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Yes She May Founder Mei Xu on MSNBC for National Entrepreneurship Month

Yes She May Founder Mei Xu on MSNBC for National Entrepreneurship Month

To kick off National Entrepreneurship Month, here is an excerpt from Yes She May Founder Mei Xu's interview with MSNBC writer Halley Bondy, discussing her career path, experience as an immigrant and female entrepreneur, as well as her current vision of supporting women-owned brands through the YesSheMay.com platform. 

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As the Covid-19 pandemic escalated in 2020, multinational lifestyle CEO Mei Xu watched and feared for her fellow women entrepreneurs. From China to Marrakech, several of these women had been Xu’s mentees for years.

“When you have any disruptions, stores are the first to be hit,” Xu told Know Your Value. “They knew that people wouldn’t exactly buy evening gowns and high heels.”

After decades of building multi-million dollar global companies, including Chesapeake Bay Candle, Xu, 54, decided to help female entrepreneurs full-time. In 2020, she launched Yes She May, an online destination where select women-owned businesses around the world can sell their lifestyle products globally. Xu’s efforts were recently honored on Forbes’ 50 Over 50: Visionary list.

Mei wearing Tarliza Schall Leopart Print Shirt

Mei in her backyard, wearing the Leopard Silk Shirt by Tarliza Schall ($450)

“Most women don't feel confident to go out of their state [to sell their products], let alone their country. The idea of sourcing from Vietnam, Brazil, Indonesia—it’s intimidating,” said Xu. “That’s why I made this platform, to open up that kind of community where women can help each other.”

Born in Hangzhou, China, Xu gained a unique, globalized savvy beginning at age 12, when she attended an international boarding school in Hangzhou, China. There, she became fully immersed in English and trained to become a diplomat. She went to college in Beijing, where she was tapped to translate for the World Bank.

“For almost four years I was always traveling and helping the big bosses of the World Bank. I enjoyed that global team …I felt like working there was my calling,” Xu said.

But events in China disrupted her dream. In 1989, students demonstrated en masse in favor of various political reforms in Tiananmen Square, Beijing. The Chinese government responded by massacring many of the protesters, then by placing tough restrictions on all students so they would not be able to organize again. Consequently, Xu was removed from her translating position at the World Bank, and was forced to take a job tracking mineral deliveries in Northern China.

So Xu did something radical: she quit her job. Under the Chinese school structure, this move jeopardized her future as a diplomat. She graduated college in Beijing, but she kept her dream alive by applying to study communications in Maryland so she could live close to the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C.

During a trip to Bloomingdale’s in the early 90s, inspiration hit. While the clothes on the first floor were always modern and fashionable, the store’s home goods and furniture departments on the upper floors was woefully out-of-touch, she said.

“I didn’t understand why there was such a huge gap [between the clothes and décor], and why home had to look like grandma’s house,” she said. “I just thought about this woman working in a law firm or fashion company and walking with that beautiful coat and going home to this boring, dark apartment.”

Wang suggested that they launch a home and décor company together in 1994, called Pacific Trading International. Its subsidiary would become Chesapeake Bay Candle, a minimalist candle and home product company. The couple started by making candles in their home, then by launching a manufacturing hub in Hangzhou.

Mei next to her front door, wearing the Harper Luggage Fitted Leather Biker Jacket by LaMarque ($575) and the Leopard Ruffled Silk Skirt by Tarliza Schall ($525)

In 2017, Xu had an unfortunate bout with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. She stepped down as CEO of Pacific Trading International, and she ultimately sold Chesapeake Bay Candle for $75 million.

Since stepping down, Xu focused on speaking, mentoring and writing her memoir “Burn,” which was released in March this year. During these years, she said that women entrepreneurs constantly approached her for advice. Many of them now have products for sale on Yes She May, which features about 100 brands from over 25 countries, from the U.S. to Turkey to South Korea and more.

“We want brands that at once speak to a contemporary lifestyle of a modern woman, but still, we want to bring that cultural heritage aspects,” said Xu.

Xu said she always advises women entrepreneurs to think as big as their male counterparts.

“Even when women are successful they are hesitant to think big and globally. They get bogged down with shipping questions and everything. Men don’t do this,” said Xu. “Don’t be afraid to think bigger.”

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You can learn more about Mei and browse hundreds of products made by women, for women on YesSheMay.com

To read the full article, please visit https://www.msnbc.com/know-your-value/how-cringe-worthy-trip-bloomingdale-s-inspired-75-million-idea-n1283146 

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