Posted on Thursday, November 20, 2008 by Jim Norrena
"I never thought I'd be a businessperson," says Mike Yang, proud owner of the Golden Gate Badminton Club. "I always thought I'd be a designer." Growing up in Taiwan he was always interested in architecture and design, inspired especially by I. M. Pei. He was also quite a badminton player. So when he came to the United States for college in 1999, he soon found himself juggling three careers: nationally ranked badminton competitor, badminton coach at UC Berkeley, and full-time Industrial Design student at CCA.
Balancing it all was quite a feat, but Yang has always thrived on having multiple projects going at once. And his hard work paid off after he graduated, when the parents of one of the Cal students he coached offered to help him start a badminton club. He opened his first location in Menlo Park in 2005, and in 2007 he opened a second one in Emeryville. Each is an Olympic-standard facility, hosting multiple national tournaments every year, with several full-time coaches on staff. In addition to running the clubs, Yang also designs his own lines of equipment and apparel: six different rackets, 10 clothing items, and a couple of birdie packages.
His unique resume as a designer, athlete, and business owner recently attracted the attention of a major American sports-equipment manufacturer—one that must remain nameless for now, but suffice to say that Yang is very excited about the collaboration they are planning. "I've been to their headquarters a few times now, and I'm working with the best industrial designers in the world there. When I was a student, that was my dream. Now I wish I'd studied harder in school!" he laughs. "This project really makes me realize that every step of life matters."
He looks back with great fondness on his years at CCA. "In my first year of college, my English was bad, I was very shy, I couldn't talk to people or understand them. All of the presentations we had to do in class forced me to be more outgoing and to learn to handle criticism. They improved my language skills and prepared me for dealing with the public as a business owner. The Industrial Design teachers were great, with great minds not only for design, but also for business. All the discussions about products, end users, research, target markets—those kinds of business concepts have helped me in so many ways."
See also: the Golden Gate Badminton Club website.
To be featured in Glance, Spring 2008
Born in 1974 in Taichung, Taiwan
CCA degree:BFA 2003, Industrial Design Program
Residence:San Mateo, CA
Current occupation:Business founder and owner
Influences at CCA:Barry Katz, Steven Skov Holt