UT-Austin alum connects cultural storytelling to small business


Julius Shieh/The Daily Texan

Joseph Mayang, UT Alum and owner of flan business Charming Chango, poses next to a box with his homemade flan.

Mirya Dila, Life & Arts Reporter

The scent of caramelized sugar clung to the summer air. Young Joseph Mayang followed his Lola around the kitchen as she taught him how to make their family’s Filipino-style leche flan. While meticulously straining the velvety custard through a “cams de chino,” Mayang’s Lola shared memories of selling flan to her work colleagues as a way to make extra money.

Mayang said he often felt like an outsider in the Filipino community because he did not speak Tagalog, the language of the Philippines. However, he said baking Filipino-style flan with his lola made him feel closer to his heritage.

“It wasn’t just her sharing the family recipe,” Mayang said. “It was sharing her story. It was sharing our family’s story, and it was a nice moment for us to bond.”

In high school, Mayang followed in his lola’s footsteps and began selling flan. As a freshman at UT, he expanded his side hustle into the business Charming Chango to help pay for his tuition. However, as business came to a halt due to COVID-19, Mayang said he missed the customer interactions and realized the value of Charming Chango beyond its financial provisions.

From customers describing similar cultural desserts to reminiscing on cooking their favorite dishes with loved ones, Mayang said he realized food served as a universal language.

“(I realized) how important food is when it comes to connecting with others and showcasing our stories,” the communication and leadership graduate said. “If anything, (the pandemic) really made me approach Charming Chango in a different light — to not just deliver a dessert, but deliver an experience, deliver a connection.”

Mayang said he started being more intentional with his customer interactions, asking questions about connections attached to their favorite foods while in turn sharing his own story. He said his desire to cultivate a stronger Filipino community in Austin further motivated his approach to connect with customers.

“(Connection is) one of the key components of Filipino culture — this notion of ‘kapwa,’ togetherness of being, seeing each other in each other’s shoes (and) the ‘kababayan’ spirit of just being neighbors,” Mayang said. “That’s something food has been able to do, and it’s something that I’ve been able to live myself with other people in our community.”

For corporate communication junior Lili Xu, Mayang’s love for flan recalls her connection to the Southeast Asian pandan flavor she associates with her childhood and says she appreciates seeing his passion for sharing his culture through his business.

“Even him driving to the front of my house (with flan) — that’s him sharing part of his Filipino culture,” Xu said. “It makes me appreciate my home cooking a little more too, seeing how he loves his own cultural food.”

Sarah Vo, Mayang’s friend and customer, said his heartfelt interactions and keen attention to customers provide a more personal shopping experience. 

“It’s really cool seeing how (Mayang) interacts with the community,” the accounting junior said. “He’s very supportive of all of his customers — he really cares.”

Mayang said he hopes to further explore the community impact of Charming Chango by expanding the storytelling aspect of his business. He said he wants to add a blog component, highlighting both the struggles and successes of Filipino Americans in Austin.

“Everyone has a story to share,” Mayang said. “If anything, I just want (Charming Chango) to be a platform where people can be their authentic selves and share their stories to the fullest.”