We had the good fortune of connecting with Celine ZHOU and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Celine, every day, we about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
Hi, I am Celine, a pastry lover, trained in a pastry school in Paris. Ever since I moved to Los Angeles, I had a dream to create some special sweets that can bring a little love and joy to the people we care about. It all started one day when I baked a batch of dainty shortbread cookies for a friend with the message, “Wake up, kick ass, repeat.” Consequently, my other friends began clamoring for their own custom cookies for birthdays and bridal showers. It was after this I realized that the cookies could be used to commemorate all the special occasions that one would usually buy a card for.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Four years ago when I just settled down in LA from Paris, I came up with the idea of creating a pastry business, people told me “you won’t make a living by baking”. But my drive was so strong that I wasn’t even intimidated by the fear. I had no friends, no network, and no knowledge about the market at the time, everything was brand new! I started with simple products and went to many events to talk to customers, collect feedback, and ask other small business owners tons of questions, I just wanted to make myself like a sponge to absorb as many insights as possible. It’s a constant process of trying, pivoting, and keeping trying. The business is growing very fast now. Customers flocked to our website to order cookies for their special occasions, asking to print their names and the date of the celebration on the cookies. I am also so surprised to see how many companies ordered branded cookies. I feel really grateful because the customers’ support is the best validation of my persistence. What I enjoy most about my business, is seeing how creative customers get in crafting their messages and the unexpected reasons why they order custom cookies. One customer ordered cookies with his name, age, and phone number to hand out to potential dates and another sent a box of cookies with the message “less stress, more sex” to a friend mourning a breakup.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Rent a bicycle around Santa Monica Pier and ride along the beach to Venice. My French friends just love Abbot Kinney. The custom perfume from Le Labo, good pasta from Felix, an outdoor lunch experience at Gjelina, ice cream from Salt & Straw, coffee from Cafe Intelligentsia. I often bring my friends to a Pilates class or a Barre class since LA people are so into the workout. DTLA is also a good place to discover LA’s culture with The Broad Museum, Grand Central Market, and I love restaurants Bavel and Bestia (always book these popular restaurants one month in advance in order to have a seat..)
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I give credit to my husband, the one who supports me during the entrepreneurial journey. He is the one who told me that It didn’t matter if I started my career late compared to my friends. What was important was that I should spend some time figuring out my real passion and work for it in my early 20th. When I told him I wanted to start the pastry business, he helped me in the kitchen to bake, went to the farmers market in early mornings to set up the tent, looked for solutions with me to grow the business and gave me all the encouragement when I felt exhausted and frustrated. Entrepreneurship can be an emotionally draining journey, I am so grateful to have someone who believes in me and with whom I can share my vulnerability,