2020 Duc Huang Founder's Award for Immigrant Success
Erikka Wang was born in China, raised in Illinois and attended the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Upon graduating in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in Management Information Systems, Erikka moved to Chicago and took her first job as a computer consultant at Accenture. After a year and a half sitting in front of a computer, Erikka came to realization that IT consulting is not the life she wanted to purse.
Believing in the notion of "living life without regrets", Erikka quit her job and gave up her consulting career in 2000. She packed 2 suitcases, booked a one-way flight to Los Angeles. While Erikka was exploring life in LA, she noticed the fashion trends were so much cooler and appealing in LA than Chicago. She had a "light bulb" moment and saw an opportunity to create new and affordable fashion in Chicago.
In 2002, she appoached her long-time college friend Erick Huseh with the idea of starting a women's clothing boutique. Initial reaction was not well received, with parents and friends being skeptical. Again, the notion of "living life without regrets", Erikka and Eric dived into their life savings and "went for it" which formed women's clothing boutique, AKIRA.
Starting out in July 2002, with one small boutique and the singular goal of survival, AKIRA has since expanded to 30 stores and a website www.shopakira.com. For the first 6 months, AKIRA had zero employees aside from Erikka and Eric. Today, AKIRA has over 450 employees and also added two new business partners Sarah Hughes and Gordon Liao.