How on earth did this founder go from selling cheese, to practicing law to working at a wearable tech startup? By Christina Wang Kloster (Writer, The Wang Post)
A regular series at The Wang Post, where we sit down and talk with notable Asian entrepreneurs. This week, we speak with Veronique Kherian, based in San Francisco, CA.
Let’s start from the beginning: where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born in New Jersey of Vietnamese parents, the first generation to be born in the U.S. We lived in New Jersey until I was about 13. Then, we moved to Northern Virginia.
What were you like, growing up?
I think I was a very late bloomer. My high school years were difficult for me. I wasn’t popular, and I was very shy. I would always be the last person picked for teams in PE class. That said, I always did well in school, and could turn to my piano playing and dancing, which I lived and breathed throughout middle school and high school.
Were there any hints in your young adulthood of your entrepreneurial path?
The seeds of entrepreneurship were sown early. My dad was a great role model for me. He arrived as a college student in the United States from Vietnam in the mid-1970s, and scraped his way to success. He would tell me stories of eating rice in a “broth” of water and bouillon seasoning during those school years. Despite the tough beginning, he fought his way into NYU’s Stern School of Business, where he received his MBA, and continued into the banking world in New York City. Eventually he moved the family closer to his family where he opened his own firm with his brother and sister.
You’re a licensed attorney, and also a cheesemonger. We sense a story!
After law school, the economy was at its worst, and no one was hiring new lawyers. I sent out over a hundred resumes with no success. Instead of pining away at a non-existent law job, I started working as a cheesemonger, which has probably been one of the best decisions of my life. I started my blog, Miss Cheesemonger, and was able to learn so much about this industry that was completely new to me. The blog has opened so many doors and allowed me to make many great connections. In a lot of ways, the courage gained from the cheese blog allowed me to start my law practice, and now, delve further into entrepreneurship.
What’s the inspiration behind your current project?
You’re catching me in a career transition: I have a legal background and owned my own copyright and trademark law practice in San Francisco. There, I worked in-depth with small business owners and entrepreneurs. It was so exhilarating being around such smart, talented, motivated individuals. My clients kind of fit along my own interests: they were in technology, visual arts, film, design, apparel, food & beverage, wine, amongst other fields.
After a bit of time with my law practice, I knew I loved owning my own business and helping others. I also started wondering if I could do something else other than practice law. Could I be of more help to people in a capacity other than as a lawyer? So I decided I wanted to join a company– a startup. I love the challenges of launching a new business. I also love the creativity and free flow of ideas that comes from having a small team, as well as the looser company structure.
I’ve recently (a few weeks ago) started a project with a French technology company called Laster Technologies.
Laster Technologies is a French company in the field of augmented reality. They’ve offered hardware and software – eyeglasses and applications—in the B2B sphere since 2005.
Now, the company is getting ready to mass-produce its first consumer product. This new product is an eyeglass with an augmented reality lens covering one eye. The eyeglass connects to your smartphone through Bluetooth. Once connected, you can use the eyeglass for so many things: as an extension of your phone to make and answer calls, read texts, emails, articles, or listen to music. The current apps support a lot of outdoor activities: biking, hiking, skateboarding, driving, sailing, and flying. The eyeglass can show you information about weather conditions, altitude, speed, navigation, and your environment. We’re planning others in the future, though! This is only a beginning.
They’ve tested and just about perfected their prototypes, and are prepping to bring the eyeglasses to market. We’re going to be launching our Kickstarter campaign in just a few weeks. I’ll be working on their Kickstarter campaign and whatever other PR/Marketing issues that come up!
What’s been a challenge working as part of an established company, and how did you manage it?
There are a couple of challenges. First, there are some cultural differences between France and the US. I’ve worked in France on several occasions, so I’ve had experience with this. The main key is to keep communications open, keep an open mind, ask questions, and express yourself clearly from the beginning.
Additionally, Laster Technologies is moving from the B2B space into the B2C space. It’s different. It can be volatile. We want to make sure we set ourselves apart, that our message is crystal clear, and that it impacts people positively. We’re planning our brand and communications as carefully as possible, and by staying flexible to handle any surprises that come along.
What are your next goals for yourself?
Personally, I am pretty sure I will start another business. At this point, I wanted more experience working with manufacturing, with tangible products, and with a small company because I think that’s what my experience has been lacking. It’s one thing to just offer a service. It’s another to be faced with supply chain issues and logistics on a global scale.
What advice do you have for new female entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. I have found that those kinds of lessons are the ones that make the most lasting, useful impressions!
Also, don’t be afraid of failure. So many of my best experiences have come out of failed attempts at something else. When I first applied to law school, I wasn’t accepted anywhere. Instead of moping, I went to live and work in France for a year, and met my now-husband. I graduated law school in 2009, when the legal industry was drastically cutting back. After sending out hundreds of resumes, I decided to follow my heart instead, and took on a job as a cheesemonger.
Be honest with yourself. If your mind is telling you to go one way, and you’re actually going another, it won’t be long until you find you are unhappy. Be yourself, and you’ll be happier for it.
Be persistent! If you have a dream, you just have to keep going for it! Don’t sweat it if some people reject you or your idea. Just keep moving forward. Being an entrepreneur is part of a winding, long journey. Keep the long-term vision in mind, and don’t get hung up on small stuff.
Have a mentor, or several. A lot of times, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when you’re faced with challenges and situations. Or sometimes, you just want to talk to someone else because it can be lonely at the top. Having a sounding board of trusted advisors or mentors is valuable beyond measure.
Be kind, be grateful. Kind of sounds like kindergarten lessons, but it’s true.
Follow Veronique’s on Facebook and Twitter. She writes about food and entrepreneurship at Misscheesemonger.com.
This post originally appeared on The Wang Post.
About the blogger: Christina Wang Kloster moonlights at the Content Manager at The Wang Post. She has a bad shopping habit — good thing she works in procurement! She has lived in three of the top 20 largest cities on earth, two of them in China.