Jackie Yun was born in Sydney, Australia and is of Papua New Guinea (PNG) Chinese heritage. She is the youngest of five children and comes from three generations of entrepreneurs. Her great grandfather was a pioneer from China and the first Chinese person to establish foreign trade in Rabaul, East New Britain, PNG, where Jackie spent most of her childhood years.
Educated in Sydney, Jackie was never a good student and preferred to play sport. After three relaxing years of sun, surf and flat whites, parental pressure forced Jackie to get her first job at aged 21 in a small café-juice bar. Opportunity to purchase the café arose twelve months later, and with the generous support of her parents, Jackie owned and operated her first business for four years before moving to Shanghai in 1999 to study Chinese. Two things inspired the move:
1) Being the youngest of a Cantonese family, Jackie was very spoilt and life was too easy
2) Being Chinese but could not speak Mandarin or Cantonese.
In mid-2000, Jackie took on a part time job in a bar-restaurant in Shanghai’s Xintiandi whilst continuing to learn Chinese. Returning to restaurant operations reignited Jackie’s passion for the Food/Hospitality Industry and began to research how to start a small business in China - she had a concept, a menu, patience and a lot of energy.
In September 2001, fate and good fortune brought Jackie and John F. Christensen, founder of Wagas and highly successful entrepreneur, together. Several Starbucks coffees later, Jackie joined Wagas as Manager in December 2001 with a team of 12 staff. John and Jackie became great friends and business partners and in 2003 registered a wholly foreign owned company, Wagas Shanghai Ltd. The company is privately owned, with John and Jackie as the sole investors. In 2014 John sold his logistics business and joined Wagas as managing partner. They are very hands on in the day to day running of the business with a key focus on finding the best locations and product development. The company has expanded organically since inception. Wagas does not franchise.
Currently, Wagas Shanghai Ltd operate over 60 busy café/bakeries in 10 cities across China - Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Wuxi, Suzhou, Qingdao, Chengdu, Nanjing and Hangzhou. The company targets to open 25 new Wagas and Baker & Spice stores this year.
After 18 years of living, studying and working in Shanghai, Jackie’s knowledge of the Chinese way and doing business in China have provided her opportunities to succeed with dedication, humility and honour in upholding the traditions and heritage to which she was born into as a descendant of a great Chinese pioneer.
Jackie lives in Shanghai’s former French concession. Travel, working with her team, eating and cycling around Shanghai are a few of her favourite things.
Learn more about Jackie, including the best piece of advice she has ever received, the first thing she does when returning home, and why her work is important here.
Meet Jackie Yun, the 2017 Advance Global Australian Food Award Winner and check out her acceptance speech from the Awards ceremony below.