Welcome back! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs working to make this world more equitable. Today I’m super excited to speak with Vanessa Pham, co-founder and CEO of Omsom.
Spiffy: Hi Vanessa! Wow, something smells good! Tell me, what is Omsom and what is your mission?
Vanessa: It’s great to be here, Spiffy! What you smell is goodness! We started Omsom to bring proud, loud Asian flavors to your fingertips any day of the week! We want Omsom to be sitting in your pantry, right between the tomato sauce and olive oil — no more diluted dishes, no more cultural compromise. Our mission is to reclaim and celebrate the multitudes that exist in Asian cultures, honor the communities we represent, and make mainstream grocery stores reflect the changing DNA of this country.
Spiffy: That’s quite a menu of change! What motivated you to focus on Asian cuisine for the masses?
Vanessa: Well, Spiffy, we decided to start Omsom based on our own experiences. As first-generation Vietnamese Americans, we didn’t feel represented in mainstream grocery stores. Seeing how Asian culture and cuisine were deeply appreciated by Americans of all backgrounds, we felt the current state of Asian consumer packaged food just wasn’t cutting it anymore. We felt we were the right people to build a deeply intentional brand and create products with high cultural integrity.
Spiffy: And how are you using this to ensure we live in a more equitable world?
Vanessa: We’re trying to build a brand that the Asian American community deserves — there are a lot of brands centered on whiteness and we wanted to do something really different. In building Omsom, we became obsessed with this idea of being proud, loud and unapologetic. We are railing against the assumption that Asian Americans are invisible, submissive, model minorities.
Spiffy: I think you’re making your message loud and clear. What kind of milestones have you achieved?
Vanessa: We recently announced our collaboration with Pepper Teigen (Chrissy Teigen’s mom!) called Know MSG. Our mission is to destigmatize MSG (monosodium glutamate) by educating people about the anti-Asian, xenophobic origins of the anti-MSG movement. We’re also proudly featuring MSG as an ingredient in an upcoming product, made with a secret Teigen family recipe. MSG is deliciously umami and safe to consume, and it’s time that folks knew it!
With Omsom's starters, you can make real deal Asian dishes at home in less than 30 minutes. (Photo courtesy of Vanessa Pham)
Spiffy: Deliciously umami? That sounds delightful. Do you have any failures to your name? Something that you learned from?
Vanessa: Oh my goodness, Spiffy, my sister and I got so many “no’s” when we went out to raise our pre-seed funding! As a risk-averse daughter of immigrants and recovering perfectionist, these rejections struck deep and my self-doubt mushroomed. We eventually closed the round, though. That initial failure taught me that if you really want to expand to your fullest potential and live life to the last grain, you must put yourself in situations rife with risk and potential for fall-flat-on-your-face failure. It comes with the territory!
Spiffy: It certainly does, Vanessa. Before we go, is there anything interesting you could share with us — maybe something interesting you’ve learned or a new mantra you’re embracing?
Vanessa: Spiffy, I learn so much from our Omsom team every single day. Most recently, I’ve been learning about the power of coaching, and leading with trust and belief in others. I appreciate the special power each individual brings and I see people as whole and complete. My job at Omsom is to create a space where it’s safe to experiment, take thoughtful risks and fail, so people can learn from experiences.
Spiffy: Congratulations on taking your own thoughtful risks, Vanessa. I can’t wait to taste your line of proud, loud Asian flavors.
Vanessa Pham is the co-founder and CEO of Omsom, a proud, loud Asian food brand. Vanessa started Omsom to help mainstream grocery stores reflect the changing DNA of the United States and showcase the multitudes of Asian culture. Vanessa, a daughter of Vietnamese refugees and a Forbes 30 Under 30, graduated from Harvard University and was previously employed by Bain & Company.