Stan Miao, founder of multiple businesses and author of so many ideas, sat opposite me with tears streaming down his cheeks. It was the first time an interviewee cried in front of me. Amidst the foreignness of this scene, a poignant image formed in my head. Miao was remembering the immense joy he felt in seeing a child from a charity smile. Miao is a man who genuinely believes what he is fighting for.
Among other things, Miao is passionate about his work. One might easily think that his vision is to take over the world, but his ultimate goal goes much deeper. He wants to make a positive difference.
His current project, AOK, aims to change the world with one act of kindness at a time. Its premise is simple: sell artworks and donate a portion of the proceeds to charity. But it goes deeper. AOK’s ecosystem is multifaceted, dividing into three branches: AOK itself, its army of superhero artists, and the charities it spotlights. And it’s all headed by one man.
Stan Miao, visionary
Born in 1984 after the Cultural Revolution in China, Miao entered a world that was slowly opening up to widespread intercultural interaction. It was a world ripe for spreading the message of love and kindness. In fact, Miao’s journey was ignited by an act of kindness. His father, a tour guide for the Terracotta Army, was sponsored a trip to the United States after helping a gay couple who got sick during one of his tours.
Because of his family’s immigration, Miao was exposed to Western culture. He felt a deep connection with the early tech scene in the States. To a kid like him, the Nintendo 64 and the old modems of yore were magic. And especially to the only Chinese kid in a room full of white boys, having that sense of communal connection to something was vital. He had to survive.
The knack for business came to him almost naturally. He started networking small businesses together in his spare time before being forced into a college education. He may have had the talent, but his vision came much later. College wasn’t exactly a natural fit. He kept getting straight A’s, but all he wanted to do was party. Ultimately, he got kicked out despite his precocity.
At 24, Miao moved back to China and rediscovered himself. Life wasn’t just about partying and friendship. He had to “find something and do it really well.” He concocted several ideas at the time, including a 3D social networking platform. But those didn’t go off so well.
Amongst all his ideas, what really stood out was a lesson he got from his mom: give praise every time someone helps you. Praise and validation are important values in Chinese culture. Who doesn’t recognize the iconic red âng-pau envelopes we see every Chinese New Year? We may know them as gifts that our elders give the younger members of the family, but the Chinese also give them to say thanks for a job well done. It was from this tradition of giving praise that AOK was born.
Making a difference through acts of kindness
AOK is a way for people to do what they love, earn money, and help charity at the same time. “We allow people to pursue their dreams, hone their craft, and spread compassion through their art,” said Miao.
Whenever an artist sells an artwork, half goes to the artist while half goes to the agent or the gallery. Nothing goes to charity. With AOK, a portion set manually by the artist goes to a charity of his or her choice. AOK earns through the surplus gained by the auction format: whatever is gained from selling the artwork more than its indicated value. AOK is determined to upkeep its three-win system. It’s a win for AOK, for the artist, and for the charity.
Introverted artists need not fear their lack of negotiation skills. AOK will always value the artists first. Its essence is to take artists and turn them into superheroes. Through their artwork, artists can champion great causes all over the world. They can earn for themselves while earning for other people.
Even with the common “starving artist” stereotype, art remains a lucrative market. It all depends on how they market themselves. AOK will create that compelling story for them: a story that melds a passion for art with a genuine desire to help other people. And besides uplifting artists, it creates a compelling story for collectors as well. A painting bought from AOK isn’t just a slab on the wall; it’s a piece of art that helped cleft-lipped kids in the Philippines or abused animals all around the world. AOK markets both the artist and the charity.
It isn’t all fun and games, though. AOK does its due diligence when selecting artists and charities. Research ensures that AOK’s artists are passionate people who will do what it takes to champion a good cause. On the other hand, AOK also ensures that most of the proceeds sent to charity do end up in the right hands.
At the moment, AOK already has renowned artists like Patrick Cabral and Albrecht Behmel. It also caters to known charities like the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, Cottolengo Philippines, Smile Train, and PAWS.
An empowering vision
With the traction that Miao is already pushing onto AOK, the big dream is to expand in scale and in scope. Besides having creative and communicative people, the Philippines is AOK’s test country. If it succeeds here, it expands to Miao’s home country, China. From there, AOK will move to other countries in Asia and other territories including Germany and Miami.
Miao is confident that AOK will transcend from just being a marketing machine for artists and charities. Its aim is to spread positivity.
“People are glorified more if they do something bad like if they kill someone or shoot up a school,” says Miao. He wants to flip this system on its head by spreading and spotlighting positive vibes.
AOK hopes to move beyond artworks. Miao boasts that Rohan Marley, son of the legendary singer Bob Marley, approached him to sell coffee beans through AOK’s channels. The proceeds will even go to a local charity. Imagine a world powered by a desire to help other people. AOK isn’t a platform; it’s a new economy. It’s a bold vision.
“My vision is to help the 99 percent reach the 1 percent,” concludes Miao.
You can visit and purchase AOK’s wide array of artworks on aoklife.com.