Growing up in Chicago as the daughter of Vietnamese refugees, Audrey Siu said her coming-of-age story is both unique and clichéd.
“(My parents) came to America and, just like a lot of Vietnamese refugees, they found nail care,” Siu said. “Eventually, my mom opened up her own nail salon, so I kind of grew up there.”
Today, Siu is carrying on the nail-care tradition as her own children look on, but not in the way one might think. After working as a consultant for Microsoft off and on for several years, Siu decided to go into business for herself using the nail-care acumen she developed during her adolescence.
Veque (pronounced vey-quay), a nail-polish startup, was born in Siu’s Redmond garage, where she endeavored to make a product that was longer-lasting, vegan, cruelty-free, and 9-free — an industry gold standard that means a polish is free from nine harmful toxins. But most importantly, Siu said she wanted to make her family proud.
“I had to do it right because I know all these people in nail care that would yell at me if I did it wrong,” Siu said with a laugh. “My mom or my sister would say, ‘What did you do? This is terrible!’”
Even the product’s name is a shout out to Siu’s family and heritage.
“Veque is actually two words in Vietnamese that I’ve put together, and it actually means, ‘the journey home,’” Siu said. “So for me, it is that personal journey home to this industry that I feel like is a part of my heritage … the nail salon was like my village; that’s my tribe, that’s my home.”
Starting small, Siu launched her site in 2016 and began to market her nail polish to boutique nail salons (including her family’s Chicago salon, now owned by her sister) in 2017. She also began participating in occasional pop-up shops in local stores, such as Madewell in Seattle’s University Village. The staff at Madewell was so impressed with Siu’s nail polish that members sent word up to their parent company, J. Crew, garnering Veque a spot in J. Crew stores worldwide.
Currently, Siu is working on scaling her company to meet this increased demand while working out of her home and raising two small children. Friends ask her how she does it all.
“Although I’ve had a corporate career for more than 10 years before launching my business, my most important learning experience was becoming a mom,” Siu said. “As a mom, I stopped accepting the status quo without fully understanding the why for the sake of my children. That thinking flipped a switch that led me into designing and running a business and life that works for my family and me.
“I would love to see more employers and moms value the ‘mom experience’ because we are people managers, project managers, and our smaller work windows force us to work with greater urgency and purpose,” Siu said.
Keep reading to see what this mom entrepreneur does on a typical day.
7 a.m. The kids eat breakfast and do math problems with Dad while I pack lunchboxes for the day.
8:35 a.m. No time for parking or walking (especially when it’s raining) for this mom. Drive-thru everything, please.
8:45 a.m. Good morning, Einstein. Ready for our brisk morning walk? Maybe we’ll go for that jog … tomorrow.
9 a.m. While the kids are in school, this is my window to catch up on emails, calls, designing, coding, and maybe a DIY manicure.
12:34 p.m. Driving while getting a little CEO business training from Guy Raz, the host of my favorite podcast, How I Built This.
1 p.m. Coaching session with Katherine McCaslin, my friend, mommy support, and professional life coach. Today we’re talking about fueling the motivational fire.
2:45 p.m. Tantrums are a real part of the mom entrepreneur’s day, so I quickly switch from business mode to mommy mode.
3:30 p.m. Getting some content planning done while the kiddos swim. Yep, I’m that parent with the phone. Sorry, not sorry.
5 p.m. Getting some correspondence done with an actual pen and (branded) paper for customers, partners, and friends.
6:20 p.m. So ready for Grandma’s home cooking! I cannot be the mom and entrepreneur I am without her. She is my secret ingredient in having it all.
9:15 p.m. Things are quiet, so I get back to work manufacturing products and fulfilling client orders.
12:00 a.m. Done for now. “Alexa, set timer for 6 a.m.”