It was so exciting to share my story with you at my radio interview with Kimberle Levin this past Monday. Thanks to all my friends and followers for your love, kindness, and support as I took this next big step.
No worries if you were busy and couldn’t get to it, the full interview is in the video below.
It’s been exciting and fulfilling too look back and see how much my life has come full circle:
My childhood probably sounds exotic to anyone who grew up in the United States, but it was a quite ordinary for where I came from. I am the oldest daughter of an ethnically Chinese family, born in the densely populated Chinese community “Cholon” of Vietnam. After years of communist oppression, my family, along with 500 other Chinese-Vietnamese, were able to escape the Vietnamese Communists in a small wooden boat on May 8, 1979. The journey across the Gulf of Thailand was truly perilous. We witnessed sickness, death, packed living quarters and starvation, and our boat was invaded and ransacked by pirates a terrifying total of four times.
After blessedly surviving our passage across the gulf to Indonesia, we lived in various refugee camps for 7 months. This was a financially difficult time for my family and other refugees. We all had to leave most of our belongings and clothing behind. I began to support my family by sewing and selling fashionable clothing to our fellow refugees. (I continued my “fashion career” in the states while I was in high school, helping my mom draft patterns and design clothing for clients).
My family finally made its’ way to Minnesota on January 3rd, 1980, and lived in a settlement where we were labeled as “boat people.” It was there that I first struggled with assimilation into American culture, learning the English language, and finding my identity. We lived there for 5 months before moving to Philadelphia, where I supported myself through school with multiple jobs.
I had to cope with my dad’s passing at the age of 50 while I was still in college. I took a year off to help my family, but was able to make my way back to school and became the first in my family to graduate from college, receiving my bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Villanova University.
After graduation, I worked in the pharmaceutical industry for seventeen years as a medicinal chemist and surrounded myself with so many awesome friends and mentors. It was these angels who taught me so much about the real meaning of work and life in America.
I was successful as a research chemist. I am the co-Inventor of dozens of patents and have been published in a variety of chemistry journals. One of the compound I synthesized named “Sustiva” even made it to the market as a HIV/AIDS drug in 1998.
During my corporate life, I married my wonderful husband Duc and together we had a son, Alexander. Alexander is still the greatest thing that ever happened to me, and will be off to college this fall.
In December 2005, I volunteered to be laid off by Merck and successfully launched Distinctive Designs, a window fashion company. In 2009, I was featured as a success story in “Drapery & Design Professional”, a national trade magazine. I also had the opportunity to work with “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” in 2010 in Berks County, PA.
In 2011 I was given the Business Excellence Award by the Women Referral Network of Montgomery County. I specialize and am certified in Custom Window Fashion which includes all interior window shades, blinds, and shutters, as well as aesthetic draperies, valances and top treatments. I am highly motivated and have a burning passion to help women create soft, comfy and nurturing environments within their own homes. It is my sincere belief that “Life Takes You Places, But Love Leads You Home”.
If you want to know more about Distinctive Design’s history, you can check out our feature “Building a Rock Solid Brand: CHF Success Story – Lea Tran”, from Drapery & Design Professional Magazine.
Thanks for reading 🙂