Mrs. Lin's Kitchen Debuts "How-To" Video on YouTube

Hacienda is home to many companies that have built a business around the Internet, but none is quite like Mrs. Lin's Kitchen, an online store that specializes in Asian kitchenware and home accessories. When Julie Hsu, the company's founder and CEO, launched the site from a spare bedroom in 1997, in the infancy of the dot-com era, it was a leap into the unknown. Sixteen years later, she has fine-tuned her business model and runs a thriving operation that carries more than 3,000 items and serves repeat customers around the globe.

With the September debut of the brand's first YouTube video, a how-to guide for making and cooking potstickers, Hsu is again harnessing technology to get closer to her customers, simultaneously adding value with a practical demonstration of an item she carries, the dumpling mold. "We had many trial runs, and maybe burned a few batches, too," she says of the venture. "But we made sure to have fun along the way as we did our best to show how fun and easy potstickers are to make!"

The dumpling mold is only one of the many utilitarian tools, like noodle strainers and vegetable cutters, available through the site. is a go-to source for everything from sake sets and decorative chopsticks to plates and placemats to woks and lucky charms. A wide assortment of merchandise is aimed at the gift-giver, often in the corporate environment, where best-sellers include the Japanese Maneki Neko, or lucky cat, and the Daruma doll.

Both are well-known representations of the Asian embrace of good luck talismans. Cats with the left paw raised are often on display in a business as a welcoming symbol of good fortune. With the right paw up, the porcelain figures have a more personal connotation. In both situations, "the higher the paw, the more good luck you'll get," Hsu relates.

The egg-shaped Daruma, or limbless doll, is a long-standing emblem of determination, often exchanged to mark the culmination of a business agreement. "One of the endearing qualities of the roly-poly Japanese Daruma doll is its ability to raise itself upright, even when pushed down. This 'never-give-up' quality is a great message of resilience and strength in the face of adversity," Hsu explains.

Hsu has had a few ups and downs of her own, surviving both the dot-com bust and the 2008 financial turbulence. It was her lifelong passion for food and kitchenware - along with an unpleasant commute - that originally inspired her to leave a secure job with the U.S.D.A. in Albany. While her new career choice was fresh territory, it did have something in common with her previous position as a food scientist: research. "There were so many things I didn't know. I did a lot of research to find classes and workshops so I could learn my way into the business. You have to know the basics to be successful."

Good fortune has come back to her and her staff with the positive energy injected into daily life by happy customers. "We get very enthusiastic and want to offer more things for people to enjoy," she says. Stay tuned to the YouTube channel for additional culinary excursions.

Photo: Company founder Julie Hsu recently started a YouTube channel.

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