Accelerator member Spotlight: Mulan Dumpling
This month, we're featuring Roya and Kristy, co-founders of Mulan Dumpling! Read on to learn about their unique story of launching their dumpling brand.
Introduce yourself and tell us a little bit more about you. What is your passion behind your business?
Roya Shadravan, and I co-own Mulan Dumpling with my partner Kristy Lam. Mulan Dumpling is importing Chinese tradition to Washington D.C. We make a variety of delicious dumplings - from traditional Pork & Cabbage, yummy Shrimp and Chives, and a fusion Curry Chicken dumpling for those who want a twist. Dumplings? Why dumplings? Quick answer, we love and missed many of the Asian comfort foods we regularly had when living in Hong Kong and China. Dumplings are on top of the list! We realized it was hard to find authentic ones in the grocery stores that were delicious and healthy. The dumplings we make are tasty, original, and ingredients so simple that a 5-year-old could easily read the nutrition label.
Did you always know you wanted to start a food business?/What did you do professionally?
We weren't always in the culinary world; in fact, we had very established careers- myself in Journalism and Kristy in Finance.
Why did you start your business?
I met Kristy several years ago in her hometown/country of Hong Kong. I moved there from the U.S. (Atlanta) in 2008 with my job at CNN. Kristy, at the time, was working for J.P. Morgan as a commodities trader. I learned later that Kristy's heart wasn't in the banking world. She had initially started culinary school in Hong Kong, but her parents weren't happy with the decision, and as a dutiful Asian daughter would, she changed paths into finance to please her family. I, on the other hand, LOVED my career. I never imagined doing anything else, that is, until I got a brain tumor. The tumor was a wake-up call. I had surgery. However, the doctor wasn't able to get it all out. With Kristy's help and advice from a Chinese Traditional Medical doctor, I used food/diet to kill the rest of my tumor. Within a year, it was gone.
We decided to move back to the United States to be closer to my family during this time. We were both super conscious of the food/ingredients we were eating. And we were constantly disappointed at the lack of convenient, healthy options - especially when it came to Asian cuisine. This series of events inspired us to leave our careers and start Mulan Dumpling. Initially, we started as a food truck. In the DMV area, most food trucks shut down during the winter for a couple of months. Whenever the time came around to close, folks would ask if they could buy our dumplings FROZEN so it could carry them through our shutdown period. These requests sparked the idea to package our dumplings for supermarkets.
What convinced you to take the plunge?
When COVID-19 hit and everything shut down, we decided to go ahead and take the plunge. We joined Union Kitchen and switched gears into food manufacturing.
What do you like about food?
Food is EVERYTHING. When Kristy and I travel, we usually like to learn about people's food in whatever country or area we are visiting. It's fun to try new flavors and ingredients, and cuisine is a significant factor in our decision-making when choosing destinations.
What drew you to the food industry?
Our drive to produce convenient, healthy, authentic Asian cuisine options to the American consumer is what got us into the food industry.
What's the biggest challenge you've faced to date?
Keeping a competitive price at the market while maintaining our standard of high-end ingredients is a huge challenge, especially when we are still on a small scale.
What's been the most exciting part of starting your food business?
The most exciting part of the business is to see the actual product on store shelves and folks buying them! It's so rewarding to see all your hard work realized! Something that was just an idea in your head materializes.