Food for the People: Roy Choi, Locol, and Urban Revitalization

In Los Angeles – a city where sleek Teslas zoom past homeless encampments along the I-10 every day – the income inequality gap between the wealthy and the poor is, well, gaping.

The Social Science Research Council recently released a study that compared life expectancy, educational achievement, and income across California’s 10 most populous metro areas, through a measure called the Human Development Index. 1

Out of all of the metro areas, LA has the widest gap in human development scores. It’s disheartening that the neighborhood index score of wealthy neighborhoods Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Hermosa Beach Cities is quadruple the score of the lowest, South Central LA and Watts.2 But it’s not too surprising.

We’re living in Tinseltown: the poor stay poor and the wealthy get wealthier. Same old story, right?

But this is where chef Roy Choi comes into the picture. You may know him for his Kogi food truck mobile empire, but he doesn’t stop with these mouthwatering-basically-LA-on-a-plate-tacos.

Choi has some real heart for the people in the city he calls his home – and he’s not one to sit around doing nothing. He recently opened up in an interview with Kollaboration on his heart and vision for Locol, Choi’s ambitious and fresh take on fast food, where “wholesomeness, deliciousness, and affordability don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”3

Image via
Locol in Watts, Los Angeles. Image via

Mid-January of this year, Choi and restaurateur Daniel Patterson opened up restaurant Locol on the corner of East 103rd and Wilmington Avenue in the South LA neighborhood of Watts. This neighborhood sits smack dab in the middle of a food desert. Food deserts are defined as low-income tracts with limited access to grocery stores and supermarkets that sell fresh produce. It’s a sad reality that more than 1 million people across California live in these food deserts, where it’s easier to buy a can of soda and chips from the liquor store down the block than fresh produce for your family’s next meal.

On Locol’s website, there’s a blurb describing the vision behind the food the restaurant serves, and this line particularly sums up the heart of the matter well: “We believe that chefs should feed America, and not suits.”3 Choi has had enough of the current food industry: both, the massive corporation-owned fast food chains where profit’s the name of the game, and the “elitist… silver spoon” restaurants which only the wealthy can afford. He lays it out, “If we’re truly the best chefs in the world, then maybe we shouldn’t just be cooking for the most fortunate.”4

Choi describes his vision in an interview with MAD in 2013, “I’d really love to see the chefs do what I was asking at an extreme level. Go to the poorest points of their neighborhoods and think about food in those areas. Think about food in the schools, in the neighborhoods, in the prisons, and think about how to bring some more affordable food there… We have these chefs representing cities all over the world, and they need to think about exactly how powerful they are and how much people would appreciate it.”4

The “Cheseburg” at Locol in Watts, Los Angeles. Photo by Audrey Ma

And because of the influence chefs have these days (think Hell’s Kitchen, Iron Chef), Choi urges chefs around the world to get up and take action – to take moral responsibility for their communities, “Even through all the haters and lovers of what the speech kicked off, I hope we don’t get lost too much in our bleeding hearts or criticisms and remember to actually do something.”5

All of his people who help keep Locol going are sourced straight from the community. By the community and for the community: not only is Locol providing healthful, delicious, and affordable food options to the neighborhood of Watts, the restaurant is providing jobs and skills to the people it’s here to serve. Choi explains, “Our people, the people who work for us here, trust us, because we are constantly trying to fulfill he promises we make… They trusted us on the food… Everybody who works here is from the immediate neighborhood. And we found our people the old-fashioned way. We posted help-wanted fliers on telephone poles. Around here, word of mouth is faster than the Internet.”6  

Locol has plans to expand to Oakland and the Tenderloin district of San Francisco – both home to low-income, disinvested neighborhoods. Goals for these news additions? To grow, provide as many jobs as possible, and “continue to provide skill sets so our staff can move on in a craft or career either within Locol or beyond.”6

Photo by Wonho Frank Lee
Inside Locol. Photo by Wonho Frank Lee/Eater

And last but not least, we can’t talk about urban revitalization in Los Angeles without mentioning her kombucha-sippin’ alter ego – gentrification.

Merriam-Webster defines gentrification as: “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.”

Or if you prefer a more reputable source, here’s a definition from Urban Dictionary: “When a bunch of white people move to the ghetto and open up a bunch of cup cake shops.”

So will Locol cause gentrification in Watts? With the historical rate of governmental disinvestment and neglect of the Watts community, most likely it won’t.

Choi gets straight to the nitty gritty on what really matters.

“Gentrification? Let’s talk about that when people actually start to invest heavily. Gentrification is not the worst thing. The worst thing is the current state of no jobs, lack of funding, educational budget cuts, racial profiling, infiltration of fast food,” says Choi. “Gentrification ain’t so bad compared to neglect.” 6  


Cover photo by Wonho Frank Lee/Eater


  6. Personal interview via e-mail with Roy Choi. March 29, 2016.

Pressed but not Crushed – Cafe Dulce’s James Choi Builds Community One Cup at a Time in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo

Amidst the hustle and bustle of families, tourists, and people on their lunch breaks mingling in the open-air Japanese Village Plaza, I sat down with Café Dulce founder James Choi to learn more about the man who, against formidable odds, built up one of the most popular cafes in Little Tokyo.

Café Dulce boasts a mouthwatering spectrum of in-house baked treats (who doesn’t love a melt-in-your-mouth fluffy green tea donut?), carefully crafted coffee beverages using beans from roasters such as Verve and Heart Roasters, and, best of all, some of the most down-to-earth, all-around-day-brightening baristas you’ll be pressed to find in Los Angeles. After hosting a series of pop-up cafes throughout the rapidly developing downtown Los Angeles, Café Dulce has recently opened up their second brick-and-mortar location this past January in Alameda Square, a stone’s throw from Little Tokyo.

Choi had no idea he would become the mastermind behind one of the most popular cafes in Los Angeles when he went to college. He’d entered the University of Southern California to pursue a career in professional golf, but ended up entering the accounting field through Ernst & Young after realizing that his mother was going through some financial trouble.

Cafe Dulce in LA's Little Tokyo Neighborhood
Cafe Dulce in LA’s Little Tokyo Neighborhood  – Photo: Amparo Rios

“During that time, my mom had been out of work for around 6… 7… 8 years, and she was constantly trying to start businesses. She had worked for the Mirage Hotel in Vegas, when the Mirage was the best hotel, when it was new. So she was the international marketing hostess there, and there was a huge thing that happened where the Mirage used her as a scapegoat. She spent time in jail in Korea… and she was actually in a huge lawsuit with Mirage Resort and the casinos and Steve Wynn and all that stuff,” explains Choi.

“So anyways, that had kept her from working for a long time. And she was like, I want to start a business. So I was trying to figure out what it is that she could do.” Soon after, they opened up Teuscher Swiss Chocolates at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto.

There was no rest in sight for the both of them. “So for the first year, what I would do is, I’d work Monday through Friday at Ernst and Young, and then fly up to San Jose and drive to Palo Alto on Friday night … work Saturday Sunday, and then fly back down Sunday night and go back to work on Monday… I did that straight for like six months, and did that every other week for another six months,” recalls Choi.

Soon, Choi realized that his mother was really unhappy at the store, and shortly after his grandmother passed away, his mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. He needed to get his mother out of there. Teuscher was soon sold, and the money from selling the store went to supporting his mother’s hospital bills and their living expenses.

Choi’s mother was not one to wait around to let life pass her by, however. She told Choi, “I’m not going to wait around and die. I’m going to open up a bakery in Little Tokyo.”

Choi was resistant at first, and for good reasons. First of all, neither he nor his mother had any bakery experience. The chocolate boutique, in contrast, had been a much easier store to operate. All that was required was keeping track of inventory, hiring staff, ordering chocolates from Switzerland, and packaging and selling the chocolates. Café Dulce, on the other hand, has three relatively chaotic operations in a small store: an in-store bakery, a strong coffee culture, and a popular lunch program. “Of course, we weren’t like that when we first opened,” remarks Choi. “But thinking about that sort of thing, a bakery’s not easy.”

On a more personal note, Choi was also hesitant because he knew that his mother’s declining health was heavily interlinked with stress. Choi recalls trying to convince his mother, “Mom, you should just chill. I’m going to work. You don’t have to worry about anything. You just have to relax.”

Upon revealing that she had a baker partner who would be in charge of operation, Choi finally relented, “If that’s the case and that’s going to make you happy, then go for it.”

Choi and staff at Cafe Dulce - Photo:
Choi and staff at Cafe Dulce – Photo:

As luck would have it, however, the partner bailed after a huge disagreement with Choi’s mother, three weeks before the store was set to open. So with no further ado, Choi put in his two-week notice at Ernst & Young and prepared himself to learn how to run a bakery in three weeks.

“When other people say, is there a word of advice… this is not something I recommend for people to do. When I talk to other restaurateurs or people who’ve been in the restaurant business for a really long time, they say that we’re the exception to the rule,” he admits with a laugh. “My mom had $500 in her banking account. We didn’t even have flour to bake with.”

Credit cards were maxed out over the next 6 months and payments were floated with abandon in a desperate attempt to keep the doors open. “So, what are you gonna do? She’s already spent all the money [on building out the store]… If you’ve started something, you’ve gotta at least see it through. You know, sink or swim.” And with that, Choi put his head down and faced the hurricane.

“First year and a half, it was more of, which bill could I pay last?… You quickly realize that the electric company and the gas company, they don’t charge you late fees until they actually come to your store and ask for a check. And they don’t cut your power. So we were… two, three months behind on our electrical bill and our gas bill.” It is hard to imagine that what is now such a thriving café had once been on the brink of existence.

Up and running, Café Dulce is an invaluable pillar of the Little Tokyo community, with Choi as the café’s backbone. Where community comes in, Choi’s dreamer side emerges in full force. Any chance he has to bring the community together, Choi takes initiative.

One idea he has is to turn the Japanese Village Plaza into the “Haunted Village” during the month of October every year with fog rolling in while costumed folks wander around, creating a spooky and festive atmosphere.

“The stage – that’s not being used at all in October. So I was like, let’s turn that into a pumpkin patch, bring a bunch of bales of hay, do face painting for kids, and create an environment for kids to come in and trick-or-treat,” Choi says, eyes glowing. “This year was the closest we got. We got Tanaka Farms to be down to donate a bunch of pumpkins… I think we’re a little bit closer… every time I share this dream with people, everyone gets excited. So I think, one year, before we close down as a shop, we will do this. That’s one way we try to be invested in the community.”

Another idea churning around Choi’s mind is to create an opportunity for a group of young Asian American artists to come together during the month of December to go caroling through the Village. In the winter of 2013, Café Dulce collaborated with the band Run River North, and ended up packing the entire center of the plaza. “I took a picture and sent it to the manager and was like, ‘This is the way the plaza should look. It should be filled with people.’ If there’s a crowd, you’re gonna at least check it out. You’re gonna be like, ‘What’s going on?’ You see these young Asian artists playing really cool music, and you hang out and check it out.”

When the Japanese American National Museum hosted their Giant Robot Biennale 4 in October, Café Dulce was there to support with nifty giant robot donut toppers. Choi describes Café Dulce’s role in the community as, “being not just a business in the community to be in business, but to really spread more awareness about the community… If there’s something going on in the community that we can help out with, we try to do it.”

Cafe Dulce Donuts_Michelle Nicole Photography
Donuts & pastries at Cafe Dulce – Photo: Michelle Nicole Photography

This mentality translates to each experience Choi wants customers to have at Café Dulce. By spreading goodwill and goodness to each person that comes in, Choi hopes that it’s paid forward in their respective areas of work and community. “We want to change the community and the world, one person at a time. If you come into our store, we hope that you leave happier or at last you feel better about your day after you leave our store.”

“One thing that we always talk about during our leaders’ meeting, is ‘Who is Dulce? What is our Why? Why do we operate?’ A big thing is sure, we sell coffee, we sell donuts, we sell pastries, we have lunch. But that’s what we’re doing. That’s not why we’re doing it,” explains Choi. “There should be a greater purpose, hopefully… I always tell our guys when we’re training someone on bar, we don’t serve drinks, we serve guests.”

In the process of opening Café Dulce, Choi lost his mother after a tough fight against ovarian cancer. “I went through my toughest times here at this store… after we opened this store, she was good for another year, and then the cancer recurred… she was in remission for a year, and then it came back after we opened the store, and she chose not to do chemo until the doctor said she had to, so that was another year and a half or two of fighting for her. And then it was more surgery and more hospice care, and that was tough, and opening the store was really difficult,” explains Choi.

Yet in spite of his rocky past, Choi remains strong, “It really shaped me into who I am today, and it continues to drive the person that I want to continue to be, or become…. I think one of the biggest things that God’s blessed me with, is the ability to just put my head down and be patient… and having an undying optimism that [things are] going to work out.” That undying optimism permeates the operation of Café Dulce, and is clearly evident through the work, soul, and heart Choi pours out into the vibrant Little Tokyo community.


Cover photo by Amparo Rios

8 Life-Threatening Facts About Run River North (that you never knew you wanted to know)

The afternoon sun blazing overhead, I trudged up a set of stairs and, upon entering the foyer, was met with a bubble of voices and laughter, which filled up the cozy interior of House Roots Coffee. It was here where I met Alex Hwang, vocalist of the Los Angeles based band Run River North. Warm coffee mugs in hand, we retreated to a quieter room, where I learned more about the band and the inspiration behind their new album Drinking From a Salt Pond (available for pre-order now).

 1. RRN band members’ entire being encapsulated in three words. Interpret as you desire:

Daniel Chae (violinist, guitarist): “Renaissance, running, tones.”

John Chong (drummer): “Drummer, model-esque, and uh, this is tough. Black & white, is that a word? I’ll use that.”

Sally Kang (keyboardist): “Demure, goofy, and big head”

Jen Rimm (violinist): “Little sister, vogue, and um, incredibly tough. Yea, tough.”

Joe Chun (bassist): “Four arms, four arms, and four arms.”

Alex Hwang (singer/songwriter): “Okay, who am I missing. John, Jen, Joe, myself? Okay, myself. Um… Monsters Calling Home.”

2. If the bottoms of your feet have been itching to know the reason behind Hwang’s lack of shoes on stage, here’s the nitty gritty: It’s just more comfortable.

Hwang on his exposed extremities, “As an Asian, you grow up in your house not having shoes, and I think of all the most comfortable places I’m in – like the shower, the bathroom, my home… I’m the most relaxed there. And the common thread for most of them is, I’m either alone, or I don’t have shoes on. So since I can’t be alone on stage, if I can take my shoes off, that’d be great… I just feel more connected to the ground.”

Growing up in a Korean household in which the shoes stopped where the carpet started, I can completely relate with Hwang’s desire to kick off his shoes for the sake of comfort. I’d hesitate to jump up and down with bare feet on some of the grodier stages that RRN’s performed on, but to each his own!

John Chong (from left), Sally Kang, Joe Chun, Alex Hwang, Jennifer Rim and Daniel Chae of Run River North. Photo by Doualy Xaykaothao, NPR

3. Stories from fans are sources of inspiration for the band.

“We’ve been really lucky to go on tour and travel the country like two, three times now, so we’re meeting people from Iowa, Michigan, Tennessee. We’d never have imagined that people would like our music. And when we do, we show up, and we have time to talk to them and there’s a lot of stories out there that seem to resonate with our stories, and it’s not too different,” says Hwang.

4. Hwang has impeccable taste in music (Subjective, perhaps. Keyword: perhaps).

“I’m really digging this one song off the Fitz and the Tantrums album. It’s called The Last Raindrop. It just came up while I was running, I think it’s just a fantastic song,” says Hwang as he searches through his iPhone. He also loves The Killers, The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, The Kooks, and Death Cab for Cutie.

5. Music and food is what keeps the band together. Literally.

With two girls and four very different guys, the band’s been hard pressed to find activities to do together.

“We bowl sometimes,” Hwang jokes. “We eat a lot as a band, we eat out pretty well, but not too much… Daniel and Sally like to drink a lot of coffee or go to coffee shops. Joe likes to climb a lot, and tries to get the rest of the band to love it, but he just loves climbing… John and Jennifer recently got into surfing, so I think we’re going to try to get out and do that more… I think music is what we’re barely doing together.” Making music together may be their only common denominator, but the synthesis of these six diverse friends creates a sound that captivates audiences during their soulful live performances.

Run River North at Kollaboration Star 2014. Photo by John Zhang

6. Fact is, Run River North came about because of Kollaboration.

Hwang had been volunteering backstage during Kollaboration’s live shows, throughout college and during his first two years out of college. “I really loved what they were doing, and I met some of my closest friends through Kollaboration. I loved helping out and I just wanted to see what it was like backstage before I put myself in front,” reflects Hwang.  

In 2011, Kollaboration was having their show at Nokia Theater, and Hwang decided to take advantage of the opportunity to perform at one of their largest venues: “So I just asked a bunch of musicians that I knew. First, I wanted to see if they liked the song [Monsters Calling Home], and if they wanted to audition with me. It wasn’t that we were gonna make a band and just do this. It was more like, ‘You want to play in Nokia Theater on stage? Let’s do this.’ And it became the first five people that are in the band.”

7. RRN’s second album is coming out by the beginning of next year, and it will be starkly different from their first.

Drinking From a Salt Pond is scheduled to be released in late January or early February of this coming year. The album will herald an end to the alternative folk sound that has become synonymous with Run River North, in large part because of the sound of their self-titled debut album, Run River North.

“We’re in this spot where it’s been a really tough year for the band. Just trying to come up with songs, and since this is our full-time job, if we’re not playing gigs, we’re not making money, so that’s a pretty big strain. And after having to tour for three years, you see everything about each other. So, all of that – put into a pot – it’s really easy for all of us to be short-tempered and toxic in our relationships,” Hwang reflects.

Yet in spite of that fact that they’re “hanging around a stagnant salt pond that’s not giving life,” Hwang explains, “somehow we’re able to make some pretty fresh stuff.” RRN seeks to strip down everything to the core in order to be as raw and honest as possible.

“I think that’s what drinking from a salt pond is like. You know this is wrong, and you know this isn’t what it’s supposed to be, but you have to take that sip, and you have to admit that there’s something wrong… just to be honest I guess,” says Hwang. “It’s not, ‘Everything’s going great.’ No, everything kind of sucks right now, and yet, even though everything kind of sucks, things are still growing and things are still fruitful, things are still good. So in the midst of crap, there’s still something going on.”

The music production is also stripped down to the bone, devoid of excessive effects. “We’re really putting a mirror to who we really are, and not trying to put any filters, or cool Instagram filters, or cool reverb, or even my voice in the record,” explains Hwang. “We’ve stripped out a lot of effects… There’s a little bit of delay on it, slap back, but a lot of the times, our vocals, and a lot of the takes too, are just really raw, and it’s exactly what we’re doing. This is who we are as a band. Sometimes it sounds kind of shitty, but I think that’s what we want – to kinda portray that we’re not the most talented, skilled people. We’re a band, and out of what we have together, here’s what we have.”

Watch the music video for the first single from the new album below!

8. And finally, some great news for fans in Asia.

The goals for the new album remain as ambitious as the last album’s – to play wherever they can, and at the biggest stages possible. Hwang also expresses that the band desires to play abroad, particularly in Asia.

Hwang explains that the band’s identity is flexible and cannot be contained into a racial category. “It feels like we’re kind of a world band,” says Hwang. “We’re not this White, Korean band, and we’re not this Asian, Korean band. So I think we can go to both places and be like, why don’t you tell us what we are, when we play?”

And he’s absolutely right. When I first heard “Monsters Calling Home” off their first album, I couldn’t believe that I was listening to a folk rock band composed entirely of Korean-Americans. Ignorant on my part, probably, but my surprise also goes to show the rarity of Asian front men in certain music genres, let alone a band composed entirely of people like me. People who harbored a duality in identity: we are neither Korean nor American, but at the same time, we are fully both. We cannot be shackled into a single racial category, but we embrace this flexibility.

And that’s exactly what Hwang and the band is doing. So kudos to Run River North for breaking racial boundaries, setting milestones, and embracing that complex blend of their identity as Asian Americans.


Feature image & video courtesy of Run River North

Joyce Ng Brings Spirits to Life Through Streetwear

Kamigami is a streetwear clothing and art company where Japanese mythology meets the Los Angeles urban art scene. Meaning “all the little gods” in Japanese, Kamigami takes inspiration from the Shinto belief that thousands of spirits roam the earth. I recently sat down with founder Joyce Ng to learn more about the artist, entrepreneur, and altogether super down-to-earth badass behind the company. What struck me most throughout the interview was her candidness; Ng sugarcoats neither her struggles nor her advice to young Asian American entrepreneurs, leading for a refreshingly honest conversation.

Upon graduating from animation school, Ng was in a state of flux, confusion, and, wait for it, student debt. It was that gut-wrenching time of soul-searching, job-hunting, and rejection that many of us recent grads are all too familiar with.


It was around the same time when she was introduced, through a friend, to a series of group events where musicians, artists, and poets gathered to share their art with other like-minded individuals. Inspired by the passion she saw in the artists, she began to think about starting her own company. “I thought, I can do this. I designed T-shirts before; I worked at an art gallery. Why don’t I put all the skills I have into something of my own?” says Ng.

She pitched her idea to start a brand to her best friends: fellow artist Franky and musician Thomas. Soon after, she and Franky sat down at a local McDonald’s and started throwing out ideas and pounding out character designs. “With my crazy imagination and Franky’s crazy imagination, we kept drawing. I’d just go to his house and we’d draw for days and stick them up on the wall,” says Ng. Gaining inspiration from a friend who proposed the name kamigami, she began to study Japanese mythology, utilizing her research as the basis for her character designs.

Turning ideas into sales was a whole different monster to battle, however. Ng recounts her naivety as she entered the business.


“When I first started this company, I thought that I was going to sell T-shirts, it’s going to sell, I’ll put them online, and it’s just going to happen. I didn’t think about the business portion. That was a whole part that I was missing. I ended up borrowing quite a lot of money from my mom, and took quite a lot of money out of my own pocket. Thomas did as well. We sold a couple, but we also gave a lot away…. We were giving away more shirts than we were selling.”

After multiple failures of trying to screen print by themselves, sleepless nights, and a hundred dollars down the drain, Ng came to the conclusion to never be afraid to ask for help nor to be afraid to hire others who know what they’re doing.

The team eventually turned to Grow Your Own Media, a company that specializes in producing small batches of shirts. “They were so helpful and extremely informative so I decided to print my first shirts there – which came out awesome by the way,” Ng says with a laugh. “I wanted to wear every single shirt and create even more. It created such an adrenaline rush to see your work finalized.”

Armed with their first batch of shirts, Kamigami held their first photoshoot in Venice Beach. It was on to the next step then, and the team took to Kickstarter, a global crowdfunding platform for creative ventures.

Ng thinks back to her experience with Kickstarter, “It taught me so much about marketing and selling my brand. I made so many mistakes with that – with companies, printing, time, customers, but I’m glad I gave it a try.” She laughs, “I don’t know if I’ll ever do it again though.”

The team had one month to raise $5000 and with Franky’s help, Ng designed two hat and four shirt designs. “It was exciting and nerve-wracking, because this was the biggest thing we’ve ever done – people were going to fund this…Being funded was validation that people like our products and we could sell them.”

The first couple of days went by with flying colors – people were buying their products and emails came in left and right. The company was even offered a chance to speak about the brand and their experience with Kickstarter through the broadcasting company Take Part. Ng recounts the excitement she felt, “I was like what? I’ve never been on TV but okay, whatever it takes to promote and help our marketing!”

Several weeks in though, the emails came to a sputtering halt. It was then that Ng realized that you had to buckle down and really market yourself. “We printed out a shitload of stickers, went to the mall, and stuck them on every car.” Ng reached out to potential funders on Instagram who cover streetwear; eventually, a funder graciously donated $1500 to Kamigami so that they could reach their goal of $5000 within that month.

Even after procuring all the funds however, production was another behemoth of its own. “We were months late for the Kickstarter to happen…. There were burn marks on some of the shirts. This wasn’t what we’d asked for, but we’d paid the money already and we were on a time constraint. Everything I’d planned for didn’t come out as I’d planned.”

Despite the difficulties she faced through Kamigami’s experience with Kickstarter, Ng looks back on the time with a positive and thankful attitude, “Kickstarter was a great outlet to help grow Kamigami into what it is now. It taught me the direction I wanted to pull this brand into and I’m glad for all those mistakes and errors.”


Ng currently works as a graphic designer for the company E-mazing Lights. She admits that finance is constantly an issue in taking Kamigami towards its next steps. In response to friends asking her for advice in starting a brand, she says, “Save money. Just start with money. You might have great ideas, but you need money to make money.”

She notes that her ultimate vision for Kamigami is to create a collaborative community of artists that can serve as a valuable resource for other artists who are struggling to start their own brands. “It’s kind of a brand new idea that I thought about with Thomas this year,” says Ng. “The more he’s into music, the more he wants to teach and help other musicians. And the more I learn about business, the more I want to help other artists as well.”

It’s a sentiment that stems from her own entrepreneurial endeavors. On top of working at her day job, Ng was teaching herself how to code for Kamigami’s website, managing all the marketing, selling, designing, and the photographing of her products. After her struggles with jump-starting her own company with little experience under her belt, she can relate to the experiences of other entrepreneurs, “I want to help people who are trying to make it, too. If you don’t put your work out there, no one’s going to see it. Basically, you can talk the talk all you want, but if you don’t create action, nothing’s going to happen. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Learn more about KamiGami at and follow the brand on their Facebook and Instagram



Photos courtesy of: Kamigami