Upuia Ahkiong

Upuia Ahkiong

A new organization, WE Pleasanton, will hold its first organizational meeting in Pleasanton March 12.

The WE in WE Pleasanton means “Women Entrepreneurs,” explained the group’s organizer, Upuia Ahkiong. She operates massage therapy businesses in Pleasanton and Los Altos, under the business name KUA, which she created from letters of her name.

Ahkiong started WE Los Altos in that small Peninsula city in 2016. The first meeting drew so many people that two more sessions were scheduled the same month. She anticipates a similar turnout in Pleasanton.

Ahkiong learned the ropes in regard to entrepreneurship after she left Google. She worked there for a few years, running its in-house massage therapy program, and then spreading it to its foreign locations.

Ahkiong wanted to explore the possibilities of her therapeutic art on her own, and teach others. The entrepreneurial knowledge that she learned, she later communicated to the first WE group, which she founded in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills on the Peninsula.

Ahkiong lives in Pleasanton, so opening her second KUA business, and now starting WE Pleasanton, was a natural path for her.

Ahkiong takes her inspiration from the Samoan part of her ethnic background (she is also Chinese). “Samoan culture has the influence of the big chiefs and the village chiefs. It is important for us to work together. I felt a need for that among other business owners,” said Ahkiong.

The kind of networking in Asking’s vision has nothing to do with passing out business cards. “That’s not natural. Connectivity is contributing back to our community. We learn about your story and your background. That’s what keeps us alive,” said Ahkiong.

“We know the business hardships you have gone through, can celebrate your successes, then give back with support to the city, and other businesses. We are Pleasanton-centered, focused only on Pleasanton, and also Sunol. We are the big sister (to Sunol),” said Ahkiong.

The focus now is only on women in Pleasanton, because the intent is to build WE one city at a time, said Ahkiong. Once Pleasanton is up and running, another city can organize its group, she said.

“I believe if we stay true to our foundation, we can provide this opportunity in every small town throughout the United States. Several days ago, someone in the South Bay said they are thrilled to see our launching in Pleasanton, and asked how they could have it there,” said Ahkiong.

The organization is for women who own their own businesses, or may share one with a spouse. However, men won’t be turned away. Ahkiong visited the Pleasanton Downtown Association, and found a list of 176 woman-owned businesses just in the downtown. As word of mouth spread through town, more signed up, and now the contact list stretches past 200.

Reservations have been coming in at a good pace, with 60 signed up in the first three days. The organizing event, to be held at 6 p.m. March 12 at Sabio’s on Main Street in Pleasanton, is free, but organizers need to know how much food should be prepared, said Rosanne Hoffman, a realtor who is helping Ahkiong with the meeting. She is affiliated with Venture Sotheby’s International Realty.

There will be a guest speaker, Alicia Shaffer, who lives in Livermore, and turned her hobby of designing and making Bohemian casual clothing into a successful on-line business.

The mother of three started her on-line shop Three Birds Nest (named after a tattoo she wears) in November 2011.

A crisis point came for Shaffer after receiving 90 orders before Christmas one year. Not knowing how she could complete them, she made a conscious decision to stop treating her endeavor like a hobby, and start running it like a business, according to a story in Business Insider.

The energy and clarity that came from resolving her problem, and paying attention to detail in presenting her products, brought her income to five-digit figures per month. Shaffer wants to share some of her knowledge with WE Pleasanton at the March event.

The March date for the meeting and talk falls inside Women’s History Month, noted Ahkiong. WE Los Altos also was begun in March, an auspicious time to launch an organization that serves women, said Ahkiong.