They would never have imagined it, but InChoon and OkSoon Choi paved the way for Manual Labor’s 10th Anniversary when they moved our family from Seoul, Korea to America in 1976. Despite the uncertainty, language, and cultural differences, my parents believed in the American dream—and that my sisters and I would have more opportunities to be whoever we wanted.
It’s impossible to fully grasp all the obvious and not-so-obvious sacrifices my parents made, from leaving behind family and friends to my father having to let go of his career as a professor. My father took whatever work he could get, from dishwashing to stocking inventory. My mom took on “Operation USAssimilation,” which meant lunch boxes filled with Oscar-Mayer-bologna-and-Kraft-cheese-sandwiches on Wonder Bread. Eventually, they became entrepreneurs themselves to continue paving their daughters’ paths to success.
When I launched Manual Labor in 2012, I named the company as an homage to everything they did: all those untold hours of manual labor and sacrifice that led to me following in their entrepreneurial footsteps, and now to this 10th Anniversary celebration.
I’m so proud of our Great Work over these 10 years. From building e-commerce websites to rebranding B2B tech leaders like Boomi, we’ve worked with some of the coolest people at the most interesting brands. ML has found a place as the strategic partner who “connects the dots” for brands and teams: we are there with our hearts and minds for clients to offer outside perspective, guide strategy, and help them make connections they might not otherwise. Even more importantly, I’ve learned Great Work takes Good People. The most valuable thing to come out of this decade-long labor of love is what we call the Good People Network.
It requires no explanation: building ML has given us the opportunity to work with and get to know so many hundreds of kind, creative, and smart people from all facets of the industry (and outside of it!). The Good People Network has helped us, inspired us, connected us, and has become a constant reminder that no Great Work is done alone. I’ve always believed diversity of thought and experience makes us do better, and this Network is the epitome of that idea.
And when I say the ML community has grown, I see growth as circular: a connected team holding hands and not a linear stack where people on the bottom bear the weight. You see, as a circle gets wider it remains connected. When a line gets taller, the top and bottom grow further away. To me, growth should mean more and more interconnectedness. It means more Good People and more empathy and more collective support and security. It means more friends and more peers who inspire each other.
So let’s put this Good People Network to use to pay it forward on this anniversary. In the coming weeks, you’ll hear more about the Manual Labor Love Project. It’s a collection of great hearts and minds coming together to raise funds in support of human rights and human needs.
It’s only right that we give back as our demonstration of interconnectedness. I've asked our Good People Network for some LOVE in the form of art, with 100% of our profits going to charity. Check out the incredible designs and get your own LOVE Sticker. We'll be launching in a few weeks so stay tuned!
Over the next 10 years, I want to continue to expand our network of Good People and our body of Great Work. And if you’re reading this and any of it vibes with you—let’s chat! (And if I already know you, we should reconnect.)