He Couldn’t Find a Store to Buy His Favorite Asian Snacks in America So He Started One

Alex Zhou, the founder and CEO of Asian marketplace Yami, is an accidental entrepreneur who has tapped into America's love for Asian food.

By AHN Editor

April 5, 2023

Alex moved from China to the United States to attend Kansas State University. At first, he couldn’t find his favorite foods from home and had to drive for hours to find Asian groceries. He thought that he couldn’t be the only one who missed having familiar foods from home.

This is what led him to start Yami, which at the time was Yamibuy that started with Asian snacks. For the first three months, he was the company’s sole worker before taking on his first employee. Yami is now serving over two million customers, with the platform being used by one in every ten Asian Americans. More than 300,000 SKUs are available on the website, including food, health and beauty products, home appliances, books, and an expanding selection of products.

Image Source: Korea Tech Desk

Yami has expanded beyond serving Asian consumers in recent years, forcing it to rethink its strategy. Alex collaborates with Asian chefs and restaurants to attract Asian-food enthusiasts, but Yami now competes with Amazon, Walmart, and Target.

Alex points out to Forbes that timing played a significant role in the success of his business. He began the business in 2013, coinciding with a huge rise in the number of people coming from Asia to study in the US. He never thought he would run a company that now plans to expand not only in the US but also in Canada.

Image Source: Food Business News

Yami’s early years were focused on serving its conventional customer base, but Alex observed that its items were appealing to a broader audience when he noticed a lot of non-Asian names on the order forms.

Alex shared with Forbes that new consumers typically come from one of three groups: those who are enthusiastic about Asian cuisine, those who have lived in Asia and returned to the United States, or those who are influenced by the growing attraction and influence of Asian pop and food culture.

Alex wants to introduce Asian cuisine, culture, and lifestyle to all of America. He is one of his clients, so he is aware of their demands and wants to meet them.

Featured Image Source: Yamibuy, Entepreneur