“It’s like nostalgia in a bottle,” Tiffany Leong says about Bo-yi, her line of superfood teas made from ancient Chinese herbs such as jujube, hawthorn, and chrysanthemum.
For Tiffany, these ingredients (and her upbringing) have been pivotal in launching Bo-yi. “My mother cooked a traditional Cantonese meal for us every night and brewed Chinese herbal soups and drinks every day. She also grew her own Asian veggies in her garden,” she says. "But when I would ask her why we should drink these herbal drinks, she only said, ‘It’s good for you.’”
Going back to basics
Even though Tiffany grew up eating traditional Cantonese foods, she started to delve into more processed foods — mostly driven by a need for convenience working in a demanding career. “I was in investment banking and we were working long hours, so we got dinner stipends every night. We were eating out every day, not sleeping, working really hard, and my body just had enough,” she says. “I was getting extreme stomach pain and then I got all of these food sensitivities that came out of nowhere. I took a food allergy test, and it literally said I was allergic to everything.”
A doctor’s visit offered a potential solution. “She said, ‘Why don’t you go back to the foods you grew up with, and see if that can help you?’” Tiffany remembers. She made adjustments to her diet, learning how to make the same herbal soups and drinks her mom used to make, and her food sensitivities began to subside.
As Tiffany started to heal from her allergies, a new job opened her eyes to another way of seeing food. “I went to work in a private equity firm focused on sustainable agriculture and food in San Francisco. And I noticed everyone around me, including my roommates, friends, and co-workers making bone broth and eating kale salads,” she says. “It was a whole different way of eating that I hadn’t seen people my age take to. This all clicked with my doctor’s advice and I quickly became obsessed with understanding more.”
Seeing how sustainable agriculture and traditional Eastern herbs and techniques can converge helped with solidifying the mission of Bo-yi: to bridge the gap between East and West by bringing healthy Asian ingredients to store shelves.
For Tiffany to expand this mission and reach more consumers, she decided to apply for the Accelerator for Local Goods program, focusing on her three core products: Bo-yi’s jujube, hawthorn, and chrysanthemum teas. Tiffany’s educational background helped her launch Bo-yi — she studied supply chain management at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, finance at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business, and received her MBA at Yale University. The Accelerator program helped her enhance the skills and knowledge she had; during the six-week program, Tiffany learned more about working with wholesalers, financial management, and marketing, as well as selling retail on DoorDash.
As a solo entrepreneur, it's easy to just kind of wake up and do whatever needs to get done for the day. The Accelerator pushed us to really think about planning and getting organized on everything.
In addition to educational programming, businesses in the Accelerator for Local Goods program received a $5,000 grant to support their growth, access to marketing and sales support from DoorDash, plus the opportunity to sell their items via DashMart – a DoorDash-owned and operated grocery and convenience store.
The magic of Bo-yi doesn’t just lie in its superfood ingredients; it’s also been a salve for those longing for a community. “I was offering samples at a Westside market, and a woman who’d emigrated from Hong Kong told me that she was feeling so out of place in New York, but found my drinks and felt better,” Tiffany says.” My 70-year-old neighbor was having trouble sleeping and I offered him the jujube tea. After a few nights, he said he went from being incapable of staying asleep to getting a full seven hours every night.”
Tiffany’s journey to entrepreneurship has taken her to many places, but she credits the power of community for her success. “Reach out to as many people as you can, because that's how you learn,” she says. “The biggest thing is just surrounding yourself with people that really believe in you. That’s what will keep you going. But don't be afraid to be scrappy along the way.”
Bo-yi’s teas are available on DoorDash from the New York City DashMart, and Tiffany has plans to expand the brand’s offerings — she wants to introduce over 500 plant-based East Asian herbs in the future.
We love hearing stories about entrepreneurs who stay true to their roots and succeed along the way. We’ll continue to produce more Unlocking Success stories, so stay tuned to discover more entrepreneurs and their paths to success.