Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

When Grace Cheng was a business administration major at the University of Southern California, she would jet off weekends to New York for 12-hour days of high fashion photoshoots and make it back to L.A. in time for class on Monday.

Glamorous, right? Wrong.

“The modeling and fashion world is much less glamorous than people portray it to be,” Cheng tells L.A. Weekly from her home across the street from Disneyland in Anaheim.  “The models are always beautifully dressed in exotic locations. I’ve done all of it. I’d fly first class to Thailand for a one-week photo shoot. It’s exhausting and a lot of work.  You’re sometimes out there freezing or boiling for 15 hours a day.”

But for Cheng, the most frustrating part of that world was eating properly, especially first thing in the morning.  

Grace Cheng:

Courtesy Grace Cheng

“Throughout the whole process I was always trying to find something healthy,  convenient and fast,” she says. “I became obsessed with oatmeal, which is not something Taiwanese people grow up eating. When I tried it for the first time at 17, I didn’t like it. But after a few tries, it became my everyday breakfast. It got to the point where I couldn’t start my day without oatmeal. Ten years later, that’s still the case.”

She ditched the glamorous career for an organized schedule and the world of oatmeal and launched Mylk Labs in 2018, a healthy grab-and-go, high-fiber protein oatmeal. It comes in half a dozen flavors, never exceeds 5 grams of organic coconut sugar, and contains glyphosate-free oats and crunchy sunflower seeds in its nut-free varieties.  Since her last photo shoot, Cheng’s instant oatmeal now lines the shelves of Bristol Farms, Gelsons, Whole Foods, and natural chains across the country and does a brisk online business.

Grace Cheng:

Courtesy Grace Cheng

“I knew nothing and no one when I got into the food industry,” says Cheng, who grew up in Walnut. “But I needed a solution for my busy days and travels and knew I couldn’t be the only one with a frantic lifestyle. The first customer I ever had was a small co-op in northern California. I knew nothing about shipping, logistics, or any of that. I just dove into it. It was 36 units in total that they ordered. It sat on the shelf at a much higher price compared to your Bob’s Redmill and all the other brands. It sat and it sat and it sat. I tried to think how I was going to sell all my inventory and figured I was going to fail. I had to pivot and go the coffee shop route for the first three years of my business.  That route included hotels. The first coffee shop I ever worked with was Kona Loa Coffee Mission Viejo in Orange County and they still order to this day.”

It was in the  Hotel Atwater breezeway coffee shop that I first discovered Mylk Labs on a frantic press trip to Catalina. The crunchy and creamy almond pink salt flavor topped with oat milk kept me full till lunchtime.

Success didn’t come overnight or without pivots for Cheng, who grew up in Walnut with her father, a clothing company manufacturer and mother, a real estate developer, whom she credits as her inspiration.

“I started planning the company when I was 22 years old and knew nothing,” says Cheng who insists she’s not a food scientist, just a foodie. “I turn 30 this year and can’t tell you how many times the goal of my company has changed since the beginning.  Chances are it’s going to change again. I changed my goals so many times that there is no goal right now. I try to stay in my own lane and it’s worked out pretty well so far for me. There’s always money to be made, why is everybody in such a rush to do so much in so little time? I get that mindset, I was caught up in it, too, but unless I have investors breathing down my neck to hit certain goals in six months, I’m on my schedule. I want to be able to take a half day if I want to. Mylk Labs is such a big part of my life, I don’t want to start hating it. The goal now is just to enjoy the dream.”

Grace Cheng:

























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