Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Vanessa & Thomas Tilaka Kalb, owners of Agnes Restaurant and Cheesery, located in Pasadena, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

We're a restaurant and cheese shop. Our clientele are people who want to have a range of experiences. Whether you're here to discover a new cheese or wine in our shop, enjoy a cheese plate and cocktail at the bar or parlor, dine in for lunch/brunch, or meet friends for dinner on our patio - we set out to make it accessible and approachable for both that cozy neighborhood spot and that destination dinner.

Tell us about yourself

Vanessa is from Los Angeles, Thomas is from Iowa City, Iowa. We met in San Francisco and fell in love with the abundance of California produce, good food, nature, adventure, cooking, and each other. We both like to create from humble ingredients and provide nourishment for our friends & family. Vanessa became enamored with cheese and made the decision to switch over to becoming a Cheese Monger full-time. Without wanting to leave the kitchen fully, she loves to be a part of what Thomas does in the restaurant. The cohesiveness of the restaurant and cheesery speaks to how our passions align and our respective creative talents feed into the success of our dream-come-true.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Opening a restaurant is difficult, throwing in a global pandemic, extreme staffing shortages, supply shortages, and this business got even harder. I think opening during an unprecedented time and persevering is a big accomplishment, but the team and culture that we have been able to build are by far what keeps us pushing forward. We want to take care of anyone who comes through the doors, whether you are a guest or one of our many passionate employees.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Setting your own boundaries. It's easy to get lost and sacrifice too much to make it all work, but it can't work unless you remember to also take care of yourself. We want the business to thrive our employees and guests to be happy, but it can't come at the expense of our own physical and mental health.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Just cause it doesn't exist or hasn't been done before doesn't mean you can't be the first to do it. You have to be comfortable with taking some risks.
  2. Be patient with others and especially yourself. Allow room for failure, successful systems, and ideas or often built upon ones that weren't working. Implement new ideas, and track the impact.
  3. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Don't try and change too many things at once, or you won't be able to tell what's working and what is not.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Don't wish your time away. Enjoy and respect the process. Take a ton of notes and lots of photos, and always look back to reflect how far you've come. Be proud of all the little victories along the way.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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