Chef Nicole Ponseca shares her experience as an AAPI business owner in the restaurant industry

As a restaurateur, best-selling cookbook author and James Beard finalist, Chef Nicole Ponseca has become known as a pioneer of Filipino cuisine in the United States through her critically acclaimed restaurants, Maharlika and Jeepney. , At New York. She was among the 1.3% of women-owned businesses that surpassed the multi-million mark in revenue. Chef Ponseca now operates a pop-up version of her Jeepney restaurant in Wynwood, Miami.

Q: Tell us a bit about your beginnings and the main obstacles you had to overcome.

My career has not been a straight line. On the contrary, it has been a long, windy and winding road filled with ups and downs. These lows were unbearable at times as they tested your will and intention, but they also have an unparalleled ability to propel you much further and into an intense spurt of personal growth. If you can ride out the lows knowing full well that it “will pass too”, you can set yourself up for an unfathomable high.

There are countless lows in life. Ill health, livelihood, mental health, death, drama and personal safety are just a few of the ways life can trip us up. We control some of them and others are completely out of our control; Whatever their origin story, the weight carried can bury us. For me, my lows were considerable: a tumultuous childhood, domestic violence. That alone was a heavy burden to deal with and persevere with.

In my career, there are two acts. The first act includes college, graduating from college, moving to New York, creating a career path, and eventually leaving corporate America and starting my life as a entrepreneur. Every step of my first act was a journey of curiosity, stumbling, learning, path-making, and application. The lows involved insecurity, limited resources, workplace harassment and a lack of advocacy.

I started my career as an entrepreneur by standing up for myself: assessing what I know and what I didn’t know, researching meaningful questions to ask myself and potential mentors, learning my trade through a second job, relentless readings, knowledge applications and eventually starting what is now commonly referred to as a pop-up. While self-confidence might be the hardest hurdle for many to overcome, mine was getting funding and building a team with nothing.

Creating a team with nothing but a dream meant forging relationships and keeping promises, acknowledging mistakes and communicating a vision. Funding is still a barrier in some ways because venture capital and funding is not targeted at entrepreneurs like me. This is changing, of course, and I am recreating my career and my paths to funding in the second stage of my professional life.

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Q: What kind of impact do you want to have as an entrepreneur?

I believe I have already left an indelible mark on various intersections. As a woman, Filipina, restaurateur and author, my influence as an entrepreneur has reverberated around the world. This impact has encouraged others to pursue their dreams, express themselves, commit to a dream and begin their journey as an entrepreneur or enterprising person in business.

Q. What are the unique challenges of being an AAPI business owner or leader?

There are a host of unique challenges that an AAPI business owner or manager faces. Most of the time, I find communicating value and getting that value to be difficult with target markets that associate products and services owned or produced by AAPI to be discounted or competitively priced which can reduce margins beneficiaries. As an entrepreneur, I express the impact this has on a small business and what it means for the growth of the AAPI sector.

Q. What can people do to show their support for AAPI-owned businesses?

The first thing people can do to support an AAPI-owned business is show up with dollars and evangelize products and services. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool.

Q. What needs to be done to continue building a more diverse and equitable business community?

Mentorship and access to funding are the means to build a more diverse and equitable business community. Specifically, allying across the aisle with white-owned and white-male mentorship is important for building community, eradicating unconscious bias, and providing access to thought, networks, and funding. higher level.

Q. What can business leaders do to better support the AAPI community?

Radical Transparency can support other business leaders in the AAPI community. Better business practices, supply chain, and scalability are all disciplines that are crucial to the success of business leaders and are lessons reserved for MBA programs. Access to such an education can transform a business and help a community – any community – thrive.

Q. What does business mean to you as an entrepreneur? Please start your answer with “Business is…”

Business is the heart of America, America is a diverse country of all faiths, backgrounds and religions, and America’s success is built on the success of its small businesses.

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