Celebrating Atlanta’s Inspiring and Influential Asian American Women for Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month: Founders Eileen Lee, Anita Hsu, and Sinoun Chea

Part 1: Founders Eileen Lee, Anita Hsu, and Sinoun Chea

By Jackie Yen

In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we have invited Lola Member, storyteller, and creative Jackie Yen to contribute an interview and photo series celebrating Atlanta’s Asian American women. These incredible humans are founders, small business owners, and heads of purpose-driven organizations. Their inspiring stories will be posted throughout the month of May.

First up, we are featuring entrepreneurs Eileen Lee, Anita Hsu, and Sinoun Chea. They talk to us about finding support in business, what beauty means, and some surprising 23 and me ancestry DNA test results.

Celebrating Eileen Lee
Anti-racism, Asking for Help, and Feeling Seen

Eileen photographed at her business The Lola.

Five years ago Eileen Lee moved to Atlanta and proceeded to get a puppy, have a baby, and open a co-working space for Atlanta’s womxn. She lives in Grant Park with her two sweet girls.

Where are you from and how do you identify yourself?

I am a New Yorker and first-generation Korean American. My parents immigrated from South Korea in the early ’70s.

I’m curious, how does it feel to be living in Atlanta today?

I’ve struggled a bit with my Asian identity since moving to Atlanta. For the first time in my life, someone called me white—it took me a while to process. I’m learning a ton about the history of racism, including how I fit into the system. My journey is figuring out how to be an anti-racist and an upstander to people of color.

It does feel strange being in Atlanta with so many Asian hate crimes happening in New York and California. It feels like most Atlantans are generally unaware of Asian racism or think hate crimes are less of an issue now.

How do you find support for your small business and yourself personally?  

I was raised to always figure things out alone, but being an entrepreneur for over a decade has given me lots of practice asking for help—advice, money, support. As I work that muscle, I remind myself not to internalize struggles but instead share them with others. That’s how we learn, grow, and find support. I’m also lucky to be part of The Lola community. There isn’t anything we womxn cannot accomplish together.

What books, shows, or movies do you love? 

It’s been exciting to see more and more Asian representation. Reading Crying in H Mart reminded me of my own experience losing my father to cancer. I get emotional watching Turning Red and observing my daughter recognize herself in the protagonist Mei. Listening to The Linda Lindas, a tween punk rock band, sing about racism and sexism is awesome!

Time to wrap up! I know you’re a foodie. What’s the last amazing thing you ate in Atlanta?

Everything at Korean Fusion’s pop-up. I went with my mom, who moved to Atlanta to be closer to us!

Celebrating Anita Hsu
Beauty on the Inside, A Sense of Belonging, and Giving Back to the Community

Anita photographed in her garden in Midtown with her dog Tater.

Anita Hsu is a Chinese American, Southern gal from Stockbridge, Georgia. She lives in the Garden District in Midtown with her family and owns multiple restaurants in the Atlanta metro area.

What do you celebrate about yourself?

I celebrate being a mother of two beautiful children, an entrepreneur, and a wife. I celebrate being a creative, curious, and challenge-driven person.

What’s an adversity you’ve overcome and turned into a source of strength?

As an overweight child I was bullied and shamed. I wanted to fit in and “look pretty,” which in fourth grade led to an unhealthy obsession with my weight that lasted through college. With the help of a loving support system and personal work, I eventually developed self confidence and a kinder mindset about my body image. Today, I celebrate that experience. Getting physically healthy taught me about the power of habit and discipline, and my emotional struggles make me a more compassionate and curious person.

Your daughter is 9 years old. How do you talk to her about beauty?

A person’s beauty comes from the inside. I talk about balance. Muscles and fat protect her bones and organs, but being overweight can make her sluggish and not have the energy to enjoy herself. Food is fuel for her lifestyle, and physical activity is taking care of her body.

How does it feel to be living in Atlanta?

It feels wonderful. I feel a deep sense of belonging to the community, which supports my businesses and passion for hospitality. That support runs both ways. For example, this month my restaurant Sweet Auburn BBQ is featuring up-and-coming Atlantan chefs and also raising money for the Atlanta Chapter of Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

You’re an owner of Sweet Auburn BBQ, Gezzo’s West Coast Burritos, and Lazy Betty. What’s it like running restaurants?

The restaurant business is very competitive, so it’s challenging. And also rewarding and humbling! The people keep me in the game. Being an owner is like caring for a huge family. We break dishes, argue, and cry together, but we also laugh and create together.

The food at your restaurants is so diverse. Everything looks delicious.

Yes, I especially love the Banana Pudding Soft Serve ice cream by Chef Jules at Sweet Auburn BBQ. Taking a bite transports me back to the comfort of childhood.

How do you find support for your businesses and yourself?  

I am super fortunate to have an amazing husband and family. My two brothers and dad also live in Atlanta. Support means everything from talking business to babysitting to giving me a hug.

Last question! What are you reading or watching these days?

I really enjoyed Daring Greatly. The Speed of Trust is a must read for business owners to build better teams. Bridgerton!

Celebrating Sinoun Chea
Loving Yourself, Anyone Can be a Boss, and Trusted Advisors

Sinoun photographed outside her home in Old Fourth Ward Park.

Sinoun Chea is passionate about helping small businesses thrive. She lives in Old Fourth Ward and loves being outside in nature, basking in the sun, and reading a good book.

Where are you from and how do you identify yourself?

I’m from Dallas, Texas. What do you mean, “how do you identify yourself?” I’m inclined to say, “human!”

Fair response! I was thinking about your DNA story.

Sure! My parents are Cambodian refugees that came to America in the 80s. I’m first generation American and grew up calling myself Cambodian. Recently, I took a 23andMe test and found out I’m only 40% Cambodian! I’m also 40% Vietnamese and 20% Chinese.

What does joy look like to you?

Joy is having unconditional love for yourself. It’s being kind to yourself and tending to your needs.

What gave you the belief that you could start your own small business, ShiftWeb?

When I was a kid, my parents bought a landscaping company and ran it on their own. I watched my dad manage his accounts and employees, and it made me believe anyone could be a business owner. I’ve also always wanted the freedom to do whatever I want, and that also made me think that being my own boss was my only real career choice! When it’s your only choice, you make it work!

How do you find support for your small business and yourself personally?  

A good friend and I started a Mastermind group, and we meet every two weeks to talk about our goals and challenges. This has been the most valuable thing to me personally and professionally. Finding support from people you trust and feel safe with is key.

I also do my best to surround myself with folks that are smarter and more experienced than I am. It’s the best way to learn and stay driven.

Reading anything good?

I just finished Four Thousand Weeks. I’ve always had an exorbitant amount of interests and projects I wanted to execute in my lifetime. I didn’t realize how overwhelmed I felt from all the pressure I put on myself until I read this book. I have limitations, and as one human being, I can’t do it all in four thousand weeks. It may sound a bit pessimistic, but that framing actually lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. It inspired me to rethink what is MOST important to me and to shift my focus to those things.

One more question! What’s the last amazing meal you ate in Atlanta?

At Machu Picchu Restaurant on Buford Highway.

Thank you so much Eileen, Anita, and Sinoun!

Stay tuned for more posts throughout AAPI Heritage month celebrating Atlanta’s Inspiring and Influential Asian American women founders, business owners, and leaders making an impact.


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14 thoughts on “Celebrating Atlanta’s Inspiring and Influential Asian American Women for Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month: Founders Eileen Lee, Anita Hsu, and Sinoun Chea”

  1. Loved this post! The diversity of what these womxn have accomplished is inspiring, and it’s so important that we’re celebrating Asian womxn. I also need to get my hands on some of that banana pudding soft serve. That’s genius 🙂

  2. I love the interview and photos and profile on these inspiring Asian American women in Atlanta!!!

    1. What a heartening post! It is truly inspiring to learn how each woman not only founded their own businesses, but found their source of confidence as well. Great interview, beautiful pictures, loved it!

  3. I loved reading these interviews! Thank you so much for bringing them into the light. Wonderful, inspiring, and community-building. We need more things like this is the world!

  4. Thanks for producing this post! I loved learning about other Asian American womxn in Atlanta. And knowing that an organization like the Lola cares about our stories makes me feel very supported. Thank you!

  5. Elizabeth O’Brien

    I loved reading those interviews & really appreciate hearing a multitude of voices. I feel like I wanted to hear more from these badass women. Thx!

  6. Whitney Adams

    Love this! Thank you for highlighting AAPI leadership in Atlanta! I also need some banana pudding soft serve!!!

  7. Thanks so much for putting this together Jackie! I loved learning about all these local inspirational Asian Womxn leaders – way to represent ladies! Makes me proud to be an Asian womxn and encourages me to connect more with my community.

  8. What a thoughtful piece on these local Asian Womxn leaders in Atlanta. Our stories are important and powerful. Thanks for sharing it here. I look forward to more posts like this one!

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