How a cringe-worthy trip to Bloomingdale’s inspired a $75 million idea

Because the Covid-19 pandemic escalated in 2020, multinational way of life CEO Mei Xu watched and feared for her fellow ladies entrepreneurs. From China to Marrakech, a number of of those ladies had been Xu’s mentees for years.

“When you might have any disruptions, shops are the primary to be hit,” Xu informed Know Your Worth. “They knew that folks wouldn’t precisely purchase night robes and excessive heels.”

After a long time of constructing multi-million greenback world firms, together with Chesapeake Bay Candle, Xu, 54, determined to assist feminine entrepreneurs full-time. In 2020, she launched Sure She Could, a web based vacation spot the place choose women-owned companies around the globe can promote their way of life merchandise globally. Xu’s efforts have been just lately honored on Forbes’ 50 Over 50: Visionary listing.

“Most ladies do not feel assured to exit of their state [to sell their products], not to mention their nation. The concept of sourcing from Vietnam, Brazil, Indonesia—it’s intimidating,” stated Xu. “That’s why I made this platform, to open up that type of group the place ladies can assist one another.”

Born in Hangzhou, China, Xu gained a novel, globalized savvy starting at age 12, when she attended a global boarding faculty in Hangzhou, China. There, she turned totally immersed in English and skilled to grow to be a diplomat. She went to school in Beijing, the place she was tapped to translate for the World Financial institution.

“For nearly 4 years I used to be all the time touring and serving to the large bosses of the World Financial institution. I loved that world workforce …I felt like working there was my calling,” Xu stated.

However occasions in China disrupted her dream. In 1989, college students demonstrated en masse in favor of varied political reforms in Tiananmen Sq., Beijing. The Chinese language authorities responded by massacring most of the protesters, then by putting powerful restrictions on all college students so they’d not have the ability to manage once more. Consequently, Xu was faraway from her translating place on the World Financial institution, and was compelled to take a job monitoring mineral deliveries in Northern China.

“That complete 12 months, I used to be in an empty warehouse with my supervisor. The man did not even discuss to me. I needed to test a clipboard twice a day when a truck got here, and that was it,” she stated. “I’d had a pleasant way of life on the World Financial institution, I used to be paid effectively, making 5 occasions what my mom made. Then swiftly, I obtained paid with nothing. I used to be additionally homesick and I missed my boyfriend.”

The Xu Household in 1987. From left to proper: Mei Xu, her father, mom, sister Xu Li and Xu Li’s husband.Courtesy of Mei Xu.

So Xu did one thing radical: she give up her job. Beneath the Chinese language faculty construction, this transfer jeopardized her future as a diplomat. She graduated faculty in Beijing, however she stored her dream alive by making use of to review communications in Maryland so she may dwell near the World Financial institution headquarters in Washington, D.C.

She obtained in and earned a Grasp’s diploma, however as soon as once more, her World Financial institution dream was thwarted, this time on account of a hiring freeze. Xu and her boyfriend David Wang moved to New York Metropolis, the place Xu labored as an alternative at a medical export firm, which she referred to as “a not-fun paper-pushing job.”

Throughout a visit to Bloomingdale’s within the early 90s, inspiration hit. Whereas the garments on the primary flooring have been all the time fashionable and trendy, the shop’s dwelling items and furnishings departments on the higher flooring was woefully out-of-touch, she stated.

“I didn’t perceive why there was such an enormous hole [between the clothes and decor], and why dwelling needed to appear to be grandma’s home,” she stated. “I simply thought of this lady working in a legislation agency or trend firm and strolling with that stunning coat and going dwelling to this boring, darkish residence.”

Wang urged that they launch a house and decor firm collectively in 1994, referred to as Pacific Buying and selling Worldwide. Its subsidiary would grow to be Chesapeake Bay Candle, a minimalist candle and residential product firm. The couple began by making candles of their dwelling, then by launching a producing hub in Hangzhou.

Engineers monitoring Chesapeake Bay candles at a burn lab in China in 2004.Courtesy of Mei Xu.

In 2017, Xu had an unlucky bout with breast most cancers and had a mastectomy. She stepped down as CEO of Pacific Buying and selling Worldwide, and he or she finally bought Chesapeake Bay Candle for $75 million.

Whereas scaling the corporate over time, Xu stated she was normally the one Asian lady, and infrequently the one lady within the room.

“My mom raised me virtually like a boy, and I used to be all the time assured. I by no means felt very uncomfortable as a result of I all the time remind individuals I used to be solely 19 after I began translating for the World Financial institution, and I used to be all the time the one lady,” stated Xu. “However it’s humorous generally. I’m a petite lady and these businessmen are all very tall. I am standing within the center, and they do not know the place the sound comes from, and it’s from me.”

Mei Xu and her Chesapeake Bay Candle design workforce making ready for a brand new product launch in 2007.Courtesy of Mei Xu.

Wang and Xu had two boys collectively, however the couple finally parted methods. She later married Professor Alessandro Rebucci, who teaches worldwide finance at Johns Hopkins College.

Since stepping down, Xu targeted on talking, mentoring and writing her memoir “Burn,” which was launched in March this 12 months. Throughout these years, she stated that ladies entrepreneurs consistently approached her for recommendation. Lots of them now have merchandise on the market on Sure She Could, which options about 100 manufacturers from over 25 nations, from the U.S. to Turkey to South Korea and extra.

“We wish manufacturers that without delay communicate to a recent way of life of a contemporary lady, however nonetheless, we need to carry that cultural heritage facets,” stated Xu.

Xu stated she all the time advises ladies entrepreneurs to assume as huge as their male counterparts.

“Even when ladies are profitable they’re hesitant to assume huge and globally. They get slowed down with transport questions and every little thing. Males don’t do that,” stated Xu. “Don’t be afraid to assume greater.”

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