My Wausome Story: Lada Xiong-Vang, Business Development Manager, Environments, a division of The Samuels Group

Original publication date: November 12, 2019

As a first generation born American, from St. Paul my family moved us to Wausau while I was in grade school. Growing up, I didn’t plan to live here as an adult. In fact, I had plans to move to New York City after graduation to pursue my career in a big city.

Why? While growing up, I had a strong interest in art, fashion, and interior design. I always had this perception that artists had to live in a big city to make it. Given my passions, I assumed my career would relocate me to a larger city. I figured I’d go where my career takes me, and where art could provide me more opportunities.

Two years into school at Mt. Mary College, I learned very quickly the value of a small community, family values, and the importance of following your heart, and these revelations led me back to Wausau. Today, I serve as the Business Development Manager for Environments, a Commercial Interior Design division of The Samuels Group. In my role, I use my passion for interior design to consult and furnish corporate, government, and higher-education facilities. While I assumed my interest in the arts would require me to move across the country, I learned that Wausau provided me everything I would need (and more) as an adult.

Being in a city where there is a strong Hmong community and resources is important to me and my family. Wausau has it. My parents and all five siblings reside here, as well as my husband’s family. It’s important to me that my children are raised around family to instill the importance of relationships and to engage them in the Hmong culture. Wausau does a great job embracing the Hmong culture and celebrating special days throughout the year, like the July Hmong Festival, the Hmong New Year Celebration (November 2), the Hmong American Veterans Memorial Day (May 14), along with other cultural recognitions like MLK Day, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Pride Month and Lunar New Year.

I also appreciate that this community has given so much to organizations and community members. Many companies that have chosen to stay and grow here were founded by community members who built their business from the ground up. Employers invest in the local talent and understand that innovation happens from the ground floor. Companies here understand that the secret to reducing high turnover is to invest in your biggest assets – their employees and each employee’s personal and professional growth. Wausau has afforded me huge personal and professional growth opportunities, many of which I likely would have never received had I been living in a larger city.

I currently serve on the Marathon County Diversity Affairs Commission and serve as Vice President on the Central Wisconsin Hmong Professionals organization. These opportunities allow me to network and grow while making an impact on the quality of life for others around me. There are so many opportunities to get involved here. If you are willing to put yourself out there, I’ve found that it is easy to get involved.

When not working, I love to experience our city. I love the history we carry with us here! Our logging stories, and the companies that came to life here when logging was still around, are fascinating. I love that Amelia Earhart stopped at our Wausau Airport in 1936. I’m a huge fan of the Leigh Yawkey Historic Home, the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, and Wausau’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Walking through our downtown, you have such diverse shops and restaurants. From Evolutions in Design and Janke Bookstore, to Downtown Grocery, Mint Café and Prima Deli, there is something for everyone! It’s also special to have Granite Peak in our backyard. The new Riverfront development is bringing families together and getting people out and about in the heart of our city.

Wausau has provided me all the opportunities I could want to advance my career, while at the same time, affording me the privilege of slowing down and enjoying the world around me. Wausau carries a small city vibe with a big city mentality. We understand hard work, yet value family and mental health. The people here get that the success of this community is built on the quality of life for each family residing here. It’s a gem of a city and I’m thankful to call it home.

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