Episode 12

Katerina Jeng and Krystie Yen ·  Building a Collective of Creative Activists with Slant’d

“One thing that I love thinking about is how our evolution as Slant'd has also evolved with who we are as people. Like Krystie mentioned in the beginning, we outwardly said to our team that we're not a political organization—we're solely focused on stories. A lot of us also didn't consider ourselves creative people in the beginning of Slant'd. And fast forward three to four years later, Krystie's doing a lot of creative writing, I am now a self-proclaimed, baby burgeoning poet. We fully believe that everyone is creative even if you don't think of yourself as creative. And we also all consider ourselves activists now. It is a journey that takes a lot of time to figure out how you want to show up in this world, what are your unique talents and skills that can contribute to the wellbeing of everyone, and now there's no denying that we are a political organization. ”

Katerina Jeng and Krystie Yen are the creative entrepreneurs and co-founders of Slant’d, a collective of Asian Americans celebrating the journey of self-discovery. By sharing personal stories and creating welcoming community spaces, Slant’d is redefining what it means to be American. The collective launched the inaugural issue of their annual anthology-meets-art book on Kickstarter in 2017 and has since been featured on TEDx, Talks at Google, CBS News, People, Colorlines, and more. Beyond Slant’d, Katerina is also the Strategic Director at Spectacle, an inclusive content marketing agency. She is a 1st generation Filipina-Taiwanese-American activist, poet, and rabble-rouser. Katerina has a Bachelor of Arts in English & Music from Cornell University. Beyond Slant’d, Krystie is also channeling her creativity for good as a social entrepreneur on a mission to make the world a more inclusive and equitable place. She conspires with awe-inspiring leaders of color on projects that shape culture, tackle social injustices, and build communities. Krystie has a dual degree in Business Administration & Public Health from UC Berkeley.


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Podcast Transcript

Katerina Jang and Krystie Yen

Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, my name is Bryan and my name is Maggie. We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Maggie: (00:00:00) Today we have two very special guests with us. They are Katerina Jang and Krystie Yen, and they are the creative entrepreneurs and co-founders of Slant’d, a collective of Asian Americans celebrating the journey of self-discovery.

Their mission is to cultivate the community that Asian Americans want need and deserve. So, Katerina is also the strategic director at the spectacle, which is an inclusive content marketing agency. She is a first-generation Filipina, Taiwanese American activist, and poet. She has a bachelor’s of arts in English and music from Cornell University, and Krystie is also channeling her creativity for good as a social entrepreneur, on a mission to make the world a more inclusive and equitable place and she has a dual degree in business admin and public health from UC Berkeley. Welcome, Katerina and Krystie..

Katerina: (00:00:21) Well, that was an amazing intro you guys did your research well, and I’m very impressed.

Maggie: (00:01:07) Oh, my goodness. It’s all, you guys. So, it’s you guys who are impressive. We’re very happy to have you on this podcast.

Krystie: (00:01:17) I was just hearing that I was wow, we’ve come such a long way. From our first intro that we’ve ever given or the first bio we’ve ever written, I feel so good about where we landed. So just it feels more who we are.

Maggie: (00:01:31) Well, we’re very excited to unravel that story, and yeah. We’ll have to start by asking you a little bit about, your background the family that you grew up with, did you grow up in a very traditional Asian household, or were they more laid back? Tell us a little bit about that Krystie.

Krystie: (00:01:50) I don’t know how much your listeners know about your backgrounds as hosts, but if they know anything about Bryan, I just discovered that we grew up basically neighbors I’m in a similar upbringing. I’m going to assume like the six to six or we jokingly call like the Boba neighborhood. And so, I think for me, what that meant was I had a very traditional Asian American upbringing where I was raised by an immigrant mother from Taiwan. And all she wanted was for me to go to a really good university and get a job at one of the big four companies or big three management consulting companies. And then just be secure with benefits for the rest of my life.

And I think I never questioned that growing up because it was such a conservative neighborhood where we spent most of our time at SAT school extracurriculars, a marching band and it wasn’t until going into college and realized my first existential crisis of nothing of what I’m doing is making me happy.

I thought I was checking off the boxes, but at the end of the day, my soul never felt alive. And I knew there was latent creativity that was. It was there, but there was nothing pushing me or giving permission to go chase after this and I think slanted, it’s what permitted me to chase after my creativity.

So, I feel after really following traditional success stories for Asian-Americans, I decided that one day, I just wanted to trust my gut because I just wasn’t happy anymore. And so, we eventually, left corporate, but it took a long time. And I think for a while, I beat myself up about it because I was especially growing up as a millennial and being in the bay area for a little bit, I went to college in the bay.

You see these success stories of entrepreneurs where they’re quit everything tomorrow and follow your passion. I know it’s like easier said than done. And so, I just remember seeing a lot of those stories and just feeling like I was behind. And then I think to tackle that, we’re a couple that with the immigrant parent voice of everything has to be secure, it’s coming from a very survivalist mentality.

I felt a lot of guilt, a lot of Asian guilt chasing after what I loved but I think being around actually the Asian-American community and seeing other entrepreneurs doing the thing, I was actually it’s possible and it’s okay for us to chase after things for fulfillment and not just survival.

So, I just feel so grateful for that and I mean, a lot of that happened over the last five to 10 years. So yeah it’s been a while, but I feel I mentioned it in the intro. I just feel so much happier and just so much more myself but I’m grateful for the initial journey of, having a good work ethic and learning to appreciate, I think the sacrifices our parents made for us to chase after fulfillment and not just survival.

Bryan: (00:04:40)  It does take a lot of courage to make that jump. It’s, you can hear all these mentors, tell you what you need to do until you’re mentally ready to make that jump. We can’t make that jump. So, thank you for making that move and thank you so much for doing what you do.

Maggie: (00:04:55) I also want to touch on that too. I feel I resonate with your story a lot because I come from a family of non-entrepreneurs as well. And so, no one in my family is an entrepreneur and they also want to be my siblings to graduate, go to college, get a well-paying job until the day that we’re 65. So, it was very challenging for me to present to them the concept of entrepreneurship because they knew nothing about it. You know, and at some point, I was just I feel I want more of in my life, not to just sit in a cubicle for the rest of my life. So, we applaud you for, taking that step and making that. 

Krystie: (00:05:34) I feel I don’t want to discredit my parents and immigrant parents because I think it’s so well-intended and some of my friends know this, but, when I finally quit corporate in May of 2019, it took me five months to tell my mom that I quit my job.

So, it was like a mini version of the farewell where I was, do I tell her that I left and I was pleasantly surprised because when I finally told her, I know I had your stereotypical Asian mentality of here, all my talking points here is like plan A to plan Z of how I’m going to make money and survive in New York City.

And she didn’t ask for any of that. And I was, I started crying because she said like, I trust you that if you’ve made this decision, I know it’s not done lightly. I’m proud of you. And as you know, like that’s so rare to hear. So, it gave me way more trust actually in our immigrant parents that if they’ve been here long enough, I think they, at the end of the day, know that if you’re chasing what you love doing that’s what matters.

Katerina: (00:06:42)  I did not grow up in the 626, although I wish I did. I grew up on the long island in a very white, Jewish, suburban neighborhood. And so, my childhood was bar and bat mitzvahs, just wanting to fit in, rejecting my Asian American identity. I remember I went to a Chinese school, but I don’t speak Chinese, and growing up, I just wanted to fit in with the kids around me.

And it wasn’t until after college that I was oh shit, there’s this huge part of my identity that I’ve never dived into. Fast forward to me being introduced to Kristy by a mutual friend, and similar to you both, they started a Facebook group just for Asian-Americans to chat about what was going on in their everyday lives and how to deal with it.

Things that we deal with as Asian-Americans on a day-to-day basis. And I was wow, this opened up my world. And that was sort of the spark for slanted and I also had a very traditional Asian American tiger dad. He is from Taiwan extremely strict. I always joke about that. When I was a child, my schedule is more packed than it is today as a 29-year-old adult.

It was prep school, violin lessons, piano lessons, Chinese school, dance classes, literally everything you could think of on the planet and so now I’m unlearning a lot of that. I’m learning a lot and I will always be working hard to be considered successful or to be happy. The amount of work that we produce also determines our value and how we should feel about ourselves.

So, I’m in the process of unlearning a lot of those things. But as Kristy mentioned, I am so grateful for a lot of those values that my dad instilled in me, like the hard work ethic being persistent, just being passionate about whatever you’re doing, and seeing things through. So, there’s good and bad to everything and yeah, I feel it’s been such a journey. I’m a little different in that I’m I love taking risks. So, when Slant’d produced, when planted showed an opportunity for being something bigger than what we thought it was going to be when it started, I was let’s do this I left my job.

I always hated corporate America. I can, I can’t deal with politics and bullshit. So, when stuff would happen in corporate America, I just feel this is dumb we can all be working harder and not be dealing with stuff that’s not productive. And so, I was very eager to leave the regular nine to five and kind of build this life that I’ve always dreamed of.

And so took the I leaped and I’ve been very proud and happy and excited about being self-employed and being an entrepreneur. So, we’re both here in the same place. It just took a little bit of time for us to get there. Everyone’s journey is valid I’m risking tolerance, Kristy’s risk-averse. That’s fine.

There are so many ways to become an entrepreneur and there’s no right or wrong way just is based on what your values are and what you’re comfortable with.

Bryan: (00:10:01) I feel passionate about something I’ll just leave the next day. They’re getting these up, so I love that mentality too. And just having that eagerness to make a difference too. It’s not just like having a mission or building a dream that you always want to is having a goal in mind and that vision, so let’s start with how you guys started Slant’d, you know you guys met you guys are very, like-minded love your mission statement, by the way, it’s red revisions. 

Maggie: (00:10:45) Cause I know you guys are all about uplifting the Asian American community and making sure that you have a safe space for Asians. So, it’s, very similar to AHN. That’s why well would love to know, what inspired you to create slanted and, what were the first few, pinpoints that you saw each of you saw in your lives that drove you to, think of that conclusion. I need to make this community for Asians so that we can all feel it.

Katerina: (00:11:24) So, I can start us, the story of our love, our love story, we met at a bread bakery in New York City. Just to talk about a random UX project that I was working on. This is when I was going through like a quarter-life crisis.

What do I want to do with my life? I was working at a startup at that time, and I was also taking a UX design course at a general assembly. And so, I interviewed Kristy in a user research interview. We ended up having a long energizing and inspiring conversation about being in a new city, being a woman, and trying to find your place in this world.

And as I mentioned before, later on, Kristy invited me to this Facebook group called project boat and I would say that was the first spark for Slant’d, where there were all these amazing conversations happening. In this private Facebook group. And I was these needs to be out into the real world. And so, I was like, does anyone want to start a zine?

And I created a humble Google spreadsheet where people dropped in story ideas, Christie dropped in so many ideas. And I was hey, do you want to do this together? And I was recently looking at my old email. So, like reminisce on our journey, we had Christy and I had a calendar invite for Xen chat and it was like 30 minutes in like December of 2016.

And that was probably the first time where we were what can this look like? And then from there, we rallied a group of friends to start a Kickstarter campaign to launch. Issue one of Slant’d and everything was just like friends, family, and fools. As for that issue, we sent out a Google Form.

I feel it’s like a Google-sponsored video, but it’s not. We sent out a Google form to ask for story submissions. I want to say we got. Maybe 30 to 40 for the first issue and then we launched the Kickstarter campaign, which I think was the first light bulb moment of wow. The world wants Asian-American stories and spaces for Asian-Americans to be seen and to thrive.

So, our first Kickstarter campaign was fully funded in less than 32 hours a week breathing $17,000 for issue one and from there, there are so many iterations we can talk to talk you all about, regarding our existential crises as a company and as a brand and what we stand for but that was the initial spark.

And today we offer the annual literary magazine as well as community gatherings. Now, all virtual, thanks to COVID, and we also just launched our B2B arm of the business called the impact studio, which Kristy is spearheading. So, we’re doing a lot of this cultural consulting work for other companies that need more diversity, equity, and inclusion. So, it’s been quite a journey, but here we are.

Bryan: (00:14:26) I love your execution along with your vision. I love the goals and you’re right. There is a big need for a space for us to all communicate and talk like this. I think for us when we started the Asian Hustle Network, we kind of started as a place where people to share their hustle, share there share their stories.

But it became a community where people feel they wanted to belong to something greater. And on top of that a lot of people, I guess, I think Chrissy could relate to me living in 626 earlier, we’re in a bubble, we’re the absolute majority in our community. So, it didn’t know we’re minorities and through less the circle, so that seeing how people are outside, another place of the country feels they’re the minority.

‘cause there’s more motivation to Hey, we need to take a step back and give a space for people to feel they belong to something that, we all have in common with. That’s okay. To be Asian is cool to be Asian.

Maggie: (00:15:26) I think that the mission is great as far as Atlantic, I think that once you presented to other people that, you know, we’re sharing Asian stories, right? You have the opportunity to use your voice, right. And I feel a lot of Asians just growing up with our families, our parents tell us we should be quiet, don’t create any chaos. If you do go through the entrepreneurial route, don’t tell anyone don’t tell any of your cousins because they’ll make fun of you.

It’s like all this generational limiting belief that you should always like stay quiet and not create any noise right. And I think that’s what affected our community so much and other communities see us in that way, oh, because Asians are so quiet, they can’t do anything to make the change.

Right but once we started telling people oh, we have a voice, right. We can share stories. We can talk about our stories and share them with other people so that everyone can better understand us. We can better understand other people. Then it’s. Yes. We have this opportunity and, this torch so that we can move to our community right and I think a lot of Asians just feel so confined where if they have the opportunity to share their story, they’re oh, yes, I want to share my story right. I want to talk about my life so that I can inspire other people right and then other people want to be inspired too.

So, it’s amazing what you guys were doing.

Bryan: (00:16:51) Let’s take a step back and talk about your original goals, your original vision, and how that, how that changed your timeline. Where are you guys when you guys first started in 2016, right? 2017. And so now it was the vision been and what’s the vision now?

Krystie: (00:17:08) Yeah, it’s really funny. You say that. I mean, everything you’re saying resonates so deeply with what you heard from Catarina as we started as a humble magazine. It’s funny when we say zine is like a stapled Xerox photocopy thing and now if you’ve seen the magazine, it’s actually like on average, like 120 to like 150 pages and it’s yeah, it’s such a beautiful work of art.

I think mainly. It’s a tool for self-actualization and I think when we first started the magazine, it was just meant to be a space to uplift everyday Asian-Americans. And I think that piece is distinctive and important to remember because, when we grew up looking at media like we didn’t see people who look like us and representation is important, but to be able to democratize that and to be able to say that like everyone’s story matters is powerful and it’s like, not, I would say it’s not coincidental that Slant’d started after the 2016 election. I think this is an unsettling feeling that we all had as a community. We were overlooked. We, people, don’t think that our voices matter. What is our way of kind of defining this new administration and showing the world and society that our stories and our voices and our journeys matter?

So, I think we didn’t realize at the time how political we were going to be. But, I mean, our roots are 1000% political and activists in their own right. We just didn’t realize it at the time. It was just like our creative way of trying to put our voices out there. And actually, no one on the team has contributed to the magazine, stories.

We opened up the space for other people to share their stories. Our goal at the time was not to write about Asian stories but to just have Asian people telling stories, because eventually in the future, it’s not really about the Asian-American experience per se.

It’s just we have so many stories out there that we can just share stories as a whole. I look at Ted Chang, the science fiction writer. And if you read his books, you would never know that it’s written by an Asian-American, right. It’s just such a beautiful, captivating human story. And I think that’s what we’re trying to capture with the magazine and to fast forward to where we are today.

We talk a lot about how creativity is our form of activism. It took us a long time to come back home to ourselves with that. Cause like I said, in the beginning, we were so scared to call ourselves political, to call ourselves active because our parents told us to keep our heads down, to stay out of trouble, to not rock the boat.

And I think as we talk about self-discovery and this journey and it’s so messy. And part of that is discovering that we have a responsibility as this new generation. To use our voices for good and to use our stories, to move people not just in our community. So, we feel our lane is not maybe in policy or advocacy but using storytelling and art and humanity and empathy to build bridges and to help people.

I understand that fundamentally the diversity that makes us human is worth celebrating and to now stand up for our black brothers and sisters, which is something that honestly, we hadn’t thought about in the beginning, but it’s something that we feel is very central to who we are because if we can’t, we have to love ourselves and love our other communities too.

Our freedom is tied to the freedom of other people too. So, I think, yeah, that vision has evolved. I think it’s still rooted in creativity, but now we’re really unabashedly confident in the fact that we are also rooted in activism. So that’s why we call ourselves a collective.

We used to be just a magazine and then we thought we were a media company because we didn’t know, we didn’t realize what we were building at the time.  What we’re building with something that didn’t exist before. And now we feel very good about calling ourselves a collective because if you believe in something bigger than yourself; you believe in the greater good, you have strength in numbers and it’s for a shared purpose.

Katerina: (00:21:00) One thing I love thinking about is how our evolution Slant’d have also evolved with who we are as people like Krystie mentioned in the beginning, we outwardly said to our team that we’re not a political organization, we’re solely focused on stories a lot of us also didn’t consider ourselves creative people at the beginning of Slant’d, and fast forward three to four years later.

Krystie’s doing a lot of creative writing. I’m now a self-proclaimed like baby burgeoning poet. We fully believe that everyone is creative, even if you don’t think of yourself as creative and I think we also all consider ourselves activists now, and it is a journey that takes a lot of time to figure out how you want to show up in this world, what are your unique talents and skills that can contribute to the well-being of everyone?

And now there’s no denying that we are a political organization. And I think to be in this space, it’s just a requirement of like being a good human and using your voice for good in this world, especially with what’s going on right now with the largest civil uprising our generation has experienced.

And so, we’ve taken on this journey and so has Slant’d, and one of our visions that will always be there is inspiring other people to be on this journey, to and exploring all the different sides of you, the political side, the creative side, and not just the side that as traditional, traditionally raised Asian kids, we were taught to pursue like math and science or being a lawyer or being a doctor.

We are so much more multifaceted than we are often taught. And this journey of Slant’d have not only taught us as the people working on slanted, but also the collective and the people that attend our events and read our magazine. So that’s been fun to just reflect on. How things have changed as we have changed as people too.

Maggie: (00:22:55) I love the different reiterations and realizing, how far you guys have come. I think it’s very similar to AHN as well, when we first met that’s more, once you start, right. Similar to Slant’d, I think that when we first started AHN, we didn’t even in terms being, about, policy. Working with activists and we wanted to allow Asians to share their stories in the beginning.

Bryan: (00:23:21) We broke off into a very activist-focused organization called Hate is A Virus.

Maggie: (00:23:26) It’s just you come to this realization that you do have a voice and we have this platform to make a change right and to make the change, we have to ensure. We’re honing in on these influencers and people of influence to fulfill their civic duty right and we have that power and we have that platform to do so.

Bryan: (00:23:55) It’s also the reason why we want to amplify you guys’ voices as well. We came across your Facebook page through a recommendation by a friend. And we read into it. Oh my God. I wonder if they’re on Asian Hustle Network.

Krystie: (00:24:10) Yeah, that’s, that’s funny. A friend was, sent me the AHN Facebook group and I think you should join. There are a lot of people in there that I feel you would to know and I think that’s been such a beautiful discovery and a pleasant surprise.

I think after starting slanted was just how fricking generous this community is, and I’m not just saying with money. I’m saying with time and energy and connections I remember the beginning of Slant’d and even still today, it’s. We were just starting. We were just a group of friends starting this in my little apartment.

And every time I met someone and we shared the vision for Slant’d, they would be oh my God, there is there were five people. I want you to meet we need to follow up and have this conversation. And then you have another conversation and it’s just an exponential ballooning of that.

And I think that was one of the things that helped us realize that we were more than a magazine. We had our first launch party, which we thought was going to be like 80 people or something. I like to look back on it now we’re going to do it at a salon or an art gallery and like there’s no way.

But at the end of the day, it ended up being a sold-out event with 300 people at the museum of Chinese America. And they were party crashers. We were so confused and it was beautiful because it wasn’t just Asian-Americans there, there were other BIPOC folks there, there were white allies, and just.

Magic and the energy that you felt and how supported you felt. So many people come to our events and they say, if they’re not from the six to six, this is the most Asians I’ve seen in any space I’ve been in. Yeah, and I’m sure Catarina can speak to it too in Denver right. Which is like so different from New York City and the community is the magic of all of this.

And I think just being able to uplift people in our community. I fully believe in the shine theory; a rising tide raises all boats. It’s not a competition here. I think being able to dismantle and unlearn those thoughts is important to building a coalition of Asian American organizations that is gonna make a difference. So, I don’t know if Kat you’re gonna say anything about Denver,

Katerina: (00:26:15) But to reiterate how impressive and mind-blowing it is to see a group of people that look like you, especially when you’re not from a diverse place. And we hear that all the time when we used to do in-person events in Denver about just the sense of belonging that a lot of us felt at these events that we didn’t grow up having. So just wanted to second what you were saying.

Maggie: (00:26:38) It’s amazing. You guys go through many, many stories all the time and I love to know, was there a moment in time where. You heard some story, or if there were any stories that you came across that stood out to you and spoke out to you and that made you believe to like, what, we have something first Latin and I want to continue, discovering stories like these.

Bryan: (00:27:04) We know the entrepreneurial experience. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. It’s extremely different and there are so many ups and downs, so many doubts. There are always times you’re out late or up late at night, thinking to yourself, is this all worth it? But what I want to do, we want to hear, what are these turning points that the community is sort of pushing through and validating your ideas?

Katerina: (00:27:25) I would say there are so many stories. When I read them, I’m like, wow, I cannot believe that this was unearthed with the process that we have created with Slant’d. But I would say the thing that stands out to me when, when you ask that question is the journey of storytelling that our contributors take.

So, when we asked for submissions, we just ask for a story idea. We don’t ask for a fully fleshed-out piece or a draft. We take a chance on that potential and give people who don’t consider themselves writers or creatives to create something beautiful. And so, seeing the first draft to the final draft is just absolutely mind-blowing.

We’ve had people completely pivot from what they had submitted to what they ended up submitting for the magazine throughout that process. And Krystie said, it is a journey of self-actualization and unearthing these personal things about yourself, these themes that you grew up with. And a lot of times dismantling what we’ve learned and coming into our own and stepping into our own identity.

So, I would say for me, the journey stands out, and just seeing how powerful storytelling is not only as a tool of self-discovery but stating your presence to the world and then inspiring other people to do the same and get on that journey of self-discovery has been fulfilling and amazing.

Krystie: (00:28:53) I don’t have much more to add to that other than that’s why I believe so deeply in our co-creative process. Kat mentioned that we take a chance on people and we do, and it’s never about. Cool. We signed off on your idea now go right and see you at the finish line. It’s very much we dig into them. We do one-on-one storytelling workshops with them, just to understand the core emotions behind what they’re trying to write.

And the reason why some of these stories, pivot so drastically is that more times than not, they’re finally honest with themselves about what story they want to share. And it’s scary as hell to be able to sit there and be oh my God, this is a big part of me that. Was too scared to be vulnerable about it and put it on the page.

And I think it’s a testament to our process and to our people that we’ve been able to create a space where they feel safe enough to do that. And then I think to layer on top of that, as we believe so strongly in relationships. And so, a lot of ours we pair them up with artists who are also Asian-American identifying and they together get to create a visual piece to supplement the written piece.

And so throughout that process, they become friends.  Well, we played matchmaker with them and it’s just such a beautiful way to see people’s stories come to life in multiple ways. So, I agree. I think the journey itself is probably the most fulfilling, but a story for me that stands out that had a very personal impact on me was from our first issue.

And it was about the power of and we have one, this issue is our first-ever screenplay. It talks about the power of names, but from a very different perspective than the one in issue one was about the power of this woman’s last name and how, when she got married, she changed her last name to match her husband’s.

And after they went through a divorce, she started to question how much of herself does she give up in the process? And it was a really deep, almost meta exploration of a name. And she went back to think about it. Well, the last name that I got was actually from my mother.

And then she started thinking about how her mother and that generation chose names themselves as a way to reclaim their identities and reclaim their power. And it resonated so deeply with me that actually for people who didn’t know me before, my last name is Mak, M A K it’s my father’s last name.

And I’m actually in the process of changing it to Yen, which is my mother’s last name. And the reason for that is that I was raised by a single mom. And my entire life, she’s been the reason, why I am, who I am today in all the most wonderful ways. And so, a final act of not final acts, but the biggest act of filial piety, I felt I wanted to change my name to like honor her for her work and her sacrifice. And I don’t think I would have been able to do that.

Sorry, that was a cargo bike. I don’t think I was able to do that. Without having read that piece in issue one, it just deeply resonated so much, in my soul that I felt moved enough to make a personal change.

Maggie: (00:31:57) That’s amazing. I feel my heartstrings are being timed on right now. I thought that was, yeah. I mean our journeys, as you said, they’re always ever-evolving figuring out who we are on an everyday basis, and I’m finding more and more about, the history of my family culture, heritage, and I think that I will continue to learn more and more about it every single day as you grow up. Yeah.

Bryan: (00:32:24) Yeah. I mean, just on the topic of names as well, like how’d you get from, with names Slant’d I’m kind of curious about was what does it mean behind that? How’d you guys come up with that name? Because we love it and we like it a lot. It feels strong and political at the same time.

Katerina: (00:32:43) It’s, we get either a lot of love for it or a lot of hate for it. It’s a very binary situation. So, it’s interesting. Cause I feel most people, our age, the millennial group, understand what we’re doing with the main Slant’d in the fact that we are reclaiming a previously derogatory term, turning it into something beautiful and empowering, and writing our narrative that has been historically written by other people.

So, thank you for liking it. We do get a lot of criticism for it because. It does stem from a previously derogatory term and so it’s something that we’re trying to change and kind of take back that power but the way we came across, it, we just had a big old brainstorm about what our name for the magazine could be.

We went through some terrible names a lot of food-related names, a lot of cutesy names. And I don’t know if there were other final contenders, but slanted stood out as. The one that was bold, and provocative, inspired a discussion about Asian-American identity and what is appropriate or not appropriate.

And just this huge discussion about cultural appropriation versus appreciation, race identity. All wrapped up in one little name. And so that’s always been, our mission is to spark this dialogue and to make talking about race and identity easier in our everyday lives and so we were if we can accomplish that with our name alone, we’ve done a great job.

So, it started just with a bunch of memes and landed on Slant’d. I think it was Krystie’s sister, Krystal who thought of the names. So, kudos to crystal she’s, she’s been such an amazing part of the team but yeah, that’s how we landed on it.

Bryan: (00:34:34) That’s awesome to hear that you guys are reclaiming something like that. Cause that’s, that’s how we thought about, our name is law Asian Hustle Network. So, the word hustle has such a negative connotation. I just got hustle. When you talk about the word hustle with the Asian community, it comes in a very positive light my parents came to the United States and we hustle our way through.

Can I have this hustle to take care of, to give us the American dream so we’ve pretty much felt the same way you want it to turn into a very positive thing that you feel the word hustle, like resonate with who we are, our identity a lot, even when we’re referring to, having side projects, we have a full-time job?

That’s called side hustle and we love that you guys are repurposing slant in we’re all studying the same thing and having this conversation right now. I have a lot in common, I kind of wish that we met you guys earlier and teamed up so much earlier, like decent, great in the world. Yeah.

Krystie: (00:35:33) Things happen for a reason at the right timing. So, I feel like it was, yeah, it’s never too late. And with the name, I feel it was a bold statement and it was just so interesting with timing because that was at the same time that the Supreme court case came out around the rock band, the Asian American rock band.

And we became friends with Simon from the slants because of our name as well it’s almost like we got your back, you got ours. As we support you, we see what you’re doing. We see you. We hear you. We value you. And at the same time, that’s actually how we got introduced to ours. Who it was, is this lawyer, John Tran, he’s incredible.

He’s based in Irvine. And he found us on the internet. I think it was actually through Simon from these slants. And he just sent us a cold email and was, hey, I believe in this mission that you all have. And I don’t know if anyone’s ever given you any legal advice but I would love to help you protect your name because it is something so important for you and I just really believe in the cause that you are all championing. I love that so much because we were nothing at that time. We were just an idea and someone in the community believed in us and felt this generosity of spirit to reach out and be like, we see you and we love what you’re doing and more of this needs to happen.

And so, I think of AHN in that same way where it’s if an entity that exists, it’s giving our community permission. To chase out there, things that we care about. And, I think Bryan, you asked the question earlier around like the struggles of entrepreneurship. And I think that permitting myself every day.

To be an entrepreneur is one of the hardest things, especially coming as someone who’s like, so risk-averse, or I’m trying to be more fluid and open with things. A life coach has helped, but I am more fluid with stuff and just permitting myself to take risks like this and to go after things I care about.

And what I’m passionate about is probably the biggest struggle. But I think having this community and having people and having a partner like Katerina has been really helpful, in giving me permission, just like to go out and dream a little bit bigger.

Bryan: (00:37:43) Yeah. I love it. And shout out to John Tran as law. He also has a trademark, our name. okay. And Simon earliest Simon Tam, right? Yeah. He’s a great guy as well we connect to him a couple of times.

Maggie: (00:38:22) So, I mean, we watched your video on the Kickstarter campaign and I did notice that a majority, if not all, are women on your team, is that correct?

Katerina: (00:38:34) We do have two male-identifying amplifiers, but our favorite team, and historically we’ve all been mostly women.

Krystie: (00:38:42) Women get things done. I’m going to just say that, but we welcome all, but it just turns out that people who have stated and flourished in the core team at least have been female-identifying well.

Bryan: (00:38:53) We love that too, because we, for our team, at least we try to staff our team with a lot of different perspectives coming from different orientations, sexual orientations, and different beliefs, different parts of the world.

We have, people are a team in London, Australia, Canada. We realized that now it’s bigger than just the United States like Asians from around the world in Canada, and Australia. Are feeling the same thing and when we have brought together, these people collected mentalities and different life experiences, it’s all the same.

We all have, this desire to belong to a community. So, I love the way that you guys are stacking your team. Do you agree? We no offense to all the guys on my team, but like girls do get it, they get it done.

Krystie: (00:39:39)So, I mean, we would love to have more male and gender non-binary folks, for sure. I think if any of them are listening and want to help out, I feel shooting us an email because we think a diversity of perspectives is really important.

I think we’ve been working hard to diversify beyond east Asia. So, although a lot of us, I think East Asian or East Asian passing. It’s not true. We do have a lot of Southeast Asian representation and now some south Asian representation, but it’s important to demonstrate within leadership, that we value diverse perspectives. So, we will, we would love to have more men in gender, non-binary.

Katerina: (00:40:20) Another thing I’ve noticed just, in general, is in these spaces of activist space. Also, a lot of like DEI spaces is sometimes I’ll look around the room and it’s usually mostly all women and I’m like, where are the men? And so, I don’t know if it’s the fact that our society doesn’t permit men to be vulnerable.

Krystie and I wanted to have an entire quarter based on a quarter of events on Asian masculinity and helping our male counterparts get more comfortable with these spaces. We do see men in these spaces, but I would say a lot of the events and gatherings I go to its majority women. So that’s something that’s been on my mind lately is why is that? And how can we get more men involved?

Bryan: (00:41:06) We’ll talk about collaboration too because our group right now is predominantly men. Yeah. If we can bring together our communities, I think that’d be great for the Asians.

Maggie: (00:41:15) AHN has been predominantly men. When we first started the group, it was a 30 to 70% ratio between, women and men. But we started bringing on more women moderators and start encouraging more women to share their stories. And I think that trickled down to other women feeling inspired to share their own stories as well. So now it’s converted to 54 and 46% between men and women, which is good. We’re heading in the right direction, but we still need a lot of work.

But yeah, I agree, just being an ERG and like yogis for like panning Asians and equity, groups that, I do notice that there are more women compared to men and I’m not sure why that is. I think, yeah similar to what Catarina was saying. Maybe they didn’t feel they don’t have a voice in those certain groups. But we’re looking into that too.

Bryan: (00:42:08) They’re always looking to improve, but since, I’m kind of curious too, when you guys work together, what kind of struggle is, have you guys faced, working with a co-founder or trying to execute an idea when you guys have different, different approaches to solving the same problem?

Maggie: (00:42:24) Yeah, and like Bryan and I always say that co-founder, there’s, they’re pretty much like being married to each other right. And in terms of like you two meeting each other in that bakery store, some of the evolutions that you guys have gone through, what are some things that you guys work well together on? And what are the differences, that you guys work well?

Krystie: (00:42:44) There’s so much, but yes, we are married. We’re married. Same thing. I think, I mean, we were also open books. I feel like we’re not afraid to get vulnerable and just be honest about the process. And it’s challenging at times, right?

We’re long-distance we met once before we decided to get married. So, it was a wild, wild, wild. Yeah. But. We, we knew deep down, despite the differences in maybe perspective or ways of working, like did we still shared a very core set of values, and just this belief and this love for the community.

So, I think that’s what always bonds us and also knowing that things come from positive intent, but I think in every relationship, no one tells you that you need to be explicit about expectations, about communication styles and I think all of those things are exacerbated with the long-distance relationship.

So, it’s no secret we tell this to other people and other founders actually, we highly recommend getting a business therapist or a coach. And we got one when we were going through a rough patch in our partnership. And it was the first time that we actually, I think sat down and just got honest.

About how you were feeling, not just about the business, but on a very deep, personal level and taking stock of what we were both really strong in and being honest about what we have gaps in and I think just being very candid and transparent about. What do we need help with? It’s like an ongoing journey.

And as long as both people are all in and willing to do the work, it’s possible to make it out to the other end, but it’s if you don’t talk about things and you just make assumptions like it definitely can go awry. And so, it’s just, it’s been a work in progress, but I would say that we’ve come pretty far from where we first started.

Cause you take it off of faith and as the honeymoon phase of everything’s beautiful and fun and exciting and then you’ve never worked together before. You forget certain things and for Katerina and we were building a friendship at the same time, we were building a partnership, which is its struggle in its own right. And so, I think just being intentional people are, I think big learning from that and I think I’ve applied that a lot with the rest of our team whenever we bring someone in and being very intentional about, who they are as individuals, what are their communication styles and all of that, to ensure that you have a very strong and healthy working relationship from the get-go, but I don’t know, Katerina, if you have any thoughts on like how our friendship and our partnership has evolved over time.

Katerina: (00:45:18) I mean, that’s spot on. Some of the biggest things that we learned from Julie, who was our partnership coach was open, honest, and often communication is always the key to everything. A lot of times you get into conflicts and it’s a misunderstanding, or there was a lack of information and just getting on the same page about something that’s bothering you.

That’s little to something that might be a bigger conflict just always being upfront about it is always a great solution. And then also just realizing that. It’s rarely about right or wrong. And it’s more about just understanding. So, I think over the past couple of years, I’ve learned that there are so many different working styles and all of them are valid.  

Another thing I’ve learned is that our weaknesses shouldn’t be seen as weaknesses. And so, with Julie, we did this exercise calls called superpowers and shadow side. So, it’s everything that you have strength in. There’s also a shadow side to that and things you need to be aware of, but instead of calling it a weakness or something that you need to change, it’s just something you need to be aware of and maybe slot in other people to fill those gaps, but it’s not something that you should be ashamed of.

And so, I think a lot of it is just like tweaking your perspective on things and changing them from a binary of good or bad to just, this is something we need to figure out. We’ll figure it out with these tools that we have in our toolkit. So, I feel we’ve learned so much about building a strong partnership and as Kristi said, it’s always a work in progress, but once you have those tools in place of good communication, often feedback, you know what to do when you’re getting stressed or you’re feeling burned out.

Once you have those tools in place, it becomes a lot easier to manage different things happening in your relationship. Yeah. It’s like a marriage.

Krystie: (00:47:05) I was going to say actually, one of the key things I realize is don’t model your leadership after someone else’s. And I think that’s something that we both learned that we came from corporate and it’s a very masculine and white supremacist type of structure.

So, certain things that were valued there may not be valued in the company that we’re building and so being authentic about that. And so, I think one of the fun tools we use is a personality test. We fricking love personality tests. So, there are things the Enneagram. We look at astrology, what house you’re sorted in for Harry Potter.

We do this. It’s fun, lightweight to get to know each other better and to have the vocabulary, to talk about how we work and how we think because no one teaches us how to articulate those things, and similarly, to Slant’d to this idea of wanting to make.

An easier topic to talk about. We want to make this type of partnership building and people skills, building an easier thing and a more fun thing for everyone. So, we joke about that stuff, but it’s, it’s been really helpful and, when we have new folks join, we do have them fill out some of these personality tests, just so we have something as a starting point to talk about because yeah, there’s just, we’re creative, we’re a creative company. So, like why not take creative liberties to figure out what each other.

Bryan: (00:48:08) Yeah, I love it. I love it. Love that a lot too. I mean, just taking time to figure out your leadership style, goes a long way. Even with our organization too. We always tell each other it’s okay. To be brutally honest, especially for me.

I tell my team to be very mean to me all the time because I’m here to improve. I want them to listen to honest feedback because of the danger of having an organization where we’re all nice to each other. Is that thing getting swept under the rug all the time? You’re building the worst culture because no, one’s honest with each other anymore.

So once in a while, I would tell my executive team, I just am mean to myself in front of people. It’s okay. I’m not the type of leader who takes things personally. I’m the type of leader who sees things to be improved upon. I always increment it’s okay to fail. It’s okay to make mistakes inside our group.

People make mistakes all the time. Just go ahead. I want people to know. Be more like take, take, take more risks. It’s the reason why we’re doing so many things since AHN is because we bring on people with crazy ideas, for us, it’s like, we’re not too comfortable with like doing giveaways or just putting yourself out there in general.

But we have people on the team who are when we just enabled them and when I’m against it. I tell them to be honest me, they’d be like, Bryan, you’re being too shy or enough. You’re being too hesitant about it. Okay. All right. I need to take a step back and alright, let’s execute this. Let’s come up with a plan.

Let’s do it and I feel like you guys are the same way one thing that I love about what you guys do is the personality tests. I think that’s something that we should focus more on AHN is the personality test because, for us, we bring you in with a certain skill you are good at event planning.

You’re good at writing and you’re good at strategy operations. I’m putting in the team and then that’s sort of what we do, but I think you guys have a better operational standpoint than we do right now. And commend you for thinking about that.

Maggie: (00:50:18) I also really loved the personality tests. I think that in the first couple of years, starting a company or a business it’s so easy to get like, so like busy with just operations and wrapping up your product, right and you forget to learn about your team members, right? Learn about the personalities and stuff like that. And I feel like we can do better in AHN.

I think every company should do that as well, learn about their, their employees, their peers, and see how we can work better together. So, I loved that. So, I know slanted is about redefining what it means to be American. We’ll love to know what it means to both you Katerina and Krystie, and what it means to be American to you. 

Krystie: (00:51:15) What does it mean to be American? Hmm, I don’t think I have any like beautifully pithy statement other than to finally be seen and valued as I am and not to be questioned about why I belong here to be fully accepted that I belong to take up. I belong here and I deserve to take up space. 

Katerina: (00:51:48) It’s something that I’m struggling with right now, just because our leadership is so incompetent and I feel there is a lot of shame with being American, especially if you look at how other parts of the world are handling coronavirus the many struggles our country is currently facing.

And so, one thing I’ve been working on is getting my Taiwanese passport because what if something happens in the US and I need a bounce I think what gives me hope. Being with people like everyone on this Paul call and, on this podcast, being with the activist community, being with other BiPAP groups, because I think that is the future of America.

And I also look at gen Z. So, we have, a group of trailblazers, which are more traditionally known as interns, but we don’t call them interns because they give us so much more than what traditional interns are perceived to offer and they’re all gen Z. So, they’re all in college or recently graduated and they are so inspiring.

They are thinking about social issues, political issues, and identity issues at their age, when, when I was in college, I just wanted to party and get good grades. I was not thinking about my identity or global warming or the race wars and so I think. What will help me? And I think a lot of other people too, are focusing on the future of America and what it could mean to be American and what we’re growing into, where, Krystie said, everyone belongs here.

Everyone can have an opportunity to thrive here, and it doesn’t matter what your skin tone is, your race, or how you grew up everyone is welcome here to make America the great place that it was supposed to be. So, I think I’m currently struggling with that but I am hopeful, especially with the new generation, all these amazing activists’ work, and the work of new future building happening in our communities. That is what is inspiring me to be hopeful about what it means to be American. I think we’re going to get there in the future change is happening. I think we can all feel it around us, but yeah, it’s definitely a work in progress.

Krystie: (00:54:02) I think it’s our responsibility as the generation to redefine it and to build America and the vision that we believe it can be. So, I fully agree. I think it’s about the future. It’s not about going back to normal. What was normal was not working, right.

Maggie: (00:54:18) Exactly. Love it. Well, it was amazing having used to be on the show. How can our listeners learn more about the two of you? And do you have any final words you’d like to add in maybe talking about your Kickstarter campaign?

Katerina: (00:54:32) We are running our Kickstarter campaign until September 18th. I believe for issue four revolutions. If you want to, pre-order your copy. That’s where you can do it. The link is on the internet. We just launched a beautiful new website at slantd.com. No e n slanted. And then on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter were at slanted creative. So come find us on Instagram, especially since we’re very loud about all the things that we do so you can keep in touch with us there.

Bryan: (00:55:14) Thank you, it was amazing hearing your stories. Thank you, guys, so much