By: Kelsey Juntwait
Afi Green, our very own Kitchen Manager at Hudson Kitchen, is no stranger to hard work. Growing up in Atlanta with a mother who loved to cook and a father who was an artist, she knew she enjoyed being in the kitchen at a young age, and she knew it could be the creative outlet that she craved. Baking was constantly on her mind and it was something she always went back to in between other career ventures. She finally took that as a sign and attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts for Patisserie and Baking, graduating in 2012.
She made the move to Kansas City, Missouri shortly after graduating from pastry school in hopes to pursue her dream of starting a cake decorating business. She knew that trying to start a business in a large, metropolitan city like Atlanta, where the city streets were already home to a multitude of similar ideas, would be tough, and the Midwest might be a better place to find footing. “It’s more about who you know, and not necessarily what you know,” she tells me.
At the time, Afi didn’t know the right people to get the ball rolling with her business in Atlanta. She explains that you could be the best baker out there, but when you have a budget to start a business, you need to know people, and you need the help of a community to be successful.
She ventured west to a smaller town, working as the Head Chef at Ozark National Life Insurance Company, where she would bootstrap her way to an entrepreneurial opportunity.
Afi started out in a commercial kitchen, spending six months sharing a space with others, but admits that she sometimes wishes she hadn’t left so soon. She enjoyed the community that it fostered and knew it was a great opportunity to grow her business. But she found some issues with the space. The main issue being pricing— “They had an hourly pricing model, and that was challenging for me because of what I do. It was eating up my profits.” She also found problems with how the space was managed— “I felt like the manager sometimes didn’t understand the needs of the members.” After a short six months, she came across a storefront that already housed the necessary baking equipment she needed and jumped at the opportunity to lease it.
Owning her own brick and mortar cake shop came with its own challenges though- especially after such a short time in the shared kitchen, building her business. “I didn’t have much help. Everything seemed to fall on my shoulders and that became overwhelming,” she explained. Of course, she’s proud of all she’s accomplished and smiles through saying “I did it. I found success.” But she tells me that if she could do it all over again, she would’ve based the business on something, or someone, more than just herself. She explains that building a business is more than any one person can handle, and having someone to lean on, if only for a minute, changes everything.
After moving back to the east coast, Afi wanted to keep her business alive, but needed the consistency of an “office” job again. Which is when she found Hudson Kitchen, a place she felt passionately about due to her own experience in the shared kitchen community, and a place where she knew she could make a difference.
While her dream of cake decorating is still very much alive, she’s finding comfort in being back in a shared kitchen- just in a different capacity. “I don’t claim to know everything, but coming from a background as an entrepreneur, I can understand the challenges. I understand being overwhelmed, and even being scared.” She notes that “if you’re not scared, then you shouldn’t be doing this.”
Afi was questioned by so many when she quit her full-time job to pursue her dream, but she regrets none of it. She knows that everything has been a learning experience, and she’s excited to share those experiences with the members of Hudson Kitchen. Her cake decorating dreams have been put on hold, for now anyway, and she’s committed to helping others pursue theirs. She adds, “Ultimately, I’m just excited to help businesses flourish.”