SEEING IS BELIEVING: AAPI Visionary Entrepreneurs — Dae Lim
Meet Dae Lim(he/him)
Founder at Sundae School
What sparked the idea for “Sundae School”?
I was a consultant at McKinsey and did a lot of go-to-market and commercialization projects. I love marketing and I love community building, but I really love fashion and I wanted to start a fashion brand. I realized that I didn't want it to be like any other kind of brand or even a fashion brand - I really wanted to start a fashion project. I had no idea that this was going to be a brand.
How does cultural heritage and personal identity influence your brand?
What I realized is that there is such a big community of this new demographic of Asians and Asian Americans, Koreans and Korean Americans that is so different from our parent's generation. Because there's that little pressure to be a good person, like the stereotypical model minority stuff. But then, everyone's also doing “bad things'' on the side. I love that kind of irony and that duality that coexists with generational trauma. I wanted to start a brand that really encapsulates that irony. Which is why we named it Sundae School.
I love that community building is such a large part of you and the company as well. What does community mean to you?
We are our own culture of Asian Americans. And in high school, I tried to reject those connotations and was like, I'm carving my own path. But that didn’t feel right either. We are all part of this community, whether as citizens of the world or as Asian Americans, and you can subscribe to multiple communities. Through cannabis, through the work that we're doing at Sundae School, I was really able to explore the different notions of like what it means to be Korean, what it means to be Korean American, what it means to be Asian American, what it means to be a gay person living in an urban metropolis.
For a lot of us, we learn through our community. Today the fact is that Korean culture is something that people are curious about, that people want to get more information about. So much of our clothing, so many of our cannabis products, so much of our content, everything is really centered around us and our team's identity and third culture, and of course, me as a Korean person.
How has the brand transformed as you've continued to build it over the last four or five years?
We try to involve our community, that’s why we have a Discord channel - so that we can get feedback on products or estimate demand. But what really changed is that we started out as a wholesale business and then COVID hit. All of a sudden, some of our clients went bankrupt, and some of them canceled their orders at the last minute. So, with that, in January 2020 was when I was like telling everyone that we're going completely DTC because that's the, “for us, by us” model. We're so grateful. And it really wouldn't have been possible without our community. Our community is ever expanding. It started out as Korean international kids who are my friends, to Korean Americans and then to Asian Americans. Then we started entering the mainstream.Ilana Glazer came to our office and bought the fleece. Kaytranada wore it on his tour, it's so crazy.
What would be one piece of advice you'd give young Asian Americans with an entrepreneurial dream?
Never ever be ashamed of yourself. You are the best arsenal that you have. You don't need to try to fit this mold that has been set up by society because at the end of the day, conviction wins. And if I can do it, and I’m not saying I did it, but I think I'm in the progress of doing it, but if I can try, anyone can try. We have a motto at Sundae School and it’s called “하면 된다” (ha-myeon-doen-da) which means if you do it, it's going to happen. And we're mostly Korean, so it's almost a second nature response.