Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.

  • Mylk Labs is a woman & minority-owned food start-up based in California. Born out of the need for convenience, founder Grace Cheng created a better-for-you instant oatmeal that’s flavorful without all the sugar and keeps you full for hours.

Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).

  • I’m a fashion model, first-time entrepreneur, and founder of Mylk Labs. Juggling two different career paths, I’ve always emphasized the importance of eating healthy on the go. While fashion took me all over the world and allowed me to walk for big time brands like Marc Jacobs and Bottega Veneta, my true passion lies within the food and wellness industry. Using the knowledge I gained while attending business school at USC, I decided to share the go-to breakfast that got me through my busiest years.

What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?

  • Most people ask ‘Why Oatmeal out of all things?” and I don’t think anyone grows up dreaming of starting an oatmeal company because it’s really not the sexiest thing out there. However, amid my crazy life of modeling, business school and traveling, oatmeal was the one constant that got me through my busiest years. In fact, I’ve been eating it every day for almost a decade now!!

    It was something I created for myself, but wanted to share the health, convenience and deliciousness with the world.

What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

  • As cliché as this is…. Don’t give up!! It’s HARD being an entrepreneur but if you’re going to invest in anyone, it should be yourself.
  • Not everyone is going to like what you’re trying to sell, whether it’s a product or service. Don’t take things too personally and trust that it’s good and will be of benefit to the community.
  • Lastly, if you’re able to find something you’re passionate about, it will be 100x easier to make your business a lifestyle rather than “work”.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

  • Persistence, creativity and organization

How many hours do you work a day on average?

  • Anywhere from 10-12 hours – entrepreneurship is not part time!!

To what do you most attribute your success?

  • The relationships I’ve built with my customers. It’s also the thing I value most about running a company 😊

How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?

  • As a self-funded company, we have to get creative with how we do our marketing. It’s hard to compete with our competitors who have millions of dollars in funding, so we try our best to leverage word of mouth amongst our community. Nurturing the relationships with our customers and showing them that we care on top of providing education and free resources. These two aspects have been a big part of our brand mission and values.

Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?

  • We’ve been self funded from day 1 and 5 years later, we still haven’t needed to raise money! The initial investment came from my savings that I made from modeling, and we had a slow growth model that made sure we were profitable every step of the way.

What is the best way to achieve long-term success?

  • Patience and not fixating on short term goals. It’s important to have a clear picture of where you see the company down the line, but the best advice I’ve ever been given is to enjoy the journey. Don’t slave your life away to enjoy a short lived satisfaction at the end. Enjoy it daily.

Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?

  • I hope to continue growing the company and coming out with new flavors and product lines! Eventually, I plan to sell but that might not be for another 10-20 years down the line. 😊

Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?

  • My dads company – PACICO. He works in wholesale clothing manufacturing and he has been a big inspiration and influence on my work ethics and personality. He started in swap meets with his brother when he was in his 30s and now he’s been in business for over 35+ years and one of the most reputable companies for USA-made clothing. He’s my role model!

Recommended Questions –

How important have good employees been to your success?

  • They are an extension of your business so it’s extremely important. I worked the first 3 years by myself and I can tell you that I’ve always been the bottle neck in my business. Good employees are not easy to find, but when you do… you have to treat them right!

How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?

  • I exhaust all options and look at it from a very objective standpoint before deciding whether it’s worth it. You need to consider things like logistics, cost, consumer interest, competition, and more.

What motivates you?

  • To bring value to the community through food. I’ve always struggled with eating healthy on the go so my mission is to provide a healthy meal in minutes that people can enjoy anytime, anywhere.

What are your ideals?

  • Flavor, nutrition and convenience. Big food always compromises on one of the three. Fast food is unhealthy while healthy foods have a bad rap for tasting bad. I wanted to make sure all 3 are incorporated in all of the products I create and share with the community.

How do you generate new ideas?

  • Sometimes from customer feedback, other times from when I see a hole to fill in the marketplace. Like instant oatmeal, everything was too high in sugar or tasted terrible so I had to create my own.

How do you define success?

  • I think most people have the impression where success is how big you’ve grown your company and how much money you’ve made. I’ve always felt that success is VERY subjective (or should be) and for me, success is how much value I can provide my customers and community.

How do you build a successful customer base?

  • Being true to your values and actually caring about your customers!

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

  • It’s definitely the people I’ve met and relationships I’ve built through starting this business!

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

  • When your hard work starts come to take shape… you step back and realize, wow… I did that. It’s a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction you can’t get anywhere else (for me, not even modeling has given me that)!

What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?

  • Entrepreneurs need to have a different mindset. You can’t give up when things get tough, need to work extremely hard the first few years, and have to be good under stress. Also, you need to be an expert at finding solutions for problems because you’ll definitely be experiencing a lot of those! It’s hard because you don’t have anyone telling you what to do… you need to figure it all out on your end and believe that the choices you make are the right ones (or you’ll eventually learn the hard way and adjust your path as needed)!

In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.

  • Fulfilling

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