We had the good fortune of connecting with Zoila Navales and Sara Aleman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Zoila and Sara, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The awesome thing about success is that it is such a subjective concept, and can be a powerful motivator. Of course, there are several factors that fuel us towards our goals, but as for the most important factor… We would say it has to be our persistence. Often, we have found ourselves in a position where our plans didn’t go to plan, our new product idea wasn’t as great once executed, or we try for something and the answer comes back as a “no”. All of these scenarios are so common for the beginnings for a new small business. In those times, my partner and I remember to take the hurdles as a lesson learned, we reassess, we adapt, and most importantly, we try again. Without constant persistence, we would not have gotten to where we are today, and where we plan to continue to go in the future.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
My partner and I are both women of color, who come from 2 very different and incredibly stressful backgrounds. Despite our differences, we both knew we wanted to do something more. We both agree, “If we can hustle this hard for someone else, well then, we DAMN sure can hustle this hard, if not harder for ourselves.” …And so we did! A lot of people are driven to the romanticized idea of being an entrepreneur, and why not? It’s exciting and alluring; financial freedom, you are your own boss, you do what you love. Which are all incredible and true, HOWEVER, many fail to see/realize it requires long nights, 100% personal risks, missed birthdays and holidays, and it is a 24 hour, 7 days a week commitment. My partner and I do not have a formal business education, but what we do have is first-hand experience, living and learning from the real thing. Some may even say, being a self-made entrepreneur is our MBA. Looking back at how we started 7 years ago with $300 in our apartment, we realize we are living the “American Dream”. It is amazing, far from easy, but a beautiful story. We could never have achieved our goals and success without persistence and the ability to adapt. One of the hardest parts of starting your own small business is actually starting the business, the second is keeping your mental health strong. Know and expect things will not always go right, learn from it, know there will be times you will question why you started, be prepared to answer those questions to yourself. You will be tired, you will hit bumps, but you will also get up again… but only if you want to. This is what we want to share with the world. These are the conversations we love having with our friends who are just starting out, or who have been up in business for a while. Welcome the growing pains and remember it is a necessary part, in order for you and your business to flourish. Our brand, Drunken Cake Pops, represents us and is a single example of just 1 business that decided to take that leap and go for it; and if we can pass anything on to the readers, may it be this… go for it, the time you are waiting for is now!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh man, having recently moved out of LA, but still in LA County, to buy our first house, we MISS the city. LA is such a beautiful place that has refound its soul and groove again. With the surge in new food spots, bars, and markets, it is hard to choose, but here are our favorites. Always a first stop, COFFEE! Our favorites are Maru Coffee in DTLA and the new spot that doubles as a tattoo parlor, Super Sweet Tattoo and Coffee in Echo Park. A quick stop at Mr. Holmes in Highland Park to get your sweets and pastry fill will kickstart your morning for sure. Then, to burn off the morning energy, take a quick hike to Hollywood Reservoir, which is SO much less crowded than Runyon Canyon. A quick rinse and a wardrobe change, and we hit the town again for some drinks at Golden Road in Glendale for a good patio, Broken Shaker in DTLA for a cute intimate rooftop cocktail, or Mohawk Bend for stiff drinks and good grub. Depending on the area, a stroll in the Arts District, Chinatown, or DTLA is always fun to take in an “Urban Hike”. Then of course, more food again at Grand Central Market, Coffee Break at Don Francisco, the Cuban Coffee spot in DTLA, and more bars! We would round the day at Chicas Tacos in DTLA or Chueys in the Arts District while we wait for the Distillery Tour at Lost Spirits. And finally, if we are still standing hang out at one of our favorite bars in DTLA: Here And Now Bar, Golden Gopher, or Red Herring. Then call up an uber and find a way home!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Drunken Cake Pops would have never been able to come as far as we have or accomplished as much as we have without the help and support of many of our friends and family. From the beginning, we always welcomed the support and opportunities that came our way, and the ones we found ourselves. The list of these guys would be a long one, and they do all know who they are, but we do want to take this opportunity to give a huge Thank You and “Shoutout” to our buddy Shahira, from Dirty Cookie. Through the years, she has become an unplanned mentor and dear friend of ours. Almost like a Fairy Godmother, Shahira would “appear” and connect with us at the times we would need guidance or words of encouragement. As a small business owner, she knows the obstacles that face us, and as a woman of color herself, she is one of the pioneers in this game that we strive to be a successful part of. So cheers to you our friend, THANK YOU!
Photos by Bane Scott, Instragram handle: @mrbanescott