Name: Steph Wong
Business/Location: WHOS Gluten Free / Jersey City, New Jersey
Your Specialty: We specialize in gluten-free and allergy-friendly baked goods and meals. Our goal is to reduce the amount of sugar and eliminate additives that are in our everyday foods. We want to create healthier baked goods and foods that will nourish our bodies instead of doing harm.
What problem does your business solve?: We are the only dedicated gluten-free bakery in Jersey City. We wanted to create a safe and worry free place for people with Celiac disease to eat. With all of my allergies/food restrictions, I understand how hard it is to go out and enjoy a meal with friends and family. This is where you can have a multitude of allergies and still find something to eat and feel satiated.
What makes your business unique?: We are a gluten-free bakery dedicated to providing healthier baked goods and foods.
What’s your story?: I was a production manager for an international advertising agency - and constantly on the road - flying to 2 cities a week at times. I noticed that none of the airports had any healthy gluten-free foods. All of the foods were filled with processed ingredients and tons of sugar. I started baking my own granola to take on the road. After baking several batches of granola and sharing them with coworkers and friends, I felt like I had something special. I signed up for my first market in Hamilton Park to test out my recipes, and I received amazing feedback. After talking it over with a few friends, in December 2013, I formed WHOS and filed all the necessary paperwork to launch my business. We had our first real market as WHOS the following April with the JC Project Earth festival. I made some great friends from that market and strengthened my other friendships. Shelly Menchavez has not only become my best friend through this, but a wonderful business partner, who has helped turned this company into something more. Shelly is a nurse and Clinical Research Coordinator at Newark Beth Israel and a yoga teacher. I quit my job at the beginning of February 2018 to put 100% of my effort into WHOS. Running a bakery and having a full-time job and a life is hard, but in the end it's worth it.
One piece of advice you have for other food entrepreneurs: Being a food entrepreneur is tough, and there is not a lot of money in it at the beginning. But as we all know, money isn't what makes us happy. I see more and more people leaving their 9-to-5s for their dream, and it’s a sign, if you're not happy doing what you're doing for 75% of your day, it doesn't matter how much money you make. Spend your life being happy, and if that means, making brownies, or opening a deli, then do it!
What do you wish you had known before you started your business?: The winning lottery numbers! Seriously though, when you talk about your ideas and dreams with people, you are bound to get tons of advice, some good and some unwanted. You will hear all the downsides of opening something and all the negativity and fears from those who are afraid; don’t discount any of this information. Take it into consideration. This will help you along the way, especially when you hit a wall and feel like quitting. Remember what your rebuttal was to those comments..."this is a bad idea, you're crazy for doing this"...and remember why you started this in the first place.
What’s your greatest challenge in your business and how are you overcoming it?: Money is always the greatest challenge; trying to figure out how you're going to fund something this big. Do I take a loan out? Personal or business? Then learning banks don't help startups until you’re 5 years in. To me, after 5 years, you're not really a new business anymore. I kept my 9-to-5 to help pay for the bills for the bakery. I've pulled money out of my 401K to purchase equipment and to pay off debt.
Jealousy is not high on the list, but is worth mentioning. It is easy to watch other cafes, bakeries, restaurants open up and have nicer things, a better design, better location. It is easy to get jealous or envious. When you are working hard to stretch your dollar and you see another business come in your neighborhood, and open its doors, just remember what sets you apart. Make your business yours. You can never compete with someone who has the cash flow to open a business and hire a ton of staff. But your customer service, the quality of your food will speak more than some shiny new business with no personality.
What are you most proud of about your business?: We are proud of how far we have come and the quality of our food.
What do you love most about being a food entrepreneur?: I love being able to feed people, pure and simple.
Interested in being featured? Contact Us.