It’s been a while since I blogged. Much has changed since I published my first one. To say that life threw us a curveball is an understatement. Back in June 2021, we got news that our eldest son Tim passed away in a single car accident in Texas. Only on TV do you see police showing up at a family’s house to inform them of the news. We never thought we would be one of those families. That image will forever be stained in our minds. Even harder, we never thought that as parents we would have to do the unthinkable, bury our children. The questions of who, what, where and why was asked many times over, especially the why’s. Why did it happen? He was only 29 and just beginning his life. It was hard and surreal, and every day was met with something we weren’t ready to face.
The doing of planning a funeral, getting Tim home from Texas to lay him to rest, and everything that comes with planning a funeral kept us busy. It wasn’t until a month after his passing, and we laid him to rest in July that the grieving began. During this time, you blame yourself for not making enough time. For working too much. For being too focused on business and not family. It took a while to go back to the food cart and our food business. I questioned whether it was worth it. Why am I even doing this? And for what? Who even cares about what I’m trying to accomplish?
In the midst of all this grief and sadness, I did have a buyer for my food cart and location. I almost sold it! It wouldn’t have matter if I did as we were in a time where darkness filled our life. And if I did close shop for good, let go of my vision, no one would blame me. I leaned on my faith and prayed a lot during this time. Though my mind was very loud and said to close shop, my heart was speaking silently but strongly that it wasn’t my life’s purpose. I’ve only just begun and there was more I still needed to do. I told the interested party that I will think about it over the next month and should I choose to sell, I would inform him.
The food cart remained open on a limited basis in August and in September it was fully opened. It was hard to be there in the beginning. Hard because my mind wasn’t there at times and I kept cutting my fingers as I wasn’t paying attention. By September, I felt “normal” enough to open fully. Our wonderful customers humbled me with their love and compassion. They came by to offer their condolences and give us words of comfort. It filled my heart and made me realized that we matter to many. That our presence matter. Deep in my heart, I knew that Tim would not want us to let go of this vision and mission. So, with renewed faith and purpose, we are forging ahead with what we started. To share our love for the Hmong culture with everyone. To contribute to the narrative of the Hmong story in the PNW. To inspire many budding entrepreneurs to take on the Hmong brand and share their version of it with the community here. I look forward to doing something I was supposed to have done this year but didn’t feel inspired, i.e. add a couple of food to my menu and push my artisan products because through food is how Hmong people show their love.
(picture: our last family photo, December 2019. Covid made it difficult in 2020 to bring the entire family together)
I’ve decided to start blogging. In one part, to put what’s in my head onto paper. The other part, to share a little more of me in my own words rather than having others tell my story. Plus, when I’m stressed and unsure, I find that writing is therapeutic.
These last 3 years of my journey into entrepreneurship hasn’t been an easy one. I often wondered how I got here. What possessed me to “retire” from my career after 18 years to do this? It wasn’t easy walking away from a comfortable career and working for free and very long hours. It’s no wonder why they teach us in business school that it takes 3-5 years for a business to be profitable and that you must be in this for the long haul. It’s also why so many start-ups fold after a year. I know now that being an entrepreneur isn’t for the faint of heart. I was tested. My faith was tested. My self-worth was tested. I had such a steep learning curve, full of emotional beat downs, mistakes, and tears. But all of this humbled me even more and allowed me to empathize for those in the words of Paulo Coelho “pursuing their personal legends.” I’m glad that I was truly naïve in the beginning of my journey. Because if I had known the full scope this would take on me, I may not have walked this path.
I remembered talking to a fellow entrepreneur who inspired me for what she built with her Mexican food business. Her words of advice meant so much to me during many rough and doubtful days, “when times are tough, remember why you started.” Those words guided me during my deepest darkest days when I questioned if I can even do this.
But to understand my why, I must start at the beginning…
Moving from the city of Milwaukee, WI to a small 8 acres farm in Hillsboro, OR (metro Portland, OR) was one of the most emotional decisions I’ve made. On the one hand, I met the love of my life and was eager to start a new chapter. On the other hand, I left what I spent a huge portion of my adult life building. What made it even harder was leaving my adult son, family, friends and network. I know it wasn’t a total good-bye as technology and airplanes can solve it quickly. However, it was difficult to not have the physical presence of all that I hold dear and comfortable in my life.
I never knew how depressed I was and how hard I was hit emotionally by the transition. I should’ve been happy because I secured a “great” job before I arrived in Oregon and I married a wonderful man. However in life where there is positive, there is also negative. I hated the job because I no longer resonated with that career and the toxicity of the place was unbearable. One of the worst I’ve experienced! My husband’s work schedule didn’t help either with his travels and changing hours. We barely saw each other that first year. My mental health was stretch to capacity and I had to do something before things got worst. So, after 9 months at my job and with the love and support of my husband, I quit and walked away. My husband’s schedule went back to normal with no more travels. That gave me the start that I needed. But now I needed to find myself again. Find my purpose. Find my why. What is the next chapter for me here in the PNW? What legacy do I want to leave behind?