“Once you start, you have to stick to it. You can’t really do it halfway.” This is the advice that Annie Chun, founder of two household name companies dedicated to Asian foods, recommends to women venturing into the world of business.
Chun came to America from Seoul, Korea to further her education, but realized the traditional expectations of working for someone else was not fit for her. Having worked multiple jobs including her family’s restaurant, she stumbled upon inspiration from a farmer’s market in Marin County, Calif. There is where the idea to step into entrepreneurship was born and in the early 1990s, Chun began to sell bottles of homemade sauces to local consumers with less than $1,000 to start. Shortly after she started working for herself, she met her husband, Steve, and the two came together to tackle an area of the food market that was untouched at the time – all natural products.
With their eyes set on a new facet of the industry, Annie Chun’s became known as the company serving Asian-inspired dishes that were non-GMO, gluten-free and organic. Over time, the success of business came little by little with the help of a $10,000 loan and family members. Aiming to offer the same authentic, natural foods that her mother provided to her family, Chun devoted all her time to the business as life continued to unfold with the birth of her two children. As the responsibilities grew, the team expanded and the underlying familial ties remained. When the company began, Chun placed an emphasis on hiring minorities, especially women as she saw the potential, expertise and value each one could add to her growing business. And when it came time to sell the company, one of Chun’s first conditions was to ensure that her employees were guaranteed their jobs for a max set of years and relocation if desired.
“It’s a very mutual respect relationship that we were able to create. I guess that’s what’s so nice about when you start something with nothing practically. I didn’t know what I was getting into and I just wanted to do something for myself,” Chun said.
Although looking forward to retiring, the entrepreneur spirit continued to thrive within the Chun family and with that, gimMe Snacks was born. The name “gimMe” dubbed by Chun’s daughter, breaks down into two parts – “gim” meaning seaweed in Korean and “gimMe” meaning “more seaweed.” The brand is meant to be simple and truly reflect the culture of the adorned snack while introducing it into the American culture as a healthy alternative when on the go.
Chun and her family have plans to further grow the new business into a household name, but the ultimate realization through her journey has been simple. “Your dream can come true. You have to dream something and you have to put time against that because if you know nothing you become an expert. You have to trust yourself,” Chun said.