Family Business: Mother (and Daughter) Know Best

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Chinese Southern BelleWhat they’ve learned:Be firm but have fun.Find your niche.

Not every CEO has seen her business partner in her diaper, but that’s one of the unique hurdles for moms and daughters who become business partners. While trust and respect is important for any professional team, these duos must also navigate personal histories and hierarchies decades in the making. BusinessNewsDaily found five mother-and-daughter teams who have learned firsthand what works and what doesn’t in an experience that’s often life-changing for both generations.

Georgia is better known for its Southern hospitality than its kung pow chicken, but one Smyrna mother and daughter team have combined both. Daughter Natalie Keng fuses her studies in Asian history and multicultural marketing with her family’s personal story and her mom Margaret’s background in Chinese restaurants and education. These diverse skill sets and a dash of humor create Chinese Southern Belle LLC, an "edutainment" business providing cooking classes, Asian market field trips, corporate events and diversity workshops.

Keng started the business two years ago after returning to Georgia to spend more time with her family. Since Margaret emerged from retirement to help with the business, Natalie shields her from financial duties and administrative work. The two both run cooking classes and demonstrations, but mom is able to opt out of topics when she chooses.

Natalie and Margaret keep their respectful family dynamic alive in their business. Natalie considers her mom a Tigger (from Winnie-the-Pooh), not a Tiger, the controversial and demanding Chinese mother discussed in the controversial book by Amy Chua. Natalie says her mother is able to balance discipline and high expectations with a sense of fun. In classes titled “Buddha-to-bubba” and “Wok ‘n’ roll,” their gentle teasing and funny stories entertain students and clients.

There weren’t many Asian families when Keng grew up in Smyrna 30 years ago. At the time, Keng’s family ran some of the only Chinese restaurants in the area. Things are different today as international flavors and Chinese restaurants have increased in popularity. To distinguish their business, Keng offers more than the average caterer or restaurant, leveraging Margaret’s stories growing up in Tawain and Natalie’s in-depth knowledge of Asian history and culture.  The result is a mix that’s fun and informative, and something only they can provide.