When she isn’t changing the lives of young girls, she bikes around town, keeps cozy in her Smurf blue bungalow and holds precious puppies in pictures. Meet Bee Nguyen, an incredibly empowering role model for young girls. She founded Athena’s Warehousea start-up non-profit with a prom dress donation program and life series workshops. She’s adorable, you’ll love her, and if you don’t... then, well, maybe you just really need a hug. Luckily we think we have deals on those.
SCOUT: How might people know you?
BEE: They might know me from the intown real estate scene. I have been selling property for six years, currently at Sanctuary Real Estate in Inman Park. On second thought, maybe they have seen me “riding” my brand new Huffy beach cruiser up Freedom Parkway on the weekends; nobody told me to get a bike with gears!
SCOUT: Tell me about Athena’s Warehouse?
BEE: We are a local start-up non-profit dedicated to empowering teenage girls through public service and personal support. We are best known for our prom program: we provide disadvantaged girls with sequin, ruffles, and taffeta in exchange for community service hours.
SCOUT: Why did you start it?
BEE: I have four sisters and an amazing mother; I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by great girlfriends and positive female role models. I want other young ladies to be surrounded by women who can empower them. No more princesses. Warriors for us.
SCOUT: Warrior princesses, let’s unite. Local Atlantans that inspire you?
BEE: I love John Lewis and all the things he stands for; he was only 23 when he played a prominent role in the marches from Selma to Montgomery. I also think the KOP brothers are awesome for taking a risk and building a business making popsicles. And for more reachable inspiration, I want to be like Sara Lee Parker, my boss and one of the owners of Sanctuary Real Estate. She is a blond, Southern firecracker who isn’t afraid to manhandle a ladder, but she is sweet as pie (or pound cake).
SCOUT: Favorite local store?
BEE: I like Heliotrope in Decatur; you can get mustache chip clips and ammo ice cube trays. I also like Lila, a clothing boutique in Inman Park. One of the girls that worked there was our T-shirt model for our T-shirt projectwe sold locally designed shirts to fund a one-year scholarship for a schoolgirl in Sudan.
SCOUT: Oh man, we can never have enough kitschy ‘stache swag. It’s seriously ridiculous what products we’ve stumbled upon. Where in town do you go to get new ideas?
BEE: I hole myself up in my Smurf blue bungalow in Edgewood and turn on my favorite Pandora station (currently Neko Case) and sit on my bed with my Smurf blue blanket and my two smelly poodles.
SCOUT: Okay, you’re adorable, we get it. Where do you go to get out of your blue bungalow with a good drink and good company?
BEE: I liked Da Vinci’s, the space that formerly occupied Top Flr, because it was so tiny and cool; now, I like Top Flr for the delicious food and because it is still tiny and cool. I also enjoy my laborious Saturday bike ride on Freedom Parkway trailmy sister and I recently learned how to ride bikes... to Hector’s El Burro burrito stand on N. Highland. Sadly, Fulton County shut them down last week, so Hector is operating out of Super Pan for now.
SCOUT: I know, it’s a travesty. My hope is that the rules start loosening sooner than later. No city should have to live without magical street-side burritos. What’s your favorite “curious find” in Atlanta?
BEE: Cross Keys High School. They are a Title I Dekalb County school with over 80% poverty rate and one of the most diverse student populations in Georgia. We work very closely with them, and the girls are wonderful. I grew up having a completely sheltered life in Augusta, Georgia; these girls are differentthey take public transit, they have different issues, like immigration and whether or not they can go to college or get a job. But they are smart, appreciative, attentive, and heck of a lot more mature than I would be in a sex education class.
SCOUT: Very cool, that’s exactly why I ask that question. Another zinger: what’s something people wouldn’t expect about you?
BEE: I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but I was a terrible student when I was an undergraduate. I once skipped my Econ exam because it was sunny outside and I opted to chit-chat in the school courtyard instead. I also used an SAT book to study for the GRE at a bar the night before my exam. I showed up with a number two pencil and a hangover for an electronic test. I cried after I saw my score. Somehow, I made it to grad school.
SCOUT: Yes! I knew you were mortal. So, what are your goals for Athena’s Warehouse?
BEE: I would like a storage space, so I can reclaim my second bedroom; a dry cleaner who won’t charge me the price of an entrée and a drink to clean a long gown; a bookstore to donate the raciest Judy Blume book, Forever, for the girls in our workshops; and maybe a cool purple bus to transport our girls and volunteers. Generally, we want to expand our organization and serve more girls: currently, we serve between 50-75 girls a year and we want to triple this in the next school year. But we are an all-volunteer, unpaid baby organization and we need financial support in order to grow.
SCOUT: And we’re totally behind you. Finally, throw out a shameless plug of where people can know more about what you’re up to.
BEE: You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter and get on our website to learn more about our organization.
We are much more than a prom dress charity; we do a life series workshop called “Be Awesome, Be Aware,” and we are awarding for the first time a scholarship to one of the students enrolled in our workshop. And if you want to have fun while supporting us, come to our adult prom fundraiser at Sutra Lounge on May 6 where
and our cute volunteers will try to convince you to buy raffle tickets for cool prizes and where the punch will definitely be spiked.