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In 2008, Maria Yee Inc. occupied a unique position as a premium "green" household furniture maker with two direct-owned factories in China and distribution through several large U.S. retailers. Yee, a Chinese-born entrepreneur in California, founded her business in 1988 with Asian-inspired designs and Chinese hand joinery techniques.
She follows environmentally responsible principles such as using renewable bamboo and eco-certified wood. Yet Yee wrestled with how to expand while staying true to her green values. The biggest challenge was staying cost-competitive, since environmental innovations such as using eco-certified timber or eco-friendly manufacturing processes tend to cost more. The company experienced problems developing a reliable green supply chain in China for wood, bamboo and finishes. It faced the challenge of getting consumers to fully value the environmental benefit of its products. And it was considering how to create greater brand awareness and develop new market segments and distribution channels for its eco-furniture.
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Case No: SI110