Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jo Soeung, Founder and Owner of Chef Jo LLC. and Wow Baguio, located in Honolulu, HI, USA.

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

Wow Baguio is a pasalubong shop that creates handcrafted vegan dishes infused with locally sourced ingredients. Pasalubong is the Filipino tradition of gift giving which is similar to the Japanese tradition of Omiyage. Each gift is a tasty dish that comes from my grandmother's fine collection of recipes. In every other gifted treat, I have preserved several of Baguio City's original flavors with a variety of delightful ingredients. Wow Baguio is for happy people that enjoy eating delightful food together.

Tell us about yourself

While I was working as a Chef de Cuisine for the Grand Wailea Resort in Maui, I felt my culinary creativity was restricted, and I yearned to create food that represented my Cordilleran culture. As a chef, I want people to feel the experience of seeing how much they can tell about a culture from enjoying a dish. By using a plate as a culinary vehicle, I take pleasure in conveying an origin without having the patron visit the originating country. It is in the originating country where we find a huge amount of pride, which comes from the chef that creates their special dish. For my creations, this is done by experiencing what Cordillerans value, and that is purely based on the food that I create. As a vegan, I am motivated to create vegan versions of my favorite Cordilleran meals. With every creation, I strive to maintain a standard that only involves pure products with no preservatives and no artificial ingredients and no artificial coloring.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Right after launching a business, every business owner has a sense of accomplishment when the hurdle of reaching the first collection sales targets is successfully cleared. After I maintained a comfortable target in my sales, my biggest accomplishment as a business owner is having a social responsibility and earning my ethical success. I have pride in straightforward and all-natural cuisine since it represents my culture and my family heritage, and it represents the region where I come from. I come from what I was taught and live by: simplicity. By expressing simplicity, I fulfill my social responsibility whenever I provide high-quality ingredients, in which there are a lot of natural ingredients and fresh food, a lot of wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables, and not much else. My ethical success comes from creations that are not just healthy but also help sharpen focus from simplicity. From the simplicity of natural ingredients, I would like people to understand that simplicity is also a good base for their focus because they learn how to declutter their daily lives. I hope that after someone understands the simplicity of Cordilleran food, this person can start peeling off more chaos in their day. I would be really happy if everyone's mental health improved. It's only good to see everyone continuously seeing themselves moving forward without getting easily distracted. Simplicity is the Cordilleran way of life, and conveying this message in every dish is my accomplishment.

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

The hardest thing that comes with being a business owner has been dealing with the skepticism I take from others. After becoming an executive chef, with many years as a senior chef, sous chef, line cook, and kitchen assistant. I'm supposed to remain in a corporate position that oversees the culinary management of a restaurant chain or resort. I'm expected to remain in a career with stability and a great salary. But I have chosen to stray from this path and go out on my own. I realized that I need to go after something that inspires me, to add value to others, and to create dishes that reflect passion rather than standardization.

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

  1. Maintain authenticity and do not be allured to what other businesses are doing that works.
  2. Run your business with the realization that every customer is your boss.
  3. Run your business like a small fish in a vast ocean and not a big fish in a small pond. In every case, stay humble and provide your customers with the personal care they may not receive at a chain restaurant.

Where can people find you and your business?





If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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