Born and raised in Denver, Tran Nguyen-Wills is the daughter of refugees from Vietnam, mother of four, and an activist and community leader.
Over the past 15 years, she’s worked at, managed, and owned several businesses focused on supporting the creative community across Denver and Colorado. This has included retail concepts, art galleries, home goods/furniture stores, and a non-toxic nail salon.
She said: “Working with community activists, small business owners, artists, designers, and creators has been the one constant and unifying thread across all of my varied endeavors.”
Most recently, she has been transitioning into politics, and worked as the Asian American and Community Outreach and Creative Director for Leslie Herod’s Mayoral Campaign.
Her lived experience as a first generation Vietnamese American has given her a unique perspective and approach to advocacy. Her parents met after the Vietnam War when they were sponsored by two separate American families in Minnesota. After they got married, her dad landed a job in Denver as a mechanic at Bar S Foods and her mom became a seamstress at a sewing factory.
“My parents worked incredibly hard and were able to buy a home in Denver, start their family, and open their own businesses. I remind myself that this is where I got my entrepreneurial spirit.”
According to Neal Walia, Deputy Director of Asian Pacific Development Center, “Tran is a long time business owner and community leader and has also become a visible figure in Denver progressive politics. Her leadership, heart, and kindness are respected by all who have had the fortune of collaborating with her.”
Nguyen-Wills has championed diversity in the arts, engaged in community building and worked to create safe spaces for all.
During the height of the pandemic, Nguyen-Wills advocated for and established mutual aid initiatives. She worked with the Stanley Marketplace to organize an equitable walk-in vaccine clinic for retail, restaurant, beauty, and construction industries that were left out of the initial vaccine roll out plan. She also helped the Denver Community Fridges program combat food insecurity within her community.
“The pandemic highlighted the inequities in our communities. When the vaccine became available, many BIPOC communities were left out of the roll out due to language barriers, inaccessibility of the online scheduling system, or inability to get the time off work to get vaccinated,” she said.
From organizing community fridges and vaccine clinics to fighting for reproductive rights, safer work conditions and fair wages for nail salon workers, regardless of her job title or position, her focus has always been on making impactful changes for our community, advocating and giving back to the community.
“I am on the board of Planned Parenthood, have fought to combat gun violence alongside students and activists, have advocated for the adoption of the Lunar New Year as a state holiday, and have spoken out against AAPI Hate. In everything I do, I strive to represent my community.”
She said: “My hope is that other Asian Americans feel empowered to stand up in their own ways, and that we will continue to increase representation.”
She resides with her partner of 23 years Josh Wills and their four children in the Harvey Park neighborhood.
Nguyen-Willis with her partner Josh and their four children