Wanting Zhang (FES ‘11) built the popular new eatery Junzi Kitchen during a 2014 YEI Fellowship with a dedicated team of Yale students and advisors. The business serves fast casual Chinese food in the form of healthy wraps (called chun bing) and noodle bowls topped with braised meats, Chinese vegetables, garnishes and sauces, and is notable for its clever branding and community focus. The Broadway location features lines of students and locals at lunchtime enjoying Junzi’s twist on Northern Chinese cuisine.
On Tuesday, May 31, as part of YEI’s Yale Women Innovators Breakfast Series, Wanting spoke to a group of women that included current and former Fellows, Yale staff and alumni, about how she has overcome challenges and built a successful startup. Below, five pieces of advice from Wanting for women looking to become entrepreneurs.
1. On understanding your business.
“Our industry is capital-heavy. A store is hundreds of thousands of dollars. We thought about a food truck, but that wouldn’t deliver the experience. Decide whether your money is being spent on the the most critical thing at the most needed time.”
2. On backup plans.
“There is no backup plan. You are all in or not. That mindset is important from everyone on the team–there can’t be any hesitation.”
3. On timing.
“You’re not going to be the first person to have your particular idea. But you have the right team and the right timing. The market won’t wait.”
4. On the importance of building a network.
“To build relationships you need to be proactive. Ask for opportunities. Think about what you can do to benefit your advisors.”
5. On utilizing strategic mentors.
“Certain mentors you need to be very mindful of their time and build up trust. When you first meet them, prepare your pitch deck, get background, follow up on their advice. Keep them updated without bothering them and gradually that relationship becomes deeper. It you really value this person you may give them equity or hire them in a senior position.”
CONTACT: Brita Belli, Communications Officer, Yale Entrepreneurial Institute and Office of Cooperative Research, (203)804-1911, firstname.lastname@example.org.