Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food services but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mori Willhite, Owner-Instructor of Katsumi's Teaching Kitchen, located in Indianapolis, IN, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Katsumi's Teaching Kitchen teaches clients how to make 'authentic' Japanese food. My clients tend to usually be women, 18 to 45 years of age, predominantly white, college-educated Bachelors and higher, have a keen interest in the Japanese culture, and love to cook! As an extra bonus, I have added Japanese chopstick lessons and table manners to every course. My ULTIMATE goal is to make everyone a proper Japanese food snob that would demand and raise the Japanese food standard in Indiana.
Tell us about yourself
I run a Japanese Cooking School called "Katsumi's Teaching Kitchen" in Beech Grove, Indiana. I have been teaching Japanese cooking for the past seven years and roughly 18 months in Beech Grove. My mother was Japanese, and my father was from American Samoa. My parents met in Japan, but my sister and I were mostly raised in the US. Of course, we are Americans, but my mother went out of her way to make sure that her children were perfectly bilingual and bicultural in Japanese. Simply put, I lead a double life.
Since I LOVE Japanese food, I always knew how to cook it thanks to my Japanese Grandmother and mom. I actually had no intentions of doing a Japanese cooking school; it just came out due to a series of events. I am a Japanese language teacher and taught at a local middle school and briefly at IUPUI.
Why should you take my class? I will make sure that you will have the confidence to make REAL Japanese food in your own kitchen. My class is set at Japanese standards for non-Asian people. At the very least, you will obtain a high knowledge of consumer awareness in regard to Japanese food; since I am more an educator than a cook, my classes tend to be very history-based and have a lot of Japanese cultural explanations.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Well, I have had a lot of local and national level exposure on the media which is very nice (aka HGTV). However, I am more a teacher at heart than an entertainer. It really makes me proud when I see the satisfaction on clients' faces when they've made that very decent Ramen Noodle or California Roll with so much pride and satisfaction. It is great to see on almost ALL my client's faces. It never gets old.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
My problem is more in dealing with taxes and compliances and trying to figure out the perfect marketing techniques. I find it to be a nightmare.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Marketing, especially computer skills. Expect to get into and spend a lot of time on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube.
- Customer Service: this should be at a premium. Remember, they can always go somewhere else.
- Know the product, craft, or whatever services that you are providing. Be an expert in your field.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Although I didn't plan to run a Japanese cooking school, I have no regrets. It evolved to it, and I ran with it. Be brave, try things out, and keep moving. If it fails, pick yourself up and move on to the next situation. I can honestly say that I plan to work until I die. There will be no retirement for me. I just love doing this job so much!
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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