Ziwei Li is the founder and CEO of Wei Good Food. She spent her early career in strategy consulting, mastering the skills necessary to launch her own company, and now leads food delivery at a major tech company. Armed with a love for food and strong industry background, Ziwei started Wei Good Food to share foods that showcase and celebrate the fusion of Asian and American culture. As Asian foods become more mainstream, Ziwei wants to flip the script by applying Asian flavors to traditionally American snacks. Her goal is to bring this new generation of Asian-American food into the spotlight – where it belongs.
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
I immigrated to the US at age 3 and grew up in Virginia. As a child, I never quite felt like I belonged in either Asian or American culture. I had the “lunchbox moments” at school where the delicious food my mom lovingly packed for me was made fun of or thoroughly questioned as I sat with my cheeks burning with embarrassment. I had to learn about American snacks at friends’ homes, where I’d gawk with amazement at things like Dunkaroos or Ritz Cheesy Dip (that red plastic stick had the sharpest corners in the world). Those experiences made me strain to be more traditionally “American,” and I slowly built a firm wall between being Asian at home, and being American in public. The wall remained up as I graduated college, but as I entered my 20s, I developed a kinship with others who had similar experiences. I realized our stories deserve to be told. Between seeing Asian-Americans increasingly represented in media and moving to Los Angeles where I witnessed communities of Asian people thriving, I’m enjoying every second of my journey to reconnect with my whole self!
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
As I child, I loved helping my parents in the kitchen. Food has always been a huge part of my life and trying new foods/restaurants is my absolute favorite hobby. However, I never thought about it as more than that until recently. During my consulting days, I had the chance to work with food and beverage clients. Around the same time, I was looking at my next career move and those projects helped me seriously consider CPG as a potential next step for the first time. The pandemic disrupted my plan (my plan to pivot had to…pivot), and I ended up in the food delivery industry instead, which has been a blessing. I get to talk about food and restaurants every day while working on business strategy and honing the skills I need to run my own company. Last year I also went back to business school to pursue my MBA at UCLA and that’s helped open so many doors for me to start my entrepreneurial journey. After being surrounded by food industry talk all day at work, and making meaningful connections through new networks, I started Wei Good Food in early 2022.
What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
Be open to asking for help & support. Before starting Wei Good Food, I was terrible at asking for help whether at work or at home. I’m very independent by nature and feel like I’m bothering others when I ask for help. It’s something I was working on, but this business very quickly made me realize I would fail in a week if I didn’t change my mindset. Opening up for help has made a world of difference and I’m still surprised on a daily basis at how kind others can be. From my immediate network repeatedly buying out our stock, to colleagues sharing their connections, so many people have come through with their support. I’ve even had complete strangers emailing me out of the blue to proactively offer help. The networks I previously built and have since found in LA are incredibly supportive. Every day I’m shocked at how willingly people help me with Wei Good Food and that support is the number one reason for our success.