Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Tom Wen, Owner of The Social Blend, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is called The Social Blend. We serve specialty coffee as well as Asian fusion desserts, with our Korean-style macarons being our most popular and recognized dessert. For our coffee side of the business, our customers are those who live within the Yonge/Eglinton community. For our dessert side of the business, a majority of our customer base are foodies or people seeking a "less sweet" dessert.
Tell us about yourself
I come from a corporate background, specifically within the banking industry. I have worked as a Project Manager at some of the major banks such as BMO, Scotia, HSBC, and Wells Fargo. My latest role was at BMO, working on their merger/acquisition project with a US bank. Since the inception of the business in 2019, I have been working on both my career as well as the business. I originally started this business as a specialty coffee shop alongside my childhood friend and roommate. I always had dreamt of opening my own cafe, as growing up, I have always visited many bubble tea shops or cafes to hang out with my friends, which made me feel that cafes were a second home for me.
There are a few things that motivate me to do what I do each day. Primarily, it has been my parents. My parents immigrated to Canada from China when I was only 8 in an attempt to give me the opportunity for a better future as well as a healthier living environment due to my asthma. I want to work hard and make something of myself to showcase that the sacrifices my parents made were worth it. Second, coming from a corporate environment where it is hard to highlight your success or constantly be pinned as a scapegoat for certain downfalls. I wanted to be able to see the direct impact of each of my choices rather than it becoming lost in translation.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I think the biggest accomplishment as a business owner is to build The Social Blend to where it is without ever working at a cafe prior nor having a family history of business owners, or being well connected or well funded. I simply just relied on my judgement of what kind of experience I would like as a customer of my own business. This has been a core factor in how The Social Blend was able to pivot and survive the Covid pandemic.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
I think one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner is attempting to find an answer to a problem or situation in which there is no direct answer or someone whom you can ask. A great example would be, "How do you survive a lockdown while also not advertising customers to travel to your business during a very sensitive time?" It is a constant trial and error with very little opportunity for mistakes.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Put yourself in the shoe of your own customer.
- Running a business is not easy. It is a constant test of your determination and resilience.
- Focus on your business and yourself, and don't always get distracted by what others are doing and if your business is different from others.
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.
Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.