We had the good fortune of connecting with Cici Wong and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cici, what’s the end goal, career-wise?
For a majority of my life, I’ve been torn between pursuing what I truly wanted to do and what I felt I had to do. I knew I always loved more artistic, creative, and hands-on activities (such as playing piano/making music, writing, and cooking) ever since I was a young child. Deep down inside, I knew I was meant to pursue a career related to these interests. However, I was constantly discouraged from pursuing these interests no further than as hobbies, and it slowly wore down on me. I was never quite stellar at academics either since it never truly resonated with me, but I couldn’t help but to feel that a conventional career path was the only way to go. The added pressure of needing to provide for my family didn’t help my case either. By the time I received my bachelor’s I felt empty. I felt as though I had wasted my time, only to be good at nothing. I was frustrated and upset because wasting time getting a degree I felt obligated to obtain rendered those four years useless. The pandemic changed the trajectory of everyone’s lives and it really shifted everything for me as well. With nothing to do, I found time to pursue a new, therapeutic hobby: candle making. I ended up falling in love with the entire process and immersing myself in it. Once I heard feedback from others, I felt that it was time to turn the hobby into a business. From creating my own business around my own handmade candles, I reignited the flame that was extinguished many years ago. I found something I felt I was good at and that could be enjoyed by many people as well. Not only that, but it’s also given me the flexibility to pursue my true passions as well. I hope that I can continue to grow the business and also allow myself to finally pursue music and maybe even culinary arts as I’ve always wanted to do.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Yuzu Leaf Co. is my small handmade candle business I started in late 2020/early 2021. I think many small handmade businesses sprouted around this time for similar reasons. Candle-making started out as a hobby, but I began to fall in love with the entire process and completely immersed myself in it. It helped to provide a therapeutic activity to keep myself busy during such an isolating and dreary time. I’ve always been passionate about cooking and baking ever since I was young. I think this passion of mine translated well over to candle-making (and I often liken the process to baking). I’m proud of how I’ve been able to curate and blend scents that appeal to and even surprise many. We sell at pop-up/farmers markets almost every weekend, and it brings me such joy to see everyone’s impressed reactions to the scents. A lot of people tell me that my candles are the best they ever had and that I’m exceptionally good at making candles. Although I don’t make the actual fragrance oils, I’m glad that I’ve been able to curate some of the best ones to share with the world. A lot of the scents I have are inspired by natural flavors (e.g. herbals or florals) or food/drinks (e.g. Earl Grey tea and lychee). They smell more fresh, natural, and balanced which is what I found that a lot of people prefer. I often talk myself down and had doubts about starting a candle business, but this endeavor has helped to boost my self-confidence. I’ve learned to believe in myself more and also to take more risks. I still have a long way to go as a business and business owner, but I’m glad to start things off on the right foot.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
There are still so many interesting places I have yet to visit, but I’ll name a few of the usual spots that I enjoy. Let’s start with Pasadena. We can start the day off with brunch at Millie’s Café. I love their variety of options as well as an extensive vegan menu. I feel that their prices are reasonable, too. From there, we can go to the Huntington Library, which is one of my favorite places to walk around and sight-see. For dinner, we can go to Granville which has great drinks and a great atmosphere. I love their Yuzu Chill dessert, which is pretty on-brand of me. The next day, we can go to Silverlake. There is another Millie’s Café in Silverlake, but we don’t have to go again (and the wait time is even worse). I actually haven’t tried much else in Silverlake but we can get donuts and coffee at Blue Star Donuts in the morning, go thrift shopping, then go to one of my favorite sushi spots: Izakaya Osen. It seems to be getting more and more popular, so I will make reservations ahead of time. Maybe we can even rent a swan boat in Echo Park at some point in the day. I love just people/dog-watching there, and it’s nice to take the time to relax. Echo Park also has one of my favorite vegan restaurants: Sage Plant Based Bistro & Brewery (wow I never actually called it by their full name!). Maybe this Silverlake/Echo Park plan can be a two-day thing. The next day, we’ll go to Little Tokyo. We’ll have to get mochi from Fugetsu-Do at some point since it’s the best around and also historic. There’s plenty of museums and sights to see around that area too such as the Japanese American National Museum or The Geffen. After this long day we can then go to Suehiro Cafe to have casual comfort food for dinner. As an introvert, I probably will be ready to pass out for a week after an action packed week like this, but it’ll be a lot of fun!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I am truly and immensely grateful for everyone who has supported me throughout this journey and I wouldn’t have made it this far without it. I’m especially grateful for my parents and my partner for being there for me every step of the way. I feel very fortunate to receive such overwhelming and consistent support despite my doubts and worries. It has affirmed me to keep going and strive to do even better.