We had the good fortune of connecting with Johan Engman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Johan, how do you think about risk?
I’d say risk taking and how I view it is something that changes overtime. As each year goes by I think I get slightly more conservative as it relates to risk. Risk taking has played a big role in my life, I can certainly say I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t had a high tolerance for risk. Going back to 2014 when I was conceptualizing Breakfast Republic (which opened in 2015) I would ask a few people what their thoughts were on the idea and most answers were along the lines of “Why would you want to open a place that only serves breakfast and focuses on beers and cocktails when its only going to be open from 7am-3pm, and, for goodness sakes, you already have 3 successful locations of Fig Tree Cafe, why not expand on that instead of starting something new, sounds risky”. I could have easily just listened to that and not gone with my gut feeling… but my gut feeling was right in this case.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I feel fortunate to have gotten the start I got, which was from the most entry level position possible, which in turn made me learn the value of that position and the positions that followed. I moved out on my own when I was 17 and had to get a job to pay rent. The only job I could get was as a dishwasher which I really enjoyed. I then worked as a busser followed by being promoted to a server. Having worked these positions for several years became the solid foundation on which I built the fundamentals of what would become Rise & Shine Hospitality Group. With no college education or “backup plan”, at 25 years old I gave myself 2.5 years to either figure out how to somehow open my own restaurant or quick this industry entirely and find another career. I saved up and borrowed a total of $45,000 which I used to open Fig Tree Cafe PB. Looking back at this relatively low number I am to this day astonished on how it all somehow came together on such a shoestring budget. The following 3 years were incredibly tough, not only because it was in the midst of the 2008 recession that I opened the restaurant but in that many friends told me “it’s ok, nobody will fault you for closing. The restaurant has been loosing money since day one, stop doing this to yourself”. They were referring to the fact that I was working multiple jobs at night to keep my daytime cafe open. It lost money for 3 years yet I continued to push away at it in hopes that one day it would turn a profit. That day finally came and I’m glad I followed my gut feeling which told me to continue pressing forward no matter how hard it was.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I’d certainly show them around San Diego but if it was a weeklong trip I would take them on a road trip up the coast. Hang out for a day or so in San Diego, ride bikes in PB, then up through LA, stop for a day or two in Santa Barbara, continue up to wine country in Napa and Sonoma and check out some wineries. To me the best times are always the ones with less planned out itineraries.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
That’s a long list… in terms of humility I would say many books and movies, such as “Shawshank Redemption”, “Man’s search for meaning” by Viktor Frankl… and my mother. Support would be my wife Yasmin, we all have good days and bad days and to have someone in your “corner” through it all is huge. From a professional standpoint I can’t thank William Lopez enough in terms of helping elevate the business from a PR/Marketing and design standpoint.
N/A. All my photos.