We had the good fortune of connecting with Joi Stearns and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Joi, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I am not afraid of taking risks—it has been crucial to the success of JOi Cafe. I think some people are so afraid of failure that they never get started. I have hang ups but fear of failure is not one of them. I take a lot of risks, which means I make mistakes and sometimes I fail but, more often than not, I succeed. Even more important is that I am learning along the way. “Failure” is nothing more than an opportunity to learn. My risk taking, successes and failures are teaching me to be a better person & business owner, to be wiser and more discerning. Without the risks I have taken in my life both personally and professionally, I would never have experienced all the success I have now. Without taking risks, I would have stayed small, what a waste that would have been. —
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
JOi Café is a 100% plant-based and gluten-free cafe with Coffee by JOi which is a premium plant based organic coffee house. What I am most proud of is that we have built a huge customer base of non vegans because the food, the coffee and the energy is that good. With our outstanding food, coffee and service we have been able to show our community what plant-based food can be, opening many eyes to the benefits of a vegan lifestyle, for the animals, the environment and for everyones health. Owning and running a restaurant has been the most challenging thing I have ever experienced. Working daily with the public, being open to criticism, curbing my ego, showing up day after day, building relationships with employees and customers exposed so much about my personalty that needed work. Honestly, in the first year I wanted to give up many times. Going all in with my money, hopes and dreams, and with a partner who was counting on me forced me to understand failure was not an option. In the beginning, the challenges were so overwhelming I was stressed and exhausted all of the time, but over time I came to understand there were always going to be problems and those problems were not the issue, my resistance to those problems was the issue. I had to become a problem solver, to welcome the problems and their solutions. Once I understood the problems were actually teaching me how to be a better person, a stronger woman and a business owner I stopped reacting and welcomed the day to day operations of a restaurant. I am no longer afraid of problems, I just solve them, learn and move on. Owning & operating JOi Café has changed my life, I have grown up so much from this experience. I love being an example of a strong business woman. Our employees respect my work ethic and kindness, both traits I have cultivated while running my business. JOi Café is more than just a cafe. There is a feeling here, a connection with our employees and community that can be felt in the food. We truly care about our employees and do all we can to make the experience of working at JOi one that leaves each person better off. We could probably pay people less, put less effort into our staff and just be the “owners”, but being involved, showing up everyday, and really caring makes me sleep really well at night. I am very proud of what we have built. During Covid we had no idea what would happen, it was such a scary time and to think we could lose all we had worked so hard for. I was so blown away to see our community show up for us during this crisis as we did for them. Old employees reached out to see what they could do, guests vowed to eat at JOi everyday until this crisis was over and they did! This crisis showed me that the blood sweat and tears of the past 6 years had impacted more people that I ever realized, our little cafe is a big part of thousands of peoples lives. We have not closed our doors one day, we are serving our community, taking care of our employees and taking each problem with an attitude of gratefulness.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
First I would take my friend to Zuma beach for sunset picnic, with JOi Café food of course! Day 2 we would have to hit Donut Friend, Yoga-urt, and Pura Vita Pizzeria. Day 3 Santa Barbara for stand up paddle boarding and Mesa Verde for dinner. Everything is about food for me, I seriously plan everything around what and where we are eating. Day 4 would be coffee at Coffee by Joi with cinnamon rolls from our friends at SunOven and a long hike on the Back Bone Trail in the Santa Monica mountains. Day 5 would have to be Venice Beach for the day, its a must see, and maybe dinner from one of our food truck friends like Plant Food for People.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am so fortunate to have an amazing partner in JOi Café. Nic Johanson is my partner, my best friend and just the best person I have ever known. Honestly, without him, JOi Café would have never happened nor become what it has today.