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Inspiring Conversations with Juliana Hung of The Wax Apple

Today we’d like to introduce you to Juliana Hung.

Juliana, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I spent most of my childhood in Taiwan and moved to LA after high school. Most of my family still lives there, so The Wax Apple also gives me an excuse to go to Taiwan often (pre-pandemic of course)! Since I was young, I remember loving to hunt for treasures at my grandma’s house and eating lots of fruit. My grandmother was never a homebody and traveled around the island often, I tagged along. I wanted a name for my brand that would represent my love for Taiwan, wax apple is the name of my favorite native fruit, thus being the perfect name for my project.

I will always call Taiwan my home, and The Wax Apple is a way to bring a little piece of Taiwan back with me to the US. A lot of the pieces I started with are things I found at my grandma’s house or places that I’ve visited with her. Often times she still comes with me to talk to the makers, some of them in their 70s-80s. Many of the makers have no website and require direct communication in Taiwanese, a local dialect that is slowly fading. Many of the goods are handmade with techniques that have been passed down from many generations. People don’t always see value in them because they have become so common, but if taken out of context, there is so much labor and love that goes into them. Each piece is really a work of art. Before mass manufacturing, people created objects simply by using materials that were naturally grown and abundant in the area.

I hope The Wax Apple can bring some joy and show people the unique handcrafted and everyday objects from Taiwan!

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Small businesses never have a smooth road! LOL, I never expected it to. I would say, as a small business, you play all the roles. How do I keep my webshop stocked? How do I import certain objects to the US from Taiwan? Where do I find new and exciting objects for the shop, especially when I can’t travel to Taiwan (especially during Covid!) I’m always learning!

As you know, we’re big fans of The Wax Apple. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
The Wax Apple is a collection of handcrafted goods and everyday objects uniquely Taiwanese, selected by me and my grandmother! What makes this project special is that it is a reflection of what Taiwan means to me.

I grew up in Taipei but my grandparents lived in Taichung (mid-west side of the country) and Tainan (south) of Taiwan, so I was constantly traveling all over Taiwan as a child. I studied Industrial design and have always had a fascination with crafted goods and just seeing how things are made. As I grew older and moved to the US, I began to appreciate the daily objects in Taiwan. During each visit, I started to collect and bring objects back to LA- maybe it was a way to bring a little piece of Taiwan back with me. Eventually, I decided to start The Wax Apple. The collection has evolved and introduced a wide range of goods from theater shoes, massage tools, and clothing, to hinoki oil! In addition to objects, I also occasionally cater to Taiwanese food, and host Taiwanese cooking workshops!

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
During the first year of the pandemic when no one was eating out, and sales were really low, I started cooking Taiwanese bento boxes for pickup. I think I did it for 20 weeks straight and only repeated my menu twice! What I learned was that I could be creative and still find a way to connect with my supporters! Food is my love language and I was so happy to share a little bit of Taiwanese culture and flavor while cooking!

I feel so fortunate to have had that experience, and for having the means/ability to do so. I had a little taste of what the food service industry would be like and it was definitely not easy. I will always appreciate the friends, family and supporters that have made The Wax Apple possible today!

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Juliana Hung

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