We had the good fortune of connecting with Michelle Chu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michelle, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I think I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart and just didn’t open myself up to pursue this passion until recently. After I adopted my pit mix, Kono, I dove headfirst into the life of a dog mom, and it eventually led to me starting Kono’s Kitchen, a freeze-dried raw dog treats brand. When I first explored different ideas to pursue, I thought about different dog-related businesses. At the same time, I was also exploring a raw diet for Kono, and the two pursuits clicked for me. I wanted to change the way people fed their dogs, starting with raw treats that could be used to top their dogs’ current meals. Once I decided on what my business would be, it took almost a year of preparation before I actually launched it. There were many late nights of Googling as I learned about supply chain management, and Kono kept me company every step of the way. I like to say this company is Kono’s legacy. Not bad for a former street dog from Pomona, CA!
What should our readers know about your business?
About a year ago, I was exploring a raw diet for my dog, Kono, and it was overwhelming in every which way. I started thinking about the community of dog moms I’d connected with on Instagram who were also interested in feeding raw but didn’t know where to start. So I set out to change the way people feed their dogs, starting with freeze-dried raw dog treats. With freeze-dried treats, dogs get the nutrition from the proteins that they would if the meat was raw, but without the mess. I want to empower dog parents to help their dogs eat healthy and live longer lives. Eat Healthy is the first part of my mission. The second part of my mission is giving back to rescue pups. Dog adoption has always been super important to me, so it was a no-brainer that from the moment I launched Kono’s Kitchen, we would give back 10% of all profits to the medical costs of a featured dog-in-need each month. We’re currently partnering with Wags & Walks, a dog rescue based on the Westside, and their sister rescue, Wags & Walks Nashville. For me, transparency with where the money goes was important, so rather than just donating proceeds to a charity, I wanted people to see the face of the dog they would be helping when they bought Kono’s Kitchen dog treats. Give Healthy is the second part of my mission. Eat Healthy. Give Healthy.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
One of my favorite things about LA is the variety of cuisines. I’m a huge foodie and I could talk about food for hours! If you were an out-of-town friend visiting me, I would start your visit with a morning drive to Found Coffee in Eagle Rock (founded by my good friend, Annie Choi) for an iced oat milk latte and breakfast from one of their rotating local pop-ups. Afterwards, we’d head over to Griffith Park with Kono for a hike on one of their many trails, and spend some time sitting leisurely on the grass outside the Observatory. Then we’d head downtown to the Grand Central Market for the Sample Platter from La Tostadería and the broccolini from Belcampo Meat Co. And honestly, we’d probably get the Khao Soi noodle soup from Sticky Rice and the Chicken and Buttermilk Waffle with Habanero Honey from Lucky Bird, too. We’d need to walk around downtown to walk off the meal, and with food coma settling in, we’d go across the street from Grand Central Market to Blue Bottle and get some more caffeine to fuel our wanderings. The Last Bookstore downtown is one of my favorite places to spend an afternoon, and we’d most likely leave with 2-3 books each. Since we ate an early lunch, it’d basically be dinnertime at this point. We want to be early to wait in line at KazuNori anyway for their hand rolls (the scallop hand roll is my absolute favorite). After dinner, we’d walk over to Perch for the best bread pudding I’ve had so far in LA, while we listened to live music from their rooftop patio. We’d stop off at Highland Park Brewery in Chinatown for the Black Garlic Stout (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!), and end the night with a 10pm walk-in meal at Bestia for none other than the roasted marrow bone over spinach gnocchetti. And that’s just day one of your visit.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would not be here (mentally, financially, even physically) if it weren’t for my mom. She moved to the States from Hong Kong when she was in her teens, put herself through college and grad school, and built a career as a psychotherapist while single-handedly raising two daughters. While she didn’t hand my sister and I success, she absolutely set us up for it. After being attacked by a pack of dogs in Hong Kong, my mom developed a phobia of all dogs, even chihuahuas—but she’s one of the bravest people I know. One of my proudest moments was when she came with me to meet Kono, a pit bull mix, and she got down to let him lick her face. Now she’s embraced her role as Grandma to her “grand-pups” (Kono & his cousin Kodi, my sister’s dog), and provides so much support to me by watching him so I can take a day off to run errands. I think my mom would prefer if I took an actual day off, but I can’t help it if I’m a natural multitasker. I’m dedicating my shoutout to my mom because she’s always believed in me and I know she’ll continue to be my biggest supporter as Kono’s Kitchen grows.