Interview with Awakening Cafe

Awakening Cafe logoTell us about your business!
Awakening Cafe is a neighborhood joint, where we can all come together as friends to share a great meal and a few drinks. It’s a relaxed place without pretension, where everyone can be who they are.

What was your inspiration to start the business?

Our inspiration to start this cafe was to love and be loved, to understand and be understood.  Awakening Cafe is a place for positive change. We believe we can all play an active role in creating happiness. We can all take pride in serving everyone we see. We choose to make a difference in this world we all share, no matter how small.

How long did it take you to setup your shop?

It took us almost one year to open the doors, which was in December 2012. We knew we wanted to be near HKU so we did our market research in Sai Ying Pun and Kennedy Town; with lots of time spent sitting, watching and counting other similar businesses. We also spent a lot of time on our business plan and raising capital through our Hong Kong network. We were able to take over a space that had previously been a restaurant, so we were able to use much of what had been left behind; i.e. plumbing, electrical, air con etc. We only really needed to resurface the place and outfit the kitchen with new equipment.

Awakening exterior

Tell us about your Kickstarter Campaign

Before we started Awakening Cafe we started Love for the Poor. It is a charitable organization established to assist underprivileged children. We provide housing, education and medical assistance to underprivileged children in developing countries. Because of this we had a pretty good base of supporters who believed in why we do what we do. So Kickstarter was a way we could give those people the opportunity to be involved, even with a simple $25. We raised about $16,000USD. It was spent before it even came in! Basically it went to help set up the kitchen. The biggest key for our success on Kickstarter was the network of people that we had developed during our NGO days. We just sent out a newsletter letting people know what we were up to and asked them to help us out. I believe we ran a 6-week campaign.

What excites you most about your business?  Awakening cafe sign

We love being part of this growing community. Sai Ying Pun is one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the city, with new people and businesses moving in all the time. Making new friends and having them feel they have found a gem in their new neighborhood is extremely rewarding. We also host Tuesday TED Talks where we discuss topics ranging from rebellion to altruism, to mental health.

Where do you source ingredients from?

The cafe is an extension of who we are and since we are American, our food needs to taste like it does in America. Because of this, the vast majority of our ingredients come from the U.S. Our beef is hormone-free Angus beef from California. Our Buffalo Wing sauce, cheeses, and Ranch and Blue cheese salad dressings are also brought in. We also love the idea of sourcing as locally as possible, so we get all of our vegetables from our friends here at the Sai Ying Pun vegetable market. They deliver to us twice a day with the best and freshest that is available.

Talk about your challenges

I don’t know if it is our biggest challenge but we really strive to keep our “Why” central to everything we do. Our ‘why’ should be reflected not only in our service but in our menu too.

Who are your go to business mentors in HK?

Our best cheerleaders have been Maik Freidrich at Empower Asia and Professor Danny Chau. We also discuss many issues with our friend Ariel Tang of Butao and sister Awill Yiu of Awakening Yuen Long.

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