Photo: Eric Miyasato
Raised by foreign born parents, my sister and I grew up with expectations to graduate from college and have a lucrative career as a doctor or a lawyer. If not this, then at least marry one! Our parents just wanted the best for us. They did not want us to experience the hardships that came along with being financially unstable. For them, education was the solution to financial freedom. Maybe they are right, but what they did not know was that the values we gained and the love we experienced from them would be the most meaningful. My Mom only attained a high school diploma and my Dad joined the United States Navy one year before graduating college for the chance to live that “American Dream.” As second generation, my sister and I were among the first to obtain college degrees in our family but we did not enter the professions our parents wanted.
Phillip Han, who was born and raised on Oʻahu, is of Korean descent and can relate to my experience. He is also second generation but still lives with his parents’ expectations of attending college and having a “traditional” career. His parents own a clothing boutique in Waikiki and he grew up with a belief of always needing to make a profit. “My involvement with church and volunteer activities made me realize my social responsibility to lift our community,” says Phillip, founder and owner of Lift Aloha, an apparel company that is driven by giving back to the community. “This is what living with Aloha means.”
Phillip, holding certifications in various fitness modalities, was extremely active in crossfit but has since changed interests to powerlifting. His fitness enthusiasm along with his passion for community service inspired him to start up Lift Aloha. The on-line apparel company was created to help people realize that they can make a difference no matter how small the contribution may be. For every apparel purchased, a portion of the sales is donated to a charity of the consumer’s choice or to the charity Lift Aloha features for the month. “We all have a desire to give back to our community but some people just don’t know how. This is one way.”
Phillip is very passionate about this project and admits to waking up every morning scared. His morning ritual is to think of all the things that can go wrong for the day and make contingency plans to fix them. He has no experience in graphic and web design or the apparel market but he took the initiative to learn everything he needed to make this business successful. Phillip utilized on-line resources and bartered with people for services he needed. The encouragement and support from his friends and girlfriend energized him. He was passionate about other project ideas prior to Lift Aloha but they never panned out. Every rejection was discouraging but he made sure he learned from these experiences and applied it to the next opportunity. “I’m confident in what I do. My vision is clear and every day I put in 110% of myself into Lift Aloha. It’s hard work and not glamorous but I love it!”
It has only been two months since he publicly launched the business and he is excited to be meeting his goals. The exposure through social media has reached an international audience. He never imagined this one man operation would reach these milestones so quickly. Phillip is focused on maintaining this momentum to reach his fundraising goal of $50k by end of this year.
Lift Aloha is not the ideal career path Phillip’s parents want to support, but this is not going to be a barrier for him. Phillip’s message to everyone who can relate to his upbringing is that “It’s okay to follow your passion. Our parents and society shape us by the values we learn from them but they don’t dictate how we live our life. Follow your passion, work hard and you’ll find yourself loving what you do.”