Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Andrea Mizer, Operations and Catering Manager of Buddha Bruddah LLC., located in Kirkland, WA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Our business is an Asian Fusion concept with a food truck, three quick-service restaurants, and a catering department. Our customers are Seattle area foodies, residents, businesses, wedding couples, and their guests.
Tell us about yourself
I started working at age 10 with a paper route in my small hometown in Montana. I got my first restaurant job when I was 15 on the summer graveyard shift at the local truck stop along I-90. I learned to work hard early in my life and gained an appreciation for service workers at a young age. I worked in restaurants through high school, college, and after college. I stepped away from the service industry for about ten years, during which I entered the mortgage industry and worked my way up from Loan Processor to Director of Regional Operations. During this period, I also got engaged, married, battled stage 4 ovarian cancer, and experienced motherhood for the first time. My daughter was one year old, and I was at the top of my career when a company merger put me back into middle management, and I was subsequently laid off during a downsize. My husband, Mark, had been working on a side project for a couple of years, remodeling a food truck to start up a small business with his mom. When I was unexpectedly laid off, that food truck became my full-time job. We opened our food truck in December 2014, began catering weddings in the summer of 2015, opened our first restaurant in April 2018, and our 2nd and 3rd restaurants opened in Nov 2021 and April 2022. 2019 was our biggest year for catering, and we were fully booked going into 2020 with over 35 weddings on the books, and then COVID happened. We were lucky enough to pivot quickly, and while we closed our food truck service and dining room, we increased our delivery services and were able to stay open, keep our employees employed with their health insurance intact, and we felt really great being able to still serve our community. My motivation is ultimately two things. Our employees are like family to us, and it's important that they have a safe, secure workplace to contribute to each day. And the satisfaction of happy customers is a great reward. The look on the faces of a couple on their wedding day or the hungry concertgoer, the lunchtime regular, the family from down the street, or even the first timer...it feels great to provide a nourishing meal and know that we are more than just a meal for many, we become a memory.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment is overcoming diversity. In 2016 our son was born via a surrogate in India, and one month after our return, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. 2 young kids, a new cancer diagnosis, and being a small business owner where both my husband and I worked full time was a lot to face. But we made it through, and it made us that much stronger, that much braver. I believe that is why we survived COVID so well as a small business. My husband and I are conditioned as people to work hard and never give up. It is in our blood to fight, to rise up and think outside the box and keep going with our heads held high. We don't win every time, but every time we get back up.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
One of the hardest things there are many, but one of the hardest is knowing that at the end of the day, the success of the business falls on our shoulders. If something breaks, we have to fix it. If an employee is unhappy, we have to help find a resolution. If a customer is unhappy, we have to take the feedback and see if there is something we can do differently. If the power is out or a hood fan breaks or the truck engine needs repair, we have to figure out how to keep income coming in for the business and employees. We carry the weight of the success of our business every minute of every day.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- To start a business, do your market research and set your necessary goals and your big vision goals, and be prepared to work really hard.
- To run a business, build rapport with other business owners and know that there is enough business for everyone, understand that setbacks are just opportunities for growth, and stay true to your brand and vision.
- To grow a business, find and keep great employees who share your vision, and treat customers like a friend rather than a transaction, and they will become loyal repeat customers, don't fear change or adversity; just know that it is all part of the journey.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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