We had the good fortune of connecting with Ani Davtyan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ani, how do you think about risk?
There are many risks you take as a business owner but the first thing that comes to mind is Covid. I took a big risk renting a commercial kitchen space followed by opening a store 4 months later. That is not a typical timeline you follow when opening a business let alone in the middle of a global pandemic, but I knew the time was right when our space was getting smaller and demand was getting larger. This played a huge role in my life and career because at 24 I am only at the beginning of what I consider to be my dream career.
Please tell us more about your business. How did you get to where you are today business-wise. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I would like to consider that my business focuses primarily on quality and experience. We take pride in sourcing natural, organic, non artificial, & healthy ingredients to ensure confidence in what customers are putting inside their body. At the moment, we primarily focus on baked donuts & matcha lattes, and occasionally Mediterranean pastries. Our baked donuts are baked inside a donut-shaped mold, hand made from scratch rather than the more familiar method (fried). This approach eliminates bloating and some people can even enjoy 2 or 3 at a time. We specialize in matcha drinks and use matcha that comes from Japan, which is the truest form. This grade of matcha is called ceremonial grade, which is the highest and most beneficial for you. We use traditional practices of those used in Japan, which includes using a chawan and chasen. These practices help us engage with customers, tells a story, and creates a wonderful experience.
I started with research. It was really important for me to take all the correct steps before starting a business such as obtaining permits, licenses, and understanding safe food handling practices. I began renting a ghost kitchen where we selected our own hours & time. When the concept of my baked donuts began to expand, I outgrew my rented by-the-hour space and moved into my own private ghost kitchen. We started working here for 4 months before we found a Pop Up opportunity at Westfield Topanga & The Village, which is where we are today. Looking back to day 1, I wouldn’t say it was the absolute easiest, rather required a lot of hard work & patience and still does today. I have great support alongside me, so I received a lot of help and guidance in the areas I struggled with. Opening during a pandemic already puts loads of restrictions in front of me, making it challenging to show the business’s desired potential (such as indoor dining, sampling, etc). But I began ready to tackle the situations. An important lesson I have learned along the way is how important customer service is. Our products are delicious and really speak for themselves. The one factor is to make sure our menu rotates, improves, and upgrades to keep it engaged for the customers. If strong customer service is not present in an establishment, it can be a determining factor of whether or not a customer returns. This is shown through social media, in person, or over the phone. The energy has to be consistent. I come from a back ground of working in retail and customer service, but never in food establishments. Something as delicate requires a lot of attention and consistency. I take pride in working with consistency and integrity alongside my team. I want people to know that we are a cafe/brand that people can feel comfortable visiting/supporting because we work extra hard to provide a wonderful experience and delicious treats. I would also want people to know that we make and bake everything in house, truly with a lot of love. I think it’s important to establish a brand where people trust and love because of quality and reputation. I love seeing my baked donuts as a part of someone’s celebration or memorable days, and always appreciate the kind and supportive feedback.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Thankfully my best friends live near me, but if I had family visiting from out of town I would show and take them places where my best friends and I love going. We would go to either Melrose or Calabasas Farmers market to pick up fresh fruits or veggies, and check out some other fun vendors. Blu Jam cafe is a must for breakfast, and totally worth the drive. Their iced mocha is my go-to drink. We would go to Little House of Confections to pick up gluten free cakes, and probably finish them in the car because they’re that good. Going to the beach is always a must, even if we just pick up some snacks and hang out on sand. I would book a picnic set up by my friend Jeselyn (@picnicpartylosangeles) for a memorable experience. We would definitely go to Verto’s to get our baked donut and matcha latte fix. Over the weekend we would go to Solvang or San Diego because there are great eateries there too. I’m big on taking pictures and videos so we would end the week with a bunch of memorable moments! Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Everybody is always so fascinated about my story and journey, but I always remind them that it would never be possible alone. Most importantly, I would not be where I am without the help and support from my parents. I appreciate how beneficial their understanding of finances, economics, and people, has been for my business. Besides the technical area, my parents are my number one support system. Regardless of whether I am having a good or bad day, their moral support and balanced feedback is what helps me get through it. They help me envision my future in the most strategic and logical way which helps me stay focused. My grandmother, Verto, is the reason I started my business. She said “you start doing whatever it is you want to do in life, and I will be there behind you being your backbone.” Not only does she always give the best grandmotherly advice, she’s the reason I love being in the kitchen! She has taught me so much, and I am still learning from her. I would also like to thank my friends. They have supported my journey from the beginning, whether it’s sharing photos of my business on social media, or telling others about it. I would like to thank The Kitchen Place and the entire Westfield Topanga Management team for supporting me and truly welcoming/encouraging my concept.)
Other: email – firstname.lastname@example.org