Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Michelle Nazzal, Founder & Chef of Mishmish, located in Oakland, CA, USA.

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

We are an ongoing and ever-changing project which aims to preserve Palestinian food traditions in the diaspora. My customers are typically those who follow a plant-based diet, as all recipes have been modified to fit a vegan lifestyle, but it also extends to people who are interested in cuisine from other cultures.

Tell us about yourself

An exciting path brought me to Mishmish, which began as a completely different project in 2019. My grandparents immigrated from Palestine to San Francisco in 1960, bringing with them rich culture and traditions. As a child, I spent many of my days running around my grandparents' corner store in the Outer Richmond or helping my Teta (Grandma) in the kitchen. As the oldest granddaughter, she passed our family recipes onto me, instilling the importance of keeping this tradition alive after she was gone.

A few years back, my Grandma was diagnosed with Dementia, and I began seeking ways to fulfill that promise to her. This is where Mishmish (apricot in Arabic) came in, starting as a nickname given to me by my Sido (Grandpa) and originally evolving into a personal cookbook project to catalog these family recipes. Eventually, some friends convinced me to share this food with others and start doing pop-ups. I held my first one in August 2021, and since then, things have grown from one-off pop-ups into residencies at local restaurants, catering, private dinners, and food installations.

We lost my Grandma in August 2022, and her memory motivates me to keep pushing forward with Mishmish every day. In the future, I plan to have my deli and grocery similar to the one my grandparents owned. I hope it will make them proud.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

In 2022, I took the leap to quit my Graphic Design job and pursue Mishmish in a greater capacity. Although it hasn't always been a walk in the park, it has shown me how much strength and resilience we as humans are capable of and has taught me a great deal about myself that I don't think I would've otherwise realized.

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

One of the most challenging things I've experienced since pursuing Mishmish is finding the right balance between work and rest. When you're your boss, you work harder than you ever have before. It's easy to get tunnel vision and feel like you have to say yes to everything that comes your way. It will always be a work in progress for me, but it's a great exercise in learning how to be gentler with myself.

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

  1. Make time for the people, places, and things that you love.
  2. Talk to others who are pursuing similar dreams. There is strength in the community.
  3. Be kind to yourself and others.

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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