Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Josie Weitzenbauer, who started her own artisanal gourmet doughnut shop, Leche, in the heart of Montreal. What was the inspiration behind the idea? Find out in today’s profile…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your business in a nutshell.
We are making an artisanal gourmet doughnut. We are trying to take it to the next level, making the doughnut an exciting thing again. Its been the same for so long. We wanted to revamp the classic a little. We pride ourselves in using all natural products and local as much as we can.
Not only do we make amazing doughnuts, but we design sweet tables and cater to many other businesses. Anything sweet is our business!
Why did you start your business, what was the inspiration?
I’ve always been in the hospitality business, I did front of house for ages. I love serving people but I was looking for more. Wondering what else I was good at, I started cooking. I grew up with such an importance of food and good food, it was natural for me to pursue it. I cooked for many years and that wasn’t enough for me, so I then went to pastry school and to Europe to work under some great chefs. When I came back I was charged and wanted to take everything on. Working a full-time job, I was baking on the side, helping some colleagues in their pastry departments making desserts for their restos. the number of restaurants grew where I would go in two days a week and stock them up. The light bulb went off; I knew there was a demand for freelance pastry chefs. People can’t afford them anymore, or have the space for a pastry department. I knew I could do something with that.
I rented a small kitchen and outgrew that space quickly. I started more catering and more clients and had to look for something larger.
Looking for a space to rent, if fell on the location where we are and it developed into the first gourmet doughnut shop! Montreal is so saturated with cafes, bakeries and restaurants; I needed to come up with something original and not having been done a million times. Leche was born!
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
We designed an open kitchen where we could bring the back of house to the front. I love serving people and I love cooking and now we have the best of both! That’s the best part, talking to people and seeing their eyes light up at all of our hard work and watching people get so excited when they come in to the shop.
The most challenging is all the paperwork attached to running a business! All I want to do is bake! But I’m learning so much and am so grateful to have the opportunity to do it.
Where do you see your business going in 5 years?
I want to open Leches all over the world! London, New York, LA.
I have so many ideas and I can’t wait to be able to realize all of them. I feel like I can do anything now that I opened this one with very little.
What does success look like to you?
Success is simply being able to offer employees a great opportunity to work at something amazing! Giving my contribution back to the world. Offering a safe and productive environment for people to work, learn and fulfill their dreams.
I want to do what I love to do, that’s it. Maybe be able to pay my bills…
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Being the first woman to work the two-star Michelin resto in London, where I worked for a year, was pretty remarkable. I think it really drove me to the idea of Leche.
It was the hardest job I ever did and it fuelled my career as a pastry chef. If you can work that kind of kitchen you can do anything. I suggest anyone and everyone to work through that kind of training to prepare you for anything in life!
Opening Leche before I was 28 was my goal. I was a business owner at 27! I never thought in a million years that would be me. But here we are and ever expanding!
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Just do it if your gut tells you that’s what you should do. Don’t listen to the people that try to discourage you, it’s only their fears standing in their way.
Work hard and don’t give up. My story shows you that anything is possible even if you don’t feel you have the right tools. I did it with nothing. If it fails, I’ve tried my hardest and have a great story to tell. So don’t be afraid of failure, believe in yourself. Study, research, don’t do anything without knowing as much as you can about it.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I have done many charity events since we opened. I love to support Share The Warmth, it’s a big one Montreal, as well as Breast Cancer Foundation. We are many women that work here and we want us to live long and be strong.
What is Notable to you?
Notable is where everything is happening for young entrepreneurs, where we can get inspired and informed.
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How do you keep active, energetic, and vibrant?
The shop has kept me running around for the last eight months. People always ask how I don’t weigh 300 pounds, but I don’t have time to sit for a meal, let alone eat doughnuts. We sell them before any of the staff can get their hands on them! I eat more pastry then I ever would like to because it’s my job. I have to, but it’s an assessment, not enjoyment, unfortunately.
Other than that, I love doing yoga and getting a good night’s sleep. That’s what keeps me alive.