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Michelle Hanabusa is the Founder and Creative Director of Uprising Brand. Uprising began in early 2018 as an apparel brand to ensure that everyone is welcome and unified to uplift others. Uprising sources their apparel locally in Compton, California to ensure high-quality and fair wage goods. Uprising is Little Tokyo Service Center’s most recent Business-in-Residence at their LA Small Bizcubator. Michelle is a local to Los Angeles and has been strongly connected to Little Tokyo’s Japanese American community since her childhood.
We were able to sit and chat with Michelle and discuss the impact of Little Tokyo Service Center’s LA Small Bizcubator on Uprising.
Why did you see partnering with Little Tokyo Service Center’s LA Small Bizcubator as a good fit for Uprising?
When LTSC came up with this concept I thought from a personal level and a business level it would be a great partnership. On a personal level because I grew up here in Little Tokyo, all my doctor’s appointments were here growing up, all the restaurants my family went to, I used to go to the Nissei Week Festival every year. It very much feels like a second home to me and I have a lot of great friends that own businesses here or are strongly affiliated with nonprofits in Little Tokyo. So I thought that would be a great way to engage with my community that I am already close with. On the business side, I think the message that we are trying to pursue with Uprising and what Little Tokyo Service Center is trying to do is very much aligned. We want to create positive change for the next generation and especially with this First Street North, Save Little Tokyo campaign going on that’s why I wanted to give a percentage of my sales back to that nonprofit because I don’t want to see where I grew up disappear. I think this is a great location, Uprising is still very new and I feel that for Uprising to sustain itself I need one more year to really pop. This is great foot traffic and brand awareness, as well as, getting some sort of traction. I hope to do more pop-ups in various cities so I think this is a great way to show what we’re capable of doing.
Now that you have mostly completed your residency, what do you think are the Bizcubator and 341 FSN’s effects in the short time that it’s been open?
People are curious, every time people come in it gives me an opportunity to share what the Little Tokyo community is trying to do. It introduces the next generation of people who are affiliated with Little Tokyo Service Center to expand beyond what they think they are even capable of accomplishing. It gives them this dream for this business or concept they are trying to pursue. But it also gives us a way to tie in Japanese American history back to the community. I have so much respect for the original business owners here that are still open and then what’s next. How can the next generation take what they’ve created and continue with that.
How have you been able to connect with the Little Tokyo Business community through the Bizcubator?
That was a really cool aspect that I didn’t foresee. I knew that I was going to contact businesses that I’m already friends with like Sake Dojo, Far Bar, and Café Dulce. With Café Dulce, I feel like we’ve bonded a lot more and that relationship is great. Boteaga came in offering any help so we had two days where they were offering free bobas with any Uprising purchase. They also hooked me up with Mr. Ramen and it’s been awesome.
How has the Bizcubator helped build your capacity as a business owner?
This is the longest popup I’ve had and that allowed me to practice how do people interact within a space and the flow of a store, building out a team to manage the store and inventory. That was really good practice.
Thank you to Michelle for discussing her business and partnership with the LA Small Bizcubator. Please follow both Uprising and the Bizcubator at their respective accounts below! The LA Small Bizcubator, through collaboration with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Asian Pacific Islander Small Business Program, the Little Tokyo Service Center and LA Metro, provides assistance to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs in Little Tokyo and Los Angeles County. LISC Los Angeles is supporting Little Tokyo Service Center’s LA Small Bizcubator program with a HUD Section 4 grant. This grant program helps to build the capacity of community development and affordable housing organizations making an impact on low-income neighborhoods across America. Read more about our capacity building goals here.