By: Ashley Dyer
Michelle Weng opened her first restaurant 18 years ago and has been putting the "M" in Columbia ever since. Originally from China, Michelle spent time studying in New York City, then traveled south to Columbia where she started the first Miyos cafe with one goal in mind: to support her family. This goal remains as the driving force behind all her success.
Today Michelle is a master in the restaurant industry with eight restaurants in the Columbia area. That makes her one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Columbia, a statement her co-workers would more than agree with.
Dustin McElory, tends a bar at one of Michelle's restaurants. He says he's never met anyone like her.
"She works like no other, man. It's unbelievable how much she works. She runs me down and I'm half her age," McElory says.
Even if you haven't met Michelle, there's a good chance you've eaten in one of her restaurants downtown, each represented with her trademark letter "M".
"I love music. So "M" stands for music… or magic," she says.
It has definitely been a magical 18 years for Michelle. There are four Miyos plus M. Cafe, M. Fresh, M. Vista, and her newest restaurant M. Grille. In addition, the M. Gourmet Group is still expanding with a ninth restaurant being planned. Her phenomenal success did not come easily and she says it's something she still works for every single day.
"Success or business is earned. It's not just sit back and watch. Management is part of it, but you have to lead by example. We expect our team to work hard and stay focused and as a leader and owner I have to model this example," says Michelle.
Her hard work is responsible for her remarkable success in Columbia. Michelle travels to China several times a year to keep up with the latest food trends and bring new tasty recipes home with her.
She says she wants to appeal to a wide variety of people, so each of her restaurants offers different styles of Asian cuisine.
USC professor Dr. Richard Richardson, says Michelle is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the entire state of South Carolina.
"She can be characterized by passionate dogged determinism, to build something from nothing. She has a commitment to excellence in a way that's nuts-and-bolts. Work your butt off is really what has driven a lot of her success," says Richardson.
Michelle says she is a natural born worker and enjoys spending time at all of her restaurants. She says she still visits all nine of them every day.
Mari-Anne Parker was one of Michelle's earliest customers. She say's it's Michelle's presence that separates her from the rest.
"She will greet every person that comes into the restaurant personally. She knows you and does not ever forget a name. She has such high standards which I appreciate," says Parker.
Michelle says her spirit is what keeps her going.
The M. Gourmet Group will soon include M. Kitchen, which is expected to open in the beginning of 2015.
A true example that hard work does pay off.