The 50 States Project is a yearlong series of candid conversations with interior designers we admire, state by state. Today, we’re chatting with Brooklyn, New York–based Cristina Casañas-Judd and General Judd, who founded the architectural interior design studio Me and General Design in 2012 after careers in film production, set design, and performance art, including stints at Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Blue Man Group. They tell us about how show business taught them confidence and speed, and why the best collaborations are born organically, as well as sharing their take on the design industry becoming more inclusive.
What was your path to founding your firm together?
Cristina Casañas-Judd: General was an actor in Blue Man Group when I met him. I was straight out of college and had just started working at the theater. Long story short, I started working, we met, and it was love at first sight—right, General?
General Judd: Of course! It was at the Astor Place Theatre. I was an actor, but my background was in film production. I worked for almost 10 years in North Carolina in the art department on films such as The Abyss with James Cameron, the first two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and tons of other stuff. When I moved to New York, the first gig I auditioned for was Blue Man Group, which turned into an 18-year career.
So the two of you meet—then what?
Cristina: Shortly after we met, I went off to do set decoration for the first Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. That was my first gig. I was not trained in production, but a friend needed help with the decoration. She was like, “This show is so crazy and I can’t do it all—I know you’re a fast learner and you’re artistic.” I didn’t have formal architectural training; I was more of an artist, but the creative world, as we all know, is adaptable.
So you were handling the logistics side, too?
Cristina: She got me in there, trained me, and I became a set decorator. The thing about TV is that you build it and then you tear it down. But Queer Eye was a different animal because we were also building something for a person, so it had this wonderful quality and longevity to it. The experience trained my eye; it also trained my ability to manage crews and budgets.
From there, I met some other production designers, and for the rest of my career as a set decorator, I was doing feature films back to back. When I left, I had four in Sundance, which was amazing. The schooling of being on set and doing interiors with [Queer Eye designer] Thom Filicia and then going into the film world is not that different from what we do today. It’s the same format, but now, the client is our script—it’s more personal and it becomes their journey. Both have the beauty of moving the emotions. What I’m most enthralled with is the human experience, and I think that carries through with General and my designs.
By the way, I would have been his boss on his set. Because I was a set decorator, which would employ the set dresser, which is what he was when he was in North Carolina. We joke about that all the time. “I was always your boss.”
General: Still my boss.
Was there a pivotal moment when you transitioned from film sets to a client’s home?
Cristina: We’d go to film industry parties and meet people from all walks of life. They would ask what we do, and one real estate agent we met was like, “Oh, my gosh, I love Queer Eye!” She told us she needed really fast models and thought we’d be perfect at it. A side hustle! She was like, “If you could just model up condos for me when I need them … ” So I was doing that for a while, and it just felt fun and fresh.
Word spread fast, so soon we were doing it for quite a few different agents and companies. And then one told us, “I have an awesome developer with this building in Williamsburg. They want a street-cred art feeling, and I think you guys would be perfect.” At the time, I was like, “I don’t know, this feels a little out of my league,” but she was like, “What are you talking about? You do film, you’re fine!” So we took the interview.
What was that experience like?
Cristina: Of course, we’ve got butterflies. We walk into this high-rise building in downtown New York, and as we go through the lobby, we see other people waiting for the interview.
General: Celebrity designers sitting there. We were like, “How do we even think we can do this?”
Cristina: Of course your heart is pumping outside of your body. We walk into this room with this classic, beautiful, humongous boardroom table with about 20 developers and investors sitting around it.
And this is effectively the first interview of your business.
Cristina: No pressure! The entrepreneurial spirit is about always throwing yourselves out there, and I think we both are very strong on that. We’ve always taken those chances, straight from the beginning.
General: Film and TV sort of sets you up for any situation. It’s fast and furious.
Cristina: That gives you confidence. I sit with movie producers, I was telling myself. This is not that different. But it was all very new and intimidating in the sense that we didn’t go to architecture school. I was transparent that I had just signed on for a new film. What I didn’t mention is that I was also three months pregnant with our second child—and at three months you don’t tell anybody, but my emotions were all over the place. I was like, What are we doing? This will never be possible if I’m on a film. We took the interview because I wasn’t even expecting to get the job.
Left: Claire Esparros | Right: Claire Esparros
But you got the job.
Cristina: We got the job, and the movie I was on folded—the universe works in wonderful ways. It was an amazing experience. It was a new high-luxury rental development; we were brought in a little later in the game than we normally are now, but it was because they weren’t happy with the former designers. It was not as much architectural for that one, but we were able to make massive changes in the visual look based on the finishes, corridors, amenities, apartments. And then there was sourcing street art. We had a friend do an enormous mural on one wall. It was a total success—our first time working at that scale, and we were like, “Wow, we did it!” We learned so much.
How long did that project take?
Cristina: About a year.
General: And then they upped the ante on us.
Cristina: Yeah, they offered us another project: a historical condo building downtown in the Financial District that had been sitting vacant for 10 or 15 years that they were converting into a high-luxury rental. It was 2010, and that was the market at the time. The project was renovating an existing space—the amenity areas and corridors. Not much had to be done in the condos because the finishes were pretty supreme and beautiful, but we needed to change the floors and light fixtures. It was about bringing it to a luxury level, but it’s a historical building, so it was also about preservation. General was still doing Blue Man at night, but he had all day with me, and we worked fluidly together.
General: And then I’d go to work.
Cristina: He’d go off to work and I would take our two children to bed, and we would do it all over again. We were living in a brownstone in Clinton Hill, but didn’t have enough space, so we’d be sprawled out on the floor in the living room. We look back on those days and are like, “Those were awesome times.” Sleepless nights, though!
In 2012, General went on tour for a year. We had a brand-new baby and an older daughter, so my mom was living with me during that time to help with the kids. One day, my mom was hanging out with the baby in another room in the downtown building we were working on, when the principal of the development company came in with a bunch of other financial people who were scouting the building. They were going to build a new sister building to the [original] one in Williamsburg.
I waved and said hi, and he was like, “Cristina, come over here!” So I’m walking over to a bunch of financiers thinking, Oh, my God, my mom better not pop out with my baby. He did a full introduction, then he put me on the spot and said, “We’re going to build a new building from the ground up. You would be designing it from start to finish—is your team up for it?” And in a split second, I was like, “Of course.” That’s when we incorporated the business and got a studio space to separate home and work.
Fast-forwarding, we’re now designing his wife’s mother’s home in Port Washington, New York, as well as his and his wife’s new condo in the Chelsea area [of Manhattan], and we’ve done numerous other projects with them. It was up to us to jump, but he was there offering and took the chance on us, and we always recognize that.
General: Because we were so new.
Cristina: But in the end, maybe, we did know. My movie industry training really prepared me for massive budgets, massive design—it was really that training that gave me confidence. And then you’re able to have freedom, and they seek you out for that. The different background holds appeal.
General: You’re able to deliver what they want, and beyond.
Cristina: And on time, too. That’s another thing they love about us—we’re so fast. Film is like, “Oh, we need that yesterday. Where is it?”
General: We got the 250 North 10th [sister building] project in Williamsburg and did it from the ground up.
Cristina: We built it and incorporated massive floor-to-ceiling canvases painted by a street artist—they’re still there, and it’s amazing.
General: They sold the building, and it was one of the highest sales in Williamsburg at the time. There were times when we were there and we would ask the people moving in, “What made you select this building?” And they always said, “We loved the design.” Which was great for us!
Courtesy of Me and General Design
How’d you know that was the right moment to incorporate?
General: The learning curve was huge to build something from the ground up. We would go to the weekly meeting with the engineers and everyone, and it was the first time that we had to do it that way.
Cristina: That was when we looked at each other and said, “Listen, we have to take this seriously; this is not a side hustle.” I knew that with the baby, I wasn’t going to see the film world for a while, and I chose that, but we did have to make that decision—to say, “Well, what are we going to call this thing?” I would always say to clients, “Hey, it’s me and General here, this is what we’re going to do.” So that was it: Me and General.
Did that shift in thinking—incorporating, naming the firm—coincide with getting the studio space?
Cristina: It did. We got the studio, then had a few interns, and then one turned into one permanent employee. And it just built from there.
What does your team look like today?
Cristina: We’re four strong. We have a senior designer who’s been with us the longest and really understands how we operate. That’s a key factor for us, because General and I are the principal designers and are hands on, but he really helps wrap it together. Without that, I think it would be impossible for us now that we’re working on eight to 15 projects at a time. The fourth [person on the team] is part project manager, part purchaser, part bookkeeper. We do a lot of purchasing ourselves—we don’t source that out, so that’s a massive part of projects, and it’s good to have that kind of person on the team. Then there are interns that float in and out—Pratt Institute sends a ton of amazing students our way.
How has COVID-19 upended your team and your studio?
Cristina: When we opened our studio in Industry City, it made sense for us. And if not for COVID, we probably would not have left. Now, we’re in a condo in Crown Heights; we have a house full of homeschooling kids, but we still have space to work, and we realized we can work remotely effectively—it actually becomes more efficient and streamlined.
How long were you in the Industry City studio?
General: Three years.
Cristina: Before that, we were in smaller studios in Dumbo [on Brooklyn’s northern waterfront], which was great, but it got really overpriced.
Really fast, I’ll bet, too.
Cristina: Really fast. We started there right after our incorporation in 2012, and were there maybe five years. But when we were looking to move to a bigger studio, it was like, “Nope! Dumbo’s not going to work!” But Industry City was very welcoming—they had been reaching out to us to come take a look, and we loved it. It’s on the way to our daughter’s school, so before COVID, we’d do drop-off [in the mornings]. With COVID, it was great to reflect on what’s important and what’s not. It feels refreshing to minimize things that were not needed at all.
Courtesy of Me and General Design
Courtesy of Me and General Designs
Left: Courtesy of Me and General Design | Right: Courtesy of Me and General Designs
Do you think you’d go back to the studio mode, or does working from home work better now?
Cristina: We’re in a lovely condo right now, but our dream is to build our home with a studio—a proper, major studio—inside, and have it all be functioning within one complex that we’ve designed head to toe. I think that’s our next passion, our next mission, to find the real estate that we’ve been looking at for years—living vicariously through listings, as most New Yorkers do, right?
Escapist Zillowing! I’m an expert at that.
Cristina: Exactly! As interior designers, we’re not looking for something that’s already done. We’re looking for something very specific, but I keep the faith up and we constantly look. Of course, we can go back to Industry City anytime, and I loved it there, but we do work better right now the way we are. We’ve signed on to three new projects—fingers crossed—during this time, and it was a test: “Hey, let’s do this. How does this work?” We didn’t skip a beat.
How do clients find you?
Cristina: Word of mouth. We never have done any formal marketing or outreach until this pause. I think, like many other designers at this point, we’ve finally stopped and reassessed how we work. And being a Black- and a minority- and a woman-owned business during the time of the Black Lives Matter movement has propped open lots of doors, too—it’s an interesting time from that aspect as well.
General: We’ve been getting a lot of calls.
Cristina: It did make us stop and think, Were we missing things because we weren’t even thinking about it? You don’t really think about the marketing aspect when you’re just hustling. So our model has changed a little bit; we’re going to look at the opportunities that are presenting themselves to us and be very intentional about what we do next, but also start to reach out for other things that we might not have thought of before. We have had a beautiful run of growth and development and maturity and security in what we do, but I think the future is about being uncomfortable again, you know?
Photography Stephen Speranza
What part of your business has potential that you are most excited to grow?
General: We branched out along the way—we created some custom wallpapers using that creative side, being artists and entrepreneurs. Some clients have said, “We don’t have any branding for our building,” so we were like, “What about this?” There was one project that had a nice name and logo, and we drew up some ideas for a wallpaper using the logo intertwined with the way the building looks, and they loved it. They filled the entire building’s corridors with the wallpaper—and then one turned into two, two turned into three, and all of a sudden we were like, “Wow.”
Cristina: “We have a collection.” Another building that we did, we took the beautiful facade and created the wallpaper. It became a specialty thing—they’re not going to find that anywhere else, and it was made for them. Clients love that.
General: We didn’t really know anything about manufacturing wallpaper, so during that process we got in touch with [New York–based wallcovering brand] Wolf-Gordon to manufacture the papers.
Cristina: And then they brought us in!
General: We kept coming back and customizing these papers—and selling large quantities of the paper—and they were like, “You guys are blowing this thing out of the water.” So they commissioned us, and now we have a licensed line.
Cristina: Which was such icing on the cake. We would create these things anyway, because it is part of our creative nature, but to have a brand like Wolf-Gordon come to us and say, “We see what you’re doing, we like what you’re doing, and let’s do this together” is amazing. Now we’re part of their permanent London Chic collection. That was a really beautiful, organic moment.
The other major product we’ve developed is Swick Board, which is a surfboard [with a built-in] speaker. The story behind that was a client who said, “I need a wow factor in my house,” and General was like, “Well, I’ve always had this idea in my head … ”
My family’s from Chile, on the beach, so the ocean is in my life. They’re quarantined at the house on the beach right now! I was born in the U.S., but I’m first-generation and we go back to Chile all the time.
General: And I grew up in North Carolina, so I would go to the beach when I lived in Wilmington. I had lots of friends that were surfers.
Cristina: The other side [of the product] is the music. General’s a musician—Blue Man Group is all music, percussions, antics. So he was like, “What about combining the speaker system and a surfboard?” It connotes such a vibe, where you think, “That’s the life I want—a surfer life.”
General: It connotes vacation and fun and a certain lifestyle.
Cristina: So we did that for the client, and it was just an awesome one-off. And then we did one for another person, and then another, and we just kept developing it on the side. We connected with the surfing community and got obsessed with the upcycling and reusability of a material. I think our future is actually that—reutilizing materials in design in whatever capacity you can.
My dream job is taking spaces and environments that I can revive by utilizing what exists. I love the idea that everything comes back around, full circle, and that we’re not just piling more carbon footprints on this earth. So when we started doing Swick Board, we thought, We can go and repurpose broken surfboards. They don’t do anything with them.
General: They don’t biodegrade.
Cristina: We’re friends with a lot of Rockaways surfers and they were like, “Yo man, just take it! We can’t do anything with this.” So now we upcycle them [into Swick Boards], and people love that aspect, too. They’re commissioned pieces, and we’re still developing them; right now, it’s a recycled surfboard with music and a light feature, but we’re also going to collaborate to create art on it—we look at it as a functional art installation.
General: We went to ICFF one year for the Wolf-Gordon papers and hung up two Swick Boards just to spice up the wallpaper. People would walk in and their mouths would fall open. They were like, “What in the world is this? Is that a surfboard with speakers in it?” From that, we were contacted by a company out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, called Leon Speakers—they make their own audio equipment and were interested, so we went out there with some boards. They engineered it and really took it to the next level.
Photography Stephen Speranza
One of the interesting things about this series is that I’m often talking with designers who are in cities or states with very limited access to design resources. And they all say, ‘It’s not like New York.’ Here, in theory, we have access to everything. In that kind of environment, how do you shop? Where do you get inspired, and how do you source?
General: All the trade shows.
Cristina: The ICFFs, WantedDesign—we go to all of them each year, and there’s a lot of repeat stuff, but there are always new things coming in. It is a luxury to have that in our backyard, for sure. But the reps that contact us to show us things is a major resource, as well. Maybe because we’re in New York it’s easy for them to do because they have showrooms here, but we do get tons of people coming in to present. You get a really good show and understand stuff, and we’ve gotten tons of product from that.
How do you decide which of those meetings to say yes to? I can’t imagine you want to take all of them.
Cristina: It may be based on what we’re looking for in our projects—rugs, for example—and if one pops up at the time, we’re like, “Yes, come in. We need that.” But other times, it’s really just about the level of what they show, if we see something that’s really intriguing, where it feels like: Wow this could be something new.
General: And our sourcing is also based on the way we shop. Some vendors come to us and we say, “We don’t purchase that way,” so that will make the decision for us. Or we ask what their lead times are.
Cristina: We have a library of our own, but not a huge one. We’re online a lot, but we have to see physical samples to really get the design started. And of course, we’re very lucky to have the D&D Building, where we’d go prior to COVID.
General: And the streets! We love supporting small businesses, as well.
Cristina: Industry City was great for that, because there are tons of makers there. And as makers ourselves, we love the movement of makers that happened in Brooklyn years ago—and they’re still here and are so available. We had one project in downtown Brooklyn where we looked at each other and were like, “We’re going to take all of our maker friends, and their friends, and others we don’t know, and we’re going to fill this place with it.” And we did it super successfully, selecting little shops and having them make custom pieces for us, from art to lighting to furniture to finishes.
What is it like working together? What is your dynamic?
General: You know, the great part is that Cristina and I have such different personalities, as you can probably tell. Cristina is fast, speed, quick, go. I’m more subdued and mellow, and in that way, more cautious. So it works very well.
Do you have a different way of interacting in your work versus personal life?
General: I think we are who we are always. We’re pretty true to who we are in the office, and it’s pretty much the same at home.
Cristina: How we navigate problem-solving, whether it’s for family or business, it’s sort of the same process. I think what clicks in us when we move into the studio space is that it’s more about deadlines and I’m not relaxed. I’m like, “We’ve got to do this, this and this.” Once General and I are at home, it’s like, “Yeah, whatever! We’ll get it done eventually!” But as far as the way General and I act together, I think we only knew we could do this business together because we have a certain kind of syncing, because we’re yin and yang, because we’re different—and even our design direction is different. He brings different things to the table, always, than I’m thinking of.
Photography Stephen Speranza
How does that manifest in the aesthetic sense?
Cristina: With residential projects, I’ll walk through the space during the consultation and from what I’ve gathered from the client’s needs and direction and our conversation, I’ll immediately know what I want to do—it’s very clear to me always, every time, and we develop from that. So I come back to the studio saying, “This is what I think, boom, boom, boom!” I lay it all out. And then General walks in and says, “Let me look at that, let’s see what that is.” I think General brings in that other perspective of, “I hear you, and that sounds great, but what if we did this?” He draws it back down to reality.
At the same time, a lot of that original vision does come to fruition. I think it was the training in film, where I needed to come up with answers super fast. A producer was always standing there, and he’s just not going to take, “Give me a minute to go back to the studio and figure this out for you” as an answer. He’s like, “What are you going to do right now?”
General: I know that feeling, too—it was the same thing when I was on set. You’d be working on a film at someone’s private home and all of the set would be there, and someone would be like, “We are going to look this way with the camera.” But sometimes it’s not in the script, and the art department has to say, “OK, we haven’t seen this side of the room,” and then you make all these adjustments on the fly while the crew and the actors are standing and waiting.
And you feel like everyone’s tapping their foot?
General: Oh, my gosh, yes! I’ve been in so many of those moments, and there have been times when the only person there [to solve the problem] was me. They’d be like, “After lunch, we’re coming back and we’re going to see this side of the room.” And I’d be like, “Wait a minute, that’s not on the call sheet.” And you can’t put a hole in the wall, but the director wants to hang a piece of art.
Cristina: Problem-solving is a huge part of what we do now, too. The training in film is what gave us a razor-sharp confidence in delivering something for the need. It’s like, you need this—and whether it’s based on a script or a conversation with the client, there’s a need. And maybe personal residences don’t have to go so fast, but it’s just embedded in you.
Photograph Stephen Speranza
Photograph Stephen Speranza
Left: Photograph Stephen Speranza | Right: Photograph Stephen Speranza
Whether it’s public spaces, residential buildings, or private residences, how did you approach billing for those different kinds of jobs?
Cristina: We’re very transparent about money, and we believe in flat fees entirely, based on our experience, the size, all these calculations about the needs, and the scope of the work. Our first conversation is design intent, obviously—getting the whole idea—because we need to know the scope, vision, ideas, expectations, and then we talk a bit about timelines. We don’t talk numbers immediately; we go back, assess it ourselves, and then we have a dialogue before we go further: “This is what you’re looking at as far as budget.”
The approach to a developer is totally different because they come to us with the budget already, and they have a number, even if it shifts along the way. But when you’re talking to a private resident or retail entrepreneurs, they don’t know what to think. We make it so that it’s very comfortable to understand what the cost is for, and can give an example [of a past project] and say, “This is what it cost them at the end.” We explain that we can give an estimate, but variables change along the way. We’ve never been hourly, though, unless things go beyond our scope—then it’s in our contracts, very clearly written, that that will be an hourly rate. We’ve never actually had to do that, though. We’re very clear from the beginning.
General: And we always hit our timelines.
Budgets and client management are so closely linked.
Cristina: Because I feel like money is everything for everybody.
And everyone’s so scared of talking about it.
Cristina: Exactly. I always just address it immediately, because it’s also a way to weed out if a project isn’t going to fit what we’re worth and what we’re trying to do for them. We’ve said no to projects as a very conscious choice. If the money’s not clear from the beginning, there are going to be problems, and I think the best way to solve that is to confront it immediately. We have to be very careful about our time management and what we’re worth, especially now that General stopped doing Blue Man a few years ago.
Wait, you were still doing the show until just a few years ago?
General: I was full-time, and then I cut my hours and wasn’t full-time when we incorporated, but the theater would call me all the time to do shows. My last two years on the show, I had a contract and would go to Boston every Friday. I would work in the office with Cristina all week long, but then come 6 o’clock on Friday evening I’d run to Penn Station, jump on a train, go to Boston, do two shows on Saturday morning, then come home Saturday night.
Photography Stephen Speranza
How did you stay creative and inspired when you were pulled in that many directions?
General: It was exciting, because a show like Blue Man is a lot like design for us—it has an organic feel acting-wise. I didn’t have to learn any dialogue, I didn’t have to sing. I was really good at it, the physicality of it, and it was good for me. I just couldn’t get away from that applause, it was so great.
Cristina: Until it became too busy for us. I was like, “Babe, come on.”
General: It got to the point where I was standing on stage as a Blue Man and I was thinking about design.
What is the biggest thing you wish you had known when you incorporated?
General: The importance of having confidence on the business side. Once you incorporate and things are official, it takes over and you’re just as focused on running your business as the designing.
Cristina: It’s like a marriage certificate—it’s a mental thing where you’re like, “Oh, my gosh, now we’re serious.” I don’t think that we need to be everything. And we shouldn’t be everything. Maybe it’s just like everything else—that which you don’t know, you go learn, and you seek out advice or hire someone part-time to help—and that’s what we did.
Where did you go to fill in those knowledge gaps?
Cristina: Friends who were entrepreneurs and have been doing this; and also the SBA, which has resources, mentors, and people to talk to on the fly.
General: There were people in the industry we would call to ask for advice on something, but they would not give us anything. Nothing at all. They thought we were crazy to even ask them and would hang up on us.
Cristina: It feels very different now. I think [the sense of] community within the design industry is much stronger now.
Courtesy of Me and General Design
What do you think changed that?
Cristina: We became friends with more people and that opened up different doors, but I do think there was a shift in the industry itself becoming less exclusive.
General: Exactly. But that movement was happening before all this. Remember when I said, “Hey, I think the new thing is people just giving away information.”
Cristina: Yes! General and I were like, “Why didn’t they do that when we needed it?” When we were getting all this negative feedback from other designers—industry people just not wanting to help—we vowed back then that we would never do that.
General: We were like, “We’re going to help anyone.”
Cristina: Be like, “This is how we do it! This is what we’ve learned.” And we’ve done that ever since. Maybe that’s what’s drawing our community. But I think on a bigger level, outside of us, it’s been happening, too.
General: I think it’s the new human factor that it’s important—for any and all industries, people should be open and be able to give information.
Cristina: There’s enough for everybody. I feel like having that sort of thought process just attracts more of that.
What role has social media played in that?
General: Cristina got us on Instagram early.
Cristina: Just because on a personal level I was inspired by it—I threw anything I wanted on there, and then Instagram became this craze. I think the social media thing has frustrated tons of people. Along the way, algorithms go crazy and people get all bent out of shape. And I’m like, “You know what, if at the end of the day your content is what you want it to be, or if you want to move it a step further and make it be a purposeful, sort of calculated thing, then by all means do it. But do one or the other. Just have it be what it is and showcase your process, your inspirations, your jobs, and your finished product—and connect to people.” The whole point is that you’re supposed to have interaction. At the end of the day, it’s how you look at it and it’s what you want to do with it.
Has that connection become vital for your business?
Cristina: When I meet somebody, I look at their Instagram first and then their website. So I do tell people, “It’s important.” But if you feel anxiety about it, you could hire an intern to start with, or a temporary part-time person that really regulates it for you. Because if it’s something you’re not comfortable with, you’re not ever going to want to do it. It’s like bookkeeping—have a bookkeeper and be on top of it, regulating it, but have someone do the legwork or answer the questions for you.
By the same token, never let go of something that’s yours. That’s one thing that as entrepreneurs, General and I are very keen on: However big we get, it’s us. We’re the brand and we have to be very heavy-handed on the final design, budget—everything. I’ve seen friends who have lost track of one thing in their business and then it all goes haywire. It’s a lot to manage.
Courtesy of Me and General Design
What’s keeping you inspired right now?
Cristina: The human spirit and resilience of people—having the country and world pause and people all over the place, in all industries, coming together to support each other. And Black Lives Matter—with General being Black, and [me being] a Latin woman.
General: The industry is opening their eyes to be able to give back in a way, which is great. I’m excited about the potential of this not being a trend or fad—not going back to the way it was in six months, but being included in the room because we’re good at what we do.
Cristina: And sticking up for our skills and our product.
Has this moment felt different?
Cristina: General and I have talked about this. We feel like the movement back in the 1960s and ’70s was very different than today. I do think some people are in it for being in it, and that makes us feel hopeful for the future because it really is about changing systematic stuff. There is no other way to make all of this change stick. When there are enough people that understand that in the right places of power, combined with the inclusivity of us, people of color, in those places to make those changes, finally [the change has staying power].
We’re being sought out because of what we’re doing as a business. We are designers, we are innovators, we are creators. We happen to be Black and Latin, but you don’t see that—you see us for what we bring to the table, and the table and chairs are open, and it’s not the same people just rotating around. This is the future I’m talking about—I hope that out of all the heartache and hardness comes a hopeful human experience.
General: The world needs that. It’s not going to be an overnight thing. But those slow steps to do it are super important.
Cristina: Even this, the 50 States Project—you’re understanding people for who they are in our industry. I think that’s the kind of beauty that’s going to come out of this harshness.
General: And it shows the human connection. It’s important for people to realize that we are all connected.
Cristina: General and I thrive on the human experience. If you think about interiors, we’re elevating people’s lifestyles and worlds by the simplest things, right? They could change their whole trajectory of their future because they feel better. They become confident. They invite people over. It might not even be conscious—it might just be a subconscious opening up. In one lobby renovation, we had eliminated some steps, and that enhanced the ease of entering [the space and] changed the feelings and experience. You know, people who have wheelchairs or baby carriages—it’s simple stuff. I mean, not simple to do, but it was essential in the end. We get those emails that say, “You just changed my life.” That’s what really makes General and I carry on.
Is that a hard sell to developers, or do they understand that that piece is really important?
Cristina: There are two kinds of developers, and the ones that we’ve worked with repeatedly understand that. Somebody that’s just in it to make the money fast—we are very, very intentional about not working for them. Those are the kind of projects that we have said no to, and I think if you say no to something, something else comes up right after that’s meant to be. I am a true believer that if the energy is not right, then it’s going to be a bad thing in the end, and you might miss another opportunity that would have come. But those can be hard calls! There were lots of times that General and I were like, “What do we do?” And then we just have to dig deep.
General: And trust our experience. We have to trust ourselves. I think that’s key. We’ve done this long enough to trust that feeling. We’ve experienced this before. So just keep showing up and making it better and being the best that we can be.
To learn more about Cristina Casañas-Judd and General Judd, visit their website or find them on Instagram.
Radius Health Business Update
TYMLOS® new patient adds in April: modest growth vs. previous 4-month trailing averages
~67% of new patients in April were initiated by a fracture focused bone health account
Meaningful FDA guidance on generic peptide requirements published on May 19, 2021
Anticipate abaloparatide depot formulation technical development work to commence 2H, 2021
RAD011 Type C meeting with the FDA on Prader Willi Syndrome (“PWS”) the week of June 14
BOSTON, June 02, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Radius Health, Inc. (“Radius” or the “Company”) (NASDAQ: RDUS), provided a business update covering continued progress for the Company. Additional business updates will be provided as progress is achieved.
U.S. TYMLOS Commercial Performance:
TYMLOS added ~1,650 new patients in April; 1% growth vs. trailing 4-month average
New patients: defined as those who have been prescribed TYMLOS and received their first dose
~67% of new patients in April were initiated by a fracture focused bone health account
Added 45 new fracture / bone health focused prescribers during the month of April
ATOM (Male) Phase 3 pivotal study on schedule for readout: 2H, 2021
wearABLe (Transdermal System) Phase 3 pivotal study on schedule for readout: 2H, 2021
Anticipate abaloparatide depot formulation technical development work to commence 2H, 2021
Europe: re-submission expected for abaloparatide SC to EMA in 2H, 2021
Canada: abaloparatide SC submission – by our partner – expected in January, 2022
Japan: ‘planning discussions’ with PMDA, a precursor to potential abaloparatide-TD agreement with Teijin
Rest of world: multiple discussions ongoing with variety of counterparties
Intellectual Property Portfolio Advancement:
Three U.S. patents are presently listed in the Orange Book for TYMLOS: U.S. Patent No. 7,803,770 which expires on April 28, 2031 and U.S. Patent Nos. 8,148,333 and 8,748,382 which each expire on October 30, 2027
A fourth U.S. patent, U.S. Patent No. 10,996,208 directed to certain methods of analyzing abaloparatide to detect and quantify presence of beta Asp10, was issued on May 4, 2021 and will be added to the Orange book listing shortly; this patent expires on April 30, 2038
A new Japanese patent covering the abaloparatide transdermal system and its use in treating osteoporosis was granted in April, 2021 and will expire October 8, 2036
FDA Guidance on Synthetic Peptides:
On May 19, 2021 the FDA published updated guidance and requirements for synthetic peptides and what would be required in any generic filings and advancement. Radius views this new guidance as meaningful in assessing the probability of a generic synthetic peptide being filed and gaining market entry.
In sum, the Company views these newly communicated FDA requirements as making it significantly more challenging to advance and develop a generic version of abaloparatide.
The key components of the new FDA guidelines include:
Recombinantly sourced peptides cannot be approved in an ANDA and must be submitted in a 505(b)(2) NDA
Explicit references to the potential for significant consequences if anti-drug antibodies cross-react against endogenous peptides
New impurities must be within the FDA’s threshold; if greater, must be submitted as a 505(b)(2)
Explicit expectation: ANDA with new impurity must evaluate immunogenicity risks prior to filing
FDA Type C meeting for PWS will take place the week of June 14
Written minutes from the FDA meeting expected by the end of July
Post FDA discussion, expectation is to initiate a pivotal PWS trial before year end
Additional orphan indications being assessed in parallel – decisions and clarity in 2H, 2021
Multiple Advisory Board meetings completed: U.S., UK, EU for PWS plus a Psychiatry meeting
Internal team formed: clinical, pharm. science, regulatory, bio-stats, CMC, global franchise
External team established: manufacturing & supply chain, development, regulatory, advocacy
Radius is a commercialized biopharmaceutical company committed to serving patients with unmet medical needs in endocrinology and other therapeutic areas. Radius’ lead product, TYMLOS® (abaloparatide) injection, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis at high risk for fracture. The Radius clinical pipeline includes investigational abaloparatide injection for potential use in the treatment of men with osteoporosis; an investigational abaloparatide transdermal system for potential use in the treatment of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis; the investigational drug, elacestrant (RAD1901), for potential use in the treatment of hormone-receptor positive breast cancer out-licensed to Menarini Group; and the investigational drug RAD011, a synthetic cannabidiol oral solution with potential utilization in multiple endocrine and metabolic orphan diseases, initially targeting Prader-Willi syndrome.
About TYMLOS (abaloparatide) injection
TYMLOS (abaloparatide) injection was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis at high risk for fracture defined as history of osteoporotic fracture, multiple risk factors for fracture, or patients who have failed or are intolerant to other available osteoporosis therapy.
About ATOM Phase 3 Study
The ATOM Phase 3 study is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study to assess efficacy and safety of abaloparatide injection in 228 men with osteoporosis. The primary endpoint is change in lumbar spine BMD at 12 months compared with placebo, and if successful, will form the basis of a supplemental NDA seeking to expand the use of TYMLOS to treat men with osteoporosis at high risk for fracture.
About the Abaloparatide Transdermal System and wearABLe Phase 3 Study
The abaloparatide transdermal system was developed in a collaboration between Radius and Kindeva Drug Delivery (“Kindeva”) (formerly 3M Drug Delivery Systems) with the application of Kindeva’s innovative microstructured transdermal system technology. The Phase 3 wearABLe study is the first pivotal study to evaluate treatment using a novel non-injectable delivery of an anabolic therapy. The wearABLe study is a pivotal, randomized, open label, active-controlled, bone mineral density (“BMD”) non-inferiority bridging study that will evaluate the efficacy and safety of abaloparatide transdermal system versus TYMLOS (abaloparatide) injection in approximately 500 patients with postmenopausal osteoporosis at high risk for fracture. The primary endpoint of the study is the percentage change in lumbar spine BMD at 12 months.
About Elacestrant (RAD1901) and EMERALD Phase 3 Study
Elacestrant is a selective estrogen receptor degrader (SERD), out-licensed to Menarini Group, which is being evaluated for potential use as a once daily oral treatment in patients with ER+/ HER2- advanced breast cancer. Studies completed to date indicate that the compound has the potential for use as a single agent or in combination with other therapies for the treatment of breast cancer. The EMERALD Phase 3 trial is a randomized, open label, active-controlled study evaluating elacestrant as second- or third-line monotherapy in ER+/HER2- advanced/metastatic breast cancer patients. The study has enrolled 466 patients who have received prior treatment with one or two lines of endocrine therapy, including a cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) 4/6 inhibitor. Patients in the study were randomized to receive either elacestrant or the investigator’s choice of an approved hormonal agent. The primary endpoint of the study is progression-free survival (PFS) in the overall patient population and in patients with estrogen receptor 1 gene (ESR1) mutations. Secondary endpoints include evaluation of overall survival (OS), objective response rate (ORR), and duration of response (DOR).
Investigational drug RAD011 is a pharmaceutical-grade synthetic cannabidiol oral solution, manufactured utilizing traditional pharmaceutical manufacturing processes. The product has purity specifications that meet standardized regulatory and quality control requirements and, compared to the process of developing a plant-derived product, the synthetic manufacturing process usually enables increased consistency and greater precision in the product supply. RAD011 has been assessed in over 150 patients across multiple indications and has potential utilization in multiple endocrine and metabolic orphan diseases. Radius is initially targeting Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) and anticipates initiating a pivotal Phase 2/3 study for patients with PWS in the second half of 2021 pending regulatory discussion with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All statements contained in this press release that do not relate to matters of historical fact should be considered forward-looking statements, including without limitation statements regarding our expectations regarding continued commercialization of TYMLOS in the U.S.; our expectations regarding our clinical trials, studies and other regulatory initiatives, including our wearABLe and ATOM Phase 3 clinical trials; and the progress in the development of our product candidates, including RAD011.
These forward-looking statements are based on management’s current expectations. These statements are neither promises nor guarantees, but involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other important factors that may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements, including, but not limited to, the following: the adverse impact the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is having and is expected to continue to have on our business, financial condition and results of operations, including our commercial operations and sales, clinical trials, preclinical studies, and employees; quarterly fluctuation in our financial results; our dependence on the success of TYMLOS, and our inability to ensure that TYMLOS will obtain regulatory approval outside the U.S. or be successfully commercialized in any market in which it is approved, including as a result of risk related to coverage, pricing and reimbursement; risks related to competitive products; risks related to our ability to successfully enter into collaboration, partnership, license or similar agreements; risks related to clinical trials, including our reliance on third parties to conduct key portions of our clinical trials and uncertainty that the results of those trials will support our product candidate claims; the risk that adverse side effects will be identified during the development of our product candidates or during commercialization, if approved; risks related to manufacturing, supply and distribution; and the risk of litigation or other challenges regarding our intellectual property rights. These and other important risks and uncertainties discussed in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, including under the caption “Risk Factors” in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ending December 31, 2020 and subsequent filings with the SEC, could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by the forward-looking statements made in this press release. Any such forward-looking statements represent management’s estimates as of the date of this press release. While we may elect to update such forward-looking statements at some point in the future, we disclaim any obligation to do so, even if subsequent events cause our views to change. These forward-looking statements should not be relied upon as representing our views as of any date subsequent to the date of this press release.
Investor & Media Relations Contact:
Phone: (617) 583-2017
Central Maine business briefs: UMA vice president receives award
Jonathan Henry, University of Maine at Augusta vice president of enrollment management and marketing, received the Martin Gallant Distinguished Counseling Professional Award from the Maine Counseling Association recognizing his distinguished career in the field. Jeremy Bouford, UMA coordinator of recruitment and outgoing president of the counseling association, presented him the award at the organization’s annual meeting this May.
“It was my distinct pleasure to present this award to Jon Henry not only on behalf of the Maine Counseling Association but also as a trusted and valued colleague,” said Bouford, according to a news release from UMA.
“I am honored to receive this award from the Maine Counseling Association,” said Henry. “Over 36 years in the admissions counseling and enrollment profession, I recognize now more than ever the role that having a counseling background has played in helping me succeed in my work with students, and helping to administer a university.”
Henry has worked in college admissions counseling and enrollment management for 36 years, the last 22 in Maine.
“Marty” Gallant was a long-serving school counselor in Caribou, who was actively involved with and dedicated to the Maine Counseling Association and the profession of school counseling. Maine Counseling Association established this award to honor him upon his retirement in 2016.
Association members work in a variety of settings across the profession including K-12 schools, colleges and universities, community-based agencies, clinical facilities and private practice.
Benton company names director of programs
BENTON — Assistance Plus, a 29-year-old home health care, behavioral health and intellectual disability agency headquartered in Benton, has promoted Natalie Childs to director of programs.
Childs has been employed by Assistance Plus since June 2010, starting as a daily living support specialist, and most recently serving as the organization’s BH/DD program manager. According to Crystal Bailey, the agency’s human resources director, the promotion is a result of her hard work and dedication. Natalie will remain in her current office location at the company’s headquarters in Benton.
Childs graduated from Erskine Academy and holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Thomas College. She is completing a master’s degree in health care administration from Fitchburg State University.
Assistance Plus has offices in Benton, Waterville and Wilton.
2021 Mainebiz Woman to Watch nominees sought
PORTLAND — Mainebiz seeks nominations for female business owners, CEOs, presidents and top executives with established track records of success and who have been trailblazers and mentors to be its 2021 Women to Watch.
• The nominee must be the president, CEO or executive director at her company or organization.
• The nominee should have an established track record of business success.
• The nominee and her company must have made outstanding contributions to their company, industry and community.
Nominate a 2021 Mainebiz Woman to Watch by June 28. Visit mainebiz.biz/nominations and complete the short form.
The Women to Watch awards program is sponsored by Drummond Woodsum, Northeast Delta Dental, TD Bank and Vistage. Chosen nominees will be featured in the Aug. 9 issue of Mainebiz and will be honored at the annual Women to Watch reception in person during the middle of September. The date and location will be announced soon.
Kennebec Savings Bank announces new hires
AUGUSTA – Kennebec Savings Bank President and CEO Andrew Silsby recently announced two new hires, each of whom come with strong backgrounds in banking and customer service.
Paige O’Donnell, who has joined Kennebec Savings Bank as vice president of retail banking, brings more than eight years of banking experience. Her most recent position was on TD Bank’s Small Business Banking Team as their team manager.
“Paige brings new insight and energy to our retail team,” said Silsby, according to a news release from the bank. “We are fortunate to have her join Kennebec Savings Bank at such an exciting time in our history. The bank is growing, and Paige will help us continue to offer competitive and quality products to our customers.”
Amanda Dyer joins the bank with 12 years of experience. Prior to joining the bank, Dyer served as branch manager and loan officer for Norway Savings Bank at their Topsham location. Dyer is originally from the Freeport area and graduated from Freeport High School.
“Amanda will be a great asset to our Freeport Team,” said Silsby. “She is familiar with the Freeport area, and will bring valuable knowledge and expertise to our team. We look forward to her leadership.”
Kennebec Behavioral Health leaders recognized
AUGUSTA — At the 2021 Maine Prevention Professionals Conference held on May 19, KBH’s Robert Rogers was recognized with the 2021 Neill E. Miner Memorial Prevention Award. This award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution in the field of prevention. He has been at the forefront of so many initiatives and approaches to evidence-based prevention in Maine. He has been able to forge a unique bridge between the prevention and treatment disciplines. “Rob is an extraordinary prevention professional who has made significant contributions to the field and positively impacted the lives of countless youth and adults throughout central Maine,” said Tom McAdam, KBH chief executive officer, according to a news release from KBH. A surprise guest, McKenna Rogers, Rob’s daughter who also works in behavioral health, presented him with the award.
At the Co-Occurring Collaborative Serving Maine Annual Summit held on May 6, the Visionary Leadership award was presented to Dr. Alane O’Connor. O’Connor is the first director of perinatal addiction treatment at Maine Medical Center, serving pregnant women in the Portland area. O’Connor also provides addiction medicine through Kennebec Behavioral Health’s Opioid Health Home in Skowhegan and is chairperson of Maine’s Opioid Response Clinical Advisory Committee. The collaborative’s Visionary Leadership Award recognizes an individual, organization or an initiative in the behavioral health care field that has demonstrated outstanding leadership in improving the lives of individuals with mental illnesses and substance use disorders and/or their communities. “For her dedication to advance the quality of substance use treatment and raising awareness to the needs of pregnant and parenting women living with this disease,” said Liam Shaw, CCSME Board Member, in the release.
Kennebec Behavioral Health was founded in 1960 and operates clinics in Waterville, Skowhegan, Winthrop, Augusta and Farmington.
Northern Light Health announces finance leadership changes
Chris Frauenhofer, vice president of finance of Northern Light Inland Hospital and interim administrator of Northern Light Continuing Care, Lakewood in Waterville, has been named as the new vice president of finance for Northern Light Health’s system Medical Group.
Frauenhofer joined Northern Light Health in 2013, starting at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital before moving to Inland Hospital in 2017. Before joining Northern Light Health, he served in senior finance roles for more than 20 years at hospitals in New York, including Alice Hyde Medical Center and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.
Frauenhofer received a master’s in business administration degree from Niagara University (New York) and a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration/registered accounting (program from State University of New York at Buffalo).
Frauenhofer lives in Mariaville. He will remain in the interim role at Lakewood until a new administrator is recruited.
Randy Clark, vice president of finance and operations at Northern Light Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield, will expand his duties to include Inland Hospital and Lakewood, becoming vice president of finance for both hospitals and the continuing care facility.
A resident of Vassalboro, Clark just celebrated 25 years with Northern Light Health. He started as a controller at Sebasticook Valley Hospital in 1996 and became vice president of finance in 2005. In 2016, operations was added to his leadership role. For a few years, he oversaw finance as vice president for both CA Dean Hospital in Greenville and Sebasticook Valley Hospital.
Clark earned his Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of Maine (Orono) and his Master of Business Administration degree from Thomas College (Waterville).
“Chris and Randy have been vital to our local leadership teams, and integral to system finance work. We know they will continue to help our system and member organizations succeed in their new and expanded roles — not only when it comes to finance, but with all aspects of our mission to improve the health of the people and communities we serve. Both Chris and Randy have a passion for excellent service and finding new ways to deliver on our brand promise,” said Terri Vieira, president of Inland Hospital, Continuing Care, Lakewood, and Sebasticook Valley Hospital, according to a news release from Northern Light Health.
Maine Dental Association partners with Maine Needs
The Maine Dental Association recently partnered with nonprofit organization Maine Needs to assemble and distribute 200 cleaning and hygiene kits to four sites.
The association, though its donation campaign called Maine Needs a Smile, collected personal hygiene items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, deodorant and shampoo, and basic cleaning supplies, such as laundry detergent, all-purpose cleaner and trash bags, to help Maine families in need.
The initiative was started by three MDA member dentists, Dr. Meg Dombroski, Dr. Kathryn Horutz and Dr. Nicole Kimmes, along with MDA Executive Director Angela Westhoff. The group was familiar with the Maine Needs nonprofit organization, which strives to help individuals and families in Maine meet basic, material needs by providing donated clothing and essential products and household items, and which partners with schools, caseworkers, nurses and nonprofits throughout the state to provide those material resources.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of dentistry is the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives every day. The Maine Needs A Smile community effort made it possible for dental professionals across Maine to join together to have a positive impact beyond our chairs,” said Kimmes, according to a news release from the association
One of the ways Maine Needs provides for individuals and families is through different “kits” that the public can put together and donate.
The Maine Needs a Smile initiative originally had a goal of assembling 100 cleaning and hygiene kits. Because of the support of MDA member dentists, dental staff, and the general public, 200 kits were put together and were distributed between four sites. Kits were distributed at the Community Concepts Early Learning Center in Farmington, River Valley Free Store in Mexico, Kaydenz Kitchen Food Pantry in Lewiston, and Penney Memorial United Baptist Church in Augusta.
Gardiner FCU gives to local food pantries, organizations
Gardiner Federal Credit Union recently hosted a small reception to distribute the funds raised in 2020. The guests were representatives of area food pantries and organizations that help local people with food insecurities. There are eight organizations, each receiving a check in the amount of $2,482.38.
When the pandemic hit the number of people in need of these services grew. There were many new faces. Initially, some pantries were overwhelmed. Thankfully, those able to give dug deep and helped them make certain no one was turned away empty-handed. Individuals, grocers and businesses helped keep them afloat.
The Tanzanian proverb, “Little by little, a little becomes a lot.” In most cases, GFCU raises its Ending Hunger funds, one dollar at a time. So, to the staff and the members, they may think that dollar won’t make a difference, but it does. In this case it added up to almost 20,000 of those dollars. Their efforts and the generosity of many, do make a difference and the funds add up to a lot.
Throughout the months of June and July, GFCU will sell Cash Calendars for Ending Hunger. The calendars are $10 each. A total of $2,400 in prizes, will be drawn each weekday in August. Winners will receive either $100 or $200, depending on which day(s) they win. Anyone with $10 can purchase a calendar. It is not necessary to be a member to support any of its fundraisers.
For more business news, visit CentralMaine.com.
Here are 100+ AAPI-owned businesses to shop in 2021
As it did for companies across the globe, pandemic-related freight issues increasingly complicated the supply chain for Sahra Nguyen, founder and CEO of Nguyen Coffee Supply — and made it much more expensive to manage. And the spike in anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander violence increasingly strained an already difficult year:
“The biggest challenge is staying mentally, emotionally and physically safe so that I can continue to show up for my business, family and community,” said Nguyen.
AAPI-owned businesses have suffered tremendously since the onset Covid, according to a survey from the Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ACE). Of the approximately 900 AAPI small business owners surveyed…
- More than 80 percent reported negative effects
- 10 percent have closed their business
- And 45 percent have lost or let go of employees
In general, there’s been a 169-percent increase in hate crimes in major cities — nonprofit advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate received more than 6,600 reports of anti-AAPI violence since it launched in March 2020 — unemployment rates rose disproportionately and solutions have made headway, such as the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act. All of it has added to an increased national focus on the challenges and realities that AAPI communities face.
Within the past year, the visibility of anti-AAPI violence in the U.S. — which goes back centuries — caused a large mobilization of people, organizations and retailers to up their support of the AAPI community through advocacy, donations and awareness in light of AAPI Heritage Month. Multiple online retailers and brands have been increasing efforts to highlight AAPI-owned businesses.
- Amazon and Etsy launched storefronts highlighting AAPI small businesses.
- Reviews site Yelp announced a new feature last month by which businesses can self-identify as “Asian-owned,” making it easier for shoppers to find them.
- Shop by Shopify, a free app to navigate small businesses, unveiled a directory of Asian-owned businesses in March.
- Food delivery giant Grubhub began its Donate the Change program this month, giving all proceeds to National ACE and AAPI-owned restaurants across the nation.
Jan Lo, CEO of travel brand Lo & Sons, said reports of attacks on members of the AAPI community this year — specifically involving anyone around his mom’s age — brought his family’s heritage a lot more personal. “We’re extremely proud of our AAPI heritage, but we have also tried to build an ethos around inclusivity,” he said. The challenges “can also be viewed as opportunities, as I think many people can connect to our story of our mom inspiring her sons to help her achieve her professional dreams — not just because we’re Asian.”
AAPI Heritage Month “gives us an opportunity to lift each other up, to celebrate and express pride in different parts of our community,” explained Ian Shin, assistant professor of history and American culture at the University of Michigan, adding that it also offers an “opportunity to revisit history and remind people that, in fact, anti-AAPI violence is not un-American — it’s woven into the fabric of American society from the mid 19th century onward.”
AAPI-owned businesses in 2021
AAPI-owned businesses nationwide were the most negatively impacted throughout the pandemic, demographically speaking, according to CNBC: The number of working AAPI business owners fell by 20 percent last year. Among the most affected areas was San Francisco’s Chinatown, which saw 75 percent of its storefronts become nonoperational at some point last year.
But what is an AAPI-owned business in the first place? The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) told us that it doesn’t specifically define what constitutes an AAPI-owned business. The U.S. Census Bureau does, however: having persons of Asian or Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander origin owning 51 percent or more of the business — akin to its definitions of Black-owned businesses and women-owned businesses. This definition covers East Asia (like China, Japan and more), Southeast Asia (including the Philippines, Vietnam and more) and the Indian subcontinent (Pakistan, Bangladesh and more) — the three comprise more than 19 countries and 20 million citizens in the U.S. can trace their origins to here — as well as the Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia subregions, which include Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Fijian and Tahitian people, among others.
Despite these definitions, or lack thereof, the two agencies do provide some noteworthy insights. Based on the most recent data released by the Census Bureau, here’s what we know:
- In 2012, there were roughly 2 million AAPI-owned businesses in the U.S. (2016 data)
- In 2018, there were more than 577,000 Asian-owned and over 6,600 Pacific Islander-owned employer businesses in the U.S. (2021 data)
Sarah Paiji Yoo, co-founder and CEO of eco-friendly cleaning brand Blueland, said she’s “incredibly proud” to be an Asian American running a business but is often subject to racism, especially on social media — people comment assumptions regarding where Blueland manufactures its products, for example. Then there’s the “model minority myth,” a harmful argument that typically praises Asian Americans for economic, academic and cultural success based entirely on stereotypes. It’s yet another challenge for Lin Chen, founder and CEO of wellness brand Pink Moon. “People continue to generalize, stereotype and be selective in who they want to listen to, invest in [and] purchase from,” she told us.
In our guide to women-owned brands, owner and founder of Hero Cosmetics Ju Rhyu told us that running a business is accompanied by “a lot of responsibility” to support her community, “especially as a business owner, since there is privilege and influence in being in this position.” That privilege comes at a time when 44 percent of unemployed Asian American women have been out of work for at least six months. This year, over 1,000 AAPI executives like DoorDash founder Tony Xu and Zoom CEO Eric Yuan donated $10 million to groups supporting the AAPI community, including nonprofit Asian Pacific Fund and the Asian-Americans Advancing Justice, a legal advocacy group for hate crime victims. Other business leaders pledged $125 million to launch the Asian American Foundation, which will support AAPI organizations and causes over the next five years — the largest philanthropic commitment in history fully focused on the AAPI community. The foundation raised another $125 million from organizations like Walmart, Bank of America and the Ford Foundation.
While noteworthy efforts, the AAPI community receives less than 1 percent of philanthropic funds despite making up 7 percent of the population and the country’s fastest growing racial group, according to the Pew Research Center.
Being a South Asian founder, Silk + Sonder’s Meha Agrawal said “it often feels like all the odds are stacked up against us: We have to work harder [and] prove ourselves every step of the way.” But throughout her career, she’s learned that “the most important thing a female founder or woman of color can do is make sure that people in seats of privilege are brought along on our journey” to have transparent conversations while building a business.
Each Fall and Spring, AAPI nonprofit Gold House hosts the Gold Rush cohort of Founders — Sahra Nguyen participated last year — wherein founders attend weekly master classes and panels led by advisors, expose their brands to potential investors and influencers, and join a network of founders that meet regularly to share insights and build partnerships. ACE National also provides guidance for starting and maintaining a business, including how to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic, loans, government programs and health and wellness matters.
Business owners said messaging and connecting with other founders on social media, from Twitter to LinkedIn, helped them network. Founders “will be extremely helpful and crucial as you build [your business] and oftentimes they’ll be the only ones who can empathize and understand what you are going through in successes and failures,” noted Rhyu.
Pink Moon’s Lin Chen said she’s part of multiple networking groups on Facebook for Asian creatives and entrepreneurs, including Asian Hustle Network and Asian Creative Network.
Notable AAPI-owned products in 2021
Here are 14 items from AAPI-owned brands that stood out to us, from travel essentials and skincare products to eco-friendly tools and home goods. Since there is no central directory of AAPI-owned businesses, as defined by the Census Bureau’s 51-percent edict, we asked each business below to confirm that it meets the criteria: having persons of Asian or Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander origin owning 51 percent or more of the business.
Pink Moon allows users to filter wellness and skincare products they see by skin type, age and goals.
One of their bestsellers includes this rose quartz gua sha that stimulates lymphatic drainage to reduce puffiness and increase elasticity in the skin, according to the brand. In including this product in their line, Chen initially wanted to celebrate Traditional Chinese Medicine and her heritage, “I want to contribute to the diverse voices in this industry and push for more inclusivity and positive change,” she said. For maximum results, the brand suggests users of the gua sha pair it with the Over the Moon Gua Sha Facial Oil, which is made from a sunflower-moringa oil blend that soothes skin inflammation.
Amy Liu originally started the company to deal with her own eczema and now Tower 28 is the “first and only makeup brand to 100-percent follow the National Eczema Association’s ingredient guidelines and avoid every known skin irritant and allergen for all skin sensitivities,” she shared. This AAPI month, Liu wants consumers to realize AAPI heritage “is about recognizing the incredible people in our community who are pushing the boundaries and speaking up about racism and the need for more Asian representation.”
Made with apricot and raspberry seed oil, this lip gloss is one of the most popular products. Designed to hydrate your lips without drying them out, according to the brand, the gloss comes in four shades: Coconut, Cashew, Oat and Almond.
Frustrated with the fit of his dress shirts, Taiwanese-American Wesley Kang founded Nimble Made “to bring more representation and inclusion in sizing standards, starting with a slim fit that actually fits,” he elaborated.
Made from 100-percent cotton, the brand’s machine-washable dress shirts feature 2-button adjustable rounded cuffs and a Franklin semi-spread collar.
Terrence Santos founded his company in 2015 when he was expecting his first child. Originally, he started looking for toys that would teach the Filipino language to his child, but found nothing — so he created a toy company that provided options. Now his company sells toys that teach Tagalog, Ilocano, Bisaya and Hawaiian. On each of the ten blocks, the company has engraved the Roman number, Tagalog translation, Mahjong character and an English translation.
Eunice Byun and Dave Nguyen are challenging the notion that we need dozens of gadgets to cook delicious meals. A few years ago, the ex Chanel and Revlon executives founded Material Kitchen, a direct-to-consumer company that offers a simplified kitchen starter set at an affordable price. This seven-piece set, which has a 5.0-star average rating from almost 100 consumers, features an 8” knife, 4” knife, tongs, wooden spoon, metal spoon, slotted spatula and wooden holder. What’s more is you can customize the set’s wood type and handle color.
Private Policy is a “genderless” clothing company founded by Haoran Li and Siying Qu, two former Parsons graduates. Inspired by the youth culture in New York City, the pair design clothes without the traditional menswear and womenswear labels. Made from 100-percent Rayon, this jacket can be worn with the sleeves on or off, serving multiple purposes. You can also shop their collection at Selfridges.
Nearly two decades ago, Taiwanese American Melinda Hwang’s father worked with a scientist (and family friend) to come up with a nanofiber membrane mask during the 2003 SARs epidemic. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the U.S., Hwang’s family sent her those masks from Taiwan and, thus, Happy Masks was born.
The brand’s Pro Series offers a range of sizes — with the small size fitting ages three to 10 — and can withstand at least 50 washes by hand. It has adjustable ear straps and a nose wire to fit different face shapes, while its “parrot beak” design leaves enough room between the mask and the mouth and nose in order to breathe comfortably for long-term wear.
Nguyen Coffee Supply imports Vietnamese coffee beans from its partner farms in Vietnam and roasts them fresh weekly in Brooklyn. The Original Vietnamese Coffee Trio features three different coffee blends: Moxy, Truegrit and Loyalty Arabica-Robusta. The coffee comes finely ground, and you can brew it using the brand’s Phin Filter.
CEO and founder Sahra Nguyen said AAPI month is an important time for the community to share their stories. “Many people don’t understand our community because we’ve been erased and ignored for so long,” Nguyen said. “Taking the time to learn about our community’s unique experiences will deepen our connection and sense of shared humanity. From here, we can effectively work together to build a better world.”
CEO Jan Lo said the brand was inspired by his mom’s need for a lightweight, stylish and functional carry-on bag to take with her while traveling. While designing the brand’s first bag — The O.G. — Lo said he “quickly found that it wasn’t just my mother in need of a travel bag that didn’t sacrifice style for functionality.” Lo & Sons, which was co-founded by Lo, his mother and his brother, sells a variety of bags for men and women, including The Catalina Deluxe, which is featured in our roundup of the best weekender bags. The company sells apparel and face masks, too.
Edward and Judy Kwon founded the family-owned CALPAK in 1989 with the mission of making quality bags at an accessible price. Their daughter Jennifer Kwon has run the company since 2013. CALPAK’s bags range in size, style and color from the Kaya Laptop Backpack to the Hue Duffel Bag, which was also featured in our roundup of the best weekender bags. Beyond bags, luggage and organizers, CALPACK also sells men’s and women’s apparel, as well as wellness items like face masks, hand sanitizer and linen and room spray.
After five years of running gr8nola as a side hustle, founder Erica Liu Williams left her 10 year tech career to pursue the brand full time. gr8nola sells granola that’s free from refined sugar, dairy, soy and GMOs in a variety of flavors, from Peanut Butter and Matcha to Cacao and Cinnamon Chai. Williams said she feels it’s her responsibility to use her platform to share her perspective and the voices of others in the AAPI community. “I feel socially responsible to myself, family and broader community to be a role model for others by leading by example and showing other young girls and people who look like me that you can achieve success on your own terms, without succumbing to becoming a “model minority” stereotype,” Williams said.
Silk + Sonder is a subscription service that sends members guided monthly journals with prompts inspired by positive psychology, as well as gives them access to virtual programming for peer-to-peer support. “Silk + Sonder’s mission is to solve the emotional health epidemic for customers versus being a band-aid fix,” said Meha Agrawal, the company’s founder. “At its core, Silk + Sonder is a space for mindfulness, journaling, planning, tracking and creative expression all in one.”
When Sarah Paiji Yoo, Blueland’s CEO, decided to reduce her personal plastic consumption, she quickly realized how difficult it was to do. “Many household items use single-use plastic in their packaging,” said Yoo. “This ultimately is what led me to found Blueland, as no one should have to sacrifice a clean home and clean clothes for a clean planet.” Blueland sells refillable cleaning products like Glass + Mirror, Multi-Surface and Bathroom sprays — included in The Clean Up Kit — all of which are certified by the EPA’s Safer Choice program, as we previously reported in our guide to eco-friendly cleaning supplies.
Stephanie Hon launched Cadence with the mission to eliminate single-use travel-sized plastic in February of last year — a month before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the U.S. “We definitely put a pause on talking about air-travel, going to the gym before work, date nights, etcetera,” said Hon. But despite launching in the midst of the pandemic, the brand’s sustainable capsules repeatedly sold out. Cadence specializes in magnetic and refillable containers made from recycled ocean bound plastic that snap together and can keep your small travel essentials and daily items organized. You can buy the capsules individually or get them a bundle of six, and they come in a variety of colors including Lavender and Terracotta. Hon said one of her biggest challenges as an AAPI business owner was being “bullish” and retraining her inclinations. “To say I think we’re going to be a $XM company, to say it’s a great opportunity for people to be involved. There’s a perfect balance of humility and confidence that comes to light,” she said.
109 AAPI-owned brands to support in 2021
In addition to our favorite products from AAPI-owned brands, we’ve rounded up some businesses across various Shopping reader interests, including home, food, beauty and wellness. We asked each business below to confirm it meets the Census Bureau’s criteria of at least 51 percent AAPI ownership. While this list of AAPI-owned companies and products isn’t exhaustive, we aim to actively update this feature to help keep you informed about AAPI-owned companies worth considering.
AAPI-owned home and kitchen brands
Revamp your kitchen decor with a new apron or oven mitts from The Homebodies or treat yourself or your favorite friend to a new indoor plant from Bark & Vine.
- Anak Toy Kompany
- Bark & Vine
- The Homebodies
- ILHA Candles
- Material Kitchen
- O-M Ceramics
- Pawena Studio
- Woo Ceramics
AAPI-owned beauty and skincare brands
Update your skincare regime by shopping for a Gua Sha facial tool from Mount Lai or combat maskne with Soko Glam’s Pimple Patch. You can also shop from dozens of AAPI-owned makeup brands, fragrance shops like Ellis Brooklyn or nail care brands like Sundays.
- AVYA Skincare
- Cle Cosmetics
- Caire Beauty
- Ellis Brooklyn
- EM Cosmetics
- Essance Skincare
- Glow Recipe
- Happy 2nd Birthday
- Hero Cosmetics
- Krave Beauty
- Mount Lai
- Peach & Lily
- Pink Moon
- Soko Glam
- Tower 28 Beauty
AAPI-owned food and beverages brands
These 17 standout food and beverage options are worth a try, especially if you’re looking to try out some spiced ice cream or a side of kimchi.
- Fly By Jing
- Malai Ice Cream
- Nguyen Coffee Supply
- One Stripe Chai
- The Qi
- Red Boat Fish Sauce
- Wing on Wo & Co.
Looking to expand your at-home library but don’t know where to start? These AAPI-owned bookstores from across the country have a wide variety of options, from used to brand new.
- A Good Used Book
- Arkipelago Books
- Bel Canto Books
- Eastwind Books
- Femme Fire Books
- Maomi Bookstore
- Orphan Books
- Philippine Expressions Bookshop
- Townie Books
AAPI-owned fashion and accessories brands
These 26 fashion and accessory brands can help you update your wardrobe going into the summer. They include everything from on-trend chunky rings at BONBONWHIMS to Gentle Monster’s chic sunglasses.
- Bellemere NY
- Gentle Monster
- Hey Maeve
- Jason Wu
- JW Pei
- Kahili Creations
- Nimble Made
- NOTTE Jewelry
- Paper Project
- Private Policy
- Rue Saint Paul
- Sonia Hou Jewelry
AAPI-owned wellness and fitness brands
You can shop for face masks at Airpop and Happy Masks, get a good night’s sleep with Pluto Pillow or enhance your workout routine with Blogilates.
- Happy Masks
- L’Oeuf Poche
- Mono B
- Pluto Pillow
- Silk + Sonder
AAPI-owned travel brands
If you’re planning a few summer trips, you can get your hands on multiple AAPI-owned travel essentials, including a travel backpack from Brevitē or a versatile carry-on bag from Planeket.
- Lo and Sons
Catch up on the latest from NBC News Shopping guides and recommendations and download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.
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