Laila Ea was crossing cultures before she was even born. The child of Chinese and Cambodian parents, Ea was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. “My parents were lined up at the camp and told they would marry each other,” she explains. Her parents eventually fled Cambodia for Thailand, but it wasn’t an easy escape. “My mother was pregnant with me and my parents walked to Thailand,” she says. Ea’s family eventually landed in Philadelphia where they worked hard to secure a new life for Ea and her sister. “My parents taught me the value of hard work, but it was my mother who always welcomed everyone so graciously, who taught me the value of hospitality.”
Ea began her career at Marriott before returning to Philadelphia to work at the Inn at Penn and as part of the opening team for The Logan before tragedy struck; a dear friend died unexpectedly. “Suddenly, I realized that if he could die in his 20s … it forced me to reevaluate what I wanted to do with my life.” Laila left The Logan and decided to branch out on her own, creating The Sosi as a way to celebrate cultural identity in events.
Her days spent in hotels helped inspire the business. “Often we’d have groups of foreigners staying with us and we’d be rushing around trying to find translators or learning how to deal with different customs at the last minute,” she says. The Sosi was designed to fill that void. Whether it’s sourcing a venue to host a traditional Chinese tea ceremony, hiring a caterer that knows how to prepare a classic Nordic dish, or celebrating the rich diversity of a company at an annual event, The Sosi weaves elements of cultural recognition through intimate social celebrations or large corporate gatherings, as well as everything in between. As for the name, it all goes back to her mother. “The Sosi is derived from the first and middle names of my mother,” she says. “She is the most hospitable woman I know.”