Being a Vietnamese-American woman entrepreneur: Cassandra’s journey

More and more young millennials find themselves on non-traditional career paths, choosing to pursue entrepreneurship instead. Youtubers and bloggers have led the way and somehow democratized entrepreneurship.

When embarking on an entrepreneurial career path, many factors play a role in your entrepeneurial career. On the professional side, skills such as financial management, building relationships, and market research are needed. Conversely, on the personal side, qualities such as determination, discipline, and self-confidence are traits many entrepreneurs have in common. Not everyone is made to being an entrepreneur, but entrepreneurship is on the rise in the United States. Over 27 million Americans are starting or running a business. The 2008 global economic crisis led many people to distrust traditional career paths. There is no shortage of challenges to overcome as an entrepreneur, even more so as a woman of color. Cassandra, a young Vietnamese-American entrepreneur living in Madrid, shares her experience with us.

Cassandra Le, a born entrepreneur

Cassandra Le at the head of The Quirky Pineapple Studio – ©Aissa Sica

She is a young Vietnamese-American entrepreneur who started her entrepreneurial career in Madrid. Five years ago, she arrived in Madrid as an English teacher’s assistant. Cassandra had no interest in teaching as a career. She started to research entrepreneurship before finally taking the plunge. In 2017, Cassandra launched her agency which specializes in copywriting and content strategy. What she particularly appreciates about entrepreneurship is the freedom and flexibility she has and the fact that it has provided her with an opportunity to turn her passion of web-writing into a career. 

Cassandra was surrounded by entrepreneurship from childhood. Her parents are entrepreneurs and encouraged Cassandra from an early age to take the same path. “My mom bought me books on ‘how to make money’ from hobbies or creative interests I had, which I think was the catalyst for wanting to start my own business.”

However, the entrepreneurial adventure is not without its pitfalls.

Difficulties as an entrepreneur

“Entrepreneurship is hard. I work from home most days and although I love it, it does get lonely. There’s always the fear of having an ‘unstable’ income, facing the stress that comes with owning your own business, and learning how to be your own boss,” Cassandra says.

Challenges you may face as an entrepeneur may face – ©Alexa

For many entrepreneurs,  dealing with income uncertainty is the new normal, especially in the early stages while they are still making a name for themselves. Being alone in managing your own business can make it difficult to stay motivated and disciplined. Cassandra knows all about this: “I had to learn how to structure my days and control my energy through lots of trial and error. I also had to find the motivation and willpower to wake up every day and prioritize what I needed to do to keep business moving and make money!”

On a professional level, there are other challenges, too: choosing the right niche, building your customer portfolio, recruiting employees, and being profitable, for instance. On a personal level, doubts can quickly shake one’s self esteem and confidence and stop many entrepreneurs in their tracks, especially when we know 50% of startups fail in the first four years.

Self-confidence and being an entrepreneur

There are ups and downs when it comes to having self-confidence and being at the head of an online business. There are days when Cassandra has complete self-confidence and thinks that nothing can stop her. But also, there are days when doubts cast a relentlessly present cloud in her mind.

Source : Medium

It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to face impostor syndrome. This syndrome makes us think that we are constantly incompetent and that we do not deserve the success we have, or we have it due to other external factors (such as luck). It is important to constantly work on your self-confidence and find the most appropriate way to keep yourself from letting doubt get the best of you. Limiting her use of social media, journaling, reading about manifesting, and surrounding herself with the right people are some of Cassandra’s strategies for improving her self-confidence. We can be our own best friends, as well as our own worst enemies. We are the first people to put barriers in our ways or to say to ourselves that our goals are impossible.

So, in these moments of doubt, what can you do to boost your self-confidence? These few tips will certainly help :

  • Learn to bounce back. Things don’t always go as planned, or we are denied opportunities. At such times, it is important to think about how to start over and not let ourselves be discouraged by rejections.
  • Dare. You build confidence by putting your ideas into practice and putting aside the need for approval and recognition.
  • Follow your intuition. We often base our choices on rational data, but our intuition can also lead us to make the right choices because not everything can be anticipated. We must learn to listen to what our intuition is telling us and have the courage to follow it.
  • The opinions of others are not your reality. You can be influenced by the opinions of others, which is normal, but you should not let those opinions become your reality. You know why you have chosen to pursue entrepreneurship, you know your value, you know what your company can do better than others, and you have your vision for your company. It is important to repeatedly remind yourself of these things.

Entrepreneurship is still largely dominated by men. Seventy-three percent of entrepreneurs in the United States are men, and 78% in Spain, to be exact. According to smallbizgenius, “The number of companies owned by African-American women increases by 541 per day, Latina-owned businesses by 401, Asian American women-owned firms by 191. For others, it is a different story: Native American/Alaska Native women-owned businesses have increased by 22, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women-owned by 7.” Despite these increases, the percentage of women entrepreneurs of color remains low. What accounts for this low percentage of female Asian American entrepreneurs?

Asian-Americans and the bamboo ceiling

Japanese women working – Source : Rawpixel

In the United States, Americans of Asian origin are estimated to represent more than 5.6% of the population, or more than 17 million people. Nine percent of American women of Asian origin are entrepreneurs.

Although they are depicted as the model minority in many Western countries, people of Asian descent  still face many difficulties in the professional world. In addition to the glass ceiling, for Asian Americans, there is also the so-called “bamboo ceiling.” The bamboo ceiling can be defined as an invisible barrier that keeps Asian Americans from gaining access to leadership positions in the world of work. Although stereotypes about Asian Americans tend to be more positive on the surface, some prejudices still affect them in their career development.

Considered to be hard working, calm, diligent, and subservient workers, Asian Americans, and Asian-American women in particular, are the least likely to hold executive positions. Asian-American women are expected to stay submissive and mild-tempered. The collective imagery has difficulty seeing them differently, without portraying them in a negative way. “Breaking with the role that was stereotypically expected of them leads to being criticized and perceived as a ‘dragon lady,’ a ‘ruthless predatory woman who manipulates others to satisfy her own self-interest.’”according to an article from Sociable.

Cassandra has long heard this narrative from her Vietnamese parents. In traditional Vietnamese culture, women should be non-assertive. Children are taught to be modest and reserved in speech and manner. They are encouraged to think deeply before speaking. It is believed that useless and excessive verbal expressions can create discord and animosity. Her parents told her to be a good student and to adopt a rather reserved attitude. But now, this narrative has changed. Her mother has pushed her to be assertive, confident, and to speak up.

Due to these stereotypes, Cassandra sometimes feels like she’s not being taken seriously when talking about her online business. But this does not prevent her from moving forward. Being an Asian-American entrepreneur as a resident in Spain is also another challenge she has to overcome.

Spain: a good country to be an entrepreneur?

The economic crisis of 2008 hit Spain hard and was one of the worst in its history. Since 2014, however, the Spanish economy has been recovering, and it has been called an economic miracle. Spain, at first glance, is not the destination that would come to the forefront of entrepreneurship. Cassandra sometimes questions whether she made the right choice, or if it would be better for her to return to the US. There is no right or wrong country to start your business in. It depends on the opportunities you have for your business and your network. For now, she plans to stay in Madrid and keep doing her amazing job. 

Final thoughts

Cassandra – ©Aissa Sica

Although many millennials are shifting into entrepreneurship, the reality is that not all people are made to be entrepreneurs. For Cassandra, it requires more than understanding accounting, marketing, and systems. The role of self-confidence is a very big factor that can hinder many entrepreneurs from moving forward, even more if they struggle with imposter syndrome. Cassandra’s story of being a Vietnamese-American entrepreneur in Spain is a testament to the fact that a young millennial woman of color can move to a new country and start her own business–it can be done. The truth is that there is a lot more to being a business owner than what we see; it requires a lot of diligence motivation, and, like Cassandra said, self-confidence to start, maintain, and grow your business. 

If you’d like to learn more about Cassandra and her communications and content agency, The Quirky Pineapple Studio, you can follow her on social media below.