A loss, a brush with death and a dream: Anna Yang builds business, foundation to honor her mother

Anna Yang via LinkedIn

It was October 2020, the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus landed Anna Yang, just 26 at the time, in an intensive care unit for six days. Her mother, Xee, had just passed away months earlier from lung cancer; the grief had been difficult to handle. 

There, in the hospital, surrounded by machines and cables and tubes, she felt a kind of peace. A kind of clarity.  

“I remember being on my deathbed and thinking to myself, ‘You know what? Maybe this isn’t so bad. I get to be with the person that I love the most,’” she said. “There was a feeling of, ‘If it’s my time, it’s my time.’”

It wasn’t her time.

Recovering from COVID-19, she felt a renewed sense of purpose.

“Now I can figure out how to live a life where I am more excited to be alive,” she said. “I wanted to start a foundation in my mom’s honor. But you need money to do a foundation. So I need to figure out how to build a business that will fund the foundation. I built Xee Group out of that desire to really reconnect with my mom.”

Yang had been working in real estate in Green Bay for several years. Starting as a front desk temp in 2019, she landed a full-time position with Keller Williams just two weeks in. Within a year, she was director of a team, mostly providing support to the realtors.

After that COVID close call, she leveraged that experience – as well as previous experience in the nonprofit sector, serving in AmeriCorps – to create Xee Group, which provides a la carte support services to real estate brokers. 

“We do a handful of services with agents such as photography, staging homes, transaction management, sign installation, marketing,” Yang said. “I also do consultations, coaching real estate agents.”

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Yang did earn her license and broker a few sales, but “I really liked the back end stuff” – the stuff the realtors themselves had a hard time doing, and the stuff that could get in the way of realtors scaling up. 

“If I didn’t have to go and run an install sign, if I didn’t have to schedule the photos, or if I didn’t have to do all the backend stuff, I would have more time focusing on my clients,” she said.

With Xee Group, Yang has created a “one-stop shop” for real estate brokerage support services, so realtors don’t have to carry additional staff, and “don’t have to talk to four people to help you manage a transaction,” she said. “You just come to us.”

Yang said many people have created businesses out of just one service: photography, staging, transaction coordination. But Xee Group is the only business in the Green Bay area that she’s aware of that can offer all of those services on an as-needed basis.

Yang said she’s the first in her family to launch an entrepreneurial venture, though her mom’s encouragement set the stage.

“My mother was such a progressive person,” she said. “She went against the grain in the community. I was very fortunate to be raised in a household where we had strong traditions and values, but my mom was never afraid to push the envelope. She was never afraid to say, ‘I know we typically don’t let girls do that, but go do whatever you want. I was really allowed to do all these things and have all these freedoms that sometimes you don’t get as a Hmong woman.”

Yang said most of the clients she’s worked with were people of color, and that’s become another mission for not only her business, but her own place in the community.

“Now that I’ve been on my entrepreneurship journey, I’m really looking to rekindle and reconnect with my community because I have this wealth of knowledge,” she said. “And if there’s one thing that I valued the most, it’s actually financial freedom, and generational wealth. Now that I’ve learned a lot, I’m kind of in this place where I want to give all that to my community … I’m on the cusp of building that reconnection.”

In fact, Yang has recently signed on as vice president of marketing for the newly-formed Northeast Wisconsin Chapter of Asian Corporate Entrepreneurial Leadership, a nationwide organization that supports Asian American entrepreneurship and leadership development.

Yang said the next steps will be to expand her services to realtors across Wisconsin, build the business and then get back to the original goal: giving back to the community through the Xee Foundation. She hopes to take on issues like financial literacy and wealth building, but also pressing needs like food security. 

“I would say there’s quite a holistic approach to the foundation,” she said. “It’s really going to be focused on just giving back to the community in the capacities that my mom really felt were valuable … We’re just getting started, and we’re really excited about our future.”