Vanessa Punche was a LOYAL Starbucks customer. So she was maddened when a Philadelphia Starbucks manager called the cops on two African American patrons who were simply waiting just a few minutes for a business associate to show up before they ordered in 2018.
“That really sparked the fire under me,” she says. “If you did that to people who look like me, you did that to me. It’s like a form of slavery. One group of people can sit in a store and work freely and then another class can’t do that without being arrested.”
Vanessa, 56, an Angeleno, didn’t just stop patronizing Starbucks. She quit her job at UCLA and launched a coffee-making business, LA Grind, which has a brick-and-mortar location at 1412 S Redondo Blvd Los Angeles CA 90019 and a coffee truck.
WOW! THE HOUSE BLEND COFFEE WITH LAVENDER AND OTHER SECRET INGREDIENTS!
A good thing came out of something bad. “I turned it into a positive,” Vanessa says.
The switch from UCLA administrator to entrepreneur has had its ups and downs. Business was booming with Cameroon-sourced coffee; she had a prime spot with her truck at the LAX ride-hailing spot.
Then Covid struck. She turned to cracking out her online sales. Now post-Covid, Vanessa is back to navigating the waves of clients and events around Los Angeles. She caters with her truck. She has needed to rely on her family (she has three adult children) to staff, since payroll has taken its toll on viability.
“I did a lot of stuff scared,” she admits about the entreprenuerial adventure, the risks of trying to cover bills and woo clients. But now, “there isn’t any turning back,” she adds. “Some days are better than others.”
Adriana Gasaway became an entreprenuer by accident.
During the quarantine, she started mixmashing ingredients in search of more natural body butter. Ever since she took medical classes at West Coast College to get her ultrasound degree, she had an aversion for the long list of chemical ingredients with questionable health impact.
Her first creation was mango body butter and her friends loved it. She kept cooking up stuff and now has 3 different scents to her body butters and four soaps: mango, milk and honey, charcoal and coffee. She’s added sea moss to her repertoire which she vetted herself by traveling to Saint Lucia to check out her supplier. It boosts the immune system.
She started hawking bars and butters at events and at Earle’s Restaurant in Crenshaw district of Los Angeles. An entrepreneur was born. The career in ultrasounds got sidelined.
“I like this better, although it’s good to have something under my belt to fall back on,” she says.
With an unrepressible effervescence, Adriana was promoting her products on July 17 at the Amazing Grace arts festival. Customers were drawn by the smile and the sweet voice. They walked away with bars of soap in their bags.
Only 23, she’s young big dreamer. According to her dreams, the future holds financial stability, owning a house, having a family.
“This is what I put all my energy into,” she says. “I really like meeting new people and hearing the feedback on my products. It gives me energy.” Here’s her website A.C.E. Naturals and her Instagram page.
So far, she’s paying her own rent with her business. Tomorrow, she’ll take over the world.