WEConnect International Ambassador and CEO and Co-Founder of Chesapeake Bay Candle Mei Xu was recently interview by Guy Raz for NPR’s How I Built This podcast — a series “about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built. Each episode is a narrative journey marked by triumphs, failures, serendipity and insight — told by the founders of some of the world’s best known companies and brands. If you’ve ever built something from nothing, something you really care about — or even just dream about it.”
Born in Hangzhou, China in 1967, Xu came of age during China’s transformation to a more open, market-oriented economy following Chairman Mao’s death. At age 12, she was selected to attend a language immersion boarding schools set up by the Chinese Government to train diplomats for Foreign Service. She continued her education at Beijing Foreign Studies, but her goal of entering the diplomatic corps was never realized, when she was sent for “re-education” to a work assignment in the countryside.
After one year, in a bold and definite move, Xu quit to move to the U.S. to begin graduate school at the University of Maryland College Park. After completing her master’s degree, Xu moved to New York to work for a high-tech, medical company that exported equipment to China. Her “aha moment” happened as she is shopping one day in Bloomingdales and noticed the abundance of sophisticated, contemporary ready-to-wear apparel compared to the scarcity of modern, home décor offerings. Inspired, she returned to rejoin her husband in their home in Annapolis, near the Chesapeake Bay, and began her candle-making venture.
Listen to the podcast: