiations and prevail by commanding respect. Never once was she ever shy of who she was or where she came from. Through these moments, I realized this shame could be channeled into motivation and growth and that being Korean meant understanding, resilience, and pride.

In an ironic twist of faith, I became an entrepreneur. Our mission is rooted in the Korean concept of ‘nunchi’ (pronounced noon-chee) - an innate awareness that’s channeled into actions that create balance and harmony - to build a fine jewelry brand that’s sustainable in theory and practice. That includes everything from sustainable raw materials such as recycled metals and lab-grown diamonds, to equitable business practices of representation for people of color and advocacy of conscious consumption. Beyond consciously crafted products, nunchi is a platform for community representation and stories that uncover conversations about identity, well-being, and equity & justice. We publish interviews, personal essays, features on industry leaders and creatives making waves in traditionally exclusionary spheres of influence. Living with nunchi means living with intention.


Today, I wear the diamond ring my mom passed down to me, the gold nunchi necklace I designed, and the Korean norigae that reminds me of my other home. All together, I wear my values as my armor and conviction as my arsenal.



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