Building a successful business and career out of your passion is no mean feat – but doing what you truly love and believe in is worth every second of the uphill battle.
Japanese food expert and home-cooking entrepreneur Bonnie Chung shares her experiences in building up her noodle empire and starting her cooking brand Miso Tasty.
“Food has always been a big part of my life. It is such an enriching process that gives me the opportunity to use my creative flare on a daily basis and create new and exciting dishes that I truly believe people will enjoy and want to share with their friends and family.
For me, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing people gather around the table and enjoy a meal that I have made.
Although I have Chinese heritage, I fell in love with Japanese food from an early age – I instantly became transfixed by the incredible flavours, unique dishes and versatility of the cuisine, and I find Japanese culture and history fascinating.
That’s what inspired me to become a chef. My go-to, staple ingredient was always miso – for me, miso embodies everything that makes Japanese food great – full of complex flavours, versatility, heritage, and satiety. Not to mention it’s incredibly good for you! But while I had developed a passion for miso, I realised that most people didn’t have a clue what it was, so I decided to make it my mission to make miso a regular on our kitchen shelves. And that was where my idea for Miso Tasty started.
Deciding to build up my own brand was a big step, and even though I knew I would encounter challenges, I didn’t anticipate just how many there would be! However, for every challenge that cropped up, there was an incredible success or lesson to balance it out and I was able to learn a lot about myself and the support networks around me along the way.
The biggest asset in starting my own business was that I already had a good base in the food community. Not only was I working as a chef, but I also had a food blog with over 3,000 subscribers – the content of which then ended up being the frame for our current website: misotasty.com. Essentially, this meant I had that grounding in the industry and an existing following of people who were able to join me on my journey and watch me follow my passion.
Having said that, don’t be discouraged if you haven’t got years of experience in the industry you want to break into – it’s all about making sure that your passion is expressed and that you can show investors and future customers that you’re enthusiastic and 100 per cent committed to delivering on your business plan. Plus, you can research your target industry too and invest your own time and energy into really getting to grips with your target market, competitors and future customers.
Securing investment and external funding also plays a big role in getting your plans off the ground. But be aware, it’s not always as easy as it sounds! I was lucky to have found a seed capital investor from the beginning who followed me on my journey. We then slowly introduced capital from more investors as we went along. For me, it’s all about forming those relationships with the people you need to make your dream a reality and showing them why your goal is worth supporting. There are so many startup ideas out there, and you have to demonstrate that your vision is worth their time and money.
It is also important to remember not to compromise your vision in favour of shortcuts or money-saving exercises. It took me three years to complete setting up Miso Tasty, with over 65 manufacturing trials around the world, before we found the perfect supplier in Japan. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything, because it led us to the perfect production partner in the Shinshu region at the foot of the Central Japanese Alps, which is renowned for having the best conditions and craftsmen for making miso. Refusing to compromise on quality meant that I now have a product that I truly believe is the very best it can be.
Whenever you feel like giving up – and trust me, there will be times that you do – think back to your original dream and vision. I was adamant about bringing the perfect miso products to the world – and it took a lot of long days and nights to make it work, but I’m so proud of the brand and what we have accomplished in a short amount of time. Miso Tasty products are now stocked in over 1,000 stores nationwide including Waitrose, Morrison’s, Wholefoods and Ocado. Our products also carry a number of Great Taste awards, and have even been endorsed by Jamie Oliver’s TV show and his accompanying No.1 best-seller “5 Ingredients” cookbook.
Finally, I think one of the most important habits to develop in pursuing your passion is to truly hone and embrace your entrepreneurial spirit. I’m used to working hard, and have always been ambitious about sharing my craft with others – from selling cupcakes to fellow students at my university, to running my own supper club, which was open seven days a week.
Now that we’ve pushed through the initial challenges and have established a successful brand, I’ve been able to start turning my attention to other aspects of running a business, beyond just the food and products. For instance, we’ve been focusing recently on new and creative ways to get the Miso Tasty name and products out there in front of more people – we’ve recently made some really fun videos to help people make and eat the perfect noodles, which you can watch here. I love this side of running a business – for me, creating content like this is so much fun and definitely outside my ‘day job’ as a foodie! It’s all worth it in the end, when you get to grow and expand your business’ influence and engage with your consumers in different ways – so keep going!
About Bonnie Chung
Bonnie Chung is an award-winning entrepreneur and founder of Miso Tasty, a Japanese home-cooking food brand. Bonnie is also the author of The Miso Tasty cookbook. (Pavillion, 2016)
About Miso Tasty
Miso Tasty is a London-based food brand, specialising in award-winning Japanese home-cooking products designed to make cooking Japanese food at home simple. Founded by Bonnie Chung, Miso Tasty’s range includes ramen and udon kits, miso soups and pure miso cooking ingredients, stocked in major retailers including Tesco, Waitrose, Ocado and Whole Foods. Whilst the UK Miso Tasty team is based in Hackney, all our miso products are made in Nagano, Japan.