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Ginseng the Root of the Family Business

by Matt McDonell Thursday, April 14, 2016
Paul and Will Hsu Resized490

Most Wednesdays throughout the fall and spring semesters, the Weinert Center hosts a Distinguished Entrepreneurs Lunch with the goal of letting students hear a first-hand perspective on the various aspects of entrepreneurship. Sponsored by Neider & Boucher, S.C., lunches this semester have had a variety of unique guests such as a principal of a venture capital fund to the founder of a company.

One such founder, Paul Hsu, founded Hsu’s Ginseng Enterprises, Inc. in 1974 as a small family farm and grew it into a business that is selling between 3 and 4% of the world’s total ginseng output. He was joined by the current VP of Operations and son, Will Hsu (BBA Finance, 2000). Will returned to the family business in 2011 after spending more than 10 years in the Financial Leadership Development Program at General Mills. Along the way, he received an MBA from Harvard Business School in 2006.

Ginseng has long been heralded as having numerous healing properties in many Asian cultures, as well as in herbal medicine. Wisconsin ginseng, thanks to central Wisconsin’s ideal soil conditions, has a reputation for being the best in the world and, in turn, demands a premium price. Higher prices, coupled with many smart business decisions by Paul, have helped the Hsu’s business grow in times of contraction for the broader Ginseng industry., sells thousands of products ranging from wild ginseng roots, that sell at up to $3,500 per half pound, to specially house-formulated Japanese Reishi supplements that have immune enhancing properties and aid in cardiovascular health. They have continually pushed the envelope and introduced new products to market. A major innovation they introduced was the American Ginseng Tea Bag. Starting out as a product given away with orders, they currently sell more than 8 million bags per year.

The Weinert Center, through the Distinguished Entrepreneurs Lunch program, likes when they can expose students to companies grown from within our student and alumni population. Hsu Ginseng is a perfect example of home grown talent excelling in their chosen industry. The company, which has employed different business strategies that tackle creating a name brand and awareness in the market to develop new products that see beyond current trends, exemplifies the innovative spirit that the Wisconsin School of Business instills in all its future business leaders.