Diversity Woman Magazine

FALL 2012

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

Issue link: https://diversitywoman.epubxp.com/i/91258

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Page 28 of 79

We Mean Business Mei Xu Reshoring: Made in the USA Chinese-born CEO Mei Xu is pushing for her new home country to get its manufacturing groove back M By Katrina Brown Hunt ei Xu had her entrepre- neurial epiphany while walk- ing through a high church of capitalism: Bloomie's. It was the early 1990s, and the Chinese- born Xu was working in banking and liv- ing in New York City, where she loved to shop. "After growing up in China, where the stores were still state-run, I felt like a kid in a can- dy store," says Xu, who had CEO Woman trained to be a diplomat before she im- migrated to the United States to try busi- ness instead. While Xu was drawn to the sleek fashions of Donna Karan and Cal- vin Klein, she was dismayed by the old- fashioned, and perhaps unsophisticated, home décor offerings on the store's top floor. "I would say to my husband, 'All of these women are wearing minimalist fashions, so when they go home, why do they sleep in Grandma's bedroom?'" She decided to start with one home accent—candles— and in 1994 Chesapeake Bay Candle was born. Today, the sleek, scented candles are available at Target, Kohl's, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Hall- mark, and have helped build an $86 million busi- ness. Xu and her par tn er-hus - band have also launched their own retail site for home fur- nishings, called www.diversitywoman.com Blissliving Home. She's gradually shift- ing the company's manufacturing op- erations to the United States—and even spoke about that decision at a manufac- turing panel hosted by President Obama. Diversity Woman spoke with Xu about having the confidence to launch a style- based business, the pros and cons of "re- shoring," and the untapped allure of that Made in the USA label. Diversity Woman: Was your original ca- reer plan to be a diplomat your dream, or your parents'? Mei Xu: When China was opening up in 1976, people realized that the coun- try was too closed in—that there were no diplomats who understood other cultures. So they did something amazing and opened eight middle schools so that kids as young as 12 would learn English in an immer- sion setting. My mom thought it was a great idea. I'm a people per- son and a talker—my father and mother have always thought that I talk too much—so my parents were interested, and I was part of one of the first groups of kids to go through the program. DW: What advantages did that edu- cation give you? MX: I think the language immersion gave me a big advantage—there's a big difference between learn- ing and living a language. Today I have a pas- sion for children to learn a language when they're young, when they can't yet be in- fluenced by stereo- types. We give to schools that offer programs to un- derprivileged kids. It's so important to engage the local community. It also gave me a global perspec- tive. I have never Fall 2012 DIVERSITY WOMAN 27 >

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