Sahaar Khoja and Hannah Cui
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.
Bryan: (00:00:23) Hi everyone welcome to another great episode on the Asian Hustle Network podcast. Today, we have Sahaar and Hannah. Welcome to the show!
Sahaar/ Hannah: (00:00:32) Thank you for having us.
Bryan: (00:00:34) So, from my understanding, Sahaar is a high school senior and Hannah is a high school junior, and you guys have very impressive because you were introduced to me by Tanya. So, I’m super excited to kind of get started. Can you guys tell us a little bit more about yourself and we’ll start with Sahaar?
Sahaar: (00:00:49) Yeah, sure. I’ll go first. So, my name is Sahaar as you said, and yes, I am a senior in high school, but I’m also the CEO of delicious co, which is our student company here. I was born and brought up in decent Texas and I’ve lived here my whole life, a little bit about my background.
So, my parents moved here from their hometown in India, right before I was born. So, sort of as I’m sort of as a first-generation student and because of that, the values of dedication and the importance of education. Always been ingrained into my mindset from day one. My parents live in India. I would say they weren’t exactly top-notch.
My mother was brought up in one of the most poverty-stricken areas and our talent, and she helped out with her father, my late grandpa, his best. And then my father worked as an auto-rickshaw driver, which is the Indian equivalent of a taxi. Both only went to high school and after marriage, they came to the US so I’m eternally grateful for the life that I am happier as a result of their hard work and all the sacrifices they’ve made to sort of build this, this life for us.
We recently brought her own house just two years ago. And before that, when we lived in an apartment, so overall, I feel like a lot of my characters sort of stem from appreciating the humble moments. And one way, I like to remember that is, by always telling myself that to reach the top, you have to start from the bottom first.
So that’s just one important value that I always, that I’ve always carried with me.
Bryan: (00:02:12) That’s awesome to hear it. We have a lot of similarities. So, the joke when my family is, oh yeah, like me and my brother are both really strong because our grandparents are all farmers like physically gifted. Just kidding. Hannah let’s hear about your introduction.
Hannah: (00:02:26) All right, so, hi, I’m Hannah, as you said, I’m a current junior in high school and I’m currently the head of marketing for the company Delicious co. So, I was born in San Jose, California, but I moved to Houston, Texas at the ripe age of two years old. And I come from a Taiwanese family.
So, I’m also a second-generation citizen along with my older brother who goes to college right now, actually, at UT we were raised in a household kind of full of culture and traditional practices like celebrating Chinese New Year and lunar festival and all that good stuff. So. Yeah, I think that both my parents and my brother kind of shaped me into who I am today because I’ve always had them to kind of look up to and had them when I needed to talk to someone. And I always try my hardest to adopt really good things that I see in them, into my own.
Bryan: (00:03:18) Awesome, already I can tell you guys both come from very humble beginnings and he has very talented, so I want to hear more about delicious co what is delicious co?
Sahaar: (00:03:27) Yeah, so I can start with a little bit of background. So again, Delicious co is a name that is stemmed from a combination of two things. So, Dulles high school is the high school that we go to. So, we use the dullest part and that’s also combined with the term delicious. So together that makes delicious co and so the founders who started this company sold candy grams and candy packages around the school.
So, I think that’s where the delicious came from. But as delicious kind evolved, we began creating viable products that served as solutions for everyday needs, and we kind of slowly incorporated sustainable values into our products.
Hannah: (00:04:07) To expand on that a little bit, we’ve done, we’ve done various things, everything from greeting cards that we may be called bloom cards, and they were greeting cards made out of sea paper.
So, if your friend gifted you, one of these greeting cards that they wrote a little message on, maybe after some time after you got the message, you could tear up the green cards, little pieces and plant it and water it, and then it would grow into a flower. So, then every time, you wanted a flower and you think to be a friend who gave you the card, and we’ve also done things like, like a saran wrap that we made out of beeswax that we call Texas. So that was sort of to serve as an eco-friendlier substitute to plastic rapport or saran wrap.
Bryan: (00:04:41) That’s awesome to hear it. And the fact that I liked the fact that you guys are focusing a lot more on sustainability stuff. Cause I feel like we’re now seeing the effects on the, on the environment right we see a lot of the world’s rivers polluted seeing changes in our climates and that’s strictly my opinion. Cause I know there are people out there that don’t believe in that. Where did the inspiration come from right? The whole concept of sustainability. Like how’d you guys learn about it? Was it taught to you guys by your parents, things that you saw, or by people that you worked with why integrate that into your business?
Sahaar: (00:05:12) Right, so, Hannah, I’m not sure if you’ve taken this class yet, but I took AP environmental science last year. And that class sort of taught me a little bit about the issues that were going on. But before that, I was already a little aware of the problem with our planet. And I guess part of it just comes from what I’ve read or heard about in news articles.
On the TV and how this problem, even though it might seem small is sort of going bigger and bigger every day. And the bad part about it is even though a lot of people are aware of the issue, the real problem stems, from the fact that they don’t exactly know what to do or what they can do to help. So that was part of our mission here at delicious coal is sort of to create eco-friendly substances.
Or not-so-sustainable products that were easy to use in your affordable daily life and then the, of course, the word sustainable. So, Hannah do you have anything to add to that?
Hannah: (00:05:59) Yeah, I would like to say that like, as gen Z are we kind of, we’re kind of constantly on social media and stuff. And I see a bunch of news articles that are just talking about it. Climate change is just getting progressively worse and nothing is happening about it. So, I think with also the history of delicious co kind of revolving around sustainable values, we kind of just wanted to continue this trend this year. So that’s why we continue with eco-friendly.
Bryan: (00:06:23) I love that. I liked that a lot and thank you so much for thinking about that. I know gen Z is the generation that is hyper-aware of these issues and making a huge difference to address them out of curiosity. I want to start with Sahaar with this. How has building a delicious total of this past year help you grow as an entrepreneur and as a person?
Sahaar: (00:06:41) Yeah. So, I guess because I’ve been a part of delicious co since my freshman year of high school in a way. And so over the years, I’ve seen it grow. And one thing I sort of noticed is although we are a business and we’re selling products and as a business, our whole purpose should be to make money.
I feel like delicious co is unique in the way that we try to sell more of an idea than just a. So, one example I can give is with our product for this year, it’s called, which is like an eco-friendly case. So, case eco and that idea of the sort of stemmed from a personal issue that I faced in my life, on my phone.
I used to use these silicone cases and I used them because they were cheap, they’re easy to access. So, I would use them all the time and I noticed they were chipping and cracking along the edges. We’re placing them over and over again. And then I would throw the old cases away.
And obviously, if someone who’s a big believer in sustainability and using eco-friendly products, I realized that the silicone cases weren’t exactly good for the environment. So, then the team and I got together and we started brainstorming for a solution that we could come up with and that’s just sort of how was formed.
And we also, while we were doing a bunch of research, found out that 30 tons of plastic come from phone cases alone. So approximately 1.5 billion phone cases ended up in. Every year and that translates to the 30 tons of plastic. So that’s okay. Sicko was born. And so, in one way that I think we’ve grown is in the fact that we’ve come to recognize problems or face situations in our daily life and then had that need or urge to find solutions for the solutions that other people could relate to and also implement into their lives.
I mean, everyone has a phone case, right? So, for them to be able to replace their phone case, whether it be made of plastic or silicone with our, with our case, it goes, which are made out of wheat straw and our sustainable and compostable. That’s sort of one small step we’re taking into encouraging sustainability in the lives of others. So that’s one way I would say that we’ve grown, it’s just finding active solutions to problems in our lives.
Bryan: (00:08:34) Awesome. Hannah, do you want to add to that?
Hannah: (00:08:36) Yeah, so I like Sahaar and have been in JA or a delicious co, a part of delicious co since I was a freshman. So, over the years I’ve become an officer and been part of the kind of organized or the officer level. And I think that just helps me grow my leadership skills. And I would say that as a freshman, I was a super introverted person through running a business and being kind of an entrepreneur for this type of company. I have grown to be more communicative. And I think that that’s a really important part or factor of being successful in the future is being able to communicate problems or being able to talk to your partners. So, I think that overall delicious co has helped me grow as an individual. And I think that, yeah, it contributes to overall my success in the future as well.
Bryan: (00:09:22) Yeah, you’re right with that communication’s always key and I think the hardest part about communication is not having an easy conversation, right?
It’s like, it’s not having a conversation. Oh, well, things are going well, or hey, can you help me do this? And that is having a really hard conversation. Hey, our company is not doing well. Like how can we make, how can we write things or make things better, right or like, hey, you’re not doing your work?
Like how can we help you become successful and motivate you right? It’s about communicating those things as well. So, I call it the good, bad, and the ugly sometimes because that’s what makes it a leader very especially in business, and I’m happy that you guys are aware of that skill set because it never really goes away for the rest of your life, but you have to be able to communicate well, which is an underrated thing, right?
The more people you work with in life, the more you realize that not everyone else’s skillset and for you to go above and beyond to be able to communicate is a big deal. So, I won’t ask you guys a very hard question and that question is, what do you think is a key. To succeed and become a successful leader? And we’ll start with Hannah with this question.
Hannah: (00:10:28) Yeah. So, I guess kind of going off what I already said again, communication is such a huge factor of, I think, success in general or success as an entrepreneur. And I would say also kind of surrounding yourself or finding a really solid group of people that have the same values as you, or are easy to work with is a really important part of.
Successful in the future because everything kind of relies on collaboration in the real world. You’re just collaborating all the time with people around you. And I can easily say that this year we were fortunate to have an officer team that was a hundred percent devoted and a hundred percent committed to our values and everything that we wanted to accomplish from going to pitch competitions and getting prepared for all of that to farmer’s markets selling at farmer’s markets or kind of the back-end things like our website and stuff that customers don’t see.
I think that overall, we’re a devoted group of people. And I think that was a huge, significant factor in how we were able to be so successful in this.
Bryan: (00:11:28) Amazing Sahaar, what is one key to becoming successful?
Sahaar: (00:11:29) As cliche as it sounds never give up. I think it’s really important, no matter where you start from, whether you have like very few resources or whether you’re just starting a business from scratch, it’s not going to get anywhere unless you want it to get somewhere.
So, you must channel your passion into dedication and channel in a way so that no matter what obstacles you face or what comes your way, you’ll be able to overcome them. So that’s what I would say is the key to success.
Bryan: (00:11:57) Yeah, I wouldn’t say that’s cliche at all. I would say that was accurate. Not giving up is a huge part of it right. Because as you guys know, or kind of do know by now, this is very difficult and it’s difficult because of a lot of factors, right? The changing landscape or the pandemic, or like the cost’s inflation, increasing your supply chain stuff. Like you have to be able to maneuver all stages of your business right and as a leader, people look towards these guys as examples. How has my leader handled the situation? Because as you guys are building your company, Eventually, I will hopefully become a real-life entrepreneur. After high school, you realize that the crazy thing is like your personality is emulated throughout the entire organization is you’re the type that gets angry pretty easily.
You’ve realized your employees get angry right? And that’s the part of the culture that you built, right? And the fact that you guys are able, to think about that and be aware of the communication and never gives me up. It’s a big part of an entrepreneur right. And I told the previous guests on this podcast to you that I hope you guys relisten to this podcast after college.
Right and think about the things you’re seeing on this podcast for now and how much you have retained, some of the stuff you said, and continue growing on top of that right. Because it’s remarkable right? It’s the thing is that the real world is always sort of pounding you to the ground regardless of what you do in life.
And sometimes that breaks people out. Sometimes it changes people, but as long as you remember why you do the things that you do, you’re going to be able to continue pushing forward no matter how hard it feels. So, shout out to you guys. So, the next question I have is I mean, this is kind of targeted towards the heart a little bit, but what are your goals when you get to college?
What do you hope to accomplish? As soon as you start your four-year college? I think we mentioned early, probably UT Austin, or hopefully Cornell, right? What are your goals when you get to college?
Hannah: (00:13:53) Oh, by the way, I’m very passionate about business and entrepreneurship and delicious co another passion of mine has been the field of healthcare. And I know these are almost two extremely opposite things, but I’ve surprisingly found a lot of similarities between the two one example will be disciplined with healthcare going through rigorous education and undergrad, and then the medical school that obviously will require a lot of discipline in terms of studying, meaning the professors talking with other people practicing, but discipline also comes in play.
And the sense that you have to make sure that when you’re assigned a task, you get it done and you get it done to the best of your ability. When you have a meeting with someone you prepare and arrange everything you need for the meeting and then communicate with them properly. So, I’ve sort of seen discipline play a role in both of these things.
And I guess that’s where I sort of formed the connection between the two. So, my goal, I guess, would be in college to pursue. Which is one of my passions, but also incorporate everything I’ve learned from JIA, from delicious co from the student business, sort of merge the two together to be able, to pursue everything that I like.
Bryan: (00:14:57) That was a great answer. I liked the fact that you mentioned that you want to pursue everything that you like right. And I didn’t, I think that people forget that human beings are multifaceted. You can be good. A lot of things at the same time right. And like, I have a few friends coming onto the podcast releasing that are doctors like they’re doctors and they’re also TikTok influencers, right? So, they do surgery during the day. And at night they make TikTok and they sell candles on TikTok. So, it’s like, you can be good on multiple things at once right. And I fully believe that you could put yourself into one, one stereotype of like, I am only a doctor that means I’m bad at finance, right.
Or I’m only this because I’m bad at that, right? No, like you’re, you can be good at a lot of things at the same time. And I think it’s great that you’re able to, realize that those things are very transferrable, right. And that is the root of success, in my opinion, as one discipline into being consistent, right?
You can’t quit. You had to keep moving forward, but don’t be confused with taking breaks. It’s okay. Take breaks because breaks are good for your mental health, right but to stay consistent, don’t give up and keep pushing forward and Hanna on a what are your goals for delicious co when eventually you take over it, as I believe CEO and senior year of high school, what are your goals for a delicious co?
Sahaar: (00:16:18) I think my main goal is to kind of like expand our impact because so far, we’ve kind of just been selling locally. Just a little bit kind of nationally, but not too much. So, I think my main goal is to kind of just get delicious co out there and get other people to kind of recognize our company. Yeah. I feel like that’s mine.
Bryan: (00:16:40) That’s awesome. And what have your parents said about working on this project and knowing that college is around the corner? Have they been very supportive? Have they been very skeptical? How have they supported you along the journey? Let’s start with Hanna.
Hannah: (00:16:52) I would say my parents are very, very supportive of everything that I do. Not only just the company but in schoolwork and school environment, stuff like that, they were just always there for me. I would also. I think that, yeah, they’ve always just kind of been there for me. And they’ve been super supportive of this company in general. Like every single time, I need to ask them a question I’m not the most fluent in finance or anything like that, but my dad is, has a financial background.
So anytime that I kind of need help asking him something concerning money or kind of numbers, I would go to him for that. And he would gladly help me. And I think that has been a huge actual factor of our success as well as just the support surrounding our companies.
Bryan: (00:17:34) Love that. I like that a lot, Sahaar?
Sahaar: (00:17:35) I would also say that my parents are supportive. I will say that at one point, I feel like they didn’t exactly think we could do what we’re doing right now that they might’ve underestimated us a little bit, but I feel like they’ve also seen us from selling our little phone cases around the school to eventually being on stage at pitch competitions and gaining funds from investors, for our company.
So, the physical growth has been noticeable, but so has the mental growth in a way. And I think they’ve, they’ve also noticed that. So yeah, I feel like they’re proud of us now and they are supportive.
Bryan: (00:18:08) Yeah. I love that. I like that. It’s funny. Cause I’m, I was in my story too. So, I, for those of you guys who don’t know, I used to work as a software engineer.
Nine to 10 years and then I quit my job to become an entrepreneur. And then my parents didn’t talk to me for five months right. Because in their mind, it’s like, we worked so hard for you guys. You sacrificed. And you’re going to leave your stable job to pursue uncertainty, but the theme of Asian parents is that they always want you to be happy right? And the only thing that makes them feel more comfortable is if you can generate income, regardless of what you do, that’s really what they care about. Can you support yourself? And can you be happy with what you do right? As soon as I demonstrated that and they’re like, oh wow, like you can do it. And the story about your parents undressed me and you and it might be a parent thing, but like, even when I quit my job in my twenties, my parents were like, you’re going to fail. Like, oh, we got, what are these negative thoughts? But over time they learn to support me because they realize how much I wanted it to happen right.
And that’s the thing with success too. It’s like, I feel like you want it bad enough. You’ll make you make it happen right. You’ll think about all the time you make the right. No, exactly right. Moods all the time, but you make moves to get to where you want to get right. And that’s a huge part of what it takes to become an entrepreneur shout out to you two so much for running the delicious co.
I’m super excited to see where it’s going to be in a couple of years. So, as they’re ending, nearing the end of the podcast, I want to ask two questions. The first question is what advice would you give to another high school entrepreneur who wants to pursue their passion and join the clubs that you joined? Let’s start with Sahaar.
Sahaar: (00:19:48) Yeah, I can start. So, in my specific case with delicious co in high school, the times you’ll usually find yourself working together with other people is like when it comes to a group project or some kind of a group assignment, and most of the time you’ll get together with your friends.
Do the project, how fun and it’s over, but we still it’s just co when it came to forming this team that had a vision for a business or product for selling it and getting out there, you’ll have to learn to work with people. Other people will have to form those friendships, form those connections and adapt to each.
And I’ll be completely transparent, honest. Hannah and I sort of like the two leading figures of delicious co we’ve had our fair share of arguments, a fair share of disagreements, but we’ve always come to the understanding that, hey, we have this vision, right? Whether it be, oh, we want to get to nationals this year, or we want this to be successful, or we want to, we want to make ourselves stand out, whatever things that we found ourselves agreeing on, we found that to be the solution to the issue.
So, in that case, being honest is very important being transparent with the person you’re working with is important. And being able to put in that effort to form a connection is important. If you disagree, never feel afraid, or be afraid to be the bigger person and ask for forgiveness or take the first step or making an apology and whether it’s delicious co or a healthcare club that you’re joining or a dog walking club, or recycling club in school or any activity or extracurricular that you’re pursuing, be prepared to work with other people. And whether it’s small or big, be prepared to work out disagreements, arguments, and sort of form that, that teamwork and collaboration skill within yourselves.
Bryan: (00:21:37) Of course and Hannah?
Sahaar: (00:21:37) I would say, I really agree with what the heart said just open communication all the time, but also, I feel like risk-taking as well, just kind of not being afraid to do what you want to do. I remember even last year when we were kind of starting, we weren’t too sure if we wanted to do an e-commerce website or anything, just because it seemed like a lot of money to invest in, especially.
Starting as a small company. And we didn’t know if we wanted to do that, but we ended up beginning an e-commerce website and that helped us with our sales. And even in my personal life, as a freshman, I thought that I was interested in the healthcare field as well, but then I kind of just branched out into other things.
I joined high school DECA and I joined junior achievement. And I think that just helped me. Finalize or kind of solidify everything that I wanted to do in the future and kind of just narrow that path down for me. So, I feel like, again, not being afraid to take risks is a super important part.
Bryan: (00:22:39) Yeah. I couldn’t agree with both of you guys anymore. That is an excellent answer. And it’s funny how you mentioned the argument, the communication, unfortunately, I never really go away all your life as you’re working with more people, especially in business, because we’re very passionate about what right? And sometimes you have to take a step back and be like, okay, moving or are we destroying right? Are we, is this getting very unconstructive, or is it very constructed right? And that’s where you have to be very mindful of the things you say, the way you act, your body language, they all matter and this is not exactly straight forward right? It’s, it’s a very whiny, turning where it’s like ups and downs and left to take one step forward. And he took three steps back and like, man, we didn’t get anywhere, you know? But the biggest thing is like, you have to continue. To like communicate, as you said, we’re together and know that vision of what you’re trying to accomplish and pursue.
And your answer that you gave on this podcast as it’s identical to like the billionaires and successful entrepreneurs, who come onto the Asian Hustle Network. So, I hope that you guys take, take a lot from this podcast and re-listen to it. And a couple of years to see how much you grow.
Sahaar/ Hannah: (00:23:53) Definitely. I look forward to it.
Bryan: (00:23:57) Awesome. So, the last question is how can our listeners find out more about delicious co and reach out to you guys?
Sahaar: (00:24:02) So, we do have a company, Instagram. It is at Delicious Co.
Hannah: (00:24:16) We also have a TikTok account that goes by the name of our actual product names.
Bryan: (00:24:28) Amazing, thank you two so much for being on the podcast. You guys are very impressive and I can’t wait to see or check in with you guys in a couple of years.
Sahaar: Hannah: (00:24:38) All right. Thank you so much.