Mosaic Stories

    Sompit Vasey

    Sompit Vasey, the owner of
    Ma Yim Bakery, isn’t always easy to track down. On any given day, you might find her selling her homemade curry puffs at a local festival, rolling pastry dough in the community kitchen at Saint Louis University, or talking to customers at Create Space Generator, where she’s part of their inaugural class of start-ups. When she’s not running around the city, she’s busy plotting the next big steps for her business. Though she seems like a natural entrepreneur, she says that if she hadn’t moved to St. Louis, she might never have been able to open her own business.

    Before she moved to the United States, Sompit was a business professional in Bangkok working for an international technology company. She only cooked on special occasions and never baked. Focused on her career, she might not have left Thailand if she hadn’t met her husband, an American who worked in the California office of her company. Knowing they wanted to get married, she said “we kind of debated who’s gonna move…His job was more stable than mine at that time. That’s why I moved.”


    Sompit’s first year in the United States wasn’t easy. In Thailand, she says, “I used to be a corporate working woman and then poof, I didn’t have anything...I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have friends.” At her husband’s encouragement, she started taking ESL classes and volunteering, just to get out of the house. Still homesick, she would go out for Thai food, but was disappointed to find that the food didn’t taste like home. She started cooking more and more, so she could make the dishes as she remembered them.

    The two eventually moved to Philadelphia, where their daughter was born. With a baby, Sompit said that she no longer felt lonely, but joked that it was a feeling she soon missed. Without any family or friends nearby and her husband at work, she spent the whole day at home with her daughter. Again, her husband encouraged her to get out of the house and take classes.


    Since she enjoyed cooking for her family, Sompit signed up for cooking and baking classes. Baking at home is rare in Thailand, and she recalled, “when I learned to bake, it was so interesting...I found I’m not just good at being a working woman, but I am good at this.” Her family and friends agreed – they raved about all her cooking, but especially about her curry puffs. Some friends even wanted to place orders for parties. For Sompit, that was what first sparked the idea of turning something she loved into a business.


    After five years in Philadelphia, her husband’s work brought them to St. Louis and Sompit says she doesn’t know if she would have started her own business if they hadn’t moved. “[In Philadelphia] I just had a tiny bit of an idea, but [in St. Louis], I just actually do it...If I started in Philly, I don’t know if I would have gotten the same support as I got in St. Louis”, she said.  

    The catalyst was a business class she took at the
    International Institute, where she learned essential skills for starting a business and made new connections, including with The Mosaic Project and Create Space. The Mosaic Project awarded her with the Civic Progress Scholarship, which allowed her to be part of the inaugural class of start-ups at Create Space. In February 2016, she officially opened Ma Yim Bakery. “Without Mosaic’s help,” she said, “I could not be here. I’m very happy, very thankful.”

    Now, Sompit is able to sell her product out of the Create Space storefront in the Delmar Loop. She says her curry puff is the perfect example of her cooking because, “it doesn’t just show only Thai; it’s a bit American. I think it’s like a fusion a little bit, but you still taste Thai authentic flavor.” She also started selling her curry puffs at festivals in St. Louis. She noticed that the word, “curry” made some people nervous. She urged them to give it a try anyways and let her know right away if they didn’t like it. “I haven’t heard from a single one of them. That gave me a lot of confidence in my product.” 


    Her path to creating her business has not been easy and she notes that “opportunities, English [ability], and experience are the three things that for me are the hardest part of a starting a business.” She recommends that other immigrants also take advantage of resources like the International Institute and the Mosaic Project. Without these organizations, she would not have known about Create Space, the community kitchen at SLU, or the Balsa Foundation, which recently gave her a grant to improve her packaging.

    She dreams of getting her product into grocery stores around St. Louis and eventually wants to open her own bakery. Considering all that Sompit has accomplished since starting her business just last February, it isn’t hard to imagine her achieving these goals.