Sophia Sunwoo is a 3x entrepreneur with businesses ranging from fashion, clean water access, to startup education. Sophia is currently the founder of Ascent Strategy, where she creates moneymaking brands with womxn entrepreneurs who refuse to settle for mediocre. She is a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree, a Fred Alger Finance Award winner, and named one of the world’s 100 most inspiring women by Salt Magazine and Diageo.
"Where did you first learn about Sundara?"
I first met Erin, Sundara’s founder through a mutual friend. I was working in clean water access in Cameroon and India at the time, so I had so much to talk with Erin about. When Erin told me about Sundara’s work, I was so excited by the organization and stayed in touch with her to support her work as much as possible.
"Why did you want to join RISE by Sundara’s board?"
I’m excited by Sundara’s deep level of support for female entrepreneurs in the WASH sector. Having worked on clean water systems in rural communities within Cameroon and India, I’ve experienced first-hand why it’s so critical to support female entrepreneurs in this capacity. I wanted to join RISE by Sundara’s board to knowledge-share from my experiences in water and bolster the organization’s progress and impact as much as possible.
"What does life look like for you do outside of Sundara?"
Outside of Sundara, I’m working on my business Ascent Strategy, where I help womxn entrepreneurs find their voice and build moneymaking brands, so that they can make their first $200K in sales. In my free time, you can find me in the outdoors, or working on an art or personal project.
"What is your purpose in life?"
My purpose in life is to help people align with their fullest potential in life and work— whether it’s by guiding them discover this potential or matching them with the knowledge and resources to work towards that potential. There’s really nothing that brings me more joy than to see people become the best version of themselves.
"What is something most people don’t know about you - but should if they really want to understand you?"
I’m a big fan of poetry and prose and digest it on a daily basis. It is an important part of my life and how I process meaning, purpose, and life’s big questions. It informs how I build relationships with friends and clients, and why I tend to go deep when I connect.
"What has been one of the biggest highlights of your life?"
One of the biggest highlights of my life has been the opportunity to work closely with communities in Cameroon and to experience the culture there with locals. I have a deep appreciation for Cameroon culture and am grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to connect with it at such a deep level for a good chunk of my life. It has shaped so much of my outlook on happiness, purpose, and community.
"Why is RISE by Sundara important to you?"
RISE by Sundara is important to me because of its empowerment of local entrepreneurs who are actively working on water solutions that are compatible with their community. From experience, I’ve seen that the best water interventions are those designed by entrepreneurs who have intimately experienced the local water crisis firsthand. Supporting local entrepreneurs with the resources and money to do their work is truly the best way to tackle the water crisis in a meaningful way.
"What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten in your career?"
“You can’t give others clean water if what’s inside you isn’t clean as well”. This advice has been so relevant to my personal and professional life, and also calls out the important dependency that your personal and professional lives have on each other.
"We are living in particularly difficult times right now, and it can be hard to put ourselves first. What do you do for self-care that helps you feel grounded and balanced?"
Meditation is a daily practice that reminds me of the priorities in my life I want to stay connected and committed to. It’s a practice that is really important to my self-care and helps me stay on track with the person I want to become.
"Who do you admire and look up to, and why?"
There are numerous people in my life that I look up to who are artists and entrepreneurs that bravely move through their work and art with vulnerability. I find vulnerability to be one of the most difficult aspects of being an artist and entrepreneur, and it’s something the majority of us try to hide or avoid from revealing in our outputs. So, I really admire those who access and show vulnerability through their work — it’s a feat and they usually create the best work, in my opinion.
"Summarize your life motto in one sentence."
Go after what you want with conviction, but surrender when it’s time to listen.