This week, someone asked me, “What are your thoughts on being a white woman running a company that sells Chinese herbs?”
I’ve been waiting for someone to ask me this question for a while, and I’m honestly always hoping that more people will question my role with Chica.
I started Chica with Cassidy Lam, my longtime best friend. Cassidy’s father, Marco Lam, is an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist, so Cassidy grew up taking Chinese herbs and learning about Traditional Chinese Medicine.
I was spending a lot of time at Cassidy’s house, when Marco started mixing herbs with raw chocolate to help ease periods. Naturally, this inspiration kept coming back up in conversations with Cassidy, and when we found out about an entrepreneurial competition at her college, we decided to write a business plan together.
When we started Chica, Cassidy was the voice and the storyteller. I preferred to stay behind the scenes. Earlier this year, Cassidy and I decided together that she would begin to take a step away from this role. This means that I, Elise, a white woman, have taken a more visible role in Chica’s messaging, including social media, newsletters, pitching, and networking. This is a great responsibility for Chica, and one I do not take lightly.
There are two reasons why showing up as solo white woman running Chica is uncomfortable. The first is that I always saw this business as something I did with my best friend, and now I am not as much, and that is a painful feeling that sits in my chest on some difficult days. The second is that I do recognize the prevalence, especially in wellness, of brands run by white people that capitalize on the creations of other cultures. I may not want to see myself as that white person, but I recognize that yes, I am benefitting from the Chinese legacy of Chica, alongside both Cassidy and Marco.
As awkward as it feels, I couldn’t see those as a reason to walk away from Chica because I love it too much. I love the power of the herbs, and the stories we hear from customers on how much better Chica helps them feel. I love the branding that Cassidy created, and I love the amazing truffles she makes. I don’t want to walk away from running Chica while I am momentarily taking a front seat, because I want to see Chica thrive.
Cassidy and Marco both have significant ownership in Chica. Our goal has always been for Chica to be employee owned, whenever we get around to having employees.
If anything Chica says, or I say, feels uncomfortable or hurtful for you; please let me know. I would like to believe that I do not commit harm because I do not intend to, but I know that will not always be true.