I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly Lan, the founder of Hello Prosper which is an educational organization raising awareness for Asian American history and culture through workshops and a beautiful children’s book. Check out Kelly’s story and her inspiration behind Hello Prosper.
1. What is your profession?
I am a visual storyteller. I take complex systems and concepts and make it digestible for the everyday consumer. Currently I work at a bank–a little dry I know, but the projects here poses awesome challenges. My team focuses on creating mobile and web applications using copy and visual cues to ensure our customers are having the best experience using our app. We want to delight, educate, and convert customers to love our brand and keep coming back. This methodology of putting users needs and desires first is my secret weapon. I go into every project kind of like an investigator, designing products based under extreme uncertainty and then testing to see what our customer thinks in small sprint cycles, which then disproves or approves our theories. It keeps everyone humble with a tremendous amount of empathy. Innovation is never an easy task, but I think this formula of being a lifelong learner has kept me sharp and successful in whatever venture I take on.
2. Tell us about the project you are working on. Why & how did you get into this project?
While my 9-5 is working at a bank, my 5-11 job is curating a history book for young readers featuring women of Asian descent and their incredible true stories. I decided to undertake this project mostly for two selfish reasons. First, ever since I was young, I always had a strong empathy towards others, molded my actions so to not inconvenience my parents or strangers. This behavior skewed me to be less risk-averse and put my needs and wants secondary. Now that I’m approaching 30 and have a better grasp in life’s affairs (I think ha) I’m putting myself first and it feels great!
The second reason I’m pursuing this project is also because it’s a great business opportunity. This book features women of Asian descent who have influenced American history and culture. The concept of Asian Americans as a racial group is still new, and I think in the past few years we are starting to organize to help Asian Americans be elected into office. Additionally, from a data standpoint, Asian Americans are less than 7% of the population, so most people will not pursue this kind of project simply because the numbers aren’t there. Because this segment is largely ignored, there is less competition in this space, less competition means great opportunity to stand out.
One last reason why this product is important. Asian American history is not offered in school curriculum until college – this to me, is unacceptable. The period between middle and high school is the most vulnerable, a time when kids are exploring their identity and building their values. At home, this book will encourage immigrant parents to talk more openly with their kids about their heritage. For the third, fourth, fifth generation Asian Americans, this book reaffirms that we have shaped America in critical movements, like fighting in WWII and the leading the civil rights movement alongside Malcolm X. I am serving an underserved community of kids and parents that are not equipped with the knowledge of their forefathers/mothers. I want kids to have the confidence to talk to their friends about their Asian-ness as a sign of power and pride than a social disadvantage.
3. What do you wish you would have known about this project before you started working on it?
The amount of energy it takes! Luckily, I like to keep busy so that facet hasn’t been so bad. I think the hardest challenge is getting over impostor syndrome. This is my first time compiling a book with short stories and writing is not my strong suit. But there is always a solution to a limitation. I decided that collaborating with writers who are better than me was the best route in bringing this project to life. My role is to oversee the work to ensure consistency and to create a desirable product. I have scoured the bookshelves in my market competition and identified the best passages by one factor: did I have an emotional connection to the story? Finally, by taking in all the best techniques I’ve observed, I created a standardized guide deck to allow all the writers to align to. We’re in the process of creating the stories, so hopefully we get positive feedback once we test the stories!
4. How do you organize a budget for this type of project?
Great question. I’ve had the discipline of not spending more than I can afford, and cutting out extraneous items to allowed me to funnel a budget into the project. For example, I opt to drink the office free coffee as opposed to a Starbucks coffee. These small habit changes have provided more focus on what is important to me. This discipline along with my privilege of being debt-free has given me the confidence to manage a budget for the specialized work needed for this endeavor.
5. What are some obstacles you have faced in your profession & in developing this project as a woman of color?
I’ve never been promoted at a corporate job and that has always bothered me to some extent. Only when I threatened to leave a job or actually leave do I get that offer. I’m not sure if its an obstacle, but it does raise suspicion on the perception of what a leader looks like. I’m at a point where titles don’t matter to me as much as in my early 20s. So now I’m not waiting around for other’s accolades, I’m just doing me and it feels liberating.
6. What advice would you give to women of color who want to follow your path?
Imagination is a powerful tool. Find a team and build it. Humans have the ability to think up something they have not yet experienced, this separates humanity with all other species in the world.
Thank you Kelly for your insight into how to create projects that represent our community and for the work you are doing!
As you all may or may not know, I am very excited and proud to be a part of this project with Kelly. She is working very hard to get this book together and I will update you all when it is ready for your eyes!
Until then, you can follow the journey of the creation of this book at the Hello Prosper Instagram page.
You can also follow Kelly and her beautiful left-handed calligraphy on her Instagram page.
Hopefully you found Kelly’s interview as inspiring as I did. If you have questions or thoughts about her interview or her project, please feel to leave a comment below.
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Art by Loso F. Perez of Prime Vice Studios
These blogs explore my writing process and highlight my favorite writers and books.