Albert Lam

How can we trust businesses? Capitalist giants get away with incurring negative externalities upon the public in the name of “innovation” by pouring billions into lobbying.Companies sell our data with no regards to safe practices concerning the storage of highly sensitive information, as is made clear with the countless data breaches recently. Right now, businesses enjoy an unchecked environment that has allowed for wealth inequality to be at the highest it has been in decades. Transparency has taken a backseat to profit margins, and it is becoming harder to protect ourselves as consumers.

Luckily, the Better Business Bureau(BBB) works tirelessly to process customer complaints and accredit trustworthy businesses. The benefits that our local communities enjoy from BBB’s work is multidimensional; not only do consumers have more power in protecting themselves by filing complaints through BBB, a notable 501(c)(6) nonprofit with hundreds of branches, but also businesses enjoy the reputation of the BBB Accreditation. This allows for customers to confidently conduct business with such accredited firms in safety. The presence of the Better Business Bureau in local business landscapes creates a healthy B2C environment in which transparency and trust are a given. On a surface level, this is clearly beneficial. Consumers are protected, and businesses can acquire more customers. On a macroeconomic scale, the encouragement of consumer spending through BBB’s advancement of marketplace trust results in a healthier economy for us all.

Take Mercer Island Dentistry for example. Located in the tiny city of Mercer Island, this local business faces a particular challenge. Mercer Island has a certain business dynamic in which customers often go off Mercer Island to the much bigger cities to its east and west,Bellevue and Seattle respectively. Yet, it is much more rare for Seattle or Bellevue residents to come to Mercer Island. Therefore, it is imperative that Mercer Island Dentistry is able to secure as many local Mercer Island clients as possible. This is achievable with their BBB accredited status. Customers can come in confident that Mercer Island Dentistry adheres to the accreditation standards of BBB, which includes honest advertising, transparency, responsiveness, and privacy, among others. Dentistry in particular is a very sensitive and personal service, so being able to invoke trust is that much more important for Mercer Island Dentistry. Becoming a BBBAccredited business has paid its dividends for Mercer Island Dentistry. Not only has MercerIsland Dentistry been successful in securing local Mercer Island clients, they are also one of the few businesses on Mercer Island that enjoy clients from the neighboring cities as well.

Change is never easy, but it has to start somewhere. The effect that BBB has on local businesses can truly be felt; the accreditation and oversight of businesses by BBB creates a level playing field in which consumers and businesses interact with integrity and transparency.

Tell us a little about yourself
My parents came to this country escaping their desecrated homeland of Vietnam, destroyed by napalm and Agent Orange. With nothing more than $15, the tattered set of clothing on their bodies, and a dream, they began to build the life they wanted. 

I grew up on Mercer Island where children are born into wealth and opportunities. Most children prefer to follow the path their parents have paved for them and safely remain within their comfort zone. However, as the child of war refugees, my upbringing was very different from the average Mercer Island kid. My parents achieved the American Dream through their entrepreneurial ability – many of my parents’ traits that allowed for their improbable success as immigrants were passed down to me. As a child, the seeds of grit, risk-taking, and strong work ethic were planted, and left for me to cultivate on my own. I tended for these traits, and developed my entrepreneurial spirit through independent projects. 

My family is amazingly positive, and sees the silver lining in every situation. I’ve turned a family habit into my personal mantra: “Turn problems into projects.” While it is easy to simply critique and lament over our world’s issues, it is more crucial to take action. As I founded a fundraiser and think tank, I learned how to take calculated risks, how to persevere through difficult obstacles, and how to find the discipline within me to execute my visions. I found my passion in social entrepreneurship; it was exhilarating to see dreams become reality while improving the community around me. 

From my family of immigrants, I learned to be ambitious. I learned to take risks, and to build grit. I’ve learned so much by fighting apathy and taking action. I’m only getting started.
List and explain any awards received related to academic achievement
I am a National Merit Finalist. I received Semi-finalist status by scoring in the top 1% nationally, with a 1500/1520 on the PSAT/NMSQT. I was then selected to be a Finalist through an application process that examines my academic ability, course rigor, extra-curricular activities, leadership roles, teacher recommendations, and personal statement.

I completed an online course offered by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Coursera titled “Fundamentals of Quantitative Modeling.” This is a course about combining mathematics, statistics, and probability with business to model business scenarios in order to make better strategic decisions. I finished the course with a 95% average. The official certificate can be viewed here: https://www.coursera.org/account/accomplishments/certificate/UXQBKUFYJDVF
Describe at least three school-related extra-curricular activities
I was born 9 weeks early at 3.5 lbs, and was diagnosed with heart murmur and underdeveloped lungs at birth. Badminton was my savior, helping me fight not only my physical ailments, but also my mental insecurities I had as a frail child. I started when I was 10, and qualified for my first Junior Nationals at 14. My highest rank was #13 in the nation in my age division, and I’ve placed 6th at the 2016 Junior Nationals, and 9th at the 2017 Junior Nationals. I am also a 5 time qualifier for the Junior International Trials, a tournament that places athletes into junior Team USA.

In the summer of 2018, I co-founded Open Lens(openlensresearch.weebly.com), a transparency think tank dedicated to fighting misinformation and promoting ethical practices in business. We develop free-to-use software tools and maintain a Medium publication. No Bias News, a Google Chrome extension, takes the domain of the news website you are currently on and displays pertinent information regarding transparency such as political bias and parent company relations. We have sourced information for over 100 media outlets. Simple Policy is another Google Chrome extension, that displays information regarding the privacy policy of the website you are visiting, such as what kind of data you agree to have the service collect by using it.

In August 2018, I interned at Apple Park, the luxury, organic toys and clothing line of Kader Industrial, one of the biggest toy manufacturers in the world. As a Business Development Intern, I created a competitive research report analyzing different factors such as pricing, promotion, product category, marketing, and quality control executions and strategies with that of 8 other rival companies.
Explain at least one leadership role that you have held
In August of 2017, Hurricane Harvey, one of the costliest tropical cyclones in history, devastated Southeast Texas. My mom asked me: “Can you imagine having everything one day, and nothing the next?” I couldn’t.

Sometimes, it is nice to have an organized plan, but overthinking often leads to inefficiency. I threw myself at this project and decided to run a fundraiser. It took approximately 20 clicks, two phone calls, and $300 dollars to start the fundraiser. In two weeks, 5000 pencils showed up at my door, all sky blue and printed with the words “Hurricane Harvey Pencil Fund.” I still didn’t know exactly where or how far I was going to go with this, but it didn’t matter yet. I just needed to start.

I campaigned to my entire high school through the Class of 20XX Facebook pages and morning announcements. I sent hundreds of personalized emails explaining the situation in Houston and asking for a donation. I was almost embarrassed, but then I remembered the Why behind my fundraiser. Some imaginary ridicule in my head wasn’t going to stop me. Donations started pouring in.

5 weeks later, I presented a $16,168 check to a Red Cross Representative.
5 months later in February, Jonathan from WE Charity reached out to me, wanting to match my fundraiser to a grand total $32,336. Well, I didn’t say no.

This fundraiser is the one achievement I am most proud of, not because I was able to raise lots of money, but because I took a leap of faith. I fought past the “Someone else will do it” and the “What difference could I make?” It’s one of the hardest battles I fought, and I won against myself.