In The Chair With INH Co-Founder Sharon Pak
May welcomes Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month.
It’s a time to celebrate all AAPI people and to pay tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America's history & culture, and are instrumental in its future success. Whether they’re from eastern or southern Asia, or the Indian subcontinent, there’s a wide range of rich cultures, traditions & experiences within the AAPI community.
What better way for us to kick off our celebration than with an interview with INSERT NAME HERE’s cofounder Sharon Pak (@immbunny on socials).
As the daughter of South Korean immigrants, Sharon’s culture lingers within everything she does– from the food she eats to her drive for success.
It has made her the woman she is today, and most definitely the inspiring entrepreneur she’s become…
“Although the odds were stacked against us from the beginning, we have been able to achieve unfathomable things because of the work we put in,” Sharon told Forbes Magazine in 2021. “We're now owners of a successful business and Forbes 30 under 30 recipients! Never let anyone tell you that you can't achieve something!”
We spoke with Sharon about everything from her experiences growing up as a minority, to why AAPI month is so important to her.
Q: What does AAPI month mean to you?
SP: AAPI Heritage Month has helped me to better understand and embrace my own Asian heritage. It’s part of our culture to remain silent and a bit suppressed. AAPI month is a moment to celebrate loudly!
Q: What’s your favorite part about your Asian heritage?
SP: The food and the community.
My favorite thing about Korean food is the many different styles of cuisine. You can get inexpensive street food, bar food, countryside style (and we are talking MULTIPLE styles of just countryside) — you can literally taste the location through the food.
Food is also a form of endearment & connection. Families come together to share meals at a BIG table.
I’ve found that when you connect with someone over your culture, your food, or your language within a “melting pot” type setting, it forms a special type of community/friendship.
Q: What was it like growing up in an immigrant family?
SP: Growing up as a child of South Korean immigrants in a Latin-based community was interesting, in retrospect. I would make kimchi in our driveaway with my mom and her friends while learning how to banda (a Mexican dance style) for quinceañeras. I was a minority (the only Asian family) in a low-income town… But truthfully that never really crossed my mind until I left at 18.
Q: How has your culture shaped who you are?
SP: It really affects everything! Every piece [of me] is a direct reflection of my culture. The food I eat. The way I work. The things I say. How I process information, how I view my business and the world.
Q: What are some unique challenges you’ve faced and what have you done to overcome them?
SP: My life and path purpose is to build generational wealth. I felt a lot of pressure to succeed in the medical field in order to do that. In college it felt controversial, but I decided “this is making me miserable, it's not my calling” and I switched from sciences to marketing (without telling my mom at first because I knew it would be a tough conversation). My parents moved to America so that I could plant the seed for the years to come. I think that idea weighs heavily on many second generations' shoulders. I constantly have to remind myself that I can always do and try my best.
Q: Who inspires you?
SP: I feel like the go-to answer of course is my mom. After my dad passed, she worked hard to raise three children alone in a foreign country without a lick of English!
Q: Why did you go into the hair business?
SP: The power of hair is incredible, and I learned that at a young age.
Thirteen-year-old Sharon would frequently visit the Sallys Beauty in her neighboring city Nogales. Her favorite thing to do was check out the hair extensions aisle.
She would bring them home and box dye them in her bathroom sink!
When the opportunity to launch my own brand arose, hair was the immediate go-to. It was especially important to me to offer accessible products in this category.
Q: How are you working to develop an inclusive community & business?
SP: When I first started working in the beauty industry 10 years ago, it was clear how underrepresented Asian people were in the beauty industry, both internally and externally. That’s why it’s been my focus to hire diverse models, team members, and influencer partners at INSERT NAME HERE.
We’ve also been working towards launching and developing different hair textures & styles, and mentoring BIPOC female small business owners.
Q: What’re you most excited about for the future of INH?
SP: The way we’re diversifying our textured styles and products! Without giving away too much we will be expanding our haircare offerings in the very near future. Since the launch of the brand, our fight for healthy hair has become clearer than ever.
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
SP: Everything happens for a reason. Don’t lose too much sleep over things out of your control.
Here is a list of additional resources where you can read more on AAPI month:
- What Does It Mean to Be AAPI? 12 Young People Reflect on Their Identities
- 11 Moments From Asian American History That You Should Know
- 71 Ways to Donate in Support of Asian Communities