We had the good fortune of connecting with Felisha Eng and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Felisha, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Hmm. The thought process behind starting my own business….I think it would help if I first framed my response with some background.
I spent 12+ years of my life working in the high-end/contemporary market of fashion. I’m 32 years old now, but started in the industry one month after I turned 18. While I worked at what felt like a very serious job for a teenager, I also attended school at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. After 2 years of experience, I opened and co-owned a full-package garment manufacturing company, that ran for 4 years. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, so I was more than elated to tackle new ventures. Along the way, I’ve been blessed with many other amazing opportunities to be mentored by extremely accomplished and wealthy people. I listened, observed, and performed my best to grow within every organization I was a part of. However in April 2020, I ended my fashion career, sitting as a Director of Product Development and Production.
You’re probably wondering why I would walk away from the fashion world…probably wondering why I would work so hard to just let it all go to waste. Well to me, none of it went to waste. In fact, every day that I’m on my new career path, I reference the business skills that I mastered from fashion. One area of expertise that has immensely helped me with my new catering business is costing and margin analysis. So you see, I’ve taken my bread & butter to apply elsewhere. The product was once clothing, but now its food. But why food?
Since I was a little girl, I loved nothing more than being in the kitchen with my mom and grandma. Even though they always shoo’d me away, I stood watching from the edge of the dining table. When I was 13, I made myself the unofficial head chef of all family gatherings. When I was 24, I started selling baked goods to friends and co-workers. I would always hear, “Felisha, your food is so yummy, you should sell it!”. So one night I had an epiphany – I thought to myself, “You know what? Why not? I’m going to drop $2k to signup as a vendor for this food festival, and it’s going to happen!”. Fast forward 2 years later, and here I am running a pop-up/catering business.
So for me, the thought process behind starting my own business was never clear cut. My business ventures have always come from places of passion, deep within myself. If you ask me now, I feel very much in the right place. But if you ask me 5-7 years from now, who knows? I don’t…Maybe by then I’ll have moved on to something even greater. What I do know though, is that I would’ve never become a business owner if I didn’t take major yet calculated risks. I have to always be fully invested, and willing to work overtime while everyone else rests. I have a young daughter who depends on me, and she is the driving force behind why I want to keep pushing forward. I no longer feel like I belong on a road where the traffic signs are directing me where to go. I just feel like I’m on my own road now, and I’m going where ever I want to go.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Aria Cafe was concepted as a pop-up restaurant intended for food festival/event settings. I started the business while I was still working in fashion, and meant for it to just be a side gig on weekends. With the coming of COVID, I felt like it was my chance to pick a path. Even though I knew nothing about the food industry, I easily transitioned to my new work because I was emotionally prepared to do so. I was excited, positive, and open. Law of attraction explains how you can reach your desired outcome, if you whole-heartedly invite it in. That’s what I kept thinking when we first started – that I wanted this new business to work.
I did tons of research, and picked things up along the way. And I’m still learning everyday about how to better run the different areas of our entire operation. Because COVID made large gatherings/events obsolete, we had to adapt our company to a new setting. Catering is now a huge part of our business, and provides a different level of control. We now have new channels of networking, and are able to showcase the different food styles & services we can offer. Food choices for festivals/events are more specific and limited, whereas catering allows variety. It’s been very fun being able to work with different clients and curating special menus for them.
I cant exactly say what sets us apart from others, but I can say that our food is soul-curing. We cook with so much love, and our clients often tell us that they can taste the care that went into the dishes. We personally cook orders ourselves, and after every service, we honestly anticipate whether our clients loved it or not. That is probably one of the things that I’m most proud of about our business. It’s very personal for us.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The next time my best friend comes to visit, I’m hoping we’ll have enough time to do the following:
Eat dimsum in Monterey Park, kbbq at Baekjong in Torrance, tacos at El Ruso in LA, everything at Nep Cafe in Fountain Valley
Take a day trip to San Diego to snorkel in La Jolla
BBQ at the house with all of our friends/family
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to dedicate my shoutout to my business partner/bestfriend/sweetheart Thany. He’s been 1000% a part of my growth the last 4 years, and is the person who pushes and inspires me the most. He’s helped me realize my potentials in life that I wouldn’t have dared to consider before. Without his counsel, I don’t think I would’ve leaped as far so quickly. Where ever I fall short, he helps me get ahead. My success now is equally shared with him.