I’m sitting on a ZOOM call one balmy October afternoon with two Harvard students, Felicia Ho, who just turned 18, and Sabrina Chok, one of the lucky students who graduated college in the middle of a pandemic. They are one part of the team behind Sticky Locals, a grassroots organization formed by five Ivy League students designing and selling stickers to fundraise and raise awareness for AAPI charities, non-profits, and businesses affected due to COVID-19.

For the past few months, they’ve launched punchy “sticker drops” for Chinatown establishments – ranging from old school favorites like Pearl River Mart to off-the-grid establishments like the 30-year-old Ming Qi Apothecary. The stickers have added a much needed “cool” factor vitality to some of the older non-English speaking, non-Instagrammed establishments that have been struggling due to Covid.

But more so, they’re defining a new cultural norm, where indifference is looked down on, and copping a sticker and popping it on your shirt, laptop or bag is the catchphrase of the year – “We came. We saw. We made a difference.”

Hello Sticky Locals Vote Sticker

Today, the team of 20+ college and local HS students have shifted their focus to spread the word about voting. With less than a week before Election Day, they’ve partnered with another grassroots organization Welcome to Chinatown, and ciaooo! (hey, that’s us) to sell stickers to support voters in the Asian American Pacific Islander community – you can get them HERE for $5. Designed by Harry Trinh and Sonya Lei from the Welcome to Chinatown team, the 3 stickers represent the MTA, food insecurity, and the Asian American vote. 

This sticker, designed by Sonya Han, features a lion dancing performance typical in Chinatown’s Lunar New Year Celebrations. This year, COVID-19 tore through these celebrations and made what should have been a prosperous and exciting time one of anxiety and confusion. Beloved business after business shuttered in the months following. Take this year’s elections as the first step to celebrate once more. Voting is an act of triumph, a clear, jubiliatory statement that you will be heard. 

While New York has been historically, a blue state – the Nov 3rd elections go beyond simply a presidential election on the ballot. 

“It’s about voting for the state and town elections. It’s about the referendums. It’s about making your voice heard because every decision made will affect your life – and the life of many generations to come” Felicia said, “It’s such a unique opportunity for every single American to have a chance and opportunity to change the course of our history. It connects us, no matter what race or party you are, and it brings us all together to the mailbox or polls”.

Sticky Locals Team

At the age of 18, this will be the first time that Felicia votes. I think back to my first time voting, over 10 years ago, casting my vote for Barack Obama. Did I have the knowledge or passion to be so invested in my community? Honestly, I was much more interested in boys and whatevernondescript screamo band was making a comeback. 

Why, does it seem that today’s young people, seem to be so much more involved and engaged? Sabrina Chok had this to say, 

“What is the type of world that we want to live in? And if it doesn’t look like that now, what can I and my friends do to make it the world I want to live in and be represented?”  

To the outside world, stickers may seem like a silly venture. In the world of startup though, they’re the perfect minimum viable product (MVP). They’re fast to design, quick to market, and easy to scale. It’s the perfect test to see if the idea has legs to stand on. 

On top of that Sabrina says, “We chose stickers because they spark offline conversations. When someone sees a sticker – they ask questions. They’ll talk about the vote, or talk about the business. It’s almost a badge of honor”.

To me, it sounds like the start of a revolution, but how do you bring an idea to life? Sticky Locals started out as just an idea amongst a few college students, after all. 

Harry Trinh, design lead at Welcome To Chinatown offers up, “Start small. When we started with Welcome To Chinatown all we did was help Chinatown businesses. We’ve been able to grow from that one route and THEN expand”.

Sabrina says, “Throw your ideas out there. We started with a Squarespace and everyone contributed $50. We sent out 100 emails overnight to every business in the NYC area telling them how we would help THEM. Of the 100 we canvassed, only five would respond, but then they’d tell their friends and they’d tell their friends”.

Since launch, Sticky Locals has gotten orders from all across the country, from Alabama to NJ. Whether it’s helping Chinatown or small businesses or simply encouraging people to vote – the message is sticking.

You can follow Sticky Locals here on Instagram.

You can purchase a sticker here.

You can follow Welcome to Chinatown here.

team ciaooo

ciaooo! is an NYC based editorial site, newsletter, and events company. We're the local's guide to conquering NYC. Follow us on Instagram @ciaooomag for the latest. Nice to see you here!

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