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“Andy Nguyen is the mash-up king in the food industry.” - Food Network
He co-founded Afters Ice Cream and has reshaped the millennial age F&B industry. With 20 locations in Southern California (and more to come), Afters Ice Cream has been both an entrepreneurial and social media phenomenon with thousands of people turning up for their store openings/events. And that’s only one of the many restaurant concepts Andy and his team have started, to spice up the new dining and lifestyle scene!
But Andy's journey to ice cream-filled donut success wasn't easy... Like many entrepreneurs, Andy and school didn't get along so well, and he was quickly bored with his first "real" jobs.
After a dozen-plus year of struggle including adventures in real estate, re-selling sneakers, and Coachella VIP vendor, Andy founded a world-wide clothing brand, several food ventures, and a consulting agency, too. He has even started his own non-profit, Passion Chasers, to help the next generation of dreamers find their own entrepreneurial spark.
Andy's story from the inside, including how he uses brand awareness and storytelling to appeal to future brand builders of their own. His influence and goals of helping improve the food scene and pumping new life into other cities. It's his unorthodox approach and insights into modern branding, marketing, and how to get your grind on; that has set him apart from the rest.
Please check out our Patreon at @asianhustlenetwork. We want AHN to continue to be meaningful and give back to the Asian community. If you enjoy our podcast and would like to contribute to our future, we hope you’ll consider becoming a patron.
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Maggie: [00:00:23] Hi everyone. My name is Maggie Chui and this is the Asian Hustle Network podcast.
Bryan: [00:00:29] My name is Bryan. I'm the co-founder of Asian Hustle Network, along with Maggie. We're happy to hear, happy to have Andy Nguyen, Afters Ice Cream. Here today, joining us on the show.
Andy: [00:00:41] Thanks for having me guys. Happy Thursday today.
Maggie: [00:00:46] We're super excited to have you on this show today.
So Andy Nguyen. He is the co-owner and the founder of Afters Ice Cream. They have multiple locations. And we're very excited to have you on board. Andy, can you talk a little bit about yourself and who you are?
Andy: [00:01:05] Yeah. Yeah. Thanks for the great introduction guys. I'm the, I guess people call me the serial entrepreneur. I own a bunch of different restaurant concepts. Not really knowing anything about the restaurant field before this. I kind of fell into it and I found some type of success in it and I've been able to utilize that platform on, on giving others opportunities at the same time.
Bryan: [00:01:28] Definitely. I definitely do want to hear more about your humble beginnings, you know, cause we've listened to a lot of your other interviews out there. Just to hear about your story about you just find your way, like you being comfortable in your own skin is really inspirational, especially for the people in say Asian Hustle Network and the newer generation are trying to find their way. Because again, I think for, for the fact that given the social media outbursts, everyone's kind of like falling in with whatever trend, they kind of hiding themselves and not being true to who they are. Like, you're the opposite, you know, you're still comfortable who you are and that's, that's how you created so many successful brands after who Andy Nguyen is. Would you wanna walk us through your, your upbringing?
Andy: [00:02:06] Yeah, I was born in Orange County in 1984. My parents came here, after the fall of Saigon in 1975. My, my dad was a pilot. And then my mom, she came here on the boat. Hmm. they, I think they started in North Carolina and then went to Minnesota, then North, Northern California.
And then they ended up down in Orange County, land in Orange County after that. And they made their place in this little Saigon, which is the largest Vietnamese community, I believe outside of Vietnam. So growing up in this area, you know, it's, it's, it's a little interesting because you know, you feel like. If you walk around, I could [inaudible]. Normally you don't really have to learn English if you're in this area. But also, you have a mix of other kids. Cause when I was growing up, I still have a lot of like Hispanics and white friends and trying to find that balance. So I, you know, do I fit in here? How am I learning this culture, but also learning from my parents and sticking to the Vietnamese culture at the same time? So we kind of feel like you kind of feel like at your home at home, but you also feel like you're an outsider and that's the same thing when you went, you know, when I visited Vietnam, I feel like. Okay, well, this is like my people, but I feel like an outsider.
Maggie: [00:03:15] Yeah. That's so true. I think a lot of Asian Americans feel the same way because when they go back home to their motherland, they don't feel like they fit in. But then at the same time, like here in the US, we also feel that way right? So we're trying to [inaudible] identity. Yeah.
Bryan: [00:03:29] I do feel you on that part. Cause you know, we're both Vietnamese. And I actually did live in Westminster for two years. And like, like you said, you know, you kind of forget that you are in America because everyone there literally speaks Vietnamese and the food is so cheap, you know, like lunch is like four bucks. We have rice and skewer. Yeah. I mean, that's, that's really good that you came to that kind of background, but also living in Westminster for two years, I realized that the neighborhoods are also a little bit rougher, you know, it's always constantly changing. I mean, it's personal for me, my friends that grew up in the OC tends to be more on, you know, less entrepreneurial, but more focused on like family and everything.
But. Kind of easy to say that they kind of have fallen off the path a little bit. They're more central towards the family. You know, I take care of their family, but not towards entrepreneurial or focus on education. How does it, did you feel the same way when you're growing up in Westminster and how did you stay so focused?
Andy: [00:04:29] I don't, I don't think I was focused early on, as a kid, you know, I was trying, I was trying to fit in as a kid. Like I just wanted to fit in with my friends. I just wanted to fit in with, I would just the Asian kids. I wonder if it did with the white kids. So I tried, I tried to skate. I tried to skateboard the white kids and try to play basket basketball, the black kids and the Asians, and we just all mixed and, you know, found our find, find, our fitting within all the groups. It was, it was super confusing. It was like a learning process through it. And I think the more trouble I got into, the more I started realizing like, Hey, this is not, this is like, definitely not who I am. Like I'm falling into these circles, but this is definitely not me. Like, you could hang out with me, you know, I'm like the quiet one and I'm like the shy one out of the group, but then I just keep getting in trouble.
I'll give you the worst grades possible. I think, I think once I got kicked out of school, which is like a no-no, in, in, in Asian, my Asian parents. I got kicked out of school, my freshman year of high school at the end of it. I was applying for, to go pick up my schedule for my sophomore year. And they were like, they have, they have this letter like, Oh, you need to go see the vice principal. She was like, Oh, you can't kick that in school. And I was like, oh, I'm dead. I'm dead. This is over.
Maggie: [00:05:38] I'm assuming your parents are super traditional. Right? Like what, what, what were they trying to kind of instill in you? Like, what was the reaction when you got kicked out of school?
Andy: [00:05:46] You, you're the age, the Vietnamese talking, you know, the, all the customers and disappointment, like the worst things ever. They're just trying to figure out like, what's wrong with you? How are you born here? And like, not doing well, like, you know, you speak English, but you're not doing it. You're failing English. And then your, your, you know, your dad is like great at math, but you're like the worst at it. Like these are the things that they know they're poking at me at. But they didn't, they didn't understand what I was going through at the same time, just like I mentioned earlier, you know, I was trying to fit in, but then my freshman year it was filled with like a lot of gangs at my school. And I was getting picked on the entire freshman year. So my mind was like not focused in class.
I couldn't get, I couldn't dial myself in. And they try to, they try to find like a private school that would take me to try to find tutors, but then no one would accept me. So I had to go to a continuation school. And I think in those, those moments, I started realizing a lot of things like, Hey, I can't continue this RA. I don't, I can't like it when you go to continuation school, everyone, there it's either a gangster or they're pregnant or, you know, like the things that I don't imagine myself as, like, I don't fit this role. I'm not, I'm not the violent guy. I don't even like, I don't, I don't, I shouldn't be here.
So going there. Know the first week is you only go there once a week to pick your homework up. And the rest of the week, you're pretty much I'm at home the rest of the week. and at home, you know, we didn't have like, No, we didn't have cell phones that were no we're on the computer and nobody's on aims. So I can't talk to anybody.
I was in class and I'm just at home like bored out of my mind, like, Hey, like, this is kind of like right now, like we're in like a, like a house arrest quarantine type of thing, but with nobody there and yeah. I had to like dig deep in my head, do it. This is the route I want to continue to go and discipline parents or do I, do I really break out of my shell and show everyone, you know, like who I really am and, and not worry about what everyone else thinks of me. And so, I decided to choose the other route and I got back into my high school, my junior and senior year. I started performing pretty well in grades. But I think my social aspect is what really changed. I'm being really quiet. I started, you know, I became like the school's best dancer. I became like the school at my school. The school is best, you know, the name of the school's best dress. I got the social in my yearbook, I'm the social butterfly title. So all these weird things that are completely opposite of who I was. And I got a chance to like reinvent myself coming back. Yes. But a lot of those attributes are what I applied to where I am now.
You know, now, you know, now I speak in front of stages and things I would never do before. You know, like, I'm more open, I'm willing to take more risks. I'm not really afraid to try things. And I think that that shifts from, from, From learning about, you know, my Asian culture, seeing like American culture and then like hip hop and basketball and going around those things that, that really shaped me on, on breaking out of my shell.
Bryan: [00:08:25] I mean, you bring a lot of good points, you know, I think everyone has sort of hit this sort of rock bottom to kind of reflect on who they are. And these are the people who never hit rock bottom. That always ends up wondering what if I did this? What if I did that? Because they never had anything, huge setback equity.
Had to really reflect on it. Hey man, like my life's not going the way I want. I want to take more risks now and do this when back, cause I'm not happy. You know, I feel life is always dandy. You never stopped to reflect upon and actually grow to the next level. You know? So I feel like you got this bad situation, you took it and made something great. And also helped you develop as a person too, as you mentioned, you know, you're quiet before and then you came back, you're outgoing, you're a dancer, you know, and these sort of attributes that you drew upon when it came time to become an entrepreneur. You know, because you fail so much before it, you weren't afraid to fail anymore.
You know, you can kind of see that as your reflection in your, in your store and the amount of stores that you've been opening, like before Afters and after Afters, you know. Like you, you have that philosophy is like, look, I fell so hard already. Who gives a damn that failed some more. That's my theory. It makes me happy. You know, I don't care what you think because I'm comfortable who I am. This is how we see you, Andy when you see you as a role model.
Andy: [00:09:37] I appreciate, those words.
Bryan: [00:09:40] I mean, it's also good to reflect because I do have a story to share too. I have fallen pretty hard, you know, like outside of, when I, when I graduated my senior year in high school, they actually did really bad.
And [inaudible] schools I applied to. So I was going through a massive reflection. Yeah, it's similar hearing your story is very similar to my story because my master’s reflection made me comfortable who I am right now.
And the fact that listening to you and your entrepreneur journey, Asian Hustle Network is built upon that, that experience. Now, because I'm like, you know what? Start there and fail. I fail so hard. I don't give a damn.
Andy: [00:10:17] What's the worst thing that happened is I'm at the bottom line. How much lower can I go?
Bryan: [00:10:23] Yeah, man. I mean, it definitely, you want to hear more about your story when you turn 18, you entered real estate during out like, why, what didn't you like? What did you like? And you, you know, we heard stories. I mean, you heard your speeches before, about you trusting over to the, you know, streetwear apparel and then food. And like, you want to hear more about that mindset, 18 late, man, where was I at? You know, like, what was I want to do? What do I want to do?
Maggie: [00:10:48] You like you are a serial entrepreneur. Do you know what you've been in real estate, appraisal, you know, apparel, food, all of these different industries, but at the same time, like, I also want to take it back. And like when you were 18, even before you were in real estate, where you, did you have the intention to go into real estate? And like, were you planning on like applying to jobs and going to the corporate world? And what was that experience like? Or did you just kind of full-fledge go into real estate?
Andy: [00:11:14] I did community. I took community college because that's where I was supposed to go, I suppose you're supposed to go to college and you graduate, you know, I never, I did not know what the word entrepreneurial, like that was not determined my head. When I heard the word like a business, like a business and business owner, all I imagined as a guy in a suit was like back here, like coming in like a, like, like snaky attitude or something. Like that's what all I pictured as, you know, what you watch from TV and movies. You're like, Hey, well, that's, that's definitely not me. So I can't imagine, I can't really imagine myself doing that. I took community college. I went for like a year and a half close to two years. And I was getting into that weird cycle again, where I couldn't figure out like my footing. And I was like, be like, I don't even want to go to class. Like, this is, this is different from high school. At least high school is a social setting. Now you're in, there's like this giant school and you're back to like now, you know, nobody there. So I took the, I think career planning was the class that like set it off right. Career planning. Career planning gave me a bunch of surveys. So I think all these words, word surveys, and that can kind of mark your attributes and whatever you're great at. And the things that came out, we were like, you know, janitor and an office admin. And I was like, Oh shit. Like, no, no, no, no, no, I'm not doing any of this. There's no way, like in my head I'm thinking like, Hey, I'm going to be a music producer or a sports agent, or they're like all these cool things. And I was like, Whatever you guys just handed me here and it's not cool. Like that's, that's not what I'm going to do. And, real estate. I had no idea what real estate is about. You know, like at a kid in early 2000s at 18, 19 years old, I had no idea what that meant. I just knew, you know, this is how you buy a house and that's pretty much it. My, my best friend, he happened to work for a younger Asian gentleman and he, he jumped in, he worked for him in the real estate appraisal industry, and he, he kept telling me one day he was telling me, Hey, This guy's really young. He's driving like a range Rover is like, he's doing all these cool things and he owns his own business. He's like, you should, you should join. You should join me and learn this real estate appraisal thing. And I was like, yeah, whatever. He's like, you can make a lot of money. I was like, okay, well, I don't really care. Like, money's not really like I'm living okay. Right now I'm surviving. But when he said, you know, we can, we can start, we can start our own company. And I was like, Like, what do you mean you could start on the company how's that even possible? It was, well, we just sent a copy of what that guy did and we can do it ourselves. And I think that's what sparked me to like, just jump in and be like, you know, what, what do I have to lose? Like, I'm not really doing anything in college right now. I have like a part-time seasonal job at the Banana Republic, but not gonna really do anything. Let's try it out. I'll, I'll do it. so I went to a real estate appraisal school, took all my, I took my courses and I think about it. My, my best friend convinced about seven of us to all join and do it. And I'm the only one out of the entire group, which is like, I'm already the worst. I was the worst in school. I was the only one that passed, gotten passed my license. Yeah. So I got my license and I learned, I learned the system. I learned the game and I became a real estate appraiser. I was the person to sign off all my friends’ files and everyone's in our office. And I learned how to buy a lot about networking. I learned about business professionalism, a lot about like lingo, lingo, how to talk to people, how to dress. So when you come from, you know, present yourself and these are skills and real, and even companies structure like the structure early on, like those are things I had to develop through that and, and, and really going out there and putting myself out there, because I'm still like 19, it's kind of like 19 years old, 19, 20 years old. Like, and you know, you don't picture me coming in there and you're praising your house or you're like, are you sure this guy should be, I had to let my adult let my work prove itself. You know, I had to continue to pushing and grinding to make it work. Cause you know, we're, we're pretty much like the youngest real estate appraisal group out there at the time. But we made it happen and we've learned how to make a lot of money. But I think in that, in that realm and that type of work was something that I, I started realizing that I didn't enjoy. But that's kind of where it led me to my next industry.
Maggie: [00:15:18] Yeah. So, I mean, it sounds like this real estate appraisal job kind of just set it off for you, like set the tone for entrepreneurship for you, and you learned a lot of skills along the way, but it seemed like you were more about passion over profit, right? Like your friend said, you can make a lot of money at this job. Right. But you're like that didn't really kind of affect you. You're like I would rather do something that I'm passionate about. I think that's, that's really inspiring. So, tell us about, you know, like what your experience was kind of going through that transition of like going from real estate to apparel. And, you know, how you were able to get into that field in the first place?
Andy: [00:15:58] Yeah. I have one, another friend I used to go around and party with all the time and he went to a different, you know, we went to different schools. He was actually a business owner at the time as well. He had, he was working for an internet agency, and he was also starting up his own clothing brand. He started up this brand called Accentuate and he hit me up one day. He's like, Hey, I really need you to be a model in my look book. I was like, I'm not model, there's no way I'm going to do it. He goes, he goes, I'll give you, I'll give you a bunch of free clothes. I was like, Oh shit, free clothes. I'm down. Like what do I beat you out? Let's go let me know all the time. I'm there. Did the photoshoot, super embarrassing, super uncomfortable. But you know, we, we, we built a bond through that and he was looking for an office space. And he kept talking to me like, Hey, how about we just, I can't, he's like, I can't afford one. And you guys are, you guys are making a lot of money, but you're working out of your parents' house in the garage. So he's like, Hey, let's go. Let's get enough office space. So we got this like tiny, like 200 square feet office and he's on one side of the room and three of us on the other side of the room doing our, the real estate thing.
But then you could see me every day, just like helping him out. I'm like, Hey, he's not like, he's not, he's not making any money, but I'll help you out for free. Cause you're in the same room with us. And what you're doing is way cooler than what I'm doing. He had a partner for it, but his partner was like really there and they ended up having a fallout.
He ended up closing that brand down. And he came up with this new idea for this brand called Risu. And when he created Arisu, I was, I asked them, I was like, hey, you know, we, you know, I have some money. Can I, can I invest some of my money into your brand? I want to be a partner. And he told me, he told me no, he's like, he didn't think he said, I don't think you're ready for it. I have someone else interested. I'm probably going to go that route. And I was so upset and fired up. I was like, you know what? I got, I got this idea. So I went back, I went back to my best friend and I told him, I was like, you know what? This real estate thing is. It's cool, but I don't see myself doing it forever.
Let's go start our own clothing brand. We're going to go take, we're going to go take these guys out. I was like my mindset, like I'm ready for war. I'm going to take these guys out right now. So we started developing this idea of creating my goal clothing brand by still stuck with actually stuck with Arisu for awhile. So I helped them in the beginning as like...
Maggie: [00:18:21] Did they know that you were...
Andy: [00:18:23] I think I told them a few months into it. And they started getting really weird along with not my, my friend that started, he was okay with it. But I think the other guys on the team were, were, were really getting upset by the time I was like, I'm getting ready to leave. I'm going to go start my own thing there. Definitely, definitely a lot of roadblocks ahead with me and that brand going along, along the way. So I started drawing up ideas and started putting together a team. Started bringing people down like designers, sales reps, and I learned the game from help. Pretty much. I learned what I learned from helping my friend from Arisu. But then starting up my brand, I thought I knew what I was doing, but I was like, dude, there's so much more that I didn't know. And this is going to be a lot trickier than I thought. we still did the real estate thing for, I think appraisal thing for another year into it, we kind of like slowly started drifting away as a sales start picking up on the clothing side, then we'll stop. We'll start doing less and less of the real estate thing.
So we transitioned, transitioned out and started the brand in the year 2007, we launched our first collection and I think 2008, it was on things started picking up a lot more steam from there.
Bryan: [00:19:36] That's awesome man. I mean, your story it's, I feel like I'm just falling down Andy's packer now, you know, cause I know I live in Westminster for a couple of years and I've gone real estate too. I got into real estate complete by accident. I never intended to be, I moved up to the Bay area and I realized how damn expensive was here. You need to pick up another side hustle. So my roommate at the time was getting to real estate. He said, Hey, in the real estate with me. So I got into real estate for the past four or five years now, all we do is like flick a bunch of houses. You know. We're making, like, I don't know [talking over each other]. Even 2017, whatever you bought, you made money on it because the market is so strong.
Andy: [00:20:22] Exactly.
Bryan: [00:20:23] And like 2019. I started getting smash. I'm like, dude, I'm gonna stop buying like an idiot. Sorry. Actually thinking about the foundation stuff, but similar to you, it's around this time where I started thinking about what else made me happy, you know, like you realize that the money was okay, the money is good, but then it didn't find me too happy. It didn't make you feel forced built, you know? And I do agree with you, the skills I learned for real estate, dude, amazing. Right? I can talk to anyone now.
Andy: [00:20:50] Of course. You understand the business lingo, especially real estate. And I'll talk to people. You learn how to sell, introduce somebody, you know, like show them places. You learn about construction too, you know, everything that you do. So.
Bryan: [00:21:01] And everything in real estate is about EQ too, right. I think that's EQ is more important in business than IQ, for sure. Yes. You're going to have to be able to talk to people that you have nothing in common with. And how do you, how do you stimulate a conversation where your age difference, like 40, 50 years or your hobbies are completely different? You know. Some helps a lot. I kind of got more into sports. I started watching more sports. Cause I'm like, everybody likes sports. I can talk, I can tie...
Andy: [00:21:28] That's the icebreaker. Yeah.
Bryan: [00:21:31] So definitely agree, you man. And then just funny too, that you said, Oh, and I started my clothing brand and cause this guy said no to me. So here's history in Asian Hustle Network. We started Asian Hustle Network because we posted inside a different group and we got rejected.
Andy: [00:21:47] Really?
Bryan: [00:21:48] Hey, have more entrepreneurs come together and share their story. We post in their group when we got rejected. Right. That's when Maggie and I looked at each other, like, we're going to take them out.
Maggie: [00:21:59] Were like, we can be better than that.
Andy: [00:22:01] Look at you guys and you guys have built something truly amazing. And I, you know, I've been, you know, I've been on Facebook. Well, definitely well over a decade now, and I've never, I've never been active in any group like that, like ever, like I've never written a comment like, like this is by far, like the most, I've met a lot of people through it during quarantine that do zoom meetings through like a bunch of different people all day.
So what you guys are doing is very impactful to, to the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Maggie: [00:22:25] That means so much to us.
Bryan: [00:22:27] That means so much to us, dude. [inaudible] Commonalities, you know, less than stir. Real estate. Into a different venue.
Maggie: [00:22:34] I think it lights the fire up on you, right? You're way better than the other people are doing it.
Bryan: [00:22:42] As we're creating it, we realized the passion that we found in it. It's just people, yourself joining and some other like awesome people that joined that I'm going to think, Oh wow. Like we're getting so many cool here. Yeah. And the more that we think about it, the more we stopped thinking about profits, we start thinking about value and making difference. How to leverage your influence, especially during quarantine, to make a difference.
You know, and we've seen that with you too, you know, like you're pretty, you give a lot back to the Orange County community. You rep Orange County on your shirt, on your hat, everything. That's already like kind of pride that we, we really look at you and go, wow. And he's definitely leveraging his influence and knowledge decent great. You know, and we oftentimes do talk about you when we brainstorm, about what's he's doing what to do next, you know.
Maggie: [00:23:31] I think what's so special about like all of your businesses. Like with Afters and Orange County, you create like a culture and a commodity. Right. And make people feel like they're welcomed and included. And that's what makes people really connect with a brand, you know? And that, like that way they know, Oh, Andy, like I know him. He is the owner and founder of Afters ice cream. And they really connect in that sense. It's really important to make that connection because otherwise if, you know, they see that you don't believe in the brand, or if you're not passionate about it, then they're not going to be passionate about either.
Bryan: [00:24:05] Definitely to hear some of the projects we've been working on. We've seen it over your Facebook, your Instagram, like what made you decide that you want to get back to your city and what kind of projects are you working on?
Andy: [00:24:18] I think with, the Orange County project that I was developing, I was always. Also, he always has this weird, like, you know, people think of it in a weird way. They think of it as the TV show or the movies that they've seen or know the, the protests on interviews. And I'm like, that's not like that's not the Orange County I grew up in, you know, I grew up and that's like a different, that's like a different side of Orange County. There's, there's a big Asian culture over here. There's a lot of unique and big talents in this area. And I couldn't ever find anything to represent like my area. And I was like, okay, well, I, I got inspired. I went to Oklahoma City and I, and my friend took me to a tourist shop over there. Right. I was like, you know, I don't want to buy toward like corny tourist gear. I've seen, like, you know, you kind of see all those in SF and New York. You see all those, like, I love NYC. I was like, I don't that's whatever. And when he took me on OKC, he took me to the gift shop and I was like, Whoa, this is a gift shop. Like, everything is well designed well-curated, like the pieces are well thought out. And I was like, you know what? I‘d love to do something with that for Orange County. Like if people wear it, it's like, well, it's not cheesy. You know, it looks cool. You can wear it and give somebody within. They're like, Oh wow. I rep this. And it doesn't necessarily mean, like anything, like you don't have to be from here. Just enjoy the place. It's just like a great design a well thought out. so I, I wanted to start, so I have the gift shop coming soon. It's opening, hopefully in the next few months, but I wanted to start off through apparel because that's what everyone knew me as my past. I was like, well, let me start the story off through apparel.
Cause it's what everyone knows me for. But then everyone thinks as a parent right now, until I start opening the shop, the, understand the message of more, what I'm trying to do. But I just wanted, I guess I kept seeing from Orange County wearing LA hats. I'm like, you guys are not from LA, stop wearing that. You can start wearing, you need to start repping Orange County and people ask where you're from there. I was like, Oh, we're from LA. I'm like, no, I always, I always make, I always make sure I tell people like I'm from Orange County and if they say there's no Disneyland's in LA. I was like, no, Disneyland is in Orange County. I'll correct them.
Bryan: [00:26:18] Yeah. Definitely love that dude, I mean, I do. Yeah. I do have a lot of pride where I grew up to. But it's hard to reps in two. Cause what do you wrap up the global cup?
Andy: [00:26:31] That's a good definition of the area. So it might be a good representation of it.
Bryan: [00:26:34] But I agree. You're absolutely right. I mean, for me, for me, I went to UC Irvine. So I didn't really see a lot of Orange County recommendations when I was there. I think what you're doing is great, you know, put us like put OC on the map, then you want to see more OC gear in here. And I guess, maybe it's a part of the Asian culture there. We don't express ourselves fully to really own our heritage, but you're right.
I mean, people think OC like, Oh, you're from Laguna beach, but you know, obviously the best flaws in Westminster.
Andy: [00:27:08] Exactly. A hundred percent.
Bryan: [00:27:12] Yeah, man. You talked about the stories that you're creating. I know you're awesome. Like food court in Orange County. Can you kind of walk us through that team? Like, what was the inspiration behind that? And what's the vision behind them? When do you expect to be open?
Andy: [00:27:26] So the Rodeo 39 Project is a marketplace. It's inside of a Plaza that, my group helped develop. So this is like my way in back into I'm like back into real estate, but now more on the development development, development side, and creative side. So it's like the things that I like best about things and putting it all together. So I got approached for this. For this project and they're like Stanton. I was like, Oh my God. I used to hang out in that Plaza. As a kid, going to the movie theater, they are going to the arcade down the street. Y you know, there's a bunch of shops that used to be here and this place has been abandoned for years.
They just placed the DMV randomly there for, for a few years, but now it's all gone. And when they got me for the project, I told them, I'm like, Hey, you need to bring something. You know, we need to bring something different to the area we need to, how do we, how do we show that Orange County is super progressive? How are we thinking forward? How are we bringing the community together at the same time? so we work on this concept of not just food, you know, everyone knows me for food. So food is like expected right in my portfolio. And I was like, you know, I don't want, I don't want to be known for just food. I believe that I have more skills than that. And as you know, from shifting industry, like guys, like don't, you know, don't put me in that bubble of being just the food guy. Like I, I, I have a lot more skills. So with rodeo 39, I want to bring together experiences. I want to bring together, people enjoying being around each other, like enjoying the present moment. I wanted to apply. well, we have like a give, we have the Orange County gift shop in there. We have a tattoo shop that's like glass, like in the middle of the place where you can sit and eat and you can watch people get tattoos. We have an awesome flower shop. We have like a cool bakery. We have performances and like, you know, local artists are doing painting and just trying to bring a lot of these experiences get together and getting people out and just not be stuck and known for food. Cause I think, I think retail, retail can still thrive. And that's also my thing. Cause everyone says, you know, that retail is a dead term that you're hearing. And I always tell people that you only say that because you're so dated and you don't understand what's going on. You're not paying attention to these new experiences that people are looking for now this new generation, you know, we expect more, we're smarter consumer now. Right. So instead of just forcing product down our throat, let's just bring you experience and get you to fall in love what we do, and then they'll make sure they'll stay on after that.
Maggie: [00:29:38] Yeah. I love that. I love how you are incorporating your previous experiences, like with real estate, your skill set in that area. Right. And then putting that into Rodeo 39. And then you're also incorporating Orange County vibes into the food hall.
Bryan: [00:29:53] And he's a master of pivoting, you know. Comes to show that for everyone listening out there, [inaudible] reinvent yourself and redefine yourself any point in your life.
Maggie: [00:30:06] And I know like for Rodeo 39, you were already starting to plan it even before COVID had happened. Can you talk about what that experience was like if there were any setbacks I know right now you guys are well on your way to opening Rodeo 39 pretty soon, but what kind of like struggles and setbacks did you face during COVID-19 for that food hall?
Andy: [00:30:28] Once we heard the announcement of the lockdown and large gathering as being a bad thing, we're like you know, this is, we're like, okay, our whole, our whole idea just got shut to hell. Like we're, we're, we're totally screwed now. Right? Like this is, this place was made, made for large gatherings and being closer than six feet from each other.
And you're like, you know what, like this, this is really bad and it's, it's not like overnight. We figured it out and it took us like a few weeks to pay attention to what's going on with the news. Cause you don't know what's going on. It is getting worse. What's the one. I think we, you know, we're like, you know, we have to figure something out. We have to pivot how long what's going on, because this is new, you know, this is the new norm is it's, you know, things are gonna happen and this is out of control, but we can't stop the project. So let's, you know, work on delivery services, work on like contactless experiences. Let's try to figure out a lot of different things.
And I think right now we are implementing a lot of ideas that we've seen. and yeah, we're at what we're in week. I think quarantine week, we're going to week 11 next week. But it took it didn't, it wasn't like overnight, like I think the first two, three weeks was just like adjusting and trying to figure out what's going on. Like, and do we can do it, go to see construction? Cause I didn't visit the site until maybe week eight or nine. Like, I haven't been there in a while and then I came there and they're still doing construction. I got there and I was like, wow, like this could still happen. And we still have a chance to do it. Right. And let's just be smart about it. Let's not rush to open. Let's just make sure we do it right. And make sure that people are safe. And when it does open and people are going to crave experiences again, then people are going to crave going out. You can see it right now. Like people are tired of staying home.
Maggie: [00:32:04] For sure.
Andy: [00:32:05] Yeah.
Bryan: [00:32:05] I agree with that one. I mean, we have quarantine fatigue right now, too. I'm walking around in circles and always ask Google to like, Hey Google. How many, how many days ago was quarantine? Google's like 65.
Maggie: [00:32:20] So long.
Bryan: [00:32:21] Yeah. I mean, it's pretty awesome that you do all these projects to you, but obviously, in business, you always have to find the right partnerships.
How has your partnership experience been throughout your career and what kind of, we want to hear about some of the lessons learned, right? How you move on from partner and how do you take it? How do you take it is the most difficult part of business stuff. It's not the idea. Not the execution. It's the people.
Andy: [00:32:47] Of course, I think. And I think you're right on the dot. That's like a lot of things. A lot of times people don't like to talk about those things or, you know, they, they get burned one time and they're done forever. They will never, they'll never do business again. They're like I did business. I got screwed. I'm never going to go into that again. I think for me, my, my best friend, my first business partner happened to be like the perfect yin yang. You know, he, he filled in the gap, my gaps really well. He did the things that I didn't like to do. Like he, like, he's a numbers guy. He likes the backend of things. He doesn't like to talk to people. Cool. Well, I like to talk to people and I like, I like to, to be the front face of design. I don't mind those things. And I think we, we understand each other's roles so well that we've been able to work all the way until now. You know, we're almost getting close to two decades of working together. So. That, that made me a lot more open to working with other people. But along that line, once I started working with other people, I started realizing that everyone's like my best friend, you know, not everyone is I can fill in the same gaps. but I think throughout the process, I've learned that I take their lessons with every single partnership, even the bad ones.
Like I learned a lot from the guys that I don't talk to anymore. Like I was like, well, I'm not going to work with this type of person anymore because they do this and this and this. They might not necessarily be a bad person, but they don't fit well with how I work. I work a little differently. I think it's about transparency is important. Understanding. If you're going to work with partnerships, you have to have an open mind. You gotta be willing to compromise. That's there's, there are multiple people at stake. also being open-minded about taking ideas from your, from your, your, your staff and your team members, because they're, you know, they, they are there, they're in the front line of things. They know what's going on. And I think sometimes when you work with people that have large egos, they don't know how to listen to the people that really know that knows is going on. And the people that are in the fire know how to. Navigate through helping improve your business? Bryan: [00:34:42] 100% I agree with that, man. I mean transparency, openness. It's uncompromising. That's three qualities where you work with anyone, you know, and I always tell people that partnerships in business like dating you're basically dating one person. Cause sometimes you try to see the other person more than your significant other. Toss them more.
Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn't work out and then it's always good to be upfront about these types of situations too, as I think I've seen part, I mean, I'm guilty in the past too, where I did have bad partnerships where I didn't speak up because he's a close friend or, and I didn't want any conflict or anything, but as it as a drag through, it became more toxic and they're losing a lot more money. We're not solving any problem. We get frustrated at each other, but we both feel the same thing. So it's like passive-aggressive stuff.
Andy: [00:35:35] And the most important thing, the longer drags out is you lose a lot of time and time and opportunity outside of it. Like if you had ended it sooner, then you can work on something else and, you know, move along and
Maggie: [00:35:45] You can never get that time back.
Bryan: [00:35:47] Kind of super important. So, you know, Important, but they just think, you just have to find the right people move on fast and pivot correctly, you know?
Andy: [00:36:00] Yeah.
Maggie: [00:36:02] So I want to talk about, I know we've been talking about like all of your previous, jobs and industries and all of that stuff, but you know, a lot of people know you for Afters ice cream. Right. And I'd love to kind of get into that and can I ask you like what your intentions were for Afters and did you ever expect it to grow this big?
You know, I've heard you talk a lot about it before, you know, you were giving a speech out at our AHN LA events back in February. but just for our listeners to know, like, you know, what that journey was like, and like, I know you guys like got a long, long line and like the first couple of days that you guys had opened Afters and just talk about like your journey, while you were opening Afters and how far you've come from that.
Andy: [00:36:50] Of course that's about six and a half, almost six and a half years in now from, from that brand. I had an idea. Maybe eight years ago, I kept traveling so much. And for in the clothing industry, I was traveling a lot and food was just happened to be one of the new hobbies that I kept diving into. And I kept writing.
I kept blogging. Blogging was really popular back then. So you'd have to update. I used to update the folding website online. Like every single day, I had to update something and it just happened to be writing about food all the time and sharing different places that I go to and recommending places I hate this place is legit. Like you need to go here. And then everyone started replying back and commenting emailing me like, Hey, that, that was really good. Thanks for your recommendation. You have good taste. I would like to know more places to eat at. And so that for me, I was like, okay, well, I guess this is my thing. Now. I'm just like, I guess a food critic I get in some way.
I kept stumbling upon a lot of like cool ice cream stores. A lot of unique flavors that I've never seen before. I remember going to San Francisco, I tried Bi-Rite for the first time and I was like, Whoa, these artisanal flavors are, are, are crazy. I didn't, I didn't know you could turn these flavors into ice cream.
I go to New York and I'd be in Chinatown. And I saw this almond cookie flavored ice cream. I was like, what the hell? And I got inspired on. Putting together my list of flavor ideas, of flavors I grew up upon and things that are kind of relevant in that time at that timeframe. And I kept kind of feeding the idea out to people like kind of giving it away to the other, Hey, my friend, Hey, like my close friends, like you should do this as a business.
Cause ice cream might be easy and fun. You could probably make some good money and they're just like, yeah, yeah, haha whatever. Like I was like, I can't do it. I don't have time for it right now, but they used to try it out and they're like, yeah, whatever. And one of my friends. I went to, went to grade school with, you know, we start hanging out and we started sharing a lot of our dessert ideas. He's like, Oh, I want to do dessert concept. I was like, Oh, I want to do an ice cream concept. And he's like, let's, let's do it. Let's go make it happen. I was like, Oh really? Well, I guess this let's do it. So we started hunting. Our goal is to make sure that we hunted for an ice cream store that was already existing, but not doing well, so we could go buy them out. Yeah, we didn't want to open a brand new store because we have both have never worked in food today in our life. And, put a constraint if you, if you do, if you open a restaurant you're I know it takes the timeframe, opening a restaurant and building everything out takes forever. And we're like, you know, just take something that exists in dues, like painted peanut a little bit, a little paint job, and we're ready to go.
We found a store in Fountain Valley, which is like a neighboring city to Westminster. It was right across the street from the gym that we used to work out all the time. And I've never been to this ice cream store in my life. And I was like, what the hell? The Plaza was like super dead all the time. No one went there. Nothing cool in there. And then there's this, this guy there he's a lot older than us. He's a Caucasian white man, about 64 years old, 64 years old at the time. And we were like, Hey, we want to buy, we want to buy out your store.
Maggie: [00:39:52] Yeah.
Andy: [00:39:52] And he's like, I don't want to sell my store. Like, well, you're not going to, you don't know how much longer you're gonna stay open for it, you know, have to do your opening once every other week, if that, and I think it took us a long time, like a few months of like convincing them, like, you know, let's make this happen and be fine. We ended up with like, partnering up together instead of, instead of just buying it up because he knew how to make ice cream. We don't know how to make ice cream. So how do we make this deal work? So he ended up being about five of us in the group. And we, I started giving all my ideas and he's like, what the hell are you talking about? I was like, Hey, I want Vietnamese coffee flavor. He goes, I don't know what Vietnamese coffee is there had been this coffee. I was like, shit. I was like, Hey, I want to do I drink Boba. I want to Jasmine milk tea flavor. He's like, what's Jasmine milk tea. I was like, Oh, great. Okay. So I started like putting on like buying, like I buy like horchata, bring horchata, try horchata for the first time.
Let's start. How do we turn this into ice cream? Can you make, can you make this ice cream flavor blue? Because it looks better on camera looks cooler and he's like, no, one's gonna buy blue ice cream. And a lot of these flavors that we started developing and we worked on it together and we finally got the store done in, in February, February of 2014, we were, we were slated to open on Valentine's day and we're like, it was not them on Valentine's day. That's open the day after Valentine's, which is February 15th. We, we did a lot of like media push. I have my friends that work for a company called food beast. The reason why I knew food beast was he used to be in the clothing industry. So we had a connection. So I was like, Hey, can you post this for me? And he's like, yeah, I'll do a, do a write up for you because I don't think he's gonna do well, but okay.
Whatever. And that news just hit, hit and jumped to like local news and then Huffington post and then Yahoo front page one did it after the food, these guys posted. And they're like, what the hell is going on? And then on my side, you know, you have people so curious, like, Hey, the clothing, the clothing guy is opening an ice cream store. Then you got those other parts where either bringing donuts with ice cream together, what the hell is that all about? Next thing, you know, like. The word spreads like wildfire, like from day one, there was a line all the time, out the gate and you can't even make this up. You just, it's just an, it's a real moment of coming to the store every single day. And there are always people there and you don't know, you can't comprehend why this is happening.
Bryan: [00:42:13] Dude. That's amazing. It gives me chills because I was one of those people that waiting in line, man.
Maggie: [00:42:19] I wait in the line, too.
Bryan: [00:42:21] And I went to you, exactly your fridge store.
Andy: [00:42:23] Yeah. Okay. Yeah. We were probably hanging out outside the store all the time. Cause we were always there like sitting there wondering like, what the hell? Like I'll just want to laugh. The funny part is people come to us all the time and we're just sitting outside. They're like, you know, this is all hype. It's only gonna last like three months and we're like, you know, for us it was, it wasn't about like, and we didn't know we're going to open more than one store. You know, we just knew we just wanted to open this because we wanted to open a place for people to hang out at night. We wanted a place for us to go, you know, we want it, we like dessert. We wanted to try the food. We've tried to try the food industry. It was still a hobby because I still have my clothing brand going on. At the same time, I have my office going. I wasn't, you know, I was jumping back and forth trying to handle both. Yeah. So this wasn't like a goal to be like, I'm going to be the, you know, the serial entrepreneur store, we're gonna open a bunch of locations. Like that was not the intention or goal.
The second store that we opened, we had a great opportunity. We found another store that was like practically built out already. It wasn't going to cost us money, cost that much to open. It was a city called Chino Hills. And this is a big test for us because it was outside our hometown. Like, Hey, we're in the fountain Valley one had to do well because we lived there. Right? We, we, it doesn't do well. We just, we suck. We do because this is our backyard. But then Chino Hills was different because that positive that we opened was super dead. Like it came out of the recession and it was, it had no life there. It was just dead all the time.
And I remember days before opening, I called the guys. I was like, Hey guys, like, I don't know if we're going to do well here. I think we're thinking the store might be a bust. And then we grand opened January 2015 and that store outperforms the first location. Consistently. So we're like, okay, we're onto something here.
Let's like, let's buckle down. Let's focus and let's start putting more stores. And that's all that happened. He just kept assigning more deals after that.
Maggie: [00:44:10] Wow. I think it's like, especially because you guys are so unique like no one has ever seen anything that you guys put out before and like incorporating donuts, you know, doing blue ice cream. And when people think about ice cream, like back then people were just going to like Cold Stone, right. And that's like very generic, like no one likes Cold Stone nowadays, you know.
Andy: [00:44:30] Of course, you know, the crazy thing about the blue ice cream was that our partner would not. He, he would lie to me and not put the blue in the, in the, in the cookie monster for hope the whole first week. And I was like, you need to put the blue in there. He's fine. He's like, I've been trying to avoid, I'm not going to do it. And then after he started, after the first week, he started doing it all the time and it's sold, outsold. It's still to this day, outsells all ice cream bout 10 times more than any other flavor that we have.
Maggie: [00:44:55] Yeah. Because people are just like, they like to be traditional. Right. They're afraid of change. And it's like, if you put blue in the ice cream, I'm sure he was like, scared that everyone won't be scared about it.
Andy: [00:45:06] Trust me, like I want, I want it on camera. Instagram is popping off right now. Like, this is what I want to post about. I don't want to post vanilla. I want to post blue.
Bryan: [00:45:15] Awesome, you guys came at a good time too. If I remember correctly, it tells 2015 super hot.
Maggie: [00:45:19] Oh, yeah.
Bryan: [00:45:21] We'll see. I was like, Oh my God, I need some way screaming,
Andy: [00:45:24] Water shortages and everything.
Maggie: [00:45:26] Great timing.
Bryan: [00:45:28] Cause I remember at the time I just, I was working a couple of years as a software engineer. The IBM. in Costa Mesa, literally down the street from fountain Valley, you know, days are just. Alright. It's had a really bad time at work and I was just stopped by Afters ice cream. So have a good time, you know, cause also I commuted from Korea town to Costa Mesa every day.
Andy: [00:45:53] Oh wow, okay. That's a drive.
Bryan: [00:45:56] A nice place that would open up late. And you guys are always open, you know.
Andy: [00:46:00] Til midnight.
Bryan: [00:46:01] You guys helped me kill the time too. Cause there's always a line. I was like, Oh.
Andy: [00:46:04] Yeah.
Bryan: [00:46:05] I'm going to spend 45 minutes here anyways. So thank you for that, man. It's pretty surreal to be able to talk to you for a year or two, you know, we always hear stories about you and how much you've done for the community. And it's still surreal for us because we are in your position a couple of years ago, six, seven months, six and a half months ago. And no one knew who we were. No one knew Asian Hustle Network. No one knew anything about us. No one even wants to talk to us. You know. Seven months later it's like, Oh, you got to talk to Andy. His story have him in the podcast. Hopefully, like others, you'll find a lot of inspiration, but we find a lot of inspiration from the story and it gives us the motivation that we need to kind of help push forward and relay these messages.
Because, you know, we can really, prior to Asian Hustle Network, it's kind of hard to find the correct resources and stories to unite a community. You know.
I think it's great that you're uniting the OC community, but for us, we couldn't really find like the Asian community. We stuck together as a Vietnamese one, a Chinese one, Japanese, Korean one. And it's funny too if I remember back in college and he used to be like all the Korean stuff together, all the Vietnamese stuff, and now we're all friends dude.
And when I see last names intertwine and do business together, Asian Hustle Network.
Andy: [00:47:27] Of course, it's really cool to see because, you know, even like for me, like, I'm talking to like Asian people that are successful in like Australia, you know, you to have an Australia group I have people there. And I have people there that would message back all the time. Like, do we talk to each other about ideas and what we're working on? And it's super cool. You're like, okay, well I have, if I ever got Australia and I have friends in Australia and then I'll mix it, it makes it a lot cooler. And it was through this community that you guys developed that super influential. And it has a lot of like, Lot of big players in there. You know, you see a lot here. You're like, Oh, that guy does that. Like, Oh crap with me, let me hit them up. Let me introduce myself. And, and a lot of times people are scared to like introduce themselves or say, you know, the scare of somebody saying no or not talking, responding back, but what you guys created made it super crazy for us to all, even when you guys did the AHN event in Rancho Cucamonga, I was like, are you sure Calvin, you want to do it in Rancho Cucamonga?
Great. As far as shit and it was a drive there. And then I got there that morning. I was like, Holy shit. Like, like I was not prepared for that.
Maggie: [00:48:28] But you did so well though. And I just love, like, hearing your story because you know, you come from humble beginnings and you talk about like how you were doing in school and we have a lot of people at Ahn who talk about that too. Like, I feel like I don't do well in school or like we have like Mexican convicts who have like a really rough background, but it really doesn't matter where you come from. You know, like if you just put in the work, like you have, like, you can do it. And I just really appreciate you, like putting yourself out there and sharing your story, especially at our age at LA event.
Bryan: [00:48:59] That's the wonderful theme of business, right? It doesn't matter. You went to Harvard, Stanford, didn't go this...
Andy: [00:49:03] The ladder.
Bryan: [00:49:04] On the same field, man. You make things happen. It's up to you, your personality. So you guys never give up.
Andy: [00:49:10] You got to start to everyone, got to start small somewhere and they got to learn from, you know, no one really had the skill of no one really had the skill that in the industry they went into anyways. And you're just, you have to learn from the ground up like everyone else did.
Bryan: [00:49:21] Your sense of curiosity has to be off the charts too, and be willing to fail often and get back up. You're numb to everything. Just really know yourself too, because if you don't, people will all, so if you pivot it's okay. But when other people's opinions call you the pivot and it's not okay.
Andy: [00:49:38] Exactly.
Bryan: [00:49:43] Yeah. I mean, we really appreciate you being on the podcast. You have any closing remarks or how can we find out more about you.
Maggie: [00:49:50] Or if you have any like advice that you could share with aspiring entrepreneurs in the group too, that'd be awesome.
Andy: [00:49:55] This is the Asian hustle network. I know a lot of Asian parents, you know, they'll tell you not to be, you know, the creative route or whatever world is not, not good for you or don't do it cause it's scary.
But don't be, don't be afraid, you know, parents. All they really care about for you is to be successful. You know, that's all, that's all the, if you're, if you can take yourself over, you know, they'll, they'll, they'll eventually give in, you know, my parents thought I was completely psycho as a kid going to real estate then clothing industry telling, you know, imagine yourself, you're Asian.
You're like, Hey mom, dad, I'm going to go start a clothing brand. Like, what do you mean clothing? What does that like, then I want to go open the ice cream store. Like why, why don't you guys just go like, can you make money doing that? And those are the things that are shocking, but you know, you got to follow your gut instincts. You have to really try and, use these, these new situations as ways to prove them wrong, you know, like show your parents, like, Hey, not proving them wrong. Just like, show them like, Hey, I can be successful in this industry. Like I can make you proud. Like, even though it's not a diploma, like I, for myself, my diploma was when I got into the Vietnamese newspaper, the local Vietnamese newspaper, I made sure to bring that home to my parents. I was like, here you go. Like, but then now, cause then now they're, you know, they, they, they they're showing their friends, kids that who are doctors and boys who are pharmacists now, like before they're like, Oh yeah, I wish you had, you went back to school and now they're like, Oh look, they're their friends. Their friends are like, Oh, look what Andy's doing. You know? Cause their friends know, they know about me now too. Of course. So, so they're like, Oh, he, you know, he owns this, this and this. And that's a lot cooler. That's a lot cooler than what my kids are doing.
Maggie: [00:51:24] They're on the newspaper.
Andy: [00:51:29] That's my diploma to my parents. I'm going to show her.
Bryan: [00:51:31] Congratulations on all your success man. Super excited to have you on the show. And again, we appreciate you being so active in our community and value.
Andy: [00:51:41] I'm there. I'm an Asian supporter, a hundred percent. And I look forward to seeing you guys grow and then continue to build a great relationship with you guys. And I put on it. We're going to go put on a dope event at Rodeo 39.
Maggie: [00:51:53] we have to put on a dope event when Rodeo 39 opens up and it's safe for everyone. We will be there.
Bryan: [00:51:59] Yeah, we'll be there. All right. Thank you so much, Andy.
Maggie: [00:52:02] Thank you, Andy.
Andy: [00:52:03] Thank you guys.