Nanxi Liu has never let limited resources hold her back.
Born in rural China with no running water and separated from her parents until she immigrated to the U.S. at 5, Liu lived in subsidized housing with her family and participated in her school’s free lunch program. She eventually learned English and figured out ways to get “cool stuff” like her friends.
Playing piano led her to competitions and prize money she used to buy her first car. She paid her way through UC Berkeley — earning straight A’s — by entering beauty pageants with scholarship awards.
“I’ve won tens of thousands of dollars doing pageants,” said Liu, CEO and co-founder of Enplug, Inc.
She admits to choosing “quirky paths” toward personal and professional success. A visit to a dive bar in Colorado, where she met a “cute guy” while a college senior, resulted in them co-founding a successful startup that develops polymers that enable vaccines to survive without refrigeration.
Her latest startup, Enplug, is the No. 1 open software for digital displays that let businesses manage and distribute content. The award-winning software is used by startups and Fortune 500 companies around the world, including malls, stadiums, hotels and banks.
“What I’ve learned through building random things is never be afraid to ask for anything or to talk to people you want to talk to,” said Liu. “I have no shame. When you do business or you’re trying to start your business you have to just not be afraid at all to getting embarrassed. I’m used to getting embarrassed all the time.”
Her funny, unapologetic stories of self-determination and success resonated with 200 guests attending the 11th annual Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebration. The event celebrates SCE’s business and company partners and recognizes AAPI energy-efficient champions.
The month-long May celebration commemorates the immigration of the first Japanese to the U.S. on May 7, 1843 and marks the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. Most of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.
“Having this celebration helps us to recognize the importance of this community’s contributions to Southern California, the state, to the nation,” said Pedro Pizarro, SCE president. “In today’s economy, we really believe that workforce diversity and inclusion are just critical to help us succeed and serve our customers.”
Serving one of the most diverse regions in the country, he added, enables the utility to benefit from a variety of perspectives, backgrounds and opinions that help SCE better understand its customers.
During the program, SCE recognized the following 2016 AAPI award recipients:
- Brighton Management (Energy Efficiency Participation Award), a Chinese-owned company that owns or operates 45 major hotels based in Irvine.
- Center for Asian Americans Unified for Self Empowerment (Community Partnership Award) is focused on transforming lives and meeting the diverse needs of the AAPI community through active engagement in philanthropic activities.
- LTL Attorneys LLP (Diverse Business Enterprise Award) is one of the country’s largest minority and women-owned law firms whose attorneys serve on boards of nonprofits, volunteer their time with local community agencies and work on high-profile pro bono cases.