For entrepreneurs looking to get started in the food and beverage industry, the gap might feel impossibly wide between the desire to start a business and actually taking an order. But, the hardest part is taking the first step, especially in the restaurant industry.
That was the case for Andrés Ozzuna when they came to the United States from Argentina they had a dream of starting a business to sell the cookies and baked treats that they grew up with. But, in between that dream and the day they opened the doors to their café was a lot of hustle, resilience, and lessons learned.
Today, Andrés owns and runs Wooden Table Baking Company, an artisan baking company that specializes in high-quality, handmade Argentinian Alfajores cookies and truffles, with a café located in Oakland, California, an online store, and a wholesale business. Now, as a successful business owner, Andrés can look back at their journey and share the challenges they faced, the lessons they learned, and the tips they have for other entrepreneurs to take action toward starting a restaurant, café, or bar.
3 Tips from Andrés Ozzuna of Wooden Table Baking on how to start a food and beverage business:
- Start somewhere: “I started selling the Alfajores in coffee shops around San Francisco. I would drive around, you know, in my car and then go stop by a coffee shop. I didn’t have any money to start. So the thing that I could do is just to, you know, make them and then offer them. And that was how I was able to jump start things.”
- View every challenge as an opportunity for growth: “The most difficult experience is to build it the way you want and deal with the city with permits and things like that. This is a learning experience, but also it’s a constant growth, you have to grow with the crew that you have and [try] to make things better and better. Understand and learn from those challenges and keep going.”
- Engage your community from the start: “Be open to new experiences in my opinion, open to new experiences, new people, new taste, new everything. Get into that new business that is next to you and see how you can learn from them, they learn from you and they can do things together.”
Hi, and welcome to Tipped, a Square podcast. For entrepreneurs looking to get started in the food and beverage industry, the gap is wide between the desire to start a business and actually taking an order. The hardest part is taking the first step.
Andrés Ozzuna :I was working in an office and I got laid off. And then I was thinking that this is the opportunity for me to do what I really wanted to do for a long time.
That’s Andres Ozzuna, owner of Wooden Table Baking Company, an artisan baking company with a cafe business and retail business that specializes in high quality, handmade Argentinian Alfajores cookies and truffles located in Oakland, California. We spoke with Andres all about their passion for baked goods and what helped them take a leap of faith in starting their own business 10 years ago.
Andrés Ozzuna : Since I was 15, 16 years old, I wanted to have my own business. And for many other reasons, I wasn’t able to do it mostly because I didn’t have money. And then I moved to this country, so it was complicated, but that was the moment that I decided to do it. And that’s how I started. I would drive around in my car and then go stop by a coffee shop. And I was like, “Do you want to taste them?” And offer it to different coffee shops. I didn’t have any money to start. So the thing that I could do is just to make them and then offer them. And that was how I was able to jump start the thing.
I made the decision to open a retail space because first, I saw the opportunity. And second, it was the right moment when I had the money to open it. I saw this space in Oakland that I was driving by and looking at it for a long, long time. 10 years, I was looking at that space and thinking this is going to be a nice place eventually. And then when the place went out of business and that was available, I was like, this is mine. And I contact the landlord and I did everything that I had to do to get it.
Andres mentioned that the biggest tips they would give their former self about starting a business is to have a clear understanding about your challenges, but to always keep going.
Andrés Ozzuna : The most difficult experience is to build it the way you want and deal with the city with permits and things like that. Thst was a challenge. It was a learning experience, but also it’s a constant growth. You have to grow with the crew that you have and make things better and better. There is always challenges. Understand and learn from those challenges and keep going.
I mean, it’s very rewarding that I was able to do and accomplish what I wanted to do when I was very young, coming from nothing. We didn’t have anything. So I feel like I accomplish a lot by creating a business, giving jobs, seeing customer, having people try my cookies. So everybody that tastes what I make, I feel accomplished just by that. I feel accomplished that I created what I wanted to create the space. I’m an immigrant and LGBT. I’m a trans person. So all the crew are minorities in one way or another. And that’s something that I wanted to do and I am doing it. And I feel very accomplished about that.
Restaurants are often started as community institutions that find success through local support and remain focused on bringing up their communities with them. Growing relationships and gathering community members together is a huge part of the job that any business owner balances when maintaining their own business. It’s a critical part of success and acts as the heartbeat of the restaurant industry. For Andres, when starting their business, community was a priority.
Andrés Ozzuna : Community means to me gathering, right? So community is part of family, is part of everyday life of people. And to me, it’s for my family. And so in a way, since I am here without my family, I created that community here with the people who visit the coffee shop, the employees that work there, and the other businesses around me. We do a lot of collaborations that I am very proud of. The way of creating community with the florist that is a couple of blocks away, with the bar that is a block away. And so with the across the street neighbor also, all those businesses, we created a way that we connect with one another. And so that’s a whole big community of business owners, people who come in, and also crew that work at those businesses.
For business owners looking to become more involved in their local community, Andres mentions that it can be as easy as just reaching out.
Andrés Ozzuna : I think the most important thing is to be open to new experiences, open to new people, new tastes, new everything. To activate those relationships during the pandemic, a lot of businesses closed, but also a lot of businesses open. And so when they opened, for example, the florist opened a year ago or something, I was super excited because I was like, “Oh my God.” I mean, first, I love flowers and nd then second, we can do things together for Mother’s day, for Valentine’s day.
Of course, we compete for the customer. I just try to see, well, what can I do to share those customers? And so instead of I want that customer, I try to see how we can share it. And I think that thought made me a little bit happier than the thought of we are competing for the same customer and I want it. I think it’s mostly how I try to have a positive perspective of that situation.
We ask Square business owners to submit their most pressing questions for our guests. Today’s question comes from Drunken Whoopies, a bakery in San Diego, California. I’m just starting out and looking for tips on how to grow my business organically. And within my community, I would love to expand sales and really get the business off the ground. What advice, as an experienced business owner, would you give someone just starting out who’s looking for some help?
Andrés Ozzuna : To grow your business, you have to get into marketing and Square is a great thing to use to grow your business because you can create newsletters. And with newsletters through Square, every time someone makes a purchase, you have all that information there. And then you create a newsletter that you can send them once a week or every other week. And then that’s a very nice and an inexpensive way to grow your business because people know what’s going on and they can come to your place and get whatever you’re selling.
We asked Andres to pass on the best tips they’ve learned from their experience in the food and beverage industry.
Andrés Ozzuna : The advice I can give to other businesses is to have your marketing strategy very clear, very early in the business.
Thank you to Andres Ozzuna for their thoughts for today’s episode. Andres Ozzuna is the owner of Wooden Table Baking Company located in Oakland, California. Find them at woodentablebaking on Facebook and Instagram or at www.woodentablebaking.com to learn more. If you want to hear more like this, make sure to subscribe to Tipped on Apple podcast, Spotify, or your podcast app of choice. You’ve been listening to Tipped, a Square production. This episode was produced by Kaitlin Keefer and Clara Shannon. Our music was composed by Jordain Wallace with sound recording by Sorrentino Media and D.R. Baker. Thanks for listening.