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Meet Diana La of Andie Bear in Orange County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Diana La.

Diana, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
At Andie Bear, our main project is the #andiebeardrop project — which focuses on giving Andie Bears to children who are fighting cancer or have beat cancer in the past. The inspiration behind this project is my mom. On my 4th birthday, my mom gave me a polar bear that I had been eyeing for weeks at the local Mervyn’s. I named my polar bear Andie and Andie became my best friend from the day on. The way Andie Bear is drawn is how I used to draw Andie Bear when my grade school teachers asked me to draw my favorite thing… From childhood to college, to traveling the world, I have always had Andie Bear by my side. To me, Andie stands for love, hope and happiness.

In February of 2015, my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer (never have touched a cigarette in her life) with metastasis to her brain .. Meaning the cancer had evolved and she had numerous tumors in her brain. She was given 18 months to live and my world turned completely upside down. From brain surgery to various treatments to endless CT and MRI scans and numerous hospital stays .. it has been a gut-wrenching, painful and in a weird way, an enlightening journey.

I quickly learned how cancer can affect a family and an individual. I became familiar with the hopelessness that is felt at times. I know how it feels to spend days on end in the hospital with your loved one. I know that your heart can break numerous times. And can’t imagine how it would feel to go through all of this as a child fighting cancer. And that is why we focus on giving Andie Bears (along with some financial assistance) to children who are fighting cancer — Our goal at Andie Bear is to put a smile on every child’s face, one Andie Bear at a time ❤

My mom is still alive… She was given 18 months but she teaches us strength, hope and perseverance, every single day while beating all odds against cancer and the prognosis she was given.

I was born and raised in Oregon. I am the daughter of 2 Vietnamese refugees who came to America as boat people after the Vietnam War. I went to the University of Oregon for my undergrad and then got 2 Master’s Degrees (MAIS and MBA) from CUI. My day job is being a director of a marketing company in Orange County.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I think that every business has their own struggles… for us, my husband and I both have day jobs and we focus on Andie Bear in the evenings and weekends. And in addition, I had to learn how to manage life, work and taking care of my mom who lives in Oregon when she had extended stays at the hospital.

To be blunt, we don’t profit off of Andie Bear (we donate most of our proceeds to other charities, organizations and families who have a child fighting cancer) and it’s more of a passion project rather than a profit-driven business. However, we would like to grow Andie Bear into a brand that people can recognize (like Hello Kitty) and raise more awareness for childhood cancer while doing so.

Please tell us about Andie Bear.
Andie Bear was created after my grandma passed away… In Buddhist tradition, when people pass away, you will do good things to earn merits for the deceased. So, our first official project was a t-shirt that I designed and we donated all the proceeds to Blood: Water Mission (a charity that provides clean drinking water to African countries) in honor of my grandma.

Throughout the years, our company evolved into more cancer focused due to my mom’s diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer in 2015. Instead of being negative about the cards that life dealt to me, I wanted to turn the negative emotions that I felt into something positive and that is where the idea of the #andiebeardrop project came to life… Since 2016, we have gifted more than 700 Andie Bears to children who are fighting cancer. Even though we say, for every Andie Bear purchased, we gift one to a child — we give Andie Bears anyway, even if we don’t sell. To date, we have sold less than 300 Andie Bears but that’s ok with us because we know that when a child receives an Andie Bear, that it will bring them happiness (even if it’s only for a minute) and maybe even let them forget about their fight against cancer… even if it’s only for a little while.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I would like to think that everything in life happens for a reason (so cliche, I know)… but I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and even the people that become a part of your life have a reason as well. Even though it was bad luck that my mom who has never smoked in her lifetime, got lung cancer… it has turned into a beautiful lesson in life. I have learned even more so, to never take things for granted and to forgive quickly (if possible) because every day is not promised.

As for luck… In March of 2019, I was able to score a meeting with one of the founders of Milk+T (Stacey Kwong). I used to aimlessly DM other businesses to collaborate and never got responses but Beyah (the other founder of Milk+T) responded. After meeting with Stacey, she gave us the opportunity to have a pop up at their LA location and from that point forward .. our presence grew along with our networking system. We met some many great business owners (Bunjour Bakery, Donatsu, Loose Leaf, Kindafitkindafat apparel, etc.) who also reached out their hand and wanted to collaborate with us. 2019 was a huge year for us momentum wise, with giving the most Andie Bears to children because we finally were able to do “hospital drops” where we visited children’s hospitals in LA and Las Vegas to personally give Andie Bears to children receiving treatment .. And we also had the most Andie Bear sales as well.

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