UBS & Female Founder Collective: Five Questions with Grace Yoon
When Grace Yoon was six years old, she suffered from chronic health issues. As her family navigated the frustrating labyrinth of the American healthcare system, she was mis-prescribed multiple times. Finally, she resorted to non-traditional means - and called on her grandmother, a practitioner of Eastern medicine. Through acupuncture and herbal remedies, her body was able to heal naturally. Grace wondered why these sorts of herbal remedies were unavailable in America, where three in five people die from chronic inflammatory diseases like stroke, respiratory illness, heart disorders, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. This question led her to create Qi Alchemy, a company rooted in ancient medicine and dedicated to bringing holistic health to the modern world. At a time when K-Pop and K-Beauty are growing influences over American culture, Grace believes the western world is finally ready to experience the healing power of K- Wellness.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I never imagined starting a business. Three years ago, I was in a discovery phase in my life where I wanted to find meaning and purpose, and had this desire to help people in some way. I was in Korea walking through an herbal market, and I wondered why Eastern herbal remedies weren’t accessible in America, the most prosperous country in the world.
Three in five people die due to chronic inflammatory diseases, and 66% of all Americans take at least one prescription medication - all without addressing the root causes. This sparked the genesis of Qi Alchemy and catalyzed my mission to help humanity elevate their health and wellness by introducing the best in-class Korean wellness products and practices to the modern Western world. As of now, I've raised a seed round through angel investors, and will continue to have conversations with VCs and angels.
What barriers have you had to overcome along the way as an entrepreneur?
It’s true that only three percent of women get venture funding, but there's another interesting statistic that really breaks it down by race. White males get 58 percent, whereas White females get 11 percent, Asian females get six percent, Black males get two percent, Black females one percent, Latin males one percent, and it’s literally zero percent for Latin females. So it's not only a gender issue, it's a race issue too.
Project Entrepreneur -- the founding members and those female leaders -- are really trying to create a different path in terms of access to funding, access to experienced advisors who truly believe in gender equality. And that matters, because we really need to change our perspective on what a typical CEO should look like. We need to open our eyes to look at their intentions and motivations, their work ethic, their intellect, their ability. Just because you are over six feet tall and have a big frame and a loud voice does not mean you're stronger than everyone at the table.
What is the most valuable thing you learned from Project Entrepreneur?
I have been so inspired by the group of women that I've met. They are the pioneers for how we are going to shift gender equality in the startup venture world. There's a lot of work to be done, but UBS is invested in women who have the same vision of paying it forward. We're going to try to climb that mountain by removing small stones, one step at a time.
As an Asian-American woman, I am inspired when I see an Asian female investor. There's this cultural stigma to an Asian woman: We're docile, we're patient, we're hardworking, and we won't challenge authority. But I think that that perspective is really shifting, especially now.
What was the inspiration behind the name Qi Alchemy?
My dad is one of the most optimistic, healthiest people. He's 75. He still does 50 push-ups and jogs three to four miles every single day. Everybody in the neighborhood calls him The Singing Man, because he sings while he’s jogging around outside. He's just one of those people that you always want to be around. And I asked him, “Dad, what’s your secret?” To which he replied, “Grace, It’s all about energy. It’s your Qi, the vital life force that you need to balance. Remember that.”
What impact do you hope to have on the world through your work?
K-Pop and K-Beauty have taken the world by storm and I truly believe the next Korean- influenced global phenomenon will be K-Wellness. That's why I am determined to educate people on holistic practices and provide high quality herbal remedies from the East. Ultimately, there’s success to be found from both Eastern and Western ideologies and the key is balancing them -- finding our collective Qi.
Western medicine is aimed to diagnose and treat life altering medical conditions. Eastern medicine's aim is prevention. Nourish and take care of the body to minimize the risk of developing many health conditions which are potentially preventative. Americans are realizing that our healthcare system needs to integrate more preventative practices and are curious to learn more about "non-traditional" health care solutions so investors are interested and excited in what I am building.