When Sue Liang published 10 Steps to Becoming a Food Entrepreneur in June, it quickly made Google News. This Examiner met Sue on Twitter (@AsuliaFoods), then in person at the Let’s Talk About Food Festival in Boston last fall. A poised and tenacious entrepreneur, Sue is currently at MassChallenge.
This interview is part of 10 questions for a food entrepreneur for Examiner.
Q: What was the seed for what is now Asulia?
A: On Mother’s Day the year before I started Asulia, my mother revealed to me that she'd been looking for my biological mother and had found her. I had been trafficked as a child and so the woman that I call my mother had actually bought me. Connecting with my past, my story suddenly became very real. From that moment, it felt natural to me to want to create a socially-conscious business and figure out how to combine my love of food and healthy eating with a desire to help girls around the world.
Q: What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?
A: Two things really stand out. First, the self-doubt: the voice inside my head that said What if you fail? And the second was learning how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Life is too short to not pursue your dreams simply because you are afraid to start and keep going.
Q: How do you define success?
A: Staying true to my mission to help people eat healthier while supporting girls’ education, a cause that is so important to me and so connected to my own life. And for the future, success would be becoming an investor in other women-led startups.
Q: How do you manage failure?
A: Focus on learning from it. Over time this has gotten easier. I can move more quickly to troubleshooting and resolving the issue at hand. Managing failure is focusing on making it right or better instead of being overly critical of myself.
Q: How do you cope with pressure? (Any secret recipes for taking care of yourself?)
A: $5 community yoga classes! They clear my mind and help me process the stress. Early morning workouts and a mostly plant-based diet too. When I don’t have time for exercise is when a clean diet really helps. Raw fruit and vegetable juices on days when I can’t stop to eat keep me in balance.
Q: What are you going to do next?
A: Move into our summer home to start the 2014 MassChallenge Accelerator and, while learning from all the incredible resources there, continue to build Asulia’s brand and distribution.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in the past year?
It’s not direct advice, but there’s one Steve Jobs quote that’s helped me keep things in perspective when the doubting voice tries to come back:
"Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you, and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use."
Q: Give us your advice for aspiring food entrepreneurs… in 6 words or less.
A: Find your why. Trust your instinct.
Q: You win the Oscar equivalent for your industry. When you take the stage, who will you thank and for what?
A: My mother. She’s the ultimate Iron Chef! She's always been a steadfast example of humility, love, grace, and creativity. She inspires me to be a better person and pushes my cooking further. I would also thank my close friends, family, and community for their support and love.
Q: What about Asulia most feeds your soul?
A: Sharing my food obsession while giving back to girls' education, which is so near and dear to me.
Find Asulia dumplings at Formaggio Kitchen South End, Volante Farms, and select Whole Foods Markets.