DET_ 2024 Game Changers AAPI Heritage_Showcase-LEE

DETROIT -- Katherine Lee grew up working in her family’s Chinese restaurant in Detroit, which helped her build a foundation of knowledge that she has used to enjoy a successful entrepreneurial career since graduating from Wayne State University in 1975.

Lee said she navigates life with a business mindset, but her decisions are never driven by profitability.

“When I look at a project, I don’t decide to do it based on how much money I am going to make,” Lee said. “I tend to ask myself, how much fun will I have? If I think I’m going to have fun with it, money will come. That’s my motto in life. Everything that I do and all the different businesses that I have been involved in, I really have fun doing it. When you have fun doing something, you will put in all your effort.”

Lee puts as much effort into her career as she does her community work, which includes serving as the Vice Chair of the Council of Asian Pacific Americans (CAPA). Established in February 2001 and headquartered in Sterling Heights, Mich., CAPA unites Asian Pacific Americans and the community at large through culture and education.

“If we understand each other, we will work in harmony,” Lee said. “I balance my career with a strong devotion to making a difference in the community.”

The Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers Game Changers program, presented by Comerica Bank, recognizes community members who are committed to making a positive change. Lee is the first of four honorees in this month’s Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month series.

"As we celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month across our organization, we're honored to share the stories of four incredible Game Changers like Katherine Lee for their impact on countless lives locally and abroad," Ilitch Sports + Entertainment Director of Community Impact Kevin Brown said. "A successful entrepreneur and community leader, Katherine's lifelong commitment to serving others has been heralded as a resounding characteristic of her impact."

An advocate for Asian Pacific Americans, Lee said helping CAPA carry out its mission and promote solidarity is very enriching.

“I fell in love with CAPA because I believe in its mission,” Lee said. “CAPA unites Asian Pacific Americans with culture, education and community service. I really was so moved by all the different things that were happening in the community. I told myself that I wanted to promote a positive image of Asian Pacific Americans.”

Lee’s passion for giving back to the community has earned her several awards over the years, including being named one of the most influential Asians in Michigan by Corp! Magazine in 2005 and a Diversity Champion by the Race Relations & Diversity Task Force in 2007.

And while Lee takes pride in being recognized as an AAPI Game Changers honoree, she doesn’t want the focus of the award to solely be on her accomplishments.

“I am just one of many volunteers who put in their time and effort for the community,” Lee said. “The most important thing is that I want our community at large to work together. We have such a diverse culture in Michigan. It would be so wonderful if we could all work together for the betterment of Michigan.”

To learn more about how to support CAPA, click here.