Women Who Own It, a WBENC Podcast for and by women entrepreneurs and their supporters, is your key to the insights of incredible female founders and business leaders.

Read below for an excerpt from latest episode with special guest Natalie Keng, CEO and Founder of Chinese Southern Belle. Natalie Keng is a recognized food and culture expert, a speaker, author, and entrepreneur. Her company, Chinese Southern Belle, is a pioneering small business that makes the world a better place through the power of food and culture.

Through unique interactive classes and tours, storytelling presentations, and a line of award-winning natural cooking sauces, Chinese Southern Belle supports diversity and inclusion, healthy living, local businesses, farms, and cross-cultural understanding — opening minds one mouth at a time.

Listen to the full episode:

Podcast Excerpt

Allison Maslan: What have been some of the biggest lessons that shaped the way you approach your business now?

Natalie Keng: I know I am very lucky to be able to do this because of what my parents were able to give me. There’s a lot to be said for perseverance and for having helping hands along the way. You can start out with not very much and you can take the leap, take the risk, to do something completely different from what you did in order to follow your passion.

One of my big lessons learned is that being your own employer, being your own manager, owning your own business, and being a woman and being small, it really does take the same components as a big business to be successful. Make sure that you have your health right, you have to do the self-care. That’s another one of the lessons that I’ve learned — that if I don’t sleep and drink enough and have the energy, then I can’t help myself and I can’t help my community — so self-care is really number one because it takes a lot of energy to do this!

Another lesson is, when starting a business, you not only have to have your smart business components in gear, like have your business plan (it doesn’t need to be 50 pages, but at least have an idea of what you’re going to do), what your vision is, what your marketing plan is — but you also need to make sure that you have a little bit of a safety net. I would recommend that if you have another job or have another income stream, that you keep it.

Allison Maslan: The food industry is so competitive. What is it you feel has made Chinese Southern Belle stand out and see widespread success in such a competitive industry?

Natalie Keng: It is very competitive and the barriers are tough, especially for small business and I think it does affect more women- and minority-owned businesses. Perseverance has definitely been a big part of it and I think WBENC has been a part of it. Whether it’s WBENC or a similar type of mentoring and support organization, specifically for women, I think it’s important to tap into those.

I think being authentic has been another thing that I just do naturally because I’m from the south. It’s not a market marketing gig, for me, it’s living the story, it’s sharing the story, it’s eating together, that’s all real. I think part of overcoming some of the challenges and the competitiveness is just is to be real and authentic.

Allison Maslan: How have you leveraged your WBENC Certification to support your business?

Natalie Keng: I am an active member of the Regional Partner Organization, the Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC) which has a wonderful staff and leadership. I’ve been involved in some of their local events and the continued virtual events. I’ve gone to the networking events, and was awarded the Small Business Trailblazer Award last year at a wonderful gala event.

I have also put the WBE Seal on my business cards and in my signature block to graphically raise awareness and let folks know that we are a WBENC-Certified enterprise. I have also been involved in some of the supplier diversity programs that you can take advantage of — to participate or qualify — if you are certified by WBENC.

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