Historical Chinatown Tours
In Business Since 2009
Historical Chinatown Tours
I am the female owner and operator of two Vancouver-based businesses: HISTORICAL CHINATOWN TOURS and MASTERCLASS DUMPLINGS. HISTORICAL CHINATOWN TOURS I provide guided walking tours of Vancouver’s Chinatown community, which is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city. Many of the people who take my HISTORICAL CHINATOWN TOURS are locals, but most are international tourists with an interest in the culinary traditions and cultural heritage that are unique to this community. All walking tours include the streetscape, a visit inside the heritage buildings, shopping in local businesses, and engaging with neighbourhood residents. My guided tours are both interactive and educational. Tour clients can sample Chinese pastries, savour authentic dim sum, and discover how to properly steep tea. Exploring the local streets and historic buildings is an excellent way to educate visitors about Chinese cultural heritage in Canada (and beyond), the hardships and tenacity of Chinese Canadians, and the significance of this National Historic Site (designated in 2011). See more: https://vancouversun.com/special-sections/international-womens-day/meet-the-woman-behind-historical-chinatown-tours MASTERCLASS DUMPLINGS Besides guided walking tours, I provide Chinese dumpling-making classes in Vancouver’s Chinatown. In my dumpling classes, participants learn about an intangible Chinese culinary technique that has been passed down for generations. Participants in the MASTERCLASS DUMPLINGS also get a “sneak peak” Chinatown tour where we visit several historical buildings and local produce stores. The businesses that we visit include grocers where I buy some of my cooking sauces and dumpling ingredients. Our time is mostly devoted to learning how to prepare and cook Chinese-style dumplings. The best part of the MASTERCLASS DUMPLINGS experience is sitting down as a group and eating the heathy delicacies which have just been freshly made.
Business Impact Award
Tell Us Your Story. What motivated you to start your business? Why are you passionate about what you do?
I’m a third-generation Canadian on my father’s European side of the family and first-generation on my mother’s Chinese side. I always had a strong interest in history and at university, I decided to do a Bachelor of Arts degree in Asian Studies, History, and International Relations. I also did a Master of Arts degree in Chinese Canadian History, and while doing graduate studies I decided to volunteer for various organizations in the Chinatown community. I have been an active volunteer in Chinatown for over 20 years. Because of my love for history and Chinese culture and cooking, it was a logical step for me to combine my interests and my passion into a business. It was a practical way to make an income while doing something that I love. My walking tours and my dumpling classes are an excellent way to educate visitors about the rich culture and history of one of Vancouver’s oldest communities. Sharing my knowledge of history while we walk around, visit the interiors of heritage buildings and connect with elders and others in the community helps to cultivate a deeper appreciation for what Chinese Canadians endured in the past and why this place is so special.
Describe and demonstrate, including metrics, your community support. How do you support and uplift your community, and how do they show that support in return? Minimum 25 words, maximum 2500 characters.
In 2020, I established a business-to-business (B2B) arrangement with the owner of a coffee shop in Chinatown, where I rent meeting space on a need-to-use basis. The coffee shop is where I meet clients to start my HISTORICAL CHINATOWN TOURS during the day and where I conduct my MASTERCLASS DUMPLINGS cooking classes in the evening. This business arrangement provides me with a convenient gathering place and the flexibility that I need to customize my business services. It is a business arrangement which is mutually beneficial. When people meet me at various times of the day for the guided walking tours, they almost always buy a coffee and something to eat. I estimate that on a busy week, my clients spend between $50 and $500 in the coffee shop ($500 is based on multiple daily bookings for the week). I only pay a rental fee for the Masterclass Dumpling lessons, which are scheduled in the evening. The coffee shop owner receives a percentage of the fee that I charge each client. And as part of this business arrangement, I can store everything I need for the dumpling classes. My interactive Chinatown tours benefit other community businesses like Treasure Green Tea and the Floata Seafood Restaurant. As for the rest of the Chinatown community, I tell all my clients about the wonderful businesses in the neighbourhood, such as: the first authentic tea shop in Vancouver; all the Michelin-star and Michelin-Recommended restaurants; I point out the wonderful family owned-and-operated businesses; the Chinatown Storytelling Centre; and I share my list of favourite restaurants in the city proper with anyone interested. My positive commitment is for everyone to benefit, by encouraging growth opportunities and experiences for everyone in Chinatown and beyond. Not only am I a business owner, but I am a dedicated volunteer and community organizer with more than 20 years of experience in Vancouver. My volunteer work includes service with the Chinatown Society Heritage Buildings Association (Mar 2008 to present) and the Vancouver Chinatown Revitalization Committee (Aug 2007 to 2017). I have been involved with the City’s UNESCO designation application for Chinatown, and I was recently appointed by the City to the Vancouver Heritage Commission (Jan 2023 to 2025). In addition, for the past year, I have also served as an Ambassador of the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society (VAHMS). My business success allows me to give back to my community.
Why do you deserve to win the Business Impact award?
I have demonstrated that I am a successful business owner working in a highly competitive market. I have overcome adversity (Covid-19 pandemic) by constantly adapting through creative innovation and by delivering premium culinary heritage tourism experiences. (I detail these experiences in the accompanying document.) My business ventures and success are closely aligned with my long-standing commitment to public-service excellence and support for community affairs. When my event bookings in 2020 dropped by two-thirds, I adjusted to the changing circumstances by modifying my business model which enabled me to rebound quickly in 2022. This was in part because I maintain two businesses, both of which generate premium revenues while minimizing expenses. This is a financially sustainable business model that I am confident will grow in 2023 and beyond. One of the ways in which I adapted to the changing circumstances during the peak of the pandemic was by creating a hybrid experience, which combines the best of the two existing companies. On a busy day, I can have up to four bookings, running from the morning into the evening. Moreover, I have event bookings extending into March 2024. My business success also helps the Chinatown community because of my business-to-business connections, my personal donations to neighbourhood organizations, and my active promotion of other companies in the community. My contributions to Chinatown are acknowledged in the two accompanying letters from prominent members of the community submitted with this application.
Tell Us About Your Culture. How are you creating a sustainable and healthy workplace where everyone feels welcome? Provide examples of leadership you show in interactions with clients, vendors, contractors, staff and others.
I work hard to meet the growing public hunger to learn more about Chinese culture. My businesses are a terrific way to educate people on the intangible cultural heritage and characteristics of historic Chinatowns as well as the legislated discriminatory practices such as the Head Tax and the Chinese Exclusion Act. My business-to-business connections are mutually supportive and beneficial for women business owners. For instance, I actively support other female entrepreneurs such as Olivia Chan (Treasure Green Tea) and Tallulah (Tallulah Photography). In my view, there is not enough attention paid to the efforts of high-achieving women. By acknowledging their accomplishments and perseverance, it validates all their efforts and inspires others to take initiative and follow in their footsteps as future leaders, role models, and mentors. As an historian and an educator, I enjoy raising awareness about the Chinatown community and the qualities that make this a special place. And in addition to running two full-time businesses, I volunteer in the neighbourhood, donate to the clan societies for the upkeep of their heritage buildings, I cook lunch for the elders to show my gratefulness, and I am on numerous boards. I have a broad range of clients with varying diets and mobility issues. For dim sum dining and dumpling classes, I always ask whether anyone has any food allergies or dislikes, which can include religious choices. Regarding mobility issues and attention span, I take into consideration elders and younger people, alike. The distance of walking and climbing stairs can be an issue for some people; so can the length of tours (time and distance) and inclement weather. I am flexible and customize everything to meet the diverse needs and wants of individuals, making my experiences very inclusive, equitable, and memorable. As a small business owner who collects personal data to complete my culinary-historical tour bookings, I take the responsibility to protect privacy seriously. In this regard, I request that clients do not to photograph or video the interior of Chinese heritage buildings when we go inside, as per requests by the owners. I respectfully ask clients to show appreciation for the privileged access that we get to those buildings. Images are only shown when permission is sought and granted. Finally, I am respectful of environmental sustainability protection and make efforts to incorporate this set of values into my daily business