We sat down with Jenny Gao founder of Fly by Jing to chat about her amazing Chinese flavors brand. Her brand is know for its famous Sichuan Chili Crips sauce that has been making waves ever since launching.
I was introduced to Jenny by a mutual friend who also happened to be a health and wellness entrepreneur. Although I didn’t know Jenny, I read her Medium article that went viral last October which detailed her story in creating her signature Asian chili sauce.
Fly by Jing is the first 100% all-natural Sichuan chili sauce, proudly crafted in Chengdu. Inspired by Chengdu’s ‘fly restaurants’ — hole-in-the-wall eateries so good they attract diners like flies — founder and Chengdu native Jing Gao is on a mission to redefine what it means to be Made in China.
I grew up eating Lao Gan Ma, a richer, deeper, umami-er hot sauce that I prefer over Sriracha, sorry Sriracha. But, what struck me the most about Fly by Jing was the bold neon-colors and the unapologetic packaging.
Previously, Jenny was a brand manager at Proctor & Gamble and Blackberry. During our interview, she shared a lot of her major lessons, advice and setbacks, but most importantly her work/life balance.
In 2019, Jenny was accepted into TechStars LA, but has been cautious on how she is taking this brand to market. She was conscious about the mental, emotional and physical effects of growing a company. Because of this, she practices a lot of self-care to avoid burnout; Jenny is in it for the long haul, after all startups are a marathon, not a sprint.
Her journey started in Shanghai, when Jenny fell into organizing food festivals and as a result was connected to chefs from all over the world. Interestingly enough, she could have made her concept come to life as she had a network of chefs who endorsed her idea. However, she was insecure about putting food out there given that she doesn’t come from a culinary background and be considered legit by other professionally-trained chefs.
Once she started cooking though, Jenny quickly found her stride. She was able to build rich, nuanced umami flavors with fresh ingredients, rich Sichuan peppers, tingling spices, potent chili crisps, adaptogenic mushrooms, flavors that could not be replicated via a machine-made process.
The bases for these dishes became the foundation of her Fly by Jing sauces. Her cooking gave her insight into how to build the deep flavors without shortcuts.
“I could count on one hand the number of products that had diverse flavors.”-Jenny Gao
She attended the Anaheim Food Expo in 2018 and was shocked that there were no Asian flavors present. It became painfully obvious that the high-end and healthy food industry is shockingly non-diverse, with a number of populations and flavors completely left out.
Jenny made it a mission to represent Asian flavors in a modern way. She wanted to challenge the hierarchy of taste in the West. There is a certain unwillingness to pay a premium for food from certain cultures. Many have told Jenny that no one would be willing to pay for this. Last March, she launched her Kickstarter campaign to turn her dreams into a reality. Not only did meet her goal but had over 1600 backers.
As an one-women founding team, Jenny is no stranger to wearing many hats. With the support of a team of consultants that back her up, she’s been able to grow the business strategically and sustainably. Like many entrepreneurs before her, Jenny realized that she needed to make mistakes and follow her instincts because when it comes to building a category-breaking companyt there is simply no rule book.