We had the good fortune of connecting with Kathy Ly and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kathy, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
After a few years of working in finance, I left The Walt Disney Company in 2018 to forge my own path and pursue entrepreneurship. My goal was to combine food with art to create a meaningful experience that everyone can relate to, this led me to build Donut Life Museum. Donut Life Museum is an immersive, interactive pop-up experience where we have partnered with local artists to create donut-themed rooms for our guests to take Instagram-worthy photos and make sweet memories. I have a passion for donuts because, in my eyes, this sweet treat reminded me of the circle of life so I took some of life’s most significant moments and told it through a creative world of donuts. I used the word “donut” in various messages/puns to inspire guests, allow them to make sweet memories with their loved ones, and remind them that life is limitless once they enter our doors. As a female-led organization, we are passionate about women entrepreneurship and we hope that young girls visiting our museum will feel inspired by what we are able to create.
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?
Donut Life Museum is a creative space where guests of all ages can have memorable, joyful experiences that can be captured through the lens of a camera and more. Guests can enter an exhibit that illustrates some of life’s most significant moments told through the creative world of donuts and embark on an exciting journey through life. We encourage our guests to be a part of the art, get motivated through donut puns and art installations while leaving with a feeling inspired to do/be anything in life. It’s a place for everyone to connect, spend quality time and make memories. An element that sets us apart from other pop-up experiences is that we tell a story in a unique way through the use of using donuts and we are also a creative venue for content creators (influencers, TikTokers, YouTubers, etc.), artists, escape room enthusiasts, families, photographers, students, and much more to come together. We also offer DIY classes such as paint nights, balloon classes, donut-making classes, and donut social nights where we invite other entrepreneurs to share their stories. At Donut Life Museum, guests can have all the pleasure of a donut, without the guilt. As ironic as it may sound, this journey to opening our donut museum has been anything but sweet. Donut Life Museum was supposed to be opened on June 7th, 2019 which was National Donut Day. Unfortunately, it went through a brutal permitting process which forced us to pack up and move to 3 different locations. We spent countless hours going through revisions and getting the city to understand the novel concept. Upon moving to a new city in 2020 and finally getting approved we were forced to delay our grand opening due to COVID-19. At this point, it seemed impossible for us to open and we thought this pandemic would lead us to bankruptcy along with not getting a chance to show the world our creation. Opening this experience during a pandemic was challenging as we were forced to close the business intermittently. We pivoted our business model to private bookings and expanded our retail presence. When we reopened, we partnered up with local businesses to bring back safe, socially distanced events and opened the space as a unique place for content creators. Located inside a traditional mall, we are bringing life back to the center by attracting thousands of guests as we provide safe entertainment in creative ways. Having persistence, believing in your concept, and being innovative during unprecedented times is a key takeaway that I learned from creating Donut Life Museum. Many people thought that I was crazy when I left my secure corporate job to create a business they thought was so ludicrous. However, some ideas that seem absurd actually make the best businesses. At one point, this project was so difficult that everyone was telling me to cut my losses and quit, and for a second I almost believed it was the only solution. However, when you believe in your concept and remain persistent you can work through anything. I am proud that we survived the pandemic and have brought smiles to thousands of guests that have passed through our doors. I want the world to know that perseverance and resilience are core values of mine. I believe that life is limitless and dreams do come to fruition if you set your mind to it. Donut Life Museum is an example of that and I hope when guests pass through our doors that they walk out with a feeling to create and pursue their dreams.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If my best friend were to visit, one of the first places I would take them to would be Laguna Beach and visit 1000 steps beach. It’s of one my favorite hidden gems in OC, and I love getting the exercise to walk down the steps to get to the beach. We would then go to South Coast Plaza to eat at one of my favorite restaurants, Din Tai Fung. I can eat there every day and never get sick of it. We would also stop by Irvine to visit Hui Lau Shan for their mango desserts and drinks. I am obsessed with their mango mochi balls. Last, we would visit my favorite mochi donut place in Orange called Friendly Donuts. They have flavors that change monthly and their dough is perfect. I have eaten many donuts but they are one of my favorites. 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 would like to dedicate this to my family especially my father. My family immigrated from Vietnam to the United States shortly after the end of the Vietnam War. I grew up seeing how hard they worked to provide a life for my siblings and me, so I always wanted to build something great in order to give back. My family inspired me to start my own business. It wasn’t until my father passed away from cancer in 2015 that I really sought after my dreams. I recognized that life is short and when we are young we have more time to take risks, fail, and get back up again.
Kevin Le Vu, Mommy Mouse Wears Manolos