Lessons From Small Business Owners

You may remember hearing about our annual business leader summit, Coast-to-Coast, where over 100 top-rated businesses across North America unite at Yelp HQ. This year we asked six of our attendees to share their experience as business owners. We asked about the challenges they faced, lessons they’ve learned, and what advice they’d give their fellow business owners.

Danny Cheng of Wang Chung’s Karaoke Bar in Honolulu, HI

Danny Cheng is the owner of Wang Chung’s Karaoke Bar in Honolulu, HI. When Danny first wrote his business plan he designed Wang Chung’s as a spot for the large Japanese tourist demographic that frequents Waikiki. Once open, he quickly realized that locals were much more interested in enjoying a night out with cocktails and karaoke! After years of success and a customer base that is largely LGBT, Danny and Wang Chung’s has made a name for itself on the island as a place to go enjoy a good time with friends. People even turned the business name into a verb; “You want to Wang Chung tonight?” Listen here for Danny’s advice on overcoming a business plan change and how getting involved with the local community has helped grow their business despite his spot being off the beaten path!

Andrea Vieira of nailsaloon in Washington, D.C.

Andrea Vieira is co-founder of DC’s nailsaloon, a luxury nail salon and cocktail parlor that she opened with one of her dearest friends, Claudia Diamante. From the time they lived in a group house in their 20s, Andrea and Claudia always talked about owning a business. In 2014, after almost 20 years working in television and finance, respectively, they finally brought their vision to life and are thrilled with how receptive Washington has been to their concept: a salon that provides top quality nail care in a hyper-clean and non-toxic environment; a lounge-y gathering place that helps old friends and new acquaintances relax and unwind while sipping on a cocktail or a cafe; and a business that both gives back to the community it serves and actively participates in raising awareness about causes benefiting the less fortunate. Listen here as Andrea talks about the challenges and unknowns that pop up during owning a business.

Kirby of Kirby the Barber in Austin, TX

Kirby the Barber began his barbering career in Bellaire Texas at Bellaires Original Barbershop. He now shares a space with Charlie Hall in downtown Austin Texas on 7th and Brazos. The old-time barbershop feel you may remember from childhood is what you can expect when you visit Kirby the Barber. Everything from classic men’s haircuts to hot lather straight razor shaves and facial hair trimming. Listen in to hear how Kirby has revitalized a timeless tradition in the face of modernization and his philosophy on relationships with his clients.

Paramita Roy of Kanishka’s Gastropub in Walnut Creek, CA

Paramita Roy is the Executive Chef and Owner of Kanishka’s Gastropub in Walnut Creek, CA. Kanishka’s Gastropub is an upscale neighborhood gastropub incorporating global-inspired concepts with Neo-Indian flavors. She draws creative inspiration from moments of her life since childhood. The menu is served as “small shareable” plates with craft beers and a wide selection of wine. Listen here to hear Paramita talk about finding the balance between her restaurant and vision, the staff who makes it happen, and her family. With a lot of hard work, training, and trust, Paramita has brought her restaurant to a place of success and balance.

Annemarie Maitri of Bloom Bake Shop in Madison, WI

Annemarie Maitri is the owner of Bloom Bake Shop in Madison, Wisconsin. Bloom Bake Shop is a small-batch, organic and fair-trade bakery that supports local farmers to create delicious desserts daily. Bloom serves a variety of desserts, sandwiches, beverages, and even gluten-free and vegan options! In the past year Annemarie has opened up a second location, but it hasn’t always been sugar and sweet.  Listen here to learn about the first review Annemarie ever got, and the transformation from that day to now, as well as some advice she would give herself today before doing it all over again.

Ben Koenig of Heritage Eats in Napa, CA

Ben Koenig is the founder and owner of Napa, CA’s Heritage Eats. Heritage Eats is a globally inspired, fast-fine restaurant concept serving sandwiches, salads, wraps, rice bowls, tacos & more. Their focus is elevated ‘daily-life’ food from the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and beyond. Ben believes in sourcing locally for a menu crafted with foods and flavors from around the globe. Listen here for more of Ben’s story, and his advice on handling criticism, turning to others in the industry and never seeing an ask for help as a weakness.

Every business has a story. While every business’ story is a little different, they all seem to have one thing in common— success is a journey.

Over the next six weeks, we’ll share their stories. We’ll be updating this post every Tuesday with a new video telling another business’ story.


The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.