In 1977, the first 10 days of May were declared Asian-Pacific Heritage Week because of this time period’s significance in Asian-American history. Specifically, on May 7, 1843, marked the arrival of the first Japanese immigrant to the United States, and more than two decades later on May 10, 1869, the golden spike was driven into the first transcontinental railroad to commemorate its completion — which would not have been possible without Chinese labor. On May 1, 2009, then-President Barack Obama recognized the month of May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and President Joe Biden expanded the commemoration to include Native Hawaiians in 2021.

As AAPI Heritage Month has grown, the month of May has become an opportunity to spotlight brand founders of Asian descent, as well as promote diversity and inclusion. For AAPI Heritage Month 2024, L’Oréal-owned Garnier teamed up with Gold House, a non-profit that unites, invests in, and champions Asian Pacific creators and companies to support AAPI entrepreneurs who have a sustainable bent.

Amy Whang, President of Garnier, Maybelline, and Essie U.S.

Amy Whang, President of Garnier, Maybelline and Essie U.S, and her colleague Alex Wang, who serves as Director of Brand Marketing at L’Oréal, had both been aware of Gold House, and Alex took the initiative to reach out to the organization and see how they could work together to promote diversity and inclusivity while uplifting the Asian community. “When we first started working with Gold House, it was on a partnership with our Whole Blends franchise. It was really Alex who inspired our commitment to the representation of Asian beauty in our products,” Amy explains.

According to Amy, “We are really about green science and sustainability at Garnier, and this includes creating a greener future for generations to come.” As a continuation of their partnership, Garnier and Gold House created the Green Gold Grant. Taking just six months from ideation to execution, “This is a huge testament to our willingness to partner with organizations that share our values, as well as our ability to be agile and nimble.”

Together, Garnier and Gold House launched the Gold Green Grant to address the financial roadblocks start-up brands experience when prioritizing sustainability. This joint effort also provides Asian Pacific entrepreneurs with the investment and resources they need to strengthen their sustainable business practices. The Garnier and Gold House collaboration also includes an AAPI Heritage Month campaign featuring Asian Pacific creatives at every level of decision-making that will be on display at Walgreens stores nationwide throughout May.

Amy shares, “I’m a first-generation Chinese-born American. I grew up in a community where it was less than 5% Asian, and I saw everyone around me not looking like myself. It’s important to me to use Garnier as a platform that allows us to create representation of Asians so our consumers can see themselves in the brand and the products we sell.”

After posting calls for Gold Green Grant applications on Instagram and LinkedIn, 100 submissions were received in just one week. “The launch of the grant was not supported by a lot of press. The network of this community spread the word in a grassroots fashion,” Amy adds. “Seeing how people came forward in a very short amount of time gives us a lot of potential to make it even bigger for next year.”

Whang, Wang, and Assistant Vice President of L’Oréal Research & Innovation, Angela Park, were charged with reviewing submissions and selecting the winner and runner-up. “We knew we wanted to collaborate with entrepreneurs who have the same values as we do. Our main criteria were a sustainability angle, and we looked at their sourcing and recyclability. Our goal was to find a company that was doing something great where our support would allow them to continue to scale,” Amy says.

The winner of the 2024 Gold Green Grant is Lauren Choi, who founded The New Norm. Lauren turned to innovative technology to transform hard-to-recycle plastics like Solo cups, ocean plastics, and old fishing nets into premium yarns and fabrics. The New Norm’s first offerings include the “Party Sweater” and “Party Beanie.”

As the first Gold Green Grant winner, Lauren will receive $20,000 and one year of mentorship with Amy who says, “I’m excited to get to know her better and learn more about her story, because it’s a cause and a venture that I believe in and want to advocate for. I’m also looking forward to giving her the tools that she can use to expand her reach.” Lauren will also receive an invitation to the exclusive Gold Gala, as well as promotion across the Garnier and Gold House platforms.

The 2024 Gold Green Grant runner-up is Nadya Okamoto, founder of the brand August that makes biodegradable and plastic-free pads and tampons accessible for all who menstruate, regardless of gender identity. Nadya will receive $10,000, promotion across Garnier and Gold House platforms, and an invitation to the Gold House x Billboard Founders Party. “L’Oréal and Garnier look to empower women, and we think the work that Nadya is doing is very important,” Amy adds.

“Supporting sustainability is really at the heart of everything we do at Garnier. Our partnership with Gold House and the Gold Green Grant support this mission while championing socioeconomic advancement of the AAPI community and helping entrepreneurs accelerate and grow their businesses,” says Amy.