March 8th is International Women’s Day; a day we dedicate to honoring the many women who have paved the way for equality and opportunity for others. This week, Michelle from Le Dix-Sept details her journey as a female entrepreneur and shares some of her tips for other women in business:
Tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to embark on starting your own pastry+confections business:
I have known since I was 5 that I wanted to be chef and challenged myself when I was 17 to start that journey. I have always been deeply fascinated by the process of cooking, the chemistry and entrepreneurship. I recognized my passion for my field was not a fleeting one when I continued to spend all my free time focused on learning more about my craft of cuisine and pastry through reading, studying and writing about food.
After saving up money and studying French for years prior to moving to France to go to culinary school, I came back to the states and knew I wanted to start my own business to share the craft and techniques that I had learned but with my personal take on pastry based on my Mexican and Pacific Islander ancestry, my Californian and Arizonan roots combined with my passion for the power of plants. All combined, Le Dix-Sept brand is botanically inspired pastry + confections. Truly, the company is an ode to my female ancestors, specifically grandmothers and my mother who showed me how to create nourishing food through the use of intuition and what they had available to them. My grandmothers were true matriarchs of large families and my mother is a phenomenal woman who has always verbalized to me that I could do anything I set my mind to. This emotional support is key when faced with the challenges of entrepreneurship.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while trying to start your own business?
Access to capital can be a challenge as an entrepreneur. For myself, I am a solo entrepreneur and have self-funded the business since inception up until recently when I launched and successfully completed a crowdfunding campaign at the end of last year. Crowdfunding is about connecting with your customers and getting buy-in from them directly. Another challenge is knowing when to take on other funding and even when consider bringing on investors is an important part of growing your business.
Who are some women that you feel have paved the way for you?
I am so grateful to have met quite a few incredible women over the last few years who have been instrumental in my business progress. Kerry Diamond, founder and editor of Cherry Bombe has changed my life and the life of so many women in food. She has opened doors for me, provided crucial business advice in my journey to opening a retail shop and provided a platform for me to share my story with the world via Radio Cherry Bombe. Kerry is truly an advocate for women in my industry and for Women of Color. Anna Lee Jew, entrepreneur, designer and co-owner of Mister Jiu’s, Moongate Lounge and the new Mamahuhu restaurants has been extraordinarily generous in providing her advice and knowledge about starting and running a successful business. She has really taught me about the importance of positivity in all that you do and leading through example. Marcella Lew, Chef and Consultant has been an amazing resource of food business building knowledge and has made so many introductions for me. Buffy Macguire of Lady Falcon Coffee Club is a founder and one of the few female coffee roasters in country. She inspires me to continually learn more about my field, add to the conversation and to share knowledge with others so the entire community can be uplifted. Alana of Etta + Billie has been an amazing resource and sounding board as someone who has built an outstanding brand with integrity and authenticity.
Additionally, while I was never a participant in the La Cocina incubator program, La Cocina was my first commercial kitchen home and through that experience, I met the amazing staff and have seen first hand how they are paving the way for women and immigrants in San Francisco to enter the food industry and thrive with new businesses.
Do you have any advice for other female entrepreneurs?
For all entrepreneurs, it is important to learn as much from others who have gone before you. Really listen to their advice if they are giving you the gift of their personal experience. There are hundreds of hours of interviews available to listen to on how to female entrepreneurs have built their business via podcasts like Radio Cherry Bombe, GirlBoss Radio, Skimmed from the Couch, etc .If you have the opportunity to speak to someone who has helped pave the path, be respectful of their time and energy by coming to a conversation prepared.
Be humble and put yourself out there. It can be hard to put yourself out there, it is vulnerable. You are selling a product or service but customers are also buying you as a brand, at least in the beginning.
Lastly, really think about if you are built for entrepreneurship and if you are ready for the long game. Ask yourself if you are someone who actually has rolled up their sleeves and done the hard unglamorous work, likes to wear all the hats in the company, likes to be in the forefront? Sometimes it might look like a brand goes from obscurity to “overnight success” but likely there has been years and years of invisible foundation built, investment of time and resources that doesn’t come to fruition for years. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, but some people are built for it. I absolutely love it and have met so many amazing and inspiring women because of this challenging path.
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