Today we’d like to introduce you to Christiana Cunanan.
Christiana, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
It was common (throughout my life) to hear adults comment with surprise when I express how much I love, respect, and consider my family’s needs and opinions. At one Christmas Eve, (I was 7) I remember pestering Santa for a Rolex watch and a pearl necklace so I can have something special to give my parents. My family not only surrounded me with support and their time, but they also conditioned me to vocalize my passions and to trust my process. My dad’s words of motivation would always be “All of that doesn’t matter. What have you done to show for it”. It forced me to think solely about my own agency and desire. As a young Filipino-American, he unknowingly conditioned me to be confident in my vision so long as I was working towards it. So much so that most of the time I felt immune to other comments that continued to make it feel like it was not “normal” for me to partake in, but this time it was due to my gender and ethnic background. I was so accustomed to just “do” what felt right personally for me, that it broke assumptions and limits people placed on me. I would go door to door to sell my Caprisun juice pouches for profit, in high school I persisted as the only girl in the men’s golf varsity team, in college I created the first and later identified as the largest running cooking club at UCLA, and as a working professional I am one of few Filipinos representing Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS). I am now 25 years old and on my 4th work anniversary at WDAS. The more I got involved in the creative process and story of our films, the more I started to mi ********for that I started missing putting my efforts back into sharing my family. I few Filipinos that work at Walt Disney Animation Studios door to door selling them for $5 each complete with a “limited edition” water color painting I did the day before. As I got older, adults that I meet would ask me what I aspire to do, and after my responses, they would tell me, “That’s only for boys” or “There is no money in that”. I heard this many time but did not ever second guess my capabilities because my family instilled me with the desire and focus to see myself thrive in places I am told I do not belong or were not meant for me (so long as my heart is in it). My family and my culture as a Filipino-American made every day a moment of practice or one for me to witness such core values of love, respect, and importance of sharing truth. Up until I was 5, my sister and my parents and I all lived with my Lolo and Lola (Tagalog for grandpa and grandma) in our Southern Californian house, an incubator of sorts for all things Filipino and American. They retired and moved to the Philippines when I was 5, but every memory prior I started to cherish more and more. I remember I would wake up, find their hands for a blessing, and be guided up to a chair to be served a hot plate of fluffy rice with corned beef and a cup of coffee for me to dip a toasted bun in (called pan de sale). I would decline each spoonful. Each attempt awaiting acceptance for me to eat it, but I negotiated to have my “usual” of Lucky Charms cereal without the charms. My Lolo would smile and eat every last bit of marshmallow charm just to see me smile and have a happy tummy. I remember asking innocently what I am, and they told me you should be proud! “You are both Filipino and American”. I had never been to Philippines at this point and had no connection to the land, the people, the language other than the exposure of values and delights that my Lolo and Lola intentionally and unintentionally had me steep in during my impressionable years. fried in My support strength and growth is due to the people I am surrounded by and the values that the I realized why it is so important to create Cheeri Cheeri (Filipino Ice Cream) for me, my family, and the Filipino Community. Imagine this. Ever since you were born, you spent most of your day sitting/squishing things, listening to classic oldies music, eating lucky charms without the marshmallows for one meal and fried spam, egg, and ketchup with rice for another, playing hide and seek as well as Mancala (a Filipino wooden game), and all of this was done laughing and smiling with two of the most precious people that you love (but just so happen to be decades apart in age). They are Lolo and Lola (Tagalog for grandfather and grandmother respectively). Your incredibly handsome and suave Lolo unravels story after story about a place that is 13-hour plane ride from the house you are currently in. You can’t see it, but through repetition of the stories and his delivery, you almost feel like you have visited this place called the Philippines. When you are high on of playing in the backyard and ripping whatever fruit you find growing in the trees to throw for fun, the most beautiful, lady-like, and strong -headed Lola comes out to feed you of things you want to eat and things you are forced to eat. Cheers Cheeri’s Story is very much a reflection of our family and the amazing values that are echoed by the people of the Philippines. My Lolo, ever since I could remember, my grandparents would iterate over and over to me and Cathy (my younger sister) the following: “Everything we own, you own. You are our medicine. You are our inspiration. We love you very much.” We heard our Lolo (grandfather in Tagalog) say these phrases up until the last few days before my Lolo Cesar passed away in May of 2017. Share. Support. Inspire. Magnolia Ice Cream Health Happiness Preserving Culture & Family I strongly believe we shouldn’t hide or try to make an ingredient form into something that it is not, which is why I have everything as close to its natural state/color to promote awareness of the unique produce of the Philippines. I want to showcase our food with honesty and remind people of how delicious and bold they are, not foreign and exotic. There is so many connections to be made and it can all start with a cone and bit of cheer.”
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Every step of Cheeri Cheeri’s journey I have asked myself two questions: “What knowledge/understanding/experience do I need to engage in to grow into the person or leader I will respect?” “What kind of future/community do I want to build through Cheeri Cheeri?” Asking myself these questions have kept my actions in line with my values even if the environment I must navigate as a 25-year-old Filipina- American entrepreneur is filled with terrible obstacles. One of the most challenging obstacles I faced early on in creating Cheeri Cheeri was finding a person willing to share their journey (ultimately, I was looking for a mentor). I would research for months, list out all of the people that I admire or respect that are considered serial entrepreneurs. I was particularly interested in individuals who married culture, art, community, food, and tech to create a message or impact. After identifying 40 people under these criteria, I sent each a unique tailored message. After a few weeks of waiting, I only got 2 responses. Both were nothing more than, “Thanks”. I changed my approach and decided to see what my luck would be reaching out only to Filipino and Filipina self-starters. The most difficult struggle I faced so far has been though it would not do any justice to hide the strength it took to evolve after difficult discoveries and necessary learning curves. If we approach each step and ask ourselves, “Is this how I want to feel/ is this how I want to I guidance towards deciding the kind of person I want to be and the kind of contribution that Cheeri Cheeri could potentially have for the. Each When you have a stable full-time career at Walt Disney Animation Studios, the idea to venture out screams “unnecessary” to many friends and family, “I really want to create something. I am not sure what just yet but I want it to It wasn’t until recently, that I realized how important mentorship is. Mentorship and united Goals
Cheeri Cheeri – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Cheeri Cheeri is a company I started for many reasons, one mainly being to capture the warmth/education/love/ and history that my Lolo shared with me as a child all the way. Shared with me the way he remembers. He was never apologetic about sharing history for what it was, the good, the bad, the ugly. In a way I want to showcase what he and many other have opened my eyes to. Many of which you would see given in an intimate setting at home or as a gift. While these exchanges of food, sweets, and treats may not be something considered to be worth being the “best” because it is something so common, means we lose sight of the meaning of these foods and the values the people are keeping up by continuing to share them. We hope to capture that as purely by intentionally choosing flavors that Filipinos would recognize.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Do you feel like our city is a good place for businesses like yours? If someone was just starting out, would you recommend them starting out here? If not, what can our city do to improve?
We have done pop ups in Southern California cities such as Cerritos, Eagle Rock, and Altadena. I have noticed a group of factors that have played into why we feel Altadena has been working so well for us. I would definitely recommend Altadena
- 1 mini scoop / $2.50
- Flight to Philippines (all 4 flavors) / $10
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @cheeri_cheeri
- Facebook: @cheericheeriicecream
Marilou Cunanan Cathy Cunanan