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These founders launched a meal delivery service to bring traditional Chinese medicine to postpartum women

January 13, 2023, 1:58 PM UTC
Irene Liu and Jennifer Jolorte Doro, Cofounders of Chiyo.
Courtesy of Chiyo

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The California Senate race heats up, there’s a new fund with an eye on diverse founders, and these founders are bringing traditional Chinese postpartum cooking to meal delivery. The Broadsheet will be off on Monday for Martin Luther King Day. We’ll be back in your inbox on Tuesday.

– Healthy cooking. When Irene Liu was in business school during the pandemic in 2020, her aunt had a baby. She watched her mom care for her aunt by making Taiwanese meals traditionally eaten by women in the postpartum period. The experience gave her the idea for Chiyo, a meal delivery business that brings meals with nutritional values common in traditional Chinese medicine to a wider population of women.

“They would spend all day cooking in the kitchen to make the food the traditional way of an herbalist,” Liu remembers. “That means eight hours doing the herbs with the broths over the stove. But when I was thinking about myself and my friends—we don’t have the time for that. We might not be living with our family or a nearby support system that can be at your house all day making those for you.”

Liu, a Bain & Co. alum, connected with Jennifer Jolorte Doro, a nutritionist who had worked as a postpartum chef for families in New York. They started by making meals locally, as Jolorte Doro had done; Chiyo launched nationally this fall and is on track for just under $500,000 in annualized revenue this year.

Irene Liu and Jennifer Jolorte Doro, Cofounders of Chiyo.
Courtesy of Chiyo

Their meals, which cost $517 per week for a six-week plan, blend the ingredients of traditional Chinese postpartum cooking with some tastes and preferences of the American market. The first week of postpartum cooking includes a broth called Sheng Hua Tang, meant to “dispel blood stasis and invigorate uterine recovery.” Other meals might incorporate nutrients especially important during the postpartum period into a butternut squash soup. “We’re dissecting why they’re eating it for specific nutritional components, but finding that nutrition in items that are a bit more familiar for the broader market,” Liu says. They offer meals not just for the postpartum period, but for pregnancy (with an eye on nutrition that keeps gestational diabetes in check, for example) and fertility.

Chiyo was bootstrapped at first and later took on some pre-seed angel investor funding from backers including Fly by Jing founder Jing Gao, Song of Style influencer Aimee Song, and former Momofuku exec Elizabeth Chrystal. Some might be concerned that postpartum meal delivery would be a one-time purchase that makes it hard to retain customers. But Liu says that the lifetime of a customer could stretch a decade between fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum offerings across multiple pregnancies. The service has also been used as a gift purchased for new moms.

For Jolorte Doro, the opportunity to scale her work to reach more families was meaningful. “It’s been exciting to expand to not just a single family or people that can afford it, but to be able to introduce these concepts and education to a lot of people,” she says. “Everyone is deserving of this type of food and education.”

Emma Hinchliffe

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