Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kevin Lee, co-founder of immi, located in San Francisco, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
immi is a better-for-you Asian American food brand that invented the world's first low carb, high protein, and 100% plant-based instant ramen. Instant ramen was invented by Momofuku Ando in 1958 to help solve world hunger post World War II and has grown to a $46bn global industry as one of the world's most ubiquitous foods recognized and eaten by populations of every background.
Despite the popularity of instant ramen in addressing world hunger, the instant ramen industry hasn't changed in the past 60 years as food conglomerates still produce the same nutrition-less, high sodium, and preservative-filled formulas that they've made since day 1. The world has changed since the invention of instant ramen, and immi is trying to take the next step in instant ramen's legacy beyond world hunger, towards solving world nourishment.
immi maintains the same familiar taste and texture of traditional instant ramen but is nutritious enough to be consumed daily. Our primary ingredient, pumpkin seed protein, was also selected because pumpkin seeds are one of the most sustainable forms of plant-based proteins available with very low water and carbon footprint. We currently sell only in the U.S. and have sold to customers across all fifty states who are ecstatic to be able to eat ramen again finally.
Tell us about yourself
My co-founder and I have been friends for over a decade and used to be co-workers and roommates. We both grew up in Asian food families. My grandparents are produce farmers in Taiwan, and my co-founder's grandmother ran a hawker noodle stall in Thailand. We both came together a few years ago because as we've grown older, we've seen our direct and extended families suffer through chronic health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.
That led us to start examining many of the childhood Asian foods we grew up eating and the impact these foods were having on people's health. We wake up excited every day because we get to work on a business that's both fun and impactful in its mission.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Many of our customers needed to stop eating delicious foods they grew up with because of changed health lifestyles. Most have gone years, if not decades, without being able to indulge in their favorite foods like instant ramen.
The best parts of every day involve talking to our customers in our private community, over e-mail, or face to face, where our customers tell us how happy they are to be able to eat instant ramen again. Some had written in to share that they cried when they took their first bites of immi. These moments are what makes everything worth it at immi.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
When you are an employee, you often have a set of constraints and goals that allow you to focus your attention on single tracks of work. As a founder, you often don't have that luxury, as you need to constantly juggle every facet of the business daily. You might be thinking through 3 workstreams while preparing after the workday has finished for another two un-related workstreams that will pop up the next morning. If you don't take care of your mental health and establish good recovery routines, that mental stress and burden stacks up over time.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Pick a co-founder you trust who has complementary skill sets.
- Invest in your personal development via a coach, reading books, or developing a network of other founders. Unless you've hit the jackpot with product-market fit in a massive market that can carry your business along with or without you, your business growth is often limited by your own personal growth.
- Make sure you carve out time to spend with your family, loved ones, and close friends. Don't make it to the finish line and realize there's no one there to celebrate with you.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.