Vietnamese-American Filmmaker Turns Lens on NYC’s ‘DIY Generation’

By Jamilah King Jul 03, 2014

Sahra Vang Nguyen is the daughter of Vietnamese refugees. She used her parents’ story to fuel a new look at entrepreneurs in New York City. Growing up, Nguyen’s parents worked at a laundromat in Boston, a fact that she was embarrassed about until she recognized how hard it must have been for two immigrant to start their own business in a new country.

Nguyen, 27, is now using her parents’ story as inspiration in for her own look at entrepreneurs of color in New York City. From NBC News:

While a 2009 UCLA study on the "State of Asian-American Businesses" found that many second-generation, Asian Americans were hesitant to pursue entrepreneurship because of their parents’ hardships, Maker’s Lane shows a contrasting narrative. Inspired by her ambitious, driven, and motivated peers, Nguyen captures the spirit of the "DIY Generation," whose innovative use of resources has allowed a new breed of entrepreneurs to succeed. The first five episodes feature Asian-American entrepreneurs in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Despite Nguyen’s effort to raise the profile of these business pioneers, studies show they remain the exceptions to the rule. Minority entrepreneurs, according to recent reports, are not well represented in the business landscape. Only 8.5% of people pitching to investors in early 2013 were minorities, and they were also less likely to receive investment (only 15% were funded). On the other side of the table, minorities represent only 4.5% of angel investors.

"Because many investors are not from a minority background, they don’t fund projects that they don’t relate to," Nguyen told NBC News. "Investing in minorities is a social responsibility that not everyone prioritizes. But I see my work as a media producer as parallel to that of an investor."