Anytime it feels like no one could understand what I’m going through, my mom finds a way to remind me of her determination and relentlessness throughout her entrepreneurial journey. When my mother and my father first started out in building the business in the bay area, they would work weekdays selling the inventory. And on weekends they would bottle and package the inventory. Their good friends, who I call Uncle Chien and Auntie May, were always around to help out on the weekends with the packaging. She knows that every business starts somewhere, and you have to segment time to be efficient with your work.
So whenever I feel overwhelmed, when I feel lonely, when I spend most of the day trying to build the company, then work into the night to manufacture thousands of units of honey; I remember that my mother’s work ethic, values, and joy run through me. I remember that my mother ultimately motivated me to start my own business in the first place.
In order to fully tell my mother’s story, I must begin with her father. Grandpa Huang was the original entrepreneur in the family. During the cultural revolution, my grandfather fled from communist Fuzhou China to Taiwan by boat in middle school. Leaving everyone he knew behind, he started over with no money in his pocket. You could say that starting things from scratch runs in the family. After marrying my grandmother, he started a business selling sesame oils and paste--an industry he learned from the chefs while washing dishes in restaurants.
When my mother was in college, my grandfather set his sights on expanding the business into the United States. It took him 2 years of building up his client base in California and New York selling his ingredients to Chinese restaurants, while eating Burger King for every meal. When my mom first stepped foot into the Americas, she landed in LAX. She changed her name from Pei Ling to Linda and began working for her father, delivering orders of broad bean paste, sweet flour paste and chili oil to restaurants all over Southern California. Finally, she was then given the opportunity to move north to the Bay Area and expand the business after her arranged marriage with my father. My mom learned from my grandfather the belief that hard work always pays off. Neither of them were willing to give up, and they both sacrificed immediate comfort to set themselves up for longer term success.
She has always shown me that a woman can assume any role in the business (or the household), even those normally played by males. When I was a child, I thought that everyone’s mother knew how to operate a forklift to organize pallets of inventory in the warehouse. Her mind is like an ERP system, and her OCD ultimately benefits all of us when it comes to compliance and audits. My mother wears her hair short and is always dressed in androgynous style. When we’d go shopping she’d pick out combat boots, sneakers or joggers. My father does all the cooking in the house. Watching my mother defy gender roles as a child laid the foundation for me to have the confidence to do anything I wanted in life as an adult.
My mother also has shown me both the power of ritual. Each morning, she starts her day with ginger, lemon, and honey all in hot water, and it’s even something I’ve started doing in my own morning routines. My mother would have terrible coughing spells from her highly inflamed lungs. Being an immigrant there was no way that Pei Ling - even if she went by Linda - was ever going to consume cannabis in the traditional ways. Knowing my mother’s commitments to a wellness routine, I wanted to find a way for her to seamlessly incorporate cannabis into her lifestyle. So, my college best friend and I decided to put some Cannabis into her honey that she ritualized every day. Her positive response fueled the motivation to make the business. We’re converting one skeptical human being at a time with plant medicine.
When building her business, my mother always wanted to make sure that the company offered a wide variety of quality products. This is what motivated me to create more products beyond the honey. Today, Potli makes Honey, Olive Oil, Chili Oil, Apple Cider Vinegar and Sriracha. They are essential ingredients, sourced up and down the coast of California while paying homage to my heritage in food and in culture.
One of my favorite memories as a child is eating exclusively at Chinese restaurants to support our family’s clients. Even though we lived in the Bay Area, we had the opportunity to eat at Shanghainese, Taiwanese, Shan Dong dumplings, Beijing style, Hong Kong cafes, Mongolian Hot Pot, Szechuan Style, Hunan style, Boba Shops, Dim Sum restaurants…the list doesn’t stop. My mother showed me that I didn’t really have to go live in China to get the experience. Which is why I make it so the Potli customer doesn’t have to live in California to ritualize cannabinoid enhanced foods into their lifestyles!
I am very much my mother’s daughter. In some way or another, her influence can be found in nearly every nook and cranny of Potli. Whenever a customer ritualizes one of Potli’s products, they aren’t just adding a cannabis product to their routine. They are participating in a ritual that has culminated from 40 years of culture across continents. Ultimately, they are experiencing the vision inspired by my mother who taught me to work hard, defy tradition, but be thoughtful of my roots.
Founder & CEO