[00:00:00] Maggie Chui: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Asian Hustle Network podcast. Today, we have a very special guest with us. His name is Mony Nop. Mony, a survivor of the Killing Fields of Cambodia, immigrated to the U.S. with his family at the age of six. He became a police officer and served in Livermore for 17 years, before retiring from law enforcement to establish his own real estate business
[00:00:23] 14 years ago. He’s the co-founder of Tri-Valley Nonprofit Alliance, focused on supporting local nonprofits by collaborating and sharing resources to continue growing their mission. Mony also became a children’s book author, “Officer M.N.O.P. and Me: How Police Officer Serve the Community on and off Duty”, a former mayoral candidate in the city of Livermore, and now known as the “giving back” realtor.
[00:00:49] Mony has been featured in CBS Early Show, ABC Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and has been awarded the Good Neighbors Award from Bay East Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors. In 2018, Mony received the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award and the St. Mary’s College Meritorious Service Awards 2019.
[00:01:13] Mony, welcome to the show.
[00:01:16] Mony Nop: Thank you so much, you guys. It’s really, truly an honor to meet both of you and to see you, like I can see your face and smile. This is great. So, thank you so much for having me as an honor.
[00:01:25] Bryan Pham: Of course. It’s absolutely an honor to have you on this podcast as well.
[00:01:27] And for you guys who don’t know, Mony is also inside our Asian Hustle Network book, so check that out. This podcast will be mainly a continuation of his amazing story and what he has accomplished since, so we highly encourage you guys to order the book, read it, read Mony’s chapter, and then we’ll see, this is a part two to his continuation of his amazing story.
[00:01:46] So Mony, welcome to the podcast.
[00:01:49] Mony Nop: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.
[00:01:51] Bryan Pham: Without taking too much away from the book, give us a quick rundown of your amazing life story and talk to some of the stuff that you’re working on right now.
[00:01:58] Mony Nop: Oh my gosh. Yeah. First of all, as I said, it’s an honor to be with you guys, but looking back, my background was difficult, yet it’s amazing now.
[00:02:06] I truly believe that I was given a gift, to go through hardship and to be where I am today, it’s such a blessing. But, my story began in 1972, when I was born in the Killing Fields of Cambodia. During the first six years of my life, 2 million Cambodian people were slaughtered. Slaughtered, out of a 7 million population at a time, so literally, almost a third of my population was slaughtered. I was one of the survivors of the Killing Field. The age from when I was born until I was six, I lived in a little shack with poor steel above ground, with no running water, no electricity, no toilet, and no standards like today’s standards at all.
[00:02:41] We just have to go to bed hungry every night. And as a child, I had to eat every bug and animal to survive. I came close to death so many times with my sister, but we made it. At the age of six and a half years old, the Vietnamese people came into Cambodia to invade Cambodia and to fight with the communist party of our country, allowing us to run.
[00:03:01] My family took off. We walked hundreds of miles along with thousands of other refugees when bombs were going off, dead bodies everywhere, and people getting shot everywhere. I’ll never forget at the age of six, crossing the stream in the middle of the night, and there was a body stuck to a twig that I had to jump over at the age of six years old, in the middle of the night.
[00:03:19] But those are some of my experiences. When I was younger, I made it to Thailand and lived there for about four years. Finally, during those four years, I got to go to school for one year and learned the Cambodian language. But after four years, we were given permission and a sponsor to come to the United States of America.
[00:03:33] Before we did that, they sent us to the rescue camps in the Philippines, where we lived in a little shack with poor steel above ground again, but it was in a tropical forest. Now at the age of nine, my father and I made our wooden gun with umbrella spokes. We would go to the stream for four to six hours each day and shoot for fish shrimp, and eel, find the firewood, come back home, and cook for the family.
[00:03:53] And then on other days, I would carry a bag of rice and climb the mountains and trade for potatoes, with the Filipinos up in the mountains. It is pretty incredible. And then at the age of 10 and a half, came to the United States of America, and then many things happen including growing up in the ghetto Stockton, my father became a gambling alcoholic,
[00:04:09] my mother has six months of education, I forged my dad’s signatures since third grade because he was never around, I skipped four grades in school, became a child laborer in the fields with the Mexican, Hispanic, worked in Oregon as a child making $20 a day, and at times in the summertime, I would find myself sleeping in the rows of the cucumbers, the strawberries and cherries and poison berries from being so exhausted.
[00:04:32] Anyhow, with all that stuff going on, so much chaos in my life, growing up in a domestic violence household, at the age of 17, I had to put my father in jail and then moved out of the house. But with all that stuff going on, 11 years later, after arriving in the United States, I became a Livermore police officer on December 4th, 1995,
[00:04:52] the day that changed my life and the life of my whole generation. So, that’s a little bit about me.
[00:04:58] Maggie Chui: Wow, Mony. For anyone who has read your story in the Uplifted book, I think a lot of people who had read your chapter, and wholeheartedly said that your story was just so amazing, and not a lot of people have experienced the things that you have gone through, to be trying to survive any way that you can, trying to kill any animal or bug just to survive, just to live. Not a lot of people can say that they’ve experienced that.
[00:05:26] And for you to come out of this, with such a clear and bright future ahead of you, I just wanted to say, it’s so amazing to see you, to hear it today. You are talking about the moment that changed your life, with you becoming a police officer.
[00:05:41] I don’t want to give too much away from the book because your story’s just so impactful, but I know that there was a moment in your life where you had just told yourself that you wanted to do something with your life. And I think you were sitting at a red light somewhere. On March Lane and Pacific Avenue.
[00:05:57] You said to yourself, I know it’s crazy that you had given those details too, but I think those moments are so clear to us. Those moments where it’s, ” You know what? This is a moment where I want to decide that I want to do something with my life.” Tell us about that moment.
[00:06:11] And what made you decide that “I have such a bright future ahead of me and you’re destined for greatness.” Tell us about that moment and what made you come to that conclusion?
[00:06:22] Mony Nop: Yeah, so there’s a combination of things. Growing up so poor, he had four pairs of pants to go to school.
[00:06:27] Mom and dad were never around. I made the honor roll on a Dean’s list. My GPA is like 3.57, even though I barely spoke the language and all that, I always worked hard. This means that if I have to get up at two o’clock in the morning, I would get up at two o’clock in the morning. I never missed a homework assignment,
[00:06:41] I never missed a quiz, I never missed a test. Even though I didn’t know the language that well, I knew that I had to do this thing, that was the determination number one. The number two was that, at the age of working in the field, was one thing. It was so hard making $20 a day and $25 a day.
[00:06:55] And sometimes, when we go back to the camps, my father will teach us how to gamble and we will lose all the money we made for the day. So now, moving forward, from the age of 11, all the way to 16, I finally got my first job at McDonald’s. I didn’t even know what a cheeseburger was, you guys. I didn’t know what a chicken sandwich was.
[00:07:11] I didn’t know anything other than a hamburger. That’s why my father had always bought us hamburgers, we didn’t know anything else. It’s like I lived in a cave-like you didn’t know anything because you live in a cave and that’s all you knew. But six months later, I became an employee of the month.
[00:07:25] I wanted to know everything. I know how to do everything at McDonald’s. Seriously, you guys, I’m just a student, a learner. I’m hustling all the time, just trying to be the best I could be. But one day, I was working for about 10 hours, and then I called my father to come to pick me up and he said, “Nope.” He was too busy gambling.
[00:07:43] I had a McDonald’s uniform at that time. It was a blue and blue pinstripe and gray, and looked like a gel bird, literally. So, from McDonald’s at Sherwood mall, all the way to my home was like six miles, and I’m walking home after a long day of shift and I got home. I got chased by a pit bull in the ghetto where I live and I had to go on top of a van and stay there until the owner called off the pit bull, then I proceeded my way all the way home. I remember being so mad, but several months later after working, I saved enough money to buy my first car. And I’ll never forget, I sat in the Middle Lane, facing north at March lane, on Pacific avenue at March lane, and I was at the red light. I would say, “Oh my gosh”, I was so mad reflecting on that situation like, “Why didn’t my father come to pick me up?” Mind you, I grew up in a domestic violence household. When I got home, my mom and dad had one day home. They’re always fighting, they’re always beating each other up. And like I said, at the age of 17, he came after my mom with an ax. I had to jump off a sofa, literally tackle him down to the ground, choked him out, ripped the cord off the wall, tied him up, and held him down until the police showed up.
[00:08:47] So that was the moment in my life where I went, “Oh my gosh, I never want to be like my father.” I said, “I’m going to do something about my life.” And that’s what I decided to do. I said, “I gotta do something with my life. I can’t have this life.” I felt like I had one life to live, but I gotta do better.
[00:09:05] I can’t continue this tradition of violence and chaos and brokenness, so I want to make a difference. That’s where I began, at the age of 16.
[00:09:15] Bryan Pham: Wow. Such perseverance is what I can think of. It’s not everyone.
[00:09:21] Mony Nop: Go ahead.
[00:09:22] Bryan Pham: Not everyone can talk with such determination that you did at that point, right? At that point, it’s so easy for any of us to turn to and just start blaming other people and not taking ownership and not being accountable for one’s life, or just blaming everything on the circumstances.
[00:09:41] I think the fact that the voice inside you is so strong that you will be something that you want to end this cycle. It’s amazing. And, what sort of just gave you the conviction at that moment that you wanted to do something better? As you mentioned, you grew up in Stockton and the not-so-good areas.
[00:09:59] It’s so easy to find a family in a gang or a very bad situation. What propelled you to seek out a career in law enforcement?
[00:10:09] Mony Nop: First of all, the experience that I had at that time taught me a couple of things. One was grit and the other one was no fear. So I had no fear.
[00:10:18] Literally when I came to the United States of America, I didn’t tell you guys this, but the first week I started dumpster diving every day. I would go to a big apartment complex and bring those cans back and it would have my brother and sister line ’em up. This is my first hustling, by the way.
[00:10:31] And we would take a little scoop and would scoop red clay from the backyard and put ’em into each of the cans. And then I would spray water and then I would crush them and would bag them, so they’d be a lot heavier when I turn ’em in. So that’s my first hustling experience. But all my experiences taught me about no fear.
[00:10:47] There’s so much grit and there’s gotta be other ways to do this, I can’t be the first one that’ll say, “Oh my God, all these things happen to me.” and “Let’s just give up.” But I said, “There’s got to be another way.” That determination set me apart from most people, but what got me into law enforcement was at the age of 16, I took a class at the high school.
[00:11:05] It was a civics class on police work. The police work itself was cool, man. I thought it was so awesome. You cut out the articles, you talk about police work and all the issues and social issues and what police officers do. My first impression at age of 16, I’m like, ” Wow, kick ass and take names as a police officer.
[00:11:20] Oh, I got this! I can do this.” You know what? I didn’t realize I had to take a test to get in and it took me four, long years. Four, long years, you guys. From the age of 17, all the way to 21, when I finally passed the test, one of the things I did talk about was grit. I never gave up number one.
[00:11:39] I start taking a test in every city. I start applying everywhere, and what I do is I go take the test and I go, “Oh my God, I didn’t know the source. I didn’t know Barnes and Noble existed” because remember, my role is so barebone minimum, right? So, I started taking a test, and then my street-smart side kicked in.
[00:11:54] I said, “What am I going to do?” So I take a pen and a paper with me to each one of the tests. So I took the test and I was usually, in two hours, everybody else was done. They give us three hours. So I got one hour left. I sat there and studied it. Every location, every city I went to. After I’m done, I would turn in my test.
[00:12:11] I was the last one to turn in. I run outside and start writing down all the vocabulary. I look them up in the dictionary. What it meant, what to investigate, what’s difficult, what’s complicated, what’s intricate. All these words were associated with police work that I didn’t know about, but I discovered the source at the age of 18.
[00:12:28] I’m like, “Oh my God, that’s what Syms is all about.” “Oh, my God. That’s what Anton’s all about.” “I didn’t know you guys.” It’s just like the first time someone says, “Hey Mony, go break a leg.” I’m like, “Oh no, you didn’t say that I’m going to kick your ass because would you mean break a leg?” So these types of things that you didn’t know. But I never gave up. I was willing to find different ways to do it. No matter what it took because I wanted something so bad, it took four years, long years and I passed it. I passed it by three points. I got into the police academy. I became a police officer, a reserve police cadet for the city of Stockton, became a reserve police officer, and then here’s one of the most difficult things that happened in my life. Before I graduated, I got into a fight with somebody from the police academy, playing basketball, because I was kicking his butt and he knocked me out from behind and a fight was on. And anyhow, a couple of days later his house got shot at, and my house got broken into. Next thing, I got a knock on the door by the police officer that I worked with and he thought I was the drive-by shooting suspect. They took my gun and badge away from me for six and a half months while I was a reserve officer, right before I graduated. I graduated and I had to prove my innocence.
[00:13:40] I go “Once again, what am I going to do?” So I started applying everywhere to be a police officer. Antioch PD. One of the cities was Antioch PD. I went through the testing process and I passed the test including the lie detector test. Stockton PD came and looked at the results and said, “You know what? Mony has nothing to do with the driver shooting. So we give him his badge back.” And then that’s when I got hired here a little more, but never gave up with no fear. That’s the lesson.
[00:14:08] Maggie Chui: Wow. Thank you, Mony for sharing that. I love the determination and the motivation. I think we mentioned this previously about, as a foreigner learning the English language, it’s already so difficult.
[00:14:19] If you look at the nuances of the little things about the English language, some of the sentences are just so confusing for a foreigner. Even for me when I grew up in the United States, it can get very confusing for you to take the extra hour or time after the exam to write down every little single thing that didn’t make sense to you or didn’t seem familiar to you, and when your memory is the freshest right after the exam, that just goes to show like how much determination that you had, because most people would just be like, “I’m just going to wait for my results and see what happens.” But you took the effort to go out there and scribble everything down so that you could prepare for the next time, which is just so amazing. And I know that, a year later, you had graduated from the police academy. At the age of 22. And that is such a huge accomplishment, but at the time, you also had your first son. Talk about that and what challenges you had at that time because you know, raising a child is such hard work.
[00:15:20] Bryan Pham: Before you get there, I do want to comment on the framing, I guess when you first graduate from the police academy and how about-. Man, this makes me upset to hear that. I feel like it happens a lot more often than we think to people of color, and the fact that you were able to prove your innocence and the fact that you were stuck with that and remained high hopes while you didn’t have your gun and badge for six months, it shows a lot about your character. I’m glad things worked out, but I’m interested to hear more about it, now that you’re a young dad.
[00:15:52] Do you have a career? What was the parenting experience like? And on top of that, we understand that you’re a real estate guru right now. So like, how did you get into real estate?
[00:16:02] Mony Nop: Yeah, we have a long way before we get to the real estate part. But let me talk about my son and the academy at the same time.
[00:16:07] So yeah, at the age of 22, I graduated on May 20th, 1995, and my son was born on October 18th, 1995, so a few months later. But those were hard years because I know. And by the way, while I was going to the police academy, I had a full-time job as well. I went to the police academy at nighttime, including on the weekends, and then usually it was Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and then Saturday.
[00:16:31] And then all day, Saturday, and sometimes Sunday, now working a full-time job and going to the police academy at the same time. It was difficult. When I get out of work, I usually have to iron my clothes, prepare my shoes, shine my shoes and make sure that the gig line is amazingly perfect.
[00:16:46] And by the way, I graduated number two in my class in physical training. So I did at the time, I was so crazy in shape, the 97 pushups in a minute, 88 sit-ups in a minute. It was an incredible shape, but the best part about it was that, first of all, I didn’t know anything about police work, so I had to borrow a police uniform. I have to borrow somebody’s police uniform from the previous graduating class, but I graduated number 17 academically out of 67 of us. 47 of us graduated, 20 failed out, and 47 of us graduated. I was number 17 academically and number two in physical training. But being a young father at age, I didn’t know anything.
[00:17:21] Literally, I didn’t know anything. But what helped me, and it is so many full circles of my life because of that was, that while I was going to the police academy, I worked as a bilingual aide in a classroom. So, I was translating for parents at teacher conferences. I was writing a newsletter in Cambodian to the Cambodian parents, and I was teaching the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth-grade students the English language. It helped me at the same time as I’m teaching them. But here’s the beauty. I didn’t tell you this either. I went from second grade to third grade to fourth grade. Remember, I signed on paper since third grade. So I just had to skip this grade altogether. I signed myself in sixth grade. They let me in.
[00:17:59] So after two months in sixth grade, I met my sixth-grade teacher and after two months, she came to me. She goes, “You seem mature.” I said, “Yeah, I am. But I’m a little older.” So I told her what happened in the refugee camp in Thailand, where my father lowered my age by four years.
[00:18:11] So because of malnutrition, everything else, I was the same size as all the other kids. So guess what? She talked to the principal, and they moved me up to seventh grade. After two months in sixth grade, they say, if you do well in seventh grade, we’ll move you up to eighth grade. After four months in seventh grade, I went to eighth grade.
[00:18:26] I went to ninth grade for two months and then went to ninth grade the next year. But being a young father, I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know. But I gotta tell you, being a bilingual age student or a teacher helped me tremendously because, remember, my father was never around, so I don’t know how to interact with kids. But I saw how students who were teachers interacted with the students for three years, the three years as a bilingual. That helped me tremendously, how to be a father.
[00:18:52] In fact, I read so many more books that I never got to read children’s books. When I became a police officer, one of the first things I did was I went to one of the local elementary schools here, and I would knock. I would go to the principal’s office and ask to read as an office every day. I would buy books and read to the kids.
[00:19:07] And that’s one of the reasons why I became a children’s book author because I never got to read. I wanted to be a children’s book author, and it took 14 years, $25,000 later, I became an author.
[00:19:17] Maggie Chui: I love it. I love that you are taking your previous experiences because, at such a young age, you didn’t get to learn the English language.
[00:19:26] You didn’t get to have a lot of experiences, but you took these experiences, or lack of experiences, and applied them to your future which is just so admirable. And like Bryan mentioned, you’re a real estate guru now. Tell us about that. I know that you have quit your job as a police officer.
[00:19:43] What made you decide to make that jump? And what was it like for you?
[00:19:49] Mony Nop: Yeah, so I am a realtor, but I’m more a realtor entrepreneur. Even though I love my job for 17 years or 18 years in law enforcement, I just love my job and by the way, when I was an officer, because of my personality, they always put me in the community.
[00:20:02] So I get to talk to people, I get to take kids to a basketball game, football games, Niners game, I get people, all these things are amazing. But I’ve always been an entrepreneur all my life, you guys, I’ll give an example. My mom said at the age of three years old in the Killing Fields, Cambodia, they would pass out the ration. By the time they pass out the ration, I’ve always stolen enough for the family. In Thailand, in the Philippines, my father would gamble in a truck before us. I’m the only one of my five siblings that go find my father, he would give me money, and shoo me away.
[00:20:29] I was able to eat like anything I wanted because he just wanted to give me money while he had it. And then no one else got to eat except me. I always got to eat. So when I got here in the United States of America, I learned how to ride a girl’s bicycle with one pedal, a pink one, and learned how to dumpster dive the week after.
[00:20:43] If I could tell you stories and always, so I have always been entrepreneurial. After 17 years in law enforcement, I said, ” It’s time to go on.” And in fact, the reason why I got into real estate is that – one, I got hurt on the job. I was getting off work as a police officer, during the midnight shift.
[00:20:57] And I was to turn around to take my rifle, to put in my bag. When I turned around to pull the rifle out, my back locked up. I couldn’t move. Like literally you guys, such a bad spasm. They have to pick me up out of the police car, call an ambulance and take me to the hospital. So I ended up at home after the hospital, several hours there, and taking medication, and ended up at home for three days.
[00:21:18] And then once I got out, I got a few days off and I at the time, but I never drank coffee before, I started drinking coffee. So I met all these incredible people. One of them happened to be a realtor. She said, “Mony, you like houses, right?” Yeah. “You like people.” Yeah. “Why don’t you become a realtor?” I said, “Why not?”
[00:21:33] So, I got my license four months later, you guys. Four months later, I got my license. I got off to work in the morning. I signed with Ontario’s office, out of San Jose. I would drive to work as a police officer, after getting off work as a police officer, because I want to learn it so bad. I would drive to Sunnyvale for a whole month and miss one class.
[00:21:51] And I was like, no, I’m determined. I’m going to do this thing. So who does that? Get off of work at seven o’clock in the morning as a police officer, then drive from eight to five and then come back home and go to work at night. I’m like, “No, I’m going to do it.” That’s the grip. That’s a determination most people don’t have. I’m like, I want something, I’m going to go get it. But being an entrepreneur is amazing. So after 17 years in law enforcement, I said, “You know what? I’m going to do this thing.” But before I did that, though, I decided to do it part-time for five years.
[00:22:18] So the first three years, my first transaction was a short sale at 990 Del Norte in Livermore. I closed that in less than 30 days because I called the bank every day. No one has ever closed a transaction 30 days before. I’ve done it. So, I began selling. In the first year, I sold three homes. Three to five, the first three years, and then four to five, the fifth year. And then the fifth year I said, “No, I plan my exit.” So my first year in real estate, I sold 27 homes. In a bay, I’m like, “Oh my God, I made $427,000.” I’m like, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Holy cow.” And then since that time, so it’s been, almost 10 years, March 2nd, 2012, the second-worst economic time in American history, I left my police job making $150,000 a year.
[00:23:01] Five weeks of paid vacation, all the benefits, and everything else. I just gave it up. I said, “You want change? You gotta be changed right here. Start with you and go get it. Nobody’s going to stop.” And here’s why I did it. One, I want to change the world in three ways. I’m going to tell you how I’m doing it right now.
[00:23:16] But I told myself, “There’s no way I’m going to fail. Why? How? I grew up with nothing. I dump everything. If I fail, the nonprofits will feed me here. If I fail, I still have a condo.” I’m like, “How can I fail?” And I’m willing to wake up eight days a week. You go “Mony, Mony.” Bryan and Maggie go probably thinking like “Mony, there are only seven days a week” But here’s a difference. You’re willing to sleep six hours, you’re willing to sleep eight hours. I’m willing to sleep four hours to make up the difference and make an extra day out of it. And that’s the difference between me and most other people. I’m going to do it. Because why? Everything else was always easier than what I used to have.
[00:23:52] Does that make sense? It was so hard before. Oh, my God, the highest-paid job I ever had was the bilingual aid at $9 and 75 cents an hour. In fact, at one point, by the way, I want to become a police chief. And I said, “If I become a police chief, I would’ve donated 25% of my salary back to my employees because I have so much more than I ever had.”
[00:24:13] That makes it easy.
[00:24:15] Bryan Pham: What I can say is. They don’t make them like you anymore, man.
[00:24:18] Mony Nop: Oh man. And you know what? The best part about now is I have a small home. I have everything that I need. My bucket, I always said my life bucket, my bucket’s full, like all the things I’m getting are just overfilling.
[00:24:30] So now I’m just overflowing with other people. Just dropping off, helping other people, because I can. Because I don’t need that much more. The mortgage is easy to do and has a nice home. Really. I have no other desire other than to travel, you guys. But helping others and then making a difference and seeing them smile is the greatest thing than sliced bread. That’s what it does for me.
[00:24:53] Bryan Pham: Yes. We love your passion and your heart and your desire and your grit. It reflects through your entire life. Just define the odds, just define your circumstances. You’re a great example of true ownership of one’s life.
[00:25:08] And it doesn’t matter where you come from, what kind of cards you were dealt initially. You were doing some pretty crappy cards. Just be honest now. Like you took those cards, you made a straight flush out of that, and now you’re underway to making a royal flush and you’re continuously making a difference in other people’s lives and proactively. And it’s awesome for us to say this too, like making your way into leadership and government. What spurred that thought of ” Hey, I can be mayor.” That is a pretty big leap, I would say not just like yourself, but like just for the Asian-American community in general.
[00:25:46] That is a pretty big step. What broadened that thought of, “Hey I want to be mayor. I want to make a difference. I want to be the first Asian-American mayor in Livermore.” What was that? Where did that come from?
[00:25:55] Mony Nop: In America. So it started about six years ago. I joined seven years ago.
[00:26:00] I joined AREAA, the Asian Real Estate Association of America. And I remember going to my first event conference in Las Vegas. And I met Tom Chong who was president of 2019, two years ago. And it was such an amazing experience. And then two years later, I ended up being part of the delegation to go DC, to meet with members of Congress.
[00:26:15] During that year, one week before we went, we found out the speaker we went to was APAICS, which is Asian Pacific American for Institute for Congressional Studies, co-founded by Norman Mineta. And I got the interview in 35 minutes last year with over 500 people from around the country who were pretty extraordinary.
[00:26:30] Former secretary of transportation during the 911, by the way. And anyhow, I remember going through that event again, street-smart kicked in. I was way in the back of you guys. 2000 people gala. But I saw all the VIPs, the president of the corporation, way up front. I said, “I’m going to just go talk to them.” So I go talk to them.
[00:26:47] I talked to the president of Toyota. I talk to all these VIPs. I don’t know who they are. They don’t know who I am. I’m just saying hello to all these people. No fear. So right before that as I was talking to one of the people that worked there, volunteers came to me and went, “Hey, we’re about to introduce the speaker”, by the way, it was President Obama.
[00:27:02] So I was right next to the language, all the secret servers. So he said, whatever you don’t leave. So he got introduced. Then he spoke for about 20 minutes. And then next thing you know, he came at me. I was like the fifth person he shook hands with. I’m like, “Oh my God, I got to meet President Obama.” By the way, he was the nicest and softest man I ever met. Okay. Never touch. But I got to meet President Obama. And then, I continued to be with the Asian Real Estate Association of America. Until two years ago, the mayor of my city walked up to me at an event, because I’m pretty well known here in the community.
[00:27:33] And so he said, “Mony, can you be my campaign manager?” I’m like, “What? Me? Campaign manager.” I don’t know anything about politics. But I thought of Richard Branson’s statement. He said, “When someone gives you an opportunity, figure out, say yes, and figure out how to do that shit later.” So I said, “Oh my God, let’s do it.” I said, “Yes, I would do it.” So I Googled the infrastructure. Within a week, I gathered 23 people to be on a committee. We won by 83%, you guys. It’s crazy. I’m like, “Oh shoot. Hey, if I could help him, why can’t I help myself? Why can’t I be the mayor?” I said, “First of all, there’s no Cambodian-American mayor in the history of America, ever.” Like I could be the first one. But more importantly, I would represent the unheard voices, like Hispanics, the Asians, the minorities, and the people who we haven’t heard from. But I would be so inclusively because I grew up poor, so I understand what poor people go through. I’ve done well, so I understand what people have gone through. So the people have always done well. They don’t know what that is. I would speak to the people in the ESL classes, and I would speak to the moms and pop stores. I would stop by people’s homes and just say hello to them.
[00:28:34] That’s what I would do as a mayor. I said, “Why not me?” So I decided to do it during COVID of all times. So I raised $45,000 all by myself and got 35% of the vote. 15,560 votes out of Livermore, not bad for someone who’s never done it, but I learned so much and now I go, “Wow.” There might be another opportunity to come up, you guys.
[00:28:58] And I could be the first Cambodian-American mayor in the history of America. And we would transform this community because of our people, the AAPI community. They can’t relate to someone like us, unless we see someone like us in the power position, in the leadership position, and we need more representation than ever.
[00:29:16] So if those of you’re out there, I wholeheartedly encourage you to get involved. I’m going to try different ways. I sure learned a lot. I sure learned how to run a campaign. I would do so many things differently. Now, I am learning how to establish a coalition. I learned how to establish deeper relationships, but I met so many incredible people along the way, you guys, and incredible friends as a result.
[00:29:37] And that’s the best thing about it. So if you’re thinking about it out there, go do it. I highly suggest it.
[00:29:45] Maggie Chui: That is such an amazing feat Mony. And I wholeheartedly agree with you. I think that if we don’t see Asians on screen or in the office, it’s really hard for the younger generation of the Asian community to look up to.
[00:30:01] And see, watch the news and see what’s going on in the media and see what’s going on in politics and think “Oh, can I be that person to make a change?” We have to see people who look like us and sound like us to believe that in the first place. Like “I see that person. She looks like my mom”, or “He looks like my dad.” like I can do the same thing.
[00:30:18] And I love that you are such a big advocate for that. And you’re also such a big advocate for underserved voices. You’re doing so much to go out to the community and see what is the best thing for the community. I guess in your own words, what does advocacy look like to you? And how can we, as just like normal citizens, ensure there is more representation for Asians in office. What can we do, to make sure that there’s more representation? And what does advocacy look like to you?
[00:30:45] Mony Nop: An advocacy is basically for me, it’s speaking for the unserved community.
[00:30:49] Meaning, for example, I get you involved.
[00:30:51] If I’m in a leadership position and I know that I have a certain thing that I know that you are interested in, the only way to be, is to learn about you. Maggie and Bryan, for example, are for me to spend time with you.
[00:31:02] But once I know you as a person, I know your interests, then when I go to events that are interesting to you, I would bring you along. So for example, when I do client appreciation for my clients, I would’ve 60, 80 to a hundred people at a time. And when I bring ’em in, I go, “Oh, you like older cars. You like all the cars”, “Hey, you connect, you connect on different interests.”
[00:31:20] Does that make sense? So when you do that and then by the way, in the power of networking. It’s not about what you can get out of it. Me, when I meet with you, you will always know who’s going to be the first one, like, “Maggie, what can I do for you? What can I do for our community?” Not “What can you do for me first, Maggie?” but “Hey, can we bring all the authors to my home so I could open my home? I could host it. We could bring all of us together. So we know the stories behind the story. See the person behind the book. So this way, once we know each other more, what do we want to do? And we could inspire other people together.” But because single-handedly, you can make a difference.
[00:31:57] But when you get 18 inspired people together, the synergy is amazing. That’s how the tribal valley nonprofit lines, which I co-founded, now serve over 400 non-profit organizations today because of the synergy, because of the ideas behind the ideas of people wanting to get together, you know what? I want to make a difference because that’s what nonprofits are all about.
[00:32:17] Its nonprofits will fill in the gaps where the government does not. That’s where nonprofit comes in and imagine getting all of us together like that. And that’s one of the reasons why I love what you guys do is you expand your network. You host events in Australia, in different places. And just trying to bring us together.
[00:32:33] We gotta go even bigger. For example, what if we for example, in May, for example, what if we were to host Norman Mineta and celebrate API and interview him have people read him, watch his life story on one of the documentaries of his life stories, and then people going to get inspired, just so you know, like the 1990 American Disability Act. He’s the one that brought it together. Did you guys know that? He’s the author and the reason why he’s being when he became the mayor of San Jose, he promised a family that had polio. The child has polio and he was going to operate out of a wheelchair for a whole week.
[00:33:06] And he realized that the sidewalk was too small. There are no lips to go into the sidewalks. Does that make sense? That’s why you see that the American Disability Act came and that’s why you see the wheelchair ramped and all that’s because he wanted to make a difference. But how would, if you are never willing to do those things and live the life, put yourself in the shoes of others.
[00:33:27] And that’s what happens when you grow up poor. I could talk about other people, I get emotional about it because it hits home. It was me. I could see a child in a third-world country, for example, and it reminds me of me. I was, I just saw the news that is in Afghanistan, because half of the population right now is going through a famine.
[00:33:45] Why? Because there’s no money. We have to release all the money. They don’t know where the money’s going to go. So they have to support the NGOs, the NGOs can’t get them there fast enough to feed the people. So half the kids are down to the skin or bone. It reminds me of myself. And you can only have those types of sympathy or empathy for people because you’ve gone through it yourself and then those who have it, we’ve gotta be able to do more for other people.
[00:34:09] My bucket was full, Maggie and Bryan. I need something else. I just want to do more to help whoever I can, especially our community. That’s one. That’s why I shared with you a couple of ideas that I’m going to be working on. I hope to launch it pretty soon.
[00:34:22] Maggie Chui: Thank you so much for sharing that, Mony. You’re doing so much for the community and I agree. There’s just so much that we can give back to the community and serve the community. We always say the same thing for Asian House Network. Like we just want to give back to the community because we see that there is so much opportunity for us to give, and there are so many people who are seeking help, who need help more than we do.
[00:34:42] So I just really appreciate everything that you’ve done. And ultimately, while you did place second in the mural election, you just brought out so many great ideas and you were so bold during this whole campaign. Can you talk about what your next goals are and what you have coming up forward?
[00:35:02] I’m sure this has taught you such a valuable lesson. I want to know, like internally, what that, what this has taught you, what this experience has taught you and what kind of lesson you took out of it and what you see going forward for you in the next couple of years.
[00:35:16] Mony Nop: Yeah. I just have. It’s funny. I don’t know where this comes from, but I have a vision of being a mayor. And I pretended like I was a mayor two years ago and I don’t want to say pretend, but I act like I was a mayor because people come up to me, call me the mayor and I could answer people’s questions. I could point people in the right direction, to the right person, to the right location, to the right organization.
[00:35:34] Those are the things that I do as a mayor. So I’ve already been doing it and I’ve been doing it all my life since I’ve been part of this community for 27 years now in Livermore. I truly believe that would make it amazing. I truly believe that I could do a great job because I have an understanding, of not only of people but also understanding what the community needs are.
[00:35:51] And then the only way to do that is to learn about people, to sit down with people, have coffee with people, host town hall meetings, have private conversations, call ’em, that’s what I do well. I call people all the time, but there are so many amazing opportunities for us, in the real world, to think of one or two or three ways to contribute.
[00:36:06] You don’t have to go all out. For example, a couple of things I want to do. I may run for mayor again, and this next around here, it just depends. I’ve been praying about it. I don’t know where that’s all going to go, but I just hope that God has a plan for me, and allows me to do what I need to do to serve the people.
[00:36:22], when I ran, I was going to donate my salary and I will continue to donate my salary as a mayor. That’s another thing that we need to bring up as mayor. We’re going to make that an issue by the way, because right now, for example, the city is a little more because of a small city, the mayors make $18,000 a year.
[00:36:37] So with that, you can’t make a living. If you make it a living wage, say 80 to a hundred thousand plus some benefits, then other people, your age, younger, or a little older, whatever could come out and say, “You know what? I want to serve my community. I want to serve, but I want to be able to have a living wage too right now.”
[00:36:52] Only the rich, old, and white often will be able to do it because they have a pension. They have the family transfer wealth. We’re the first generation here. Most of us, Asian American immigrants were the first generation. We don’t have anything transferred. The only thing we transfer is probably debt. When your parents died.
[00:37:09] We don’t have that, but I will have the ability now to transfer to my grandchildren to make sure that they’re educated. We don’t have that, but we need to change that. So I may run for mayor again. The second thing I would like to do is I’d like to launch a couple of organizations. One is called East Bay Home Ownership Opportunity, and I’m changing that nonprofit right now.
[00:37:26] I’m hoping to get it pretty soon. And once I get that, I would launch a $20 for 20 homeowners. What I mean is that I’m going to ask every one of you out there, including you and Maggie and Bryan, I would love for you to contribute a minimum of $20 per month, and it’s $240 a year.
[00:37:40] So if I get a thousand donors, that’s 200 plus thousand, but if 200 plus thousand and give away 50,000 per quarter. Five people, 10,000 each to help them on the journey of buying a home. The two criteria are, one, you have to use the fund within six months of receiving it. Two is that you make less than 150,000 a year.
[00:37:56] And if you’re Asian, American police officer, firefighter, nurse, first-time home buyer, or single parents’ household, you get two entries into the drawing. So this way we don’t discriminate because what does home ownership do for us? Three things: stability, security, and then, more importantly, building wealth.
[00:38:14] That you could pass on because we all know we’re in real estate, right? In America, 68% of the people own a home. If not more. And the higher-level leadership you go to, over 90% own a home. We all own home, because why? Because of stability, security, and creating wealth for our family.
[00:38:33] That’s what it’s all about. And I can’t wait to do that. The other thing that I want to do is launch with a group of 10 people, called East Bay Entrepreneur Circle. My idea is to bring people together and all these business leaders to help immigrants and women. And it’s just to help the moms and pop store, how to roll their business and scale their business, but understanding the concept of business so they could scale their business, but it would be an honor to help immigrants myself that first come here.
[00:38:59] And how do you get funds? How do you get grants? How do you get the permits? Oh, you can’t get a permit? I’ll go with you through the city hall to get the permits with you. I’ve done that, but if we have the right people in place to help all those people, we could make more because being an entrepreneur is ingenuity that allows you to be so creative.
[00:39:16] So creative, as, look with you guys, morphing and pivoting all the time into different things. It’s exciting. I love it.
[00:39:22] Maggie Chui: Thank you, Mony. We’re so excited about all of your outcoming plans. And for all of our listeners, this will be our last question. And I think our listeners can find this very helpful. But if you had one piece of advice for an aspiring entrepreneur, what would that one piece of advice be?
[00:39:37] Mony Nop: Actually, I have a few. I wrote down a few. So one is if an entrepreneur goes after your dream strategically. Here are five pieces of advice I would give you. One, research a field. Know the ins and out. Do your homework on what you want to do, and know the ins and out of it. Two is to study the subject matter. Expert, find those and talk to those people before you decide to do something. Seek a mentor or coach is another piece of advice I would give you because I’ve learned so much to have great people around me, allowing me to excel faster than just trying to figure it out by myself.
[00:40:05] It’s not about a shotgun approach. Number four, be a student at all times. Learn as much as I can. I learn how to moderate. I learned how to, I’ve graduated from five leadership academies in the last 10 years and became a children’s book author, and founded a student non-profit organization. I have many more things I want to do.
[00:40:20] What happened is because I was a student, I have no fear. I could do anything. My mindset says money, whatever you want to do, you could do. So I don’t let other people reject my limiting beliefs on me because I know me. But because I know because I’m a student, I can do anything I want.
[00:40:37] And then the other thing is doing things outside your comfort zone. God, do things out of your comfort zone. And for those of us, let me give you some examples. Being a mayor’s candidate, being a mayor’s campaign manager. I did the dancing with the stars here locally, where I performed in front of 500 plus people after five hours of training with a professional trainer.
[00:40:55] That’s crazy. But I did it, right? But one of the things that for us as Asian-American, who come here as immigrants, one of the first things we have to do is command the English language. I’m writing a couple more books by the way. It’s called Welcome to America: Business and Life Lesson to be Successful.
[00:41:11] One of them is to command the English language. Because what happens is, if Americans or other people who are presenting in front of you don’t have the command of the English language within 30 seconds, you lose their attention. Therefore, they never got to know that you got a bachelor’s degree and you got a Ph.D.
[00:41:28] They didn’t see how wise, how smart, how much wisdom you have to bring to the table for you. So command the English language, so this way we could articulate our points and get those points across so we could become influential, so we could help others and others could help you. And then you could help more people because you’ve done well and you made so much more.
[00:41:48] Huge. So I hope that there is some good advice that you could take with you and our audience can take with them and that they too can do it. I just have this amazing feeling that I could do anything because I’m a student at all times.
[00:42:01] Maggie Chui: Amazing. Yes. That’s it. I love that mindset and thank you so much for sharing that amazing advice.
[00:42:07] So where can our listeners find out more about you online, Mony?
[00:42:10] Mony Nop: Oh, my gosh. Mony Nop Real Estate, monynop.com, but just look me up. There are so many articles and whatnot written about me and whatnot. I love it, but I just love hearing from people, but more importantly, I just love to hear what you have to do to make a difference in the lives of others.
[00:42:24] my goal is that I don’t want to be known as a realtor, I want to be known as a philanthropist first and a realtor second, and maybe a businessman or a police officer laugh, but I want to be known as someone who gives back to the world. And that’s what I plan on doing all my life for the rest of my life.
[00:42:41] Maggie Chui: Amazing. Thank you so much, Mony. We are at the top of the hour. I just wanted to thank you so much for being on our show today. We had such an amazing time learning about your story and for anyone who wants to learn more about Mony’s story, go check out the Uplifted book it’s called Uplifted Journeys, Abundance, Community, and Identity, and Mony’s story is featured there.
[00:43:01] Mony Nop: Thank you, guys. I appreciated it, Maggie and Bryan. Please buy the book and it’s going to only help our community. I know Bryan and Maggie have their hearts in the right place and that they’re going to do some amazing things with it. And if I could help it, I will help in any way that I can.
[00:43:13] I still want to host and I still want to be part of you guys. Let me know how I get help. Okay. Thank you so much, you guys.
[00:43:18] Bryan Pham: Awesome. Thank you so much, Mony. Appreciate you.
[00:43:21] Mony Nop: Okay. All right. Bye guys. Thank you.