In 1975, Saigon, the then capital of Vietnam, was in the midst of a revolution. On April 30, North Vietnamese troops besieged  the South to unite the countries under Communist rule as American troops evacuated. During the height of the political and social upheaval, 16 years old Ha Nguyen (pronounced Win), sponsored by her uncle, immigrated to Indianapolis from Saigon seeking safer, more prosperous life. It would be nearly 20 years before she reunited with her little brother, Sang, and began planning what would becomeher Pendleton Pike eatery, Sandra Rice and Noodles.

The Hospitality industry was a quick fit for the Nguyen siblings. Ha worked as a server for the Omni Severin Hotel and the Hawthorns Golf and Country Club in Fishers, as well as a supervisor at the Hilton Indianapolis North Sang climbed the ranks at establishments including the Horizon Convention Center in Muncie, the Radisson Hotel City Center Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown and the Holiday Inn Columbus. He went from bartender to operations manager to food and beverage director in a mere 10 years.