The Cake

What I’ve Learned About Family Business Values

The art of negotiation is just one of the life lessons my Korean mother and African American father instilled in me

Denise Woodard
Published in
4 min readOct 10, 2019


A photo of a mixed-race woman in a business meeting with another woman.
Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

FFamily isn’t always about blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs, the ones who accept you for who you are, the ones who show up for you, and who love you.

My African American father left his tiny hometown of Goochland, Virginia when he was 17, never having been on an airplane, but knowing that he wanted to see the world. He joined the U.S. Army, and shortly after was stationed in postwar South Korea where he met my Korean mother, who worked serving food in the mess hall — the military cafeteria.

They fell in love, she moved back to the United States with him, and she was disowned by her family in the process because of my father’s race. Her parents died when she was a teenager, but she didn’t hear from anyone in her family for nearly 18 years, all because she chose to marry a Black man. My father’s side of the family was so welcoming to my mother, and, over the course of her life, my mother made a few good friends that are like family, which taught me that surrounding yourself with people you love and who unconditionally love you is really what defines a family.