Meet the 24-Year-Old Filipina-American Who Raised $650K on Kickstarter

By Miriam Zoila Pu00e9rez Dec 11, 2014

The next few weeks will be busy for Angelia Trinidad. After raising more than $650,000, she closed out her second Kickstarter campaign last week. That sum is a whopping 6,584 percent of her modest $10,000 goal. This isn’t chump change. According to Kickstarter’s statistics, only 1,619 successfully funded projects have raised more than $100,000–less than 2 percent of all projects. So what is Trinidad’s illustrious product that 23,000 people backed?

An old-school paper planner.

I can’t say for sure why so many people have shelled out between $25 to $30 for what Trinidad has named the "Passion Planner." But I can tell you why I did. I arrived at the Passion Planner Kickstarter page via a Facebook share. As someone who has experimented with many types of calendars–including a very DIY system that I map out on plain graph paper–it didn’t take much to get me to follow the link. A few minutes after watching Trinidad’s video, I was putting in my credit card information and pressing "send."

I talked to Trinidad late last Friday as she was riding to her home in her parent’s garage in the San Diego suburbs. I wasn’t surprised when she told me she’s listened to over 150 self-help books at three times the normal speed while driving the two-hour stretch between her San Diego home and Los Angeles where she often conducts business.

It’s these little life hacks that Trinidad uses and shares across her social media platforms. Her posts  make her sound like a young, female Filipina-American version of the two authors who have inspired her the most–Tim Ferris and Don Miguel Ruiz.

The speed at which Trinidad absorbs audiobooks is akin to the pace of her everyday life–on overdrive.

She says the source of her drive comes from her parents’ immigration story. Her mom and dad migrated from the Philippines to San Diego when her dad was in the Navy. Her family lived the Navy way of life for 21 years. "A big part of [my drive] was my parents and thinking about everything they had to go through to get me to this situation. I’d be working really late, and I’d think this was nothing compared to what my parents had to go through to get me to where I am."

Trinidad’s experience fits in with an immigrant narrative we hear over and over again. It’s a story about young people motivated to gain success by their parents’ sacrifices. What sets her apart is her journey and her hustle: halfway through college she changed her major from pre-med to art. But she still eschewed the traditional art world and gallery scene. "I didn’t want a life where my livelihood is based on one person’s opinion," says Trinidad who stresses that she’s not "the typical entrepreneur." 

"I have some things going against me. The cards are stacked against me:  I’m young, a woman and a minority who is a first-generation American." she explains.

Still Trinidad, who points out that she comes from a middle class family, is quick to acknowledge where she has privilege: "I am well educated beyond traditional education through personal reading and I have a ironclad set of values and an amazing support system," she says. "I am blessed, oh so blessed, and I’m going to make the most out of every opportunity given to me."

Exceptionalism is, no doubt, a part of Trinidad’s story. For example, while she was at UCLA she was the only Filipino art major despite a campus that is 33 percent Asian Pacific Islander. But the self-help devotee chooses to focus on what motivates her. "My reality is someone else’s dream," she often says.

Trinidad’s reality is a big selling point for a simple concept: "A paper planner designed with your passions and personal goals in mind," as she describes it. Clearly she’s tapped into a market that, despite all our technological advances, is still strong for old school, low-tech tools to help us organize and focus our busy lives.

Where I start to lose Trinidad is her "if I can do this, anyone can" mantra. it’s a prominent part of  her overall message that fails to acknowledge how exceptional her drive really is, and how, despite micro-funding platforms, it’s still not an even playing field. Trinidad says she "actually made money from college  by spending two to three hours each day applying for scholarships" She continues, "[The American Dream is] like you have a nice house, a big nice car and you work for yourself, which I do. But, I don’t think I’m ever going to drive a really expensive car; I still drive the car my parents got me when I was in high school and I still live with my parents … A lot of people don’t follow their dreams because they’re scared of not having enough money. I wanted to erase that fear." 

For now, Trinidad is focused on the practical steps ahead of her such as finding a warehouse space in San Diego so she that she can move her planner’s distribution from her parent’s garage. She’s also establishing the legal and financial systems necessary for a business at this scale. (it’s important to note that on top of her Kickstarter haul, Trinidad has sold  a great number of planners through her website.) And Trinidad plans to create a planner based on an academic calendar, an undated version–and ways she can continue offering her popular tool for free for folks who can’t afford to buy one. 

In the end what’s so compelling about Trinidad is that she has an incredible level of focus on what really matters, a quality that flies in the face of much of the brouhahah we hear about millennials’ apathy. "I think my version of the American Dream is just having enough and having lots of people that I feel close to," says Trinidad. "I value friendships and my family way more than money. I remind myself over and over again what my values are and what I want out of my life. What the Passion Planner does is helps you find out what matters, on paper."