Chinese immigrant, candle company owner living the American Dream

Maryland

BETHESDA, Md. (WDVM) — The United States offers people a chance at their version of success, and right in the DMV, one Chinese immigrant is an example of a living American dream.

Mei Xu is the founder of Chesapeake Bay Candle Company.

She said, “I started, basically, making candles in my basement using a Campbell’s soup can.”

After years of hard work, the company took off, being placed in major department stores and growing in manufacturing.

Xu said before the dream job was realized, there was a multitude of disappointment and uncertainty.

She explained, “I was trained to be a diplomat. I was never a diplomat for even one day. Then, I trained myself to work for the World Bank. I never got to go work for them for even one day.”

After finding a desk job in New York and spending time in Bloomingdales, Xu discovered there was a gap in the home goods market and she decided to fill it. It was a big risk. Xu and her husband at the time quit their jobs to build their business and headed to a trade show.

She said, “That was one of the first events that we brought all the samples to. We just wanted to see what worked and of all the orders we received in that 1995 trade show, 90 percent of the orders had the candle in it.”

That first trade show earned the couple $400,000, but the next show, they were not so lucky.

She explained, “We did not get a lot of interest. We got very few orders. We weren’t able to cover expenses for renting the booth, sending the samples, and we were devastated.” Still, they did not give up. After more trial and error, the candles people know and love today were made.

Over 20 years later, Xu is still working and living the American Dream.

For people who are thinking about pursuing a dream, she said go for it.

“The one thing you can know is no one ever succeeds without trying,” she said. “No one else will understand why you do it. It is to yourself that you will answer. At the end of that journey, no matter how far it takes you, you will feel proud of yourself.”

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