Fierce Females in Taipei: Meet Ann of TOTES & TEES
This month we'd like to introduce you to another Fierce Female in Taipei; please meet Ann Liao, a Taiwanese-born--world-raised wonder woman devoted to creative education at TOTES & TEES, and newly opened vegan eatery in Taipei, TUCK SHOP 008. We admire Ann's entrepreneurial spirit and her passion for the environment and all the projects she's involved in. Let's learn a little more about the lovely Ann, and what it's like being a female entrepreneur in Taipei.
Can you tell us more about the businesses and projects you are involved with at the moment?
I started with TOTES & TEES in 2014, a design-thinking social enterprise dedicated to providing creative education to children. Since then it has evolved gradually into a brand that lowers textile waste. Now, we teach 9- to 12-year olds design-thinking, and host workshops that teach all ages.
My company TONG YI XIN Design Group founded The Ethical Fashion Hub and The Creative Education Alliance. Both are focused on linking creatives and various industry professionals to build a stronger foundation for education and opportunities within Taiwan. Our newest project is a shop called TUCK SHOP 008 (where I am the director), which is the first design-thinking cafe in Taipei City. We provide green talks, events and workshops, along with plant-based food. Three months after opening, we were still unable to find a cup sharing system in Taipei City; my team and I decided to launch POWER CUP, a cup share initiative that will tie in 50 drink shops around Taipei City. If this campaign is successful, we will be the first cup share system in Taiwan. You can find the campaign live on zeczec on December 27, 2018. We are collaborating with Sadomain, and our supporters include ABOOK STUDIO and MAJI SQUARE. We are hosting events at TUCK SHOP 008 from December 19, 2018 until January 27, 2019. We need everyone's support to make Taipei City greener through POWER CUP!
Who did you inherit your entrepreneurial spirit from?
I think I received it from my mother; she has been in business since I was a child. She was constantly hustling, from menswear to F&B (food & beverage), an African art gallery, a cafe, a live band piano bar, and now biomedical.
Who/what do you turn to for guidance when making tough business decisions?
I have a few mentors and everyone gives me their input. But, ultimately it comes down to my mission; which is the better choice that will provide me support, but doesn’t hurt my values and the company.
What has been the hardest part of starting up your own businesses?
The hardest part by far is funding. Working in the field of education, design-thinking, ethical fashion and social impact, can be really tough. Also, I don’t come from a business background, but from a communication design background, and the business environment challenges you in every aspect. I’m still learning everyday, and finding a more empathetic approach to business, while still keeping things on the road and being organized.
What has been the most rewarding part of starting up your own businesses?
The most rewarding part would have to be seeing things through and bringing people together; from starting TOTES & TEES, and my company TONG YI XIN Design Group. It has opened up new doors for me. I am meeting new students everyday, and I’m able to meet extremely talented and hardworking individuals from various disciplines. Most of all, I’m able to communicate my values to a wider network of people, who are interested, who feel connected, and even empowered. Meeting people who also care deeply about our society is a blessing.
Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years? What would you like to achieve?
I would like to see a real impact for children in underprivileged communities. I see myself building alliances across various disciplines to support creative education, while connecting with like-minded companies to reduce waste.
Any advice/resources you’d like to share with other fierce females when starting up a business in Taipei?
If you are a fierce female who would like to start a business here in Taipei, please come by TUCK SHOP 008, because I would love to chat and meet you in person. My tip is to understand your mission, and no matter the hardships, always remember why you started. I really appreciate Brendon Buchard’s quote: “Don’t let your small beginnings make you small minded”.
Have you always lived in Taipei?
I was born in Taipei, but left when I was around 9-months old. My grandmother took her children to South Africa, along with a few of us grandchildren. We lived in South Africa for 10 years, and then we moved to the States, The Netherlands and back to Taiwan. I then moved to Australia, and again with my dad to South Korea. My dad was a physics and mathematics research professor, so he would travel for research and we just followed.
Tell us about your family.
I have an older sibling whom currently lives in Melbourne, Australia. She’s a film major, and works for a design group and the Melbourne Film Festival.
What languages do you speak?
I am fluent in English, but can speak Mandarin Chinese and a little Korean.
Where did you go to university/college and what did you study?
I went to university in Melbourne, Australia and Mainz, Germany. I studied communication design, with a minor in photography and typography.
What are your hobbies?
I love reading poetry, and I try to spend time with art, visiting museums, drawing, sketching and of course music. Recently, I've been enjoying going to musicals, and supporting local theatre. Plant-based food is another love of mine, and creating plant-based recipes is both delicious and fun.
LIFESTYLE & FOOD
How many years have you been vegan, and what’s your personal motivation for making this lifestyle choice?
I stopped eating meat three years ago, and the reason is because of animal welfare. Learning about the meat industry, and how it affected our environment, I decided to switch to a plant-based diet. I know the hardships facing future generations, and everything is caused by us and our actions. Children are so innocent, and education is the most powerful tool to combat the meat industry and the pollution it causes. I needed to understand my personal habits, and choose a better path before I could be sharing knowledge on sustainability, design-thinking and circular thinking.
What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in becoming vegan?
Give yourself time to explore the variations of plant-based foods, and slowly learn about the ingredients. When you understand more of how things are made, you'll have more appreciation for, and care in, choosing what you buy and what you eat. When you understand how food affects your body and the environment, it is much easier. Habits take time to change, and forcing yourself never brings any long term changes. Slow and gradual is the best option; just enjoy the food and everything else will be easier.
What are your absolute favorite vegan restaurants in Taipei?
My favorite spots are TUCK SHOP 008, Plants, Ooh Cha Cha, Blossom Rena, Green Bakery, MissGreen, The Green Room, and delicious yum cha from Yang Shin Vegetarian Restaurant. For everyday dining. it has to be Agri-Dragon Biotech, their lunchboxes are affordable and delicious. For vegan ice cream, Nice Cream is a go-to!
Where do you like to go food shopping in Taipei?
Do you like to exercise? What do you do to stay fit?
I do like to exercise, and mostly enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and walking. I'm also a fan of yoga and Pilates. Volleyball is my favorite sport, but I find it hard to get a group of friends together to play. Sadly, I feel that my fitness level is quite low, so I try to eat healthy and get adequate sleep. I naturally wake up very early, and I try to walk a lot, because It’s a fun way to explore Taipei City. Walking and biking are my go-to for staying fit.
FASHION & STYLE
How does being vegan influence your style?
I don’t purchase newly made leather products, and I am conscious of how things are made. I always make sure to research companies and ingredients. It’s made me a more conscious consumer. That’s a good thing!
Is it hard finding vegan-friendly fashion in Taipei?
Do you enjoy traveling?
I’m passionate about traveling, and If I could combine my love of ethical fashion, design-thinking and travel, it would equate to my ultimate lifestyle adventure!
Favorite countries you’ve been to, and why?
My favorite countries are England, Italy, South Korea and Israel, they've all made a real impact on me. All the countries I lived in are beautiful, and Taiwan is my home.
Places you still want to visit.
I am keen to visit Russia again, other parts of Italy, Romania, Jordan, China, The Philippines, Vietnam, India, New Zealand, Scotland and Ireland. There really is a whole list…I can go on for awhile.
CONNECT WITH ANN
Ann, you are such an inspiration, and we thank you for sharing more about yourself, your vision and your projects with us! To our readers, if you'd like to nominate yourself, or another fierce female in Taipei, to be featured in this series, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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