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Lessons I Learned From My Immigrant Mother – By Potli Founder Felicity Chen

We’re big fans of Potli here at The Higher Path, and Felicity Chen, the founder and CEO, wrote a beautiful blog post about the lessons she learned from her mother. Read the full post here.


Lessons I Learned From My Immigrant Mother

Anytime it feels like no one could understand what I’m going through, my mom finds a way to remind me of her determination and relentlessness throughout her entrepreneurial journey. When my mother and my father first started out in building the business in the bay area, they would work weekdays selling the inventory. And on weekends they would bottle and package the inventory. Their good friends, who I call Uncle Chien and Auntie May, were always around to help out on the weekends with the packaging. She knows that every business starts somewhere, and you have to segment time to be efficient with your work. 

 So whenever I feel overwhelmed, when I feel lonely, when I spend most of the day trying to build the company and work into the night to manufacture thousands of units of honey; I remember that my mother’s work ethic, values, and joy run through me. I remember that my mother ultimately motivated me to start my own business in the first place. 

In order to fully tell my mother’s story, I must begin with her father. Grandpa Huang was the original entrepreneur in the family. During the cultural revolution, my grandfather fled from communist Fuzhou China to Taiwan by boat in middle school. Leaving everyone he knew behind, he started over with no money in his pocket. You could say that starting things from scratch runs in the family. After marrying my grandmother, he started a business selling sesame oils and paste–an industry he learned from the chefs while washing dishes in restaurants.

When my mother was in college, my grandfather set his sights on expanding the business into the United States. It took him 2 years of building up his client base in California and New York selling his ingredients to Chinese restaurants, while eating Burger King for every meal. When my mom first stepped foot into the Americas, she landed in LAX. She changed her name from Pei Ling to Linda and began working for her father, delivering orders of broad bean paste, sweet flour paste and chili oil to restaurants all over Southern California. Finally, she was then given the opportunity to move north to the Bay Area and expand the business after her arranged marriage with my father. My mom learned from my grandfather the belief that hard work always pays off. Neither of them were willing to give up, and they both sacrificed immediate comfort to set themselves up for longer term success.

When building her business, my mother always wanted to make sure that the company offered a wide variety of quality products. This is what motivated me to create more products beyond the honey. Today, Potli makes Honey, Olive Oil, Chili Oil, Apple Cider Vinegar and Sriracha. They are essential ingredients, sourced up and down the coast of California while paying homage to my heritage in food and in culture. 

To see the Potli products we carry at The Higher Path, click here.

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