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Chih Lin and Michael (Mike) Dorsey were both feeling like outsiders in companies they devoted their lives to. “Back in 2018, my husband and I were both working for separate oil and gas companies,” Lin shares. “On the outside, we were living the stereotypical happy American dream with stable careers and fancy titles. The downside was we were miserable.”
Resolved to make a change in their lives, they sought out something more for themselves. "We weren’t feeling like we really fit into the culture of our companies, so we wanted to create one of our own,” says Lin.
A third-generation dumpling maker, Lin learned the art of hand-crafting scrumptious pillows of dough from his grandmother and was inspired to continue this legacy. Lin and Dorsey’s personal history of dumpling-making and love for their community goes back 15 years when Lin introduced Dorsey to all his friends at a dumpling-making party. This experience impacted Dorsey so greatly that he hosted one with his friends the following week. Since then, they’ve hosted community events in their home throughout the years. Lin states, “We have always considered ourselves experienced makers. Dumplings just happen to be the vehicle choice.”
A few months before Lin and Dorsey agreed to quit their corporate jobs, they decided it was time to get married.
“In order to have the funding for our Pop & Pop start-up, we opted to have a small wedding with nine people, (this included us),” Lin says. “Everyone chipped in to rent a lake house together. While the wedding was small, we were able to use the wedding fund to start a new life and dream together.”
In 2019, they took the plunge, and Dumpling Dudez was born.
The Dumpling Dudez set out to create the most fun and fully immersive unique dumpling making and eating experience. “We started with private cooking classes, where we featured the following: all-naturally dyed dough, homemade family recipes, and tons of fun,” Lin says.
In only their first year, Dumpling Dudez was on the verge of becoming a profitable business — until Covid-19 battered them. Instead of putting their customers and employees at risk, they decided to cancel multiple major events. These obstacles marked the overturning of their business model, almost overnight. Galvanized by these changes, their struggle led to the creation of ready-to-bake dumplings to sell. Dorsey states, “This year, we came up with a unique flavor for a fun dumpling eating experience that people could enjoy at home.”
He continued, “The first year of our business was exciting, but scary. It was challenging, but we will always cherish the moments of struggle as they made us stronger and shaped us into who we are today.”
Lin and Dorsey offer a bit of advice for all aspiring food business owners and restaurateurs: “You have to love what you do,” Dorsey says, “Opening a restaurant is hard work. We recommend starting at farmer’s markets or pop-ups to test your concept before you invest in a restaurant.”
They did just that, and now the business now sells a variety of frozen dumplings — made from all-natural ingredients — including ham and cheese, mushroom umami bomb, and chocolate caliente. But there's more to Dumpling Dudez than simply grab-and-go.
They’ve created a collection of events, including cooking classes (in-person and virtual), Dumpling & Beer Pairing events with local breweries, and celebrations with clients. And they offer an edible art class where you can eat the colorful dough and a variety of fillings from traditional to fusion flavors. Their desire was to celebrate diversity and creativity by sharing traditional dumpling folds, rose folds, to even a baby Yoda or two. “We are motivated by bringing people together,” Dorsey added.
A Supportive and Engaging Work Environment
Individuality and diversity are at the heart of Lin and Dorsey’s business, and they've worked hard to create a positive work environment. “Our focus here is to have fun and learn from each other along the way,” Dorsey mentions. “We consider ourselves more mentors than bosses. We want our staff to discover their own superpower and encourage them to follow their dreams while building their skill sets along the way.”
Lin and Dorsey care about the happiness of their employees. Their kitchen is an open and welcoming environment for everyone. They like to have their employees feel heard and appreciated, so they offer them above-industry standard pay, team-building events, and paid research and development days, where the team members create new flavors for their menu. As an added bonus, each employee receives a dozen dumplings each week to take home and share with their family & friends.
The Dumpling Dudez both agree that the most important thing in the kitchen, besides communication and meeting the deadlines, is the mood of the shift. Dorsey states, “We encourage everyone to share their favorite music. We listen to a wide breadth and depth of music and dance along the way. We even discuss why some of us like or dislike whatever is playing.”
“We try to keep the job interesting, however, everyone must wash a dish sometimes, even the bosses. We check in with our staff weekly, if not more through text, making sure they do not feel stagnant in their roles,” he continues.
Giving Back to Their Community
Lin and Dorsey love their community so much that they donate and raise money for the LGBTQ+, Homeless Youth & Elderly, Cancer Society, Foodbank, Fight Against Human Trafficking, Black Lives Matter, and more.
During pride month, they donated 50 percent of their net proceeds to the LGBTQ+ homeless through the Montrose Center’s Hatch Program. “As our brand gets bigger, we also use our brand power to bring awareness to support our community with love and compassion, and celebrate diversity and equality for all,” Dorsey says.
The Power of Storytelling
The Dumpling Dudez social media plays a major role in their business’s success. Growing the business meant telling stories from the heart. Dorsey expresses, “We went from 200 organic Instagram followers to over 6,000 followers in two years by storytelling. We only post about our products 20 percent of the time. The rest of the posts are about our personal and entrepreneurial journey. We share our successes along the way, but we also share our failures and our challenges.
They’ve grown their community and customer base “by being our authentic selves and by supporting our community,” shares Dorsey.
For any aspiring food business owner, social media is a critical tool. “Most importantly, start telling your stories and tell your ‘why,’” Dorsey concludes. “If you don’t have social media, or need help getting it started, find someone. Get your name and product out there in people’s eyes and hands. Heck, call us! We’d be happy to help.”
Header image courtesy of Chih Lin and Mike Dorsey.