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Chippewa Vallians Named Finalists in Hmong Wisconsin Chamber’s 2023 Business Awards

two of the 10 finalists are from our slice of the state

McKenna Scherer |

REPRESENTING! Local eatery Thai Orchid and area trailblazer Caitlin Lee are finalists for this year's 2023 Business Awards.
REPRESENTING! Local eatery Thai Orchid and local trailblazer Caitlin Lee are finalists for this year's Hmong Wisconsin Chamber Business Awards.

Editor’s note: After this story was published, the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce announced the winners of its annual awards.  UW-Eau Claire’s Caitlin Lee was named 2023 Professional of the Year.

The Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce announced the finalists for this year’s 17th annual Business Awards – the largest Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders business awards event in the state – on Oct. 6, and two of them are familiar names in the Chippewa Valley.

Longtime downtown Eau Claire eatery and foodie favorite, Thai Orchid (203 N. Barstow St.), is nominated for the 2023 Business of the Year award. The Thai cuisine staple is known for its delicious helpings of Pad Thai and Pho among an array of menu items, and was voted second for Best Asian Food in this year’s Best of the Chippewa Valley Reader Poll

Thai Orchid (formerly Singha Thai) reopened with its new name and management in 2018 under owner Carrie Cha, and since then has continued to be a go-to for Chippewa Vallians. Thai Orchid is a finalist alongside Milwaukee family-style restaurant, AN OX CAFE, also established in 2018.

UW-Eau Claire Director of Multicultural Student Services Caitlin Mai Chong Lee is a finalist for the 2023 Professional of the Year award. Earlier this year, Madison365 gave a nod to Lee in its fourth annual Roundup of prominent Asian American leaders, “Wisconsin’s 40 Most Influential Asian American Leaders,” though Lee has been making her mark for decades in the area.

Lee was first a student at UWEC before beginning her nearly two-decade career on the university’s staff. Holding various leadership positions over the years and co-founding and chairing a plethora of projects and committees, she was also an equal opportunity specialist in the Affirmative Action Office before her current role as director of Multicultural Student Services.

In recent years, Lee was also awarded the Women Who Inspire Award from Central Wisconsin Hmong Professionals in 2022 and the Beloved Community Leadership Award from Uniting Bridges in 2020. She is a finalist alongside Kabzuag Vaj, executive director of the U.S.-based global feminist organization Moving Mountains.

There are 10 finalists across five categories in the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber’s Business Awards. This year’s Business Awards Celebration coinciding with the organization’s 20th anniversary, and will be Oct. 13 in Milwaukee.

Learn more about the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce and the Business Awards online.