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Check Out Stephanie Tea’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Tea.

Hi Stephanie, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
Ever since I was a kid, I have always been surrounded by many amazing cooks and chefs. While in middle school my parents opened up a couple of Chinese fast-food restaurants and I was always there helping with our family’s business. At the time I wanted to be anywhere but with my parents and our restaurants but little did I know that’s where my passion for food really came to life and I knew that eventually, I wanted to land myself within the culinary world.

I’m known to family and friends as a jack of all trades. I’ve dabbled in a bit of everything in my life. I originally went to school for marketing and worked in boutique agencies as an account manager. Most of the projects and clients that I worked with varied from electronics, food & beverage, and aftermarket automotive industries. I quickly learned that the time and work I put into my job didn’t make me happy and pulled me away from spending any time with family and friends.

Having made connections from working in marketing, I meet some really talented creatives in the photography and beauty world. One day, I happened to be at a photo shoot just hanging out with some new friends and while shooting they were pressed for time and the makeup artist asked if I was able to curl hair. I hopped in for the task and ever since then I started hairstyling and working on photoshoots for editorials, print work, commercials and then branched off into the bridal industry. Once I was stable enough I ended up quitting my job to pursue running my own hairstyling business. Being my own boss and having creative freedom was the most fulfilling job I’d ever come across so I knew I was making the right decision.

After many years of creating a booming bridal hair business and simultaneously working with some of the biggest photographers, models, artists and companies alike, the 2020 pandemic hit and like many creatives the rug was ripped from right beneath me. It was a struggle to say the least.

I started a side hustle to make ends meet until I could get back to working again and that is how my small business, Hawtchet was born. Hawtchet is a chili oil business that I started from the ground up but it wasn’t just based off the need to make ends meet, it grew from a place of passion to share my culinary skills and love for food. I make small batch chili oil that is very unique from all other chili oils out there. One bite and your mouth is packed with an umami bomb. I have had so much love and support from family and friends and I’m so grateful to be able to share my food with everyone. My chili oil business, Hawtchet, is still a side hustle but I look forward to building it more in the future.

Fast forward to today, starting my Hawtchet business gave me the courage to officially start producing and sharing food content on the internet and although I’m still working in the beauty world, hairstyling, I am finally taking a step back and fully pursuing my love of food and sharing it with the world. Today, I share food content from my home kitchen and my cooking adventures while on the road camping on TikTok and Instagram. Now in my role as a content creator, my goal is to showcase my culture and Asian heritage through sharing food and recipes from the super-diverse background I come from.

It’s crazy to me when I look back now at my journey because in 2016, I went to culinary school to pursue my passion and even started a YouTube channel for a little while. I graduated with my culinary degree and then life hit. I was too involved with all the other things I dabbled in so I told myself that I would somehow find my way back into the culinary world.

I am now here today in a place where a pandemic changed my perspective on life and my career and this time I’m actually doing what I’ve always loved and with a growing community that is so beyond supportive I could cry just thinking about it. Ha! I’m so truly humbled and have so much gratitude. Where I’m at currently is the start of a new chapter for me but I’m so excited to share more of who I truly am with everyone.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Obstacles? Challenges? Definitely! Growing up with the pressures from immigrant parents to become successful was always in the back of my mind before realizing more recently that my parents and family wanted nothing more than to see me happy with what I chose to do in life and in my career choices.

I put a lot of pressure from societal norms and what I thought my family wanted for me onto myself, but after having had multiple conversations with my family and parents I know now they stand behind me and just hope and wish for my happiness. I’m definitely one of the lucky ones and have the support of my family to pursue my passions as long as I give it my all.

The part I struggled with the most was the fear of failing so making the decisions that I did never came easy.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am a content creator and small business owner first and foremost. My side hustle is a small business called Hawtchet where I make small batch chili oil that enhances any dish or is delicious just on its own. My full-time job that I’m currently stepping away from is a hairstylist for weddings and photoshoots, which I do still love doing.

I specialize in creating food content that focuses on easy at-home recipes and camp/outdoor cooking all while showcasing Asian cuisine from my background of Chinese, Cambodian and other South East Asian cultures. What I’m most proud of is being able to share my passion for cooking and showing everyone that making amazing Asian food at home or outdoors is totally doable!

What matters most to you? Why?
What matters most to me is being genuinely ME in anything I do. Life is hard and being yourself can be hard sometimes too. I want to show people that it’s ok to be unapologetically yourself. That you need to love yourself and that it’s ok to make the right decisions for yourself even if no one else agrees with it. By doing so you attract opportunities and people that are meant to be around you and love you for you.

Allowing yourself to be who you truly are open more opportunities for more kindness in the world and we definitely need more of that right now.

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