Early on, Fly by Jing founder was rejected by every investor she approached. Now, she’s raised $12 million for her brand that’s carried in 4,000 stores

Portrait of Jing Gao.
Jing Gao, founder of the CPG brand Fly by Jing.
Courtesy of Fly by Jing

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Clorox is pushing refillable cleaning supplies, Reba McEntire is investing in the revival of her hometown, and the founder of Fly by Jing overcame early rejection. Happy Tuesday!

– Flying high. When Jing Gao launched her brand Fly by Jing in 2018, she only saw two or three Asian food brands on American grocery store shelves. Fly by Jing, which sells pantry products and frozen dumplings but is best known for its Sichuan chili crisp, has been joined by other Asian-owned and Asian-influenced food brands like Omsom in the five years since.

But the growth of this subset of the consumer packaged goods category can be credited to the brands and their founders—not to venture capitalists, Gao says. “Brands like ours have worked really hard to create that opportunity, from nothing and without any support,” she says.

Portrait of Jing Gao.
Jing Gao, founder of the CPG brand Fly by Jing.
Courtesy of Fly by Jing

Gao launched Fly by Jing through a Kickstarter, raising $120,000, and says she was rejected by every investor she spoke to until she’d grown the brand 20x. Today her products are sold in 4,000 retail stores—Costco, Target, Wegmans, Whole Foods—with eyes on Kroger and Albertsons. The company has about 20 employees.

Earlier this month, the startup announced it had raised $12 million in Series B funding—a far cry from its Kickstarter days. But that funding is from the private equity industry—Prelude Growth Partners and Pendulum—rather than venture capital firms. Gao, who worked for Procter & Gamble and Blackberry before she pivoted to food, was skeptical of bringing on VC funding—and the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank only reinforced her perspective.

Courtesy of Fly by Jing

“With [consumer packaged goods] and food businesses, it doesn’t make sense to treat it like a venture-backed tech company,” she says. “It just doesn’t seem sustainable.” Instead, she hopes to “learn how to build a fundamentally strong business, where you make a product, sell it for a profit, and don’t make a loss in trying to sell your product.”

While Fly by Jing has become a well-known brand among some consumers, Gao says there’s much further to go. “The vast majority of Americans have still never tried [chili crisp],” she says. “There’s a lot of work to do to continue our mission to evolve culture through taste.”

Emma Hinchliffe

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- Shift gears. General Motors CEO Mary Barra met with two key senators, Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), to discuss easing regulations to help propel the self-driving car industry. GM disclosed that it had petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for permission to deploy 2,500 of its self-driving Origin vehicles, which have subway-like doors, no steering wheel, mirrors, or turn signals. Reuters

- New World. Hong Kong property developer New World Development has surged in gender diversity rankings after adding three women to its board last year. Now, 35% of the company's board seats are held by women, more than twice the city's average. It's an early win for a law that took effect last July that requires at least one female director on every firm board. The mandate could add 1,300 new board opportunities for women. Bloomberg

- Clean the oceans. As consumers increasingly look for ways to reduce their carbon footprint, Clorox, led by CEO Linda Rendle, is pushing reusable and refillable cleaning bottles as a way to cut back on plastic. Jodi Russell, vice president of research and development for Clorox cleaning, is part of the team aiming to halve new plastic and fiber packaging by 2030. New York Times

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: DICK’S Sporting Goods CEO Lauren Hobart has joined the board of Marriott International. Ashley McEvoy, executive vice president and worldwide chairman of MedTech at Johnson & Johnson, has been elected as the first woman to be chairman of the AdvaMed board of directors. Adrienne Hallett has been appointed as vice president of global policy and strategic initiatives at Cambrian Bio. 


- 'I'm a survivor.' Country star Reba McEntire partnered with the Choctaw Nation and the local government in her hometown of Atoka, Okla., to build a Reba-themed attraction aimed at reviving a dying downtown. The three-storied "Reba's Place" has already attracted throngs of crowds and boosted revenue for local businesses. New York Times

- Money, money, money. Patricia Kessler Poppe, CEO of PG&E, is the highest-paid woman of any S&P 500 company, making $51.2 million annually. The company's rising share price has contributed to her income, which is 255 times greater than the average PG&E employee. Benzinga

- Robotic romance. The formulaic nature of a stereotypical romance novel made some concerned that it would be susceptible to the explosive capabilities of A.I. But top romance writers like The Kiss Quotient author Helen Hoang and Bridgerton series author Julia Quinn say that today's diversifying love stories and the need to understand the human experience will keep romance novels in the hands of humans. BBC

- See what sticks. Among the novel attempts to limit access to abortion, anti-abortion groups are now trying to bend the rules of court-issued injunctions. For example, Walgreens received widespread backlash for announcing it would not dispense abortion pills in Montana, where a law seeking to ban abortion via telemedicine is currently enjoined by a court. While historical legal theory would suggest telemedicine abortion is still legal, amid the new wave of legally "throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks," Walgreens could be held liable retroactively if a higher court reverses the injunction. Vox


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“My responsibility and the responsibility of other elected officials is to restore people’s hope, address their despair and their fear, then I think people can see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass on combatting concerns about L.A. becoming unsustainable

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