John Zhao worked as a food product quality inspector in China before immigrating to the U.S. in 2000. When he arrived, his wife Linda helped him get a job at a Chinese restaurant, where he spent the next year learning about the restaurant business. After another year working in food service sales, Zhao and his wife Linda launched their own wholesale business in 2002.
John and Linda started by importing Asian appetizers, which they provided to the U.S. gaming industry. Later, they began providing information on product sourcing and development to chefs, operators and buyers. In 2012, they opened their own USDA-approved commercial kitchen in Denver, where they now manufacture their own products. During this transition, they retained 95 percent of their staff and hired ten additional employees.
SCORE mentor Ken Heller helped John evaluate every aspect of his business, from employee management and financing to marketing. John advises other prospective small business owners to “set up the correct structure of your organization by talking to a SCORE mentor and stay on track.”
John and Linda have successfully grown and expanded during their 16 years of business, and John has acquired another 30-employee business, which he has since expanded to 40 employees. In 2018, John and Linda were named finalists in SCORE and Sam's Club's American Small Business Championship.