Alison Cayne (Speaker); Founder and Owner of Haven’s Kitchen
Favorite Food: “Bread other people think is cardboard, tempura sauce, avocado on anything, sesame seeds on anything. Kombucha is gross”
Cayne never planned on being an entrepreneur. She married young, had lots of babies, she liked cooking. And wasn’t everyone cooking? If not, why weren’t they? Cayne realized that it was because they were scared. They didn’t know the name of that purple root thing, much less know what to do with it. Ok, since she’d always dreamt of a food community where people could learn about, prepare, and share delicious food that sustains people, our environment, and our local economy, she decided to start her own cooking school, right in the heart of New York City. A bit starry-eyed, maybe, and building a business is hard enough. Building out a building, especially in NYC, where everything is regulated beyond belief – is a challenge unto itself.
“I rented a 6,000 square foot space, for a cooking school and café,” she said. A few people signed up here and there, but it was a rather large space. In Manhattan. And all she saw was the small amount coming in.
“If you aren’t making money, you’re losing money,” she advised. “I didn’t know that.
The toilet broke, and the guy who came to fix it installed something, including a garden hose. And I paid him to do it! Basically, the landlord fucked me – because they can.”
After being hit with more regulators and inspectors and workmen and a challenge that seemed almost insurmountable, like any determined entrepreneur, she channeled her Inner Millenial. And started saying No.
“If you don’t use your gut, it goes flabby. If you don’t use your instincts, you lose them. I lost my guts, but they came back yesterday. That’s a great lesson in how to be an entrepreneur. Learn to say ‘Fuck you.’”