Jamie Liu, Only Pans L.A.: I love making kimchi, but mail-order kimchi wouldn’t work—it could explode when you ship it, it gets weird and warm. So then I thought, How can I shift this into something that’s shelf-stable, that I can ship, because that seems to be what the market needs and wants right now. So I started to sell noodle kits. I want to make it easy for people to cook dishes they love at home. Now I’m selling six different sauces and a spice mix—you can add on noodles—that sell out within four hours of listing them on Instagram Stories. It’s exciting, but it’s also a sh*tshow. If you have an idea that you really strongly believe in, just keep pushing even when it seems like nothing’s going to work out. At the same time, be open and flexible enough to change.
Robin Beltran, The Black Vegan Company: The worst and best mistake I ever made was signing up to sell NBA tickets door-to-door. But I learned persistence, how to find a yes in a stream of nos, and how to find connections in the sales process. Now when I go into peoples’ houses to educate an entire family on vegan eating, including, say, an 85-year-old Black woman who has been cooking the same family recipes since 1944, it’s about respectful communication and finding that point of connection. If I ask her for a favorite recipe and she says fried chicken, I say, “Let me teach you about mushrooms and how they take on a meaty flavor, and how you can batter them in aquafaba and spices.” It’s a way of saying: ‘I see you, I hear you, I’m with you, I’ve got you.’ We have to set up a relationship that feels attainable, relevant, and guided.
Carlie Steiner, Seco Cocktails: One of the biggest mistakes I made when I launched Seco Cocktails, my online cocktail-making classes, was that I assumed that all my restaurant skills would automatically apply to this virtual world. Building experiences has always been my number one thing, making sure that when you leave my restaurant, you’re going to be like, “That was the dopest experience I’ve ever had.” And that’s what I wanted in these classes. But I needed to get a whole new skill set: reading a Zoom room, setting up my station, positioning the camera and lights, making sure to look into the camera. I needed to come up with a whole new set of rules that genuinely could not be Googled. Like telling people to keep their mics on so I could hear when they laughed at my jokes.