We had the good fortune of connecting with Minna Nguyen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Minna, how does your business help the community?
Although my business is small, I try to do what I can to give back to show my gratitude and appreciation to the community. Without my clients and supporters, The Sweet Collective SD wouldn’t have grown as much as it has in the short time since officially starting up in November of last year. My most popular item for sale are crinkle cookies, (I make hundreds of them a week), so I like to do fun giveaways and give variety crinkle boxes to local clients as thank yous for their constant support. Also, back in June when the Black Lives Matter Movement was making huge waves in San Diego (as it should have), I wanted to contribute in my own way because I was unable to go out and physically protest the systemic racism that is happening in our history today. I held a Cookies For A Cause fundraiser where I pledged 100% of proceeds to go to the Black Lives Matter foundation and the NAACP Freedom Fund. In addition to proceeds, I matched every dollar up to $300 out of my own pocket to help the cause. I didn’t know it was going to be as big as it did but with all the orders, extra donations, and tips that turned into more donations,(because I wanted this cause to be 100% nonprofit), I managed to raise $1255!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Growing up in a third generation Vietnamese household, I was taught that there were generally only two certain types of occupational routes that were deemed worthy: health or engineering. It was a different time that my parents had to grow up in and I don’t blame them at all. It was all about achieving the American dream through hard work. I wasn’t as confident at that time and was still trying to figure out my life. Although I had raw talent in the kitchen at a young age, (thanks Mom for giving me full reign over the Kitchen Aid mixer), I was encouraged to pursue pharmacy school, so pharmacy school was where I set my mind to. Halfway through college, miserable, and wasting a lot of money, I decided to drop out and go to culinary school. I completed a two year program in one short year while holding a full time job managing a bakery. Through culinary school, I was able to meet a lot of talented chefs who taught me so many important fundamentals through classic training. By the time I graduated, I was already on the pastry program at a popular fine dining establishment in San Diego. Dropping out of college to completely change my career was honestly one of the greatest decisions of my life, and I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t taken that first leap of faith. The most important thing in my line of work is the hospitality that comes with it. The client comes first and I believe that if they’re satisfied with my work, then my business will be successful. I hold my work to a very high standard of quality where my ingredients have to be organic, and locally sourced, in addition to being beautifully presented and tasty. There was one occasion where there was a huge mishap with a particular cake order and it had to be redone. I honestly communicated the issue with the client and they were very understanding of the problem. In the end, they received their customized cake and to this day, are a very loyal client who still orders from The Sweet Collective SD. I feel that by being honest with the client and making sure the product they received is the highest quality every single time, that my business will have success. I define success by the ability to meet small goals in a timely manner. Every month, I set myself some new goals for The Sweet Collective SD. Whether it be to make a new connection with someone in the same industry, to making new clients, selling more units, or updating the seasonal menu flavors, I try to hit each one on the mark and count it as a small success. At the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic where myself, along with so many others in my industry got laid off, I was very lucky to have The Sweet Collective SD to fall back on. I was able to focus all my extra time and energy to pushing and promoting my small business. The first few weeks were rocky, like most businesses trying to make their way through these unusual times, but I was able to triple the amount of sales and get a larger loyal following for my work.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Being in the culinary side of the hospitality industry, it would be mainly a food focused tour of San Diego. I would recommend Serea at the Hotel del Coronado and Lionfish in Downtown, both Clique Hospitality restaurants ran by Chef Jojo Ruiz. (Shameless promotion, they are my current employer haha. Born & Raised and Ironside of Consortium Holdings are also two really great special dining hot spots, both located in Litte Italy. Sugar & Scribe in La Jolla is a favorite casual spot for brunch with a unique menu. As for locations in San Diego to visit, Sunset cliffs and the La Jolla Tide pools are my favorite beachside spots while Kate Sessions Park is a beautiful hillside dog park/favorite place to picnic that overlooks the bay.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to give recognition to Pastry Chef Brenda Gonzales and Chef Phillip Esteban. They are both incredibly talented San Diego chefs who have taught me so many important lessons in and out of the kitchen. I wouldn’t be the success I am today without them.
Nominate someone: ShoutoutSocal is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.