Growing up in Oakland, we didn’t have much except family. My dad raised me and my sister as artists from a really young age, and we spent most of our childhood at our home on Green Acre Road learning how to draw and explore other creative avenues. Here’s a picture of me as a kid drawing on an ancient Mac in my dad’s old office.
In the early 2000s, my family bought me my own computer and I experienced internet for the first time in my life. I became obsessed with hip-hop culture and the NBA, and I would spend all of my time learning as much as I could about both. Graphics of rappers and basketball players on websites always caught my attention as I browsed all these sites and forums, and I really wanted to learn how to make my own. I originally started trying to make graphics in Microsoft Paint, and I still remember one of the first banners I ever made for my Xanga page with a picture of Steve Francis. I eventually installed a bootlegged copy of Photoshop on my computer, and was completely obsessed with learning how to use the tool. For the next few years, I pretty much spent most of my free time in my room, playing around with Photoshop until I taught myself everything I possibly could, and then Illustrator, Premiere Pro, and any other software to push my skillset. Through that, I discovered my passion for creativity, design, and just making dope stuff.
Along the way, I got into streetwear culture. I still have old tees from Stussy, Ecko, The Hundreds, and a bunch of others in a box under my bed. “How cool would it be to start my own t-shirt line someday?” was something I had thought about all throughout high school, but I couldn’t think of a concept I liked back then. All I knew was that I never wanted to make something with a random logo and just slap it onto t-shirts unless it had a meaning to it.
I continued to do graphic design throughout high school, but I didn’t know what to do to further myself at this point. My high school counselors were useless, and I was the oldest child in my family with no real useful advice coming from anyone I was close with. Coming from a Chinese heritage, my family did not believe that any type of creative or design interest would ever get me anywhere in life. My mom was convinced I had to get into a stable field, like accounting, and I would have a safe career for life. I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I decided to pursue an accounting degree, and essentially gave up on design at that point in my life.
I was depressed my entire first year of college. I wasn’t doing what I loved, and wasn’t enjoying my time at school. After class one day, I saw a job posting on a bulletin board saying that the school was looking for a part time graphic designer. I applied, and I got the job. It’s one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had, as I got to design again, and mostly because I was given the opportunity to design assets for all the concerts we had on campus every year. Through this opportunity, I was able meet and hang out with some artists I was fans of, like Jhene Aiko, Lupe Fiasco, Vic Mensa, and a few more. I learned a lot from that job, and really appreciate everything I gained from working with that team for over 2 years.
Now let’s fast forward to 2014.
I’ve finished up my accounting degree, and started designing for a startup in San Francisco, while also doing freelance work with Andy Lin. Me and Andy had a meeting with a potential design client that summer. This client wanted to start a t-shirt company, so I asked them a simple question…
“What does the name mean?”
“Nothing, it just sounds cool.”
During the drive back with Andy Lin, the thought I was obsessed with in high school came back to me.
“Let’s start our own company… Green Acre.”
I thought back to the memories and experiences I had on Green Acre Road growing up in Oakland and how it had shaped my life to who I am today. Green Acre was the perfect name and concept for what I wanted to accomplish. The name Green Acre literally can be interpreted as a vast place for growth. I wanted to find out about what everyone’s “Green Acre” was. I wanted to hear about why people do what they do, and to just create a platform for people to be able to safely share their amazing stories.
I spent the next week creating a pitch, and invited Brandon and Andy To over to my backyard to present it to them, along with some delicious pizzas. Everyone was down, and we were set to create Green Acre together in late 2014.
But shit happens, and the timing just wasn’t right. We all had our own things going on around that time and couldn’t fully commit to working on Green Acre to the best of our ability. But we didn’t give up.
A year later, we decided to try again. We finally had the resources and structure set, and the team went to work. I spent months on the Green Acre logo until I was happy with it. The official logo that you see today was chosen after four or five other “final” versions that I scrapped. We drafted up our mission statement, and agreed that we would never create anything of low quality, and every product and featured story we create has to meet our standards. It was also extremely important to us that we would work with local non-profits who helped the underprivileged youth so they can have stories to share themselves in the future. After finalizing our initial product line and curating our first collection of featured storytellers, we officially launched Green Acre in late June of 2016.
It is now a full year later, and it is unreal to me what we’ve accomplished. We’ve dropped 3 collections of products and featured stories, donated and worked with local non-profit organizations, reached obscure places around the world I’ve never even heard of before, and most importantly, created an amazing community with everyone. We’ve added a couple of new members to our team as well to help make Green Acre as great as we possibly can.
Green Acre has been something I’ve been itching to do since I was just a kid in high school. Through all these obstacles I experienced, I was finally able to accomplish it with the help of my friends and family. The funny thing is, even if I had decided to create Green Acre earlier, there’s no way it would have turned out the way it has now. Sometimes, you just have to wait until the timing is right for something to be perfectly executed. Even with so many people telling me to give up along the way, I never did. I continued to grow in what I love doing, and am still learning how to become better each day. With the team we’ve put together, along with you reading this right now, Green Acre can only keep growing from here.
Thanks to everyone who has been with us since the beginning, and we’ll see you at our Anniversary pop-up shop on July 2nd back in our hometown of Oakland, CA.