July 18, 2023

In 2019, Marlena Ma applied her family’s 30 years of Chinese medicine and acupuncture knowledge to start Shoukang Herbs, an herbal supplement business steeped in family tradition and science. Inspired by her desire to provide effective treatments for a variety of common ailments, and seeing the relief she is giving her customers, Marlena continues to grow her family business. Read on to learn more about Marlena’s inspiring story as a first generation immigrant and successful entrepreneur.

Marlena Ma, founder of Shoukang Herbs

 My goal is to make our herb supplements available to more people who need them

Why did you start your business? What motivated or inspired you?

We have had a Chinese medicine and acupuncture clinic for over 30 years in the US with many patients needing help with improving their memory, sleep, increased joint flexibility, help with anxiety, better breath, help soothing their throats, coughing, and other ailments. Over the years, we developed herb supplements with which we have seen effective results. My goal is to make our herb supplements available to more people who need them and can benefit from them.

Shoukang Herbs Banner

How did you hear about The WMarketplace?

Through my son who interned at the Washington Small Business Administration office. I took some training and launched my business on WMarketplace. The staff are very helpful. (Editor’s Note: Thank you, Marlena!)

Why did you start your business? What motivated or inspired you?

We have had a Chinese medicine and acupuncture clinic for over 30 years in the US with many patients needing help with improving their memory, sleep, increased joint flexibility, help with anxiety, better breath, help soothing their throats, coughing, and other ailments. Over the years, we developed herb supplements with which we have seen effective results. My goal is to make our herb supplements available to more people who need them and can benefit from them.

What is something you know now that you wish you knew when you started your business?

Marketing to find your customers is very important and requires strategy, no matter how good your products are.

Why did you decide to join The WMarketplace?

I have spent most of my lifetime in Washington State. As a first generation immigrant, a wife, mother of two, and full-time career woman, I am inspired by other amazing small businesses owned by women. I believe that women are the primary source and energy for taking care of the health and well-being of themselves and their family.

What has been the most challenging thing about getting your business up and running?

Every step was not easy. The most challenging thing is how to have customers find and try your products among many big competitors.

What has been the most exciting or rewarding part of owning your own business?

Getting feedback from customers and being told that my supplements helped their family members and friends. Helping customers is very rewarding. Also, when I am making a profit, I am able to do more research and develop more products, supporting my family financially. Providing my daughter an example of what a woman and mother can do is very rewarding.

As a first generation immigrant, a wife, mother of two, and full-time career woman, I am inspired by other amazing small businesses owned by women. 

Can you identify a moment in your business that was pivotal in your success? Have you had an “AHA!” moment(s)?

Identifying and pursuing a big manufacturing company with a great reputation to make our products was an important milestone. I believe the quality and sustainability of our herbal supplements is a key factor in our business success. Over the decades, in our Chinese medicine practice, the data supports that our formulas work effectively. With rigorous quality control and the all natural ingredients have shown great results. For example, one customer wrote that after two weeks of taking our “Fei (Lung) Breathflow”, her father, who had experienced shortness of breath for years, felt that his breath was much deeper and he experienced fresh air that he hadn’t had for years.

How long have you been in business and has your business changed since you started it?

Our Chinese medicine office is over 30 years old, and I started Shoukang herbs in September 2019, right before the pandemic. Over the past year, our herbal supplements have helped customers in the U.S. and internationally.

Do you have a mentor, formal or informal? What role have they played for you?

My father is a Chinese medicine doctor with a PhD. He has been practicing in the field for over half a century and is the mind behind the herbal formulas. His big heart to help others and the gratitude I saw from patients and customers are an inspiration for me to go through high and lows and business and to provide herbal supplements for those who need them.

What communities have been important for you as you grew/developed your business?

I got support from my husband, my family, friends, WA SBDC (Small Business Development Center), Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, business partners for social media and online marketing like Outboundengine.


Also, we cannot develop the products without the classics and principles of Chinese medicine. I serve as the President of the nonprofit organization, World Association of Shanghanzabinglun Fulingguben Studies (WASFS). Shanghanzabinglun is one of the most revered Chinese medical textbooks.

Do you have items, photos or mementos on your desk that inspire you each day? What are they?

Yes, many years ago, I received a notecard from the temple, “do not complain, and be appreciative; do not give up, and be consistent; do not be passive, and be active; do not cheat, and be honest.”

Do you have any advice for other women who are getting started in business?

Do a little step at a time. Believe in yourself. Applaud yourself. Looking for resources that are available.

If a journalist were to write a headline about you/your business, what would it be?

Shoukang Herbals: The Best Supplements for Memory, Breathing, Sleeping, Joints, and Anxiety.

Thank you, Marlena, for sharing your advice and journey with the WMarketplace!

SHOP Shoukang Herbs



Launched in 2020, TheWMarketplace is a nationwide e-commerce marketplace for women-owned businesses to sell their products and professional and personal services. Offering favorable terms to its sellers, it also is a supportive community of women entrepreneurs that have access to learning opportunities through the trademarked HER-Commerce™ programs. With over 500 women-owned businesses selling 4000+ products and services ranging from home goods to coaching, in over 35 states, TheWMarketplace empowers shoppers with a new way to find the communities they want to support, including Black-woman owned, Latina-owned, AAPI-owned, Veteran woman-owned, and more. The Her Story Q&A is one benefit ThWMarketplace provides to sellers.

Her Story: Marlena Ma of Shoukang Herbs