How NU Media Became a Multi-Million-Dollar Agency Serving the World’s Top Restaurants and Hospitality Brands

By Spencer Hulse Spencer Hulse has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on December 13, 2023

As the world’s leading restaurants and hospitality brands face fierce competition to delight customers, the vast majority of them have built sophisticated marketing strategies behind the scenes. 

In that dynamic ecosystem, branding and marketing can often make or break a brand. Most top-tier restaurants, however, are hyper-focused on delivering a world-class culinary experience, leaving marketing an important function that often requires partnerships with other experts.

That’s where Ada Hu and Eva Jiang have found their niche as cofounders of NU Media, which has quietly become an indispensable partner to many high-profile clients in the culinary world, including two Michelin-starred establishments. A few clients include AquavitOscar WildePapillonLillie’s Victorian EstablishmentKyuramen, and The X Pot.

Ada and Eva have built a multi-million-dollar agency, grown their team to over 50 people in under four years, and made the Inc 5000 after growing revenue by over 500% from 2019 until the end of 2022. Here’s how they did it.

The Origins and Vision of NU Media

The driving force behind any company is people. Having the right people allows a company to accomplish twice as much for half the effort. For NU Media, the people pushing it forward are co-founders Ada Hu and Eva Jiang.

Ada began her journey in marketing at Parsons School of Design, where she developed a keen eye for branding and design. Her entrepreneurial spirit led her to co-found several ventures before NU Media.

As for Eva, she earned a Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and started her career in China, working on international marketing strategies. Her experience in New York’s financial services sector, particularly with restaurant clients, came in particularly useful when dealing with restaurants and hospitality brands.

“We first crossed paths during my collegiate years when I encountered Eva, then serving as the Director of Marketing for a prominent credit card processing company,” recalled Ada.

Eventually, the pair formed NU Media, which was born from a desire to bridge a gap in the market. Ada and Eva recognized that many immigrant business owners in the U.S. struggled with representation in mainstream media. With their cross-cultural upbringing, they saw an opportunity to help these businesses find their voice.

Ada remarks that their goal has always been “to help grow the minority business community, and we strongly believe that every voice deserves to be heard.”

Pivoting to a Culinary and Hospitality Niche

At its inception, NU Media offered a range of digital marketing services to various businesses. However, a shared passion for food and hospitality eventually led Ada and Eva to refine their focus to restaurants and hospitality brands.

“Eva and I share a deep appreciation for good food – we’re true food enthusiasts! We firmly believe in the power of food to bring joy and connect people.” shared Ada, who proceeded to explain there was far more to their decision than appreciation of cuisine.

Ada explained, “Our journey commenced with thorough research into other marketing agencies, revealing a striking trend — over 80% of 8-figure marketing agencies had identified a specific niche.”

The revelation became a guiding principle for the duo, especially when they realized that expecting their team members to be experts in every conceivable field wasn’t efficient.

Ada remarked, “We recognized the importance of specialization. Acknowledging this, we understood that attempting to be all-encompassing often led to dissatisfaction among clients due to a lack of in-depth experience in a specific field.”

Ultimately, the shift toward restaurants and hospitality was a deliberate and thought-out move, with Ada and Eva realizing that their passion for food and their expertise in marketing could be best utilized in this niche.

Challenges Along the Way

Despite thorough preparation and plenty of passion, the transition was not without its hurdles. One of the biggest challenges was letting go of existing clients to fully commit to the new direction.

“Saying ‘no’ wasn’t easy, especially in the beginning. However, as time unfolded, we gleaned a valuable lesson: excellence in the marketing agency realm is rooted in selecting a niche,” expressed Ada, recalling the difficulty of rejecting opportunities.

The focus on a specific niche ultimately paid off. Domain knowledge could be reused to serve existing customers and onboard new customers much more efficiently.

The Growth and Success of NU Media

Challenges overcome, NU Media has experienced a steep rise since its pivot, marked by a 560% growth over the past three years. The unusual growth rate resulted in NU Media being featured in 2023’s Inc. 5000.

The company’s growth can be attributed to several factors. 

The decision to specialize allowed NU Media to offer more tailored and effective services—and the approach to marketing was grounded in cultural sensitivity and an understanding of the unique narratives of each establishment.

In addition, the transition resulted in a marked improvement in NU Media’s operational efficiency. Specialization reduced onboarding time and allowed the team to leverage existing relationships and expertise more effectively.

The composition of the team, predominantly women (around 90%), also played a crucial role in their approach to marketing, offering diverse perspectives and understanding.

Lessons to Learn from NU Media’s Journey

The importance of finding and owning a niche cannot be overstated. NU Media’s success underscores the value of aligning business strategy with passion and expertise, along with the significance of cultural sensitivity in marketing.

Moreover, in an age where businesses are looking to stand out, NU Media demonstrates the power of focused strategy, passion-driven marketing, and understanding and catering to the unique needs of a specific sector. It is a reminder that sometimes it is better to focus on the one thing you do well as opposed to trying to do everything.

By Spencer Hulse Spencer Hulse has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Spencer Hulse is the Editorial Director at Grit Daily. He is responsible for overseeing other editors and writers, day-to-day operations, and covering breaking news.

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