Anne’s Dumplings took off in the last year
Anne Huang-Power can’t keep up with the demand for her dumplings. More often than not, half an hour after she’s opened pre-orders on the website for Anne’s Dumplings, she’s sold out. When she participated in the Fireweed Market’s 12 Days of Christmas last year, market-goers were queueing up for her perfectly-formed morsels of dough and filling.
For Huang-Power, the overwhelming response to her dumplings, or “dumps” as she fondly calls them, caught her by surprise.
“I still get nervous when people buy them,” she says. “I know they’re delicious. Even though I know they’re good, I just hope everyone enjoys them. Because I put a lot of work into them, everything is handmade … it connects me to my family and to my heritage. It’s a joyful thing for me so I hope people feel joy and happiness when they eat them.”
Each dumpling is painstakingly folded and crimped by Huang-Power. They are small, uniform and resemble little fish, which are symbols of luck and plenty. Huang-Power says she learned her unique crimping style, which she calls the “mermaid crimp,” from her paternal cousins in China.
Born in China, Huang-Power moved with her family to England when she was four. On big holidays, such as the Lunar New Year, the family gathers around the table and makes dumplings. Each family has their own recipe and own way of folding the dough. As much as dumplings are an integral part of her familial ties and Chinese heritage, her new business is a far cry from her previous career. For 12 years, Huang-Power worked in the fashion industry as a celebrity marketer and influencer. She started her career in London, then moved to Toronto four years ago to be with her husband-to-be Ben Power, who co-owns Solvest Inc., a solar energy company in Whitehorse.
Once in Canada, Huang-Power continued working in the fashion industry. She flew back to London for Fashion Week, and to visit with her family at the same time. However, it was tough for her husband to run Solvest from Toronto and the couple eventually made the move to the Yukon in September, 2019.
Huang-Power initially kept working freelance in fashion, but when the pandemic hit, the bottom fell out of the industry. This provided a welcome break from a career that was taking its toll on her.
“It sounds glamourous, but it wasn’t,” Huang-Power says. “12 years was enough.”
She says that most of her former fashion colleagues switched direction and took up careers in wellness. Some are pilates and yoga instructors, others are life coaches. In a way, Huang-Power’s dumplings are products of a similar interest in the well-being of others.
“Food always has been a huge part of my life. I think that for a lot of Asian families, food is the main thing. And food is how many people show love and show they care.” Huang-Power explains that saying “Have you eaten today?” demonstrates concern for someone’s well-being. It’s like saying, “How are you?”
And so, with the fashion industry at a standstill, Huang-Power cancelled the contracts she’d been working on and found another creative and productive outlet.
“I started making dumplings for my friends and for Ben’s family and for charity, just to do something with my time.”
The charity Huang-Power raised money for is Lupus Canada. She has lupus herself, and is keen to increase awareness of this little-known autoimmune disease. May is Lupus Awareness Month, and that’s when she started dumpling production.
Her intention was to highlight the disease and raise money while doing something she liked. At the same time, she was connecting with her cultural heritage and her family at a time when she couldn’t travel to England to see them.
Once May ended and Lupus Awareness Month was over, Huang-Power didn’t intend to make more dumplings. Her arms and hands were tired. She had “dumpling claw,” she says, gesturing with her hands. However, once friends got a taste for the dumplings, they didn’t want the supply to dry up. When Huang-Power suggested she might not continue, friends offered to pay for them. It’s then that she thought, “Maybe there’s something here.”
Once the seed for a dumpling business was planted, Huang-Power discovered ways to help make it happen. The first thing she did was sign up for the Startup Bootcamp offered by Yukonstruct at Northlight Innovation. She credits the course and its instructor, William Lechuga, with building her confidence. Eleven of the 12 bootcamp participants were women, and Huang-Power found her cohort to be like-minded and supportive.
“All the women were so strong and so ambitious.”
Another opportunity came when Huang-Power became acquainted with Sydney Oland. Oland is the entrepreneur behind Yukon Chocolate Company and Yukon Ice Cream. Oland had also started a factory space in the former home of Fred’s Plumbing in the Marwell industrial area. She invited Huang-Power to join the collective of food makers there.
By summer, Huang-Power was dumpling-testing at the factory. In December, when bootcamp was done, she was ready for the Christmas markets. Oland predicted that she was going to be “crazy busy” and she was right.
So after an “insane” Christmas market experience and wildly successful online sales, where does Huang-Power go from here? Her plan to scale up includes supplying establishments such as grocery stores. Her dumplings are already on the menu at Woodcutter’s Blanket. However, producing enough dumplings by hand is “physically impossible” so she’s ordered commercial equipment, including a crimper from China.
Huang-Power already bottles a dumpling sauce, and plans to make more sauces for stir fries and salads. She’s experimenting with new dumpling fillings, as well as gluten-free options, and imagines collaborations with the other makers at the factory space, which officially opened as Yukon Provisions on March 13. And, in addition to Lucky Rabbit Boba (bubble tea), she has other schemes afoot.
The enthusiastic response from her Yukon customers has buoyed her entrepreneurial spirit. During a global pandemic that has heightened racism towards Asians, she’s found folks here to be supportive of both her and her cultural heritage.
“I’m really grateful,” she says. “Whitehorse and the Yukon have been amazing and I’m so thankful for all the support. It’s been really heartwarming and really emotional. People are really supportive and they want something different. They’re really open to trying things they haven’t tried before and they’re really open to accepting my culture through food and I think it’s such a beautiful thing. I’ve been so lucky.”