Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Orly Gottesman, Owner of Blends by Orly and Modern Bread and Bagel, located in New York, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I own Modern Bread and Bagel restaurant and Blends by Orly gluten-free flour. Through my training at Le Cordon Bleu in Sydney, I learned that different gluten-free flours needed to be created for baking different foods. Without gluten, not only does flavor diminish, but so does texture. I created 4 different unique Blends of flour that work perfectly as a replacement for a cup of flour in any recipe (taking the guesswork out of gluten-free product development). The Blends are vegan, nut-free, gluten-free, soy-free, kosher(OU), and non-GMO.
Modern Bread and Bagel is a 100% dedicated gluten-free and Kosher restaurant and bakery. All of our bread and pastries are made with Blends by Orly. House smoked salmon, as well as a variety of unique cream cheeses and dips, complement our kettle-boiled Ancient Grain Bagels. Our all-day menu features creative breakfast sandwiches served on our famous NYC bagels, artisanal salads, and hearty bowls. Our bread includes Focaccia, a Rustic Bread Loaf, and a Seeded Multigrain that can be topped with smashed avo, organic eggs, homemade hummus, and more. Our baristas craft a variety of tea lattes and espresso drinks with coffee from Australian-style Grumpy Roasters in Brooklyn. Our pastries are made on-site and serve as the foundation for yummy dine-in dishes like our Cinnamon Babka French Toast.
Tell us about yourself
I was driven to develop a gluten-free baking product that didn't compromise on taste because of my food-centric husband living with celiac disease. I am originally from New Jersey and a graduate of NYU. My husband and I lived in Paris when I took an apprenticeship at a Parisian pastry shop. The initial motivation was hoping to learn some of the classics so I could re-create them for my husband minus the gluten. But it was there I discovered my passion for baking, and I went on to receive my formal patisserie training from the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute in Sydney, Australia. I pursued an independent study on gluten-free baking. I worked closely with the school's head pastry chef to figure out how different flour blends work for different products. After several years of research, I was able to decipher how to create delicious tasting baked goods, bread, and pastries using ancient grains rather than traditional flour. I created a line of specialty gluten-free flour blends called Blends By Orly.
After living and traveling all around the world, I moved back to my hometown in NJ and opened Modern Bread & Bagel in NYC. Owning a restaurant is a true labor of love, with many challenges and also many rewarding moments. We are the only 100% dedicated gluten-free bakery and restaurant with hand-rolled and kettle-boiled bagels. Customers come to us from all over the country (and even the world) to try our bagels. Knowing the impact that we are having on so many people's daily lives is what sets us apart and keeps me motivated.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
- Navigating, surviving, and even thriving during the pandemic is my biggest accomplishment as a business owner. Particularly during the pandemic, owning a restaurant in NYC was extremely challenging. But despite the mass exodus from NYC, our customers still relied so much on our gluten-free bagels that they demanded we start shipping out of state. Now, 30% of our business is nationwide shipping. Before the pandemic, we had dine-in waiter service. When indoor dining was shut down, so many restaurants in NYC closed. We pivoted to take out and delivery model, which ultimately proved to be more successful for our concept. We maintained the fast-causal dining model even when indoor dining opened back up. We just opened our second Modern Bread and Bagel location in Chelsea and are opening our third location in LA next month.
- Our bagels have been named among the best in the city by no less an authority than Mike Varley, an intrepid New Yorker who recently published the results of a massive bagel tasting project, Everything Is Everything. After sampling and reviewing bagels from 202 shops during epic treks through the five boroughs, Varley placed Modern Bread & Bagel in a tie for third place for all of New York and ranked it the second-best bagel within the borough of Manhattan.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I don't get to take a vacation. I have to be on pretty much 24/7. I have three children, two of whom were born after I opened the restaurant. I was working from my phone while I was in labor and did not get to take any maternity leave. It is difficult to juggle being a mom of three children and being a business owner. I often feel like I am spread too thin because I can't focus 100% of my attention on either role.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Make sure you are well capitalized because you will probably run out of money at some point and need backup resources.
- If you are not well capitalized, crawl before you can walk. Test out the product in the market to see if it has legs before you invest tons of time and money into something that may not work.
- There will be plenty of unforeseeable ups and downs. You have to accept that there will be some tough times when you feel like throwing in the towel. But there will also be high moments where you realize what you are doing is very rewarding and makes a difference for many of your customers. I do enjoy working for myself and having a certain level of flexibility. There are times that I get really jaded and discouraged. This is a hard business. But then you hear from people that this product is changing their lives. They are so appreciative.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Everyone wants to do something in their lives that is meaningful. The series of events that happened in my life, from meeting Josh to his celiac diagnosis to our travels around the world, culminating in this moment.
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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