Laura Lahti: Amplifying Madison’s Asian Communities

By Katy Macek | Photography By Hillary Schave, Shot on location at Madison Youth Arts Center (MYArts)

What started as a search to find her biological family led to Laura Lahti’s quest for knowledge about her Korean culture and heritage.

Though Lahti, a local realtor with Badger Realty Team, never found her biological parents, she did discover how many different Asian communities there are in Dane County. She set out to bring them together.

“Going to other networking events, there weren’t that many Asian Americans,” she says. “I wanted to create a supportive community that celebrates diversity within Asian cultures.”

While there are chamber of commerce and networking groups for the Latino, Hmong and Black communities, she didn’t know of an Asian networking group she could join. In 2022, Lahti founded AMASIAN — a play on the words “amazing” and “Asian.”

Since then, the organization has hosted social gatherings to bring the Asian American community together and highlighted Asian professionals and businesses in the area. A forthcoming website for the group (live in early 2024) will offer resources for the community, including notifications of AMASIAN’s upcoming gatherings and other local events, listings of Asian- owned businesses and content on area Asian restaurants.

As an organization on the cusp, she primarily runs the group with five consistent volunteers — and she wants to build her volunteer base in 2024 to augment the organization’s growth.

Kicking off the new year with a bang, Lahti is helping to organize the city’s first Korean American Day event on Jan. 13, and AMASIAN will hold its inaugural Lunar New Year celebration on Feb. 13.

Lahti’s next priority in the coming year (already in the works) is to add more professional development opportunities for members to build upon AMASIAN’s networking and career focus. She also wants to establish the organization as a nonprofit and secure more sponsorships for events. Eventually, she’s looking to pepper in events to help others learn about their Asian heritage, which could include guest speakers and cultural events. She’s already envisioning a larger-scale community celebration in May 2025, during Asian American Pacific Islander Month.

Longtime friend Phoebe Yap said it’s been remarkable to watch Lahti’s growth over the last 15 years, from being a single mother to establishing herself as a realtor, and now, creating AMASIAN.

“She’s worked really hard in the last 10 years to position herself for opportunity,” Yap says. “I hope she’s able to take this to the next level and find the funding she wants to get in place because she could make some big things happen. It’ll be cool to watch.”

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