One of my favorite podcasts is How I Built This With Guy Raz. This NPR podcast interviews famous entrepreneurs and business founders from well-known companies across the United States and the world. This immigrant of the day five-part series is brought to you from some of the best episodes featured from the podcast.
Chances are, if you have visited any Target store in the past fifteen years, you might have passed Chesapeake Bay Candles while browsing the home goods aisle. Mei Xu changed the candle industry forever when founding her company in 1994. Xu spent her childhood growing up in the green tea capital of the world, Hangzhou, China. During the age of the Cold War, she was selected and sent to the Hangzhou Foreign Language School to train as a diplomat. Funny enough, I spent a summer cultural exchange at this very school!
Unfortunately, following the Tiananmen Square Uprising, plans to engage the youth were cut off and were sent to work in the mining industry. This change in career paths aggravated Xu and inspired her to start a new life in the United States. She eventually began her studies at the University of Maryland (my alma mater). Xu commuted from D.C. to New York, where here then-husband was living.
During her spare time in New York, Xu often frequented Bloomingdales, where she found her entrepreneurial spirit. From this, she was inspired to start Chesapeake Bay Candles with the name coming as an inspiration from her time in Maryland. Keeping a connection with her hometown, she sourced all the candles in factories run by her sister in Hangzhou. In 2017, Chesapeake Bay Candles was purchased for $75 million by Newell Brands.
— Contributed by Eden Siskind