Amber: This is BusinessMakers USA, brought to you by Insperity, inspiring business performance and as you see here my guest is Hannah Sim-Phan of Hannah’s Coffee & Sweets here in San Jose, California. Welcome to the show.
Hannah: Thank you.
Amber: And you’ve also brought us a bounty of things to try after so let’s get through this quickly Hannah.
Amber: I do want to know your story but then I want to taste it too.
Hannah: No problem, no problem.
Amber: So tell us about Hannah’s Coffee & Sweets.
Hannah: It’s a local coffee shop that happens to have baked goods and that’s my background, I love to bake. And then on top of that we serve sandwiches and one of the special things about our sandwiches is it comes with a mini red velvet cupcake for all the sandwiches you get there and so people love that. But it’s pretty much like a local coffee shop and I cater to the neighborhoods that are around, the Alameda and Rose Garden.
Amber: So it’s like a neighborhood joint; you just pop in, get some coffee, and get something sweet, maybe grab lunch.
Hannah: Yes and we bake everything onsite at the shop.
Amber: And how long has it been around Hannah?
Hannah: We are on our tenth year.
Hannah: Thank you.
Amber: That’s a big milestone.
Hannah: Oh yeah, it went by really quick.
Amber: And how did you get to this point?
Hannah: Well I opened the shop when I was 25. It pretty much started off me loving baking, but I love to cook; I love to cook. So I went to culinary school in San Francisco and it was not what I expected. It was hot in the kitchen and it was going way too fast and I was like this is not what I saw on Martha Stewart cooking. Pretty much every time when we’re doing group projects – literally in our class the ratio was 10 to 1 male to female so every time when we were doing projects they always pushed me to the baking part because none of the guys wanted to do it. So I ended up loving baking instead of cooking. And so for my internship I signed up for a baking program at the hotel and then after that I applied myself to Sugar Butter Flour Bakery.
Amber: Famous bakery.
Hannah: Yeah in Sunnyvale, and the also have one in Campbell, and I worked there for about 3 years and then I left thinking that I wanted to go and work on a cruise. Tried that for a little bit and then my dad gave me an idea of opening up my own place. I was like oh it’s too early, I’m not quite there yet, but he kept saying well if you mess up you’re young, it’s fine.
Amber: You can start over.
Hannah: You can start over. I said okay so I just opened up this place. It had no foot traffic, not really established businesses next door to me; it was just the neighborhood, the residents who lived in that building.
Amber: So how did you build your business with the lack of foot traffic and exposure?
Hannah: It was all word of mouth. I still don’t really do marketing or pay for marketing at all, everything is word of mouth. I first started off by having like only 10 customers.
Amber: Where do they come from do you think?
Hannah: They just walk – they’re just the people walking around the neighborhood. And then the babysitters all starte3d to stroll along with the babies and I gave them free cookies to the kids. And then during the weekends the kids, when they’re walking with their parents, are like I want to go inside Hannah’s.
Amber: That is a stealth marketing technique.
Hannah: I know. And then their parents started coming in for coffee in the morning before they went to work. And then it just started to become a chain reaction, and they asked me to do cupcakes for their birthdays. And then their friends started asking where’d you get these cupcakes and cakes and it grew really fast.
Amber: Yeah it sounds like it. So what’s your favorite thing about what you do?
Hannah: Meeting new people and seeing the kids that used to come in with their strollers and now they’re coming in asking for hot chocolate with whipped cream.
Amber: Very sophisticated of them.
Hannah: I know and I’m like okay. And their parents are like no whipped cream and then the kids are like I’ll be fine. I’m like oh my gosh, what did I do?
Amber: So you’ve almost become part of the family.
Hannah: And they always give me those Christmas cards and I always put it up and then they come in and they’re like oh my gosh, that’s us right there. And so it’s really nice to see people grow. I never stayed in a school for more than like 3 or 4 years because we were always moving and so to be somewhere about 10 years and feeling like a community, it makes me feel that I belong.
Amber: So Hannah thank you for joining us today on BusinessMakers USA.
Hannah: Yes, cheers!
Amber: And we’re really enjoying our time in San Jose.
Hannah: Thank you.
Amber: Once again BusinessMakers USA, thank you for watching. I’m going to eat a cupcake, have a great day. Cheers Hannah!
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