An entrepreneur in a hurry, Taylor Hoang appreciated the access the University of Washington Bothell gave her to earning a degree in marketing and development in 2002.
Hoang, the 2018 recipient of the UW Bothell Distinguished Alumna of the Year Award, had already started a business and was working full time when she enrolled. At the time, her classes were held in the University’s initial building, located in a business park.
“The professors, the administrators, the students were all very professional, very dedicated,” Hoang recalls. “We all had day jobs and were just there to finish our education and get our degrees. There wasn’t a lot of room to goof around or anything like that. That made it very efficient.”
Hoang was born in Vietnam and grew up in Everett. One of her first jobs was as a bank teller. Called upon to translate for Vietnamese customers, she witnessed the frustrations of some home-loan applicants who didn’t fit the traditional bank clientele. An understanding of their culture and a desire to help them get the right product for their needs led Hoang, at 21, to start a mortgage brokerage that catered to ethnic immigrants.
After seven years, Hoang switched to the restaurant business. She drew on traditions she learned from her mother, who operates a Vietnamese restaurant in Seattle’s International District. Hoang saw an opportunity to bring Vietnamese comfort food to broader American appetites. She currently has five restaurants and a catering company in the Pho Cyclo restaurant group. She opened the District One Saigon restaurant and Maxwella’s Cafe and Bar this year in Redmond.
Restaurant connections led Hoang to meetings with Starbucks and interest in coffee-growing in Vietnam, a large producer of the common Robusta beans. From 2004 to 2009, Hoang worked with government and international organizations to help growers switch to the highly sought Arabica beans, which bring farmers in her homeland a higher price.
Back in Seattle, Hoang then founded the nonprofit Ethnic Business Coalition in 2013 to promote and improve the long-term sustainability of immigrant and minority-owned businesses. Hoang serves as executive director of the coalition that gives about 400 members a voice on issues important to their communities. It also helps with marketing through ethnicseattle.com, a resource for locals and visitors to discover Seattle’s ethnic communities and businesses.
Hoang, who has an 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son, also serves on the boards of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the Seattle Downtown Association and the Washington Hospitality Association. She also was recently appointed by Mayor Jenny Durkan to co-chair the Seattle Small Business Advisory Council.
“Hoang has taken the knowledge she gained at UW Bothell and has used it to not only start and operate several successful businesses, but to also have a tremendous, positive impact on the community,” says Mary Howisey, a founding member of the UW Bothell Alumni Council.
Hoang remains in touch with some of her UW Bothell professors, including Alan Leong, who taught her something about entrepreneurship. She gives talks and mentors students.
Honored to receive the Alumna of the Year Award, Hoang says, “I will carry the banner.”