Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with En-Ming Hsu, Co-Founder and Co-Owner of Sip LLC., located in Henderson, NV, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Sip LLC manufactures and sells Sip! Extraordinary Drinking Chocolate throughout the United States. Our easy-to-prepare mix is sold in 8 oz. packages for retail and 5 lb. food service pails for wholesale through our website and a national distributor, US Foods. Our customers are chocolate fans who enjoy our rich and creamy treat hot, iced, or frozen throughout the year. Our wholesale customers include sports stadiums, hotels, restaurants, and resorts.
Tell us about yourself
I am a graduate of Skidmore College and the Culinary Institute of America. I began my 30-year pastry career in Washington D.C. and New York City and was Executive Pastry Chef at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago. I've taught at leading pastry training institutions worldwide and currently continue my pastry consulting business. In 2001, I was Team Captain of the only U.S. pastry team to take the gold medal at the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie in Lyon, France. I returned to Coupe du Monde to serve as President of the International Jury, Jury President, Team Manager, and Guest Commentator. I have received numerous awards, including "Best Pastry Chef of Chicago," "Top 10 Pastry Chef in America", and "Lifetime Achievement Award," and I was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University.
In April 2020, I lost all of my scheduled business due to the Covid pandemic. By January 2021, it was clear that my business would never be the same. It was an opportunity to take on a new challenge and start a business. My sister, Yih-Ming, and I both studied in Spain during college and recalled the luxurious drinking chocolate there. We became business partners and spent the next six months planning our Sip! Extraordinary Drinking Chocolate business. We launched Sip LLC in October 2021. Our company mission is to support non-profit organizations that feed hungry children. Our goal to wipe out childhood hunger drives our desire to build our brand to one nationally recognized as the premium drinking chocolate in America.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
In November 2021, I was involved in a fundraiser to benefit the Oruchinga refugee camp in Uganda. The funds would be used to train the refugees to bake and sell bread at the camp. Sip contributed to the fundraising effort by donating all profits from two days of sales. Sip raised over $1,000, doubling our goal and enabling the bakery to produce 25,000 rolls. When we saw how hungry the refugee children were and the joy a piece of bread brought them, it reinforced the importance of our mission to help end childhood hunger.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
As a self-funded micro-business, it's very difficult to know when it's time to outsource a task. As partners, my sister and I have jobs that define our roles. As our business grows, we will need to look more objectively at decisions that make the most business sense. For example, we planned for our warehouse to handle our order fulfillment. After calculating the fees, we decided to do our own fulfillment. At some point, we will have to decide if sleep is more important.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Take advantage of your local resources, such as Score.org or Americassbdc.org. You can find a business mentor who is a retired volunteer, browse the online library, or attend training workshops to help you build or develop your business at each stage. All at little or no cost.
- I think every entrepreneur will hear this: Plan the amount of cash you think you will need to start up and double it. It's important to have the reserve for emergencies or rising costs that you have no control over. Having cash on hand helps us by not limiting important decision-making due to a lack of funds.
- Keeping up with social media communications is an unavoidable task. Not to be forgotten is developing and maintaining relationships, particularly with customers. It will help you stand out against your competitors. If someone calls you and leaves you a message, call them back.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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