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Meet Kathy Ly of Donut Life Museum in Westminster

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kathy Ly.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Kathy. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
At an early age, I always wanted to start my own business. My family immigrated from Vietnam to the United States shortly after the end of the Vietnam War. I grew up seeing how hard they worked to provide a life for my siblings and I, so I always wanted to build something great in order to give back.

It wasn’t until my father passed away from cancer in 2015 that I really sought after my dreams and wanted to pay homage to my family. I recognized that life is short and when we are young we have more time to take risks, fail, and get back up again.

I attended California State University, Fullerton and graduated with a Business Degree with an emphasis in Finance. I moved out-of-state for the first time and began my career working in corporate finance for Nestle USA. I later left Nestle USA and joined the Walt Disney Company. Although I learned a lot from my experiences at both companies, I had a burning desire to forge my own path and pursue entrepreneurship. Being an entrepreneur allowed me to build a business that I was passionate about and find people to work with that shared the same vision.

I have always been passionate about donuts, which led to the creation of Donut Life Museum. To give you an example of my donut obsession, when I was in 3rd grade, I was reported missing from school because I decided to leave during break time to walk to the nearby donut shop and ended up not finding my way back. I was eventually found sitting outside the donut shop with my dozen donut holes and my parents and teachers were worried and furious as I risked being kidnapped for my sugar rush. In college, I would sometimes wait over two hours to get fresh blueberry donuts. I always did the craziest things for donuts, which later inspired me to open up a museum of donuts.

The idea quickly fueled a creative side in me I never knew about as I started to design this dreamworld. I wanted to create a unique, meaningful and fun experience for guests while tying back to a donut’s circular shape, which in my eyes meant the circle of life. I wanted it to have meaning, an experience that tells a story, and something relatable, which I chose to highlight life’s significant moments all told through the creative world of donut art installations and puns.

After a few months, this idea became reality with the help of two good friends who are now my business partners, Brian Ross and Alix Luu. Together, Donut Life Museum was born and it was made to “Make Life Sweet Again!” and provide guests the sweetest interactive experience ever.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
As ironic as it may sound, this journey to opening our donut museum has been anything but sweet. It was one of the hardest projects I have ever worked on in my life, and I encountered tons of obstacles, countless location moves, and coordinated with many difficult people in order to bring this to life.

With starting a business, there is a never smooth road but it is the struggles that create learning experiences then eventually translates into knowledge. I don’t even know where to begin about our struggles, my team and I encountered people who tried to scam us for money, hold ransom our website domain, social media handles and even friends who tried to steal the idea or create spin-offs to the museum in another form. To start off with the struggles, Donut Life Museum was actually supposed to be opened last year on June 7th, 2019 which was National Donut Day. Unfortunately, it went through a brutal permitting process which forced us to pack up and move to 3 different locations. We spent countless hours going through revisions and getting the city to understand the novel concept. We got asked the questions of “Are you a donut shop?”, “Are you a historical museum?”, or “Are you a theme park?” and the answer was “No” to all the above so no one really knew what to categorize us.

At one point, this project was so difficult that everyone was telling me to cut my losses and quit, and for a second I almost believed it was the only solution. However, I knew in my heart I was creating something great that I wanted to share with the world and still believed in the concept. Therefore, I continued to reach out to every landlord and with perseverance, faith, hard-work, tweaks in the concept, and a new location, we were finally ready to open in Spring 2020.

After a year of obstacles, it felt surreal to even open and I kept praying and having my fingers crossed that we can finally experience the fruits of our hard work at our grand opening. However, one week before our grand opening, a pandemic known as COVID-19 struck which has led to many businesses closing to ensure safety. We were affected and had to delay our grand opening for the safety of our staff and guests. We are still optimistic that the storm will pass and everything will resume back to normal so we can’t wait to share this sweet experience with everyone who has been patiently waiting. Once this pandemic ends, we will “Make Life Sweet Again” together!

We also launched a Kickstarter to help us get through these difficult times, if you would like to see a Sneak Peek video of the museum and support us in any way please see the Kickstarter link here. We greatly appreciate any support during this time and it would mean the world to us. Thank you! Please stay sweet and healthy!

Donut Life Museum – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Donut Life Museum is an interactive pop-up where guests of all ages can have memorable, joyful experiences that can be captured through the lens of a camera and much more. Guests can enter an exhibit that illustrates some of life’s most significant moments told through the creative world of donuts and embark on an exciting journey through life. We encourage our guests to be a part of the art, get motivated through donut puns and art installations while leaving the museum feeling inspired to do/be anything in life. Each room will stimulate a feeling that you can relate to. Our rooms create a place where it’s acceptable for adults to be children at heart. It’s a place for everyone to connect, spend quality time and make memories. At Donut Life Museum, guests can have all the pleasure of a donut, without the guilt.

We are proud to give back to the community and have reached out to artistic youth groups and encouraged them to pursue their passion in art. Many of the students from the youth group felt that they could not turn their love for art into a career. However, with the ever changing world of pop-ups, it has allowed young artists to constantly showcase their talents all around the world which propelled them to pursue art/illustrations as a full-time career and not just a hobby. We have also featured some of their illustrations at the museum, which was very exciting for the young teens to see their work being showcased. On Tuesdays we will also offer children hospital patients free admission to brighten up their day and put a smile on their faces.

An element that sets us apart from other pop-up experiences is that it tells a story in a fun way through the use of using donuts and illustrating significant moments in life that our guests can relate to. With seven immersive rooms, you won’t find yourself bored. One of our rooms is an international donut room named “Donut Be Anybody but Yourself”, and its central message is: “The world we live in is one big melting pot. Knowing your roots and where you come from plays a major role in your life. Admire yourself for being so unique.” At Donut Life Museum, there are tons of mouth-watery donut photo opportunities and you will leave the museum learning about the history of donuts, fun facts, and motivational donut phrases to keep you moving forward in life.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
There are countless ways to define success.

For me, success means doing something to the best of your ability and being proud and happy with the results because you put everything you could into it. I make sure to stay focused, learn from my mistakes, have perseverance and discover creative ways to achieve results when I work on something. I like to focus on elements that are within my control and spend less time worrying about what I can’t control as it just distracts me. When I focus on what I am able to control, I eventually move forward as I am learning and improving.

I once read an article talking about why entrepreneurs don’t learn from their mistakes and the circle of failing keeps repeating, so I always kept that in the back of my mind and tried my best to be strategic when I make decisions. With every setback, somehow it has led me one step closer to my goals as I am constantly growing and having perseverance to never give up. I think the person that doesn’t give up or easily lose faith is the one who eventually reaches their goals to be successful. At the end of the day, success doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t happy or proud of what you have accomplished so I stopped using other people’s definition of success and created one for my own goals.

Pricing:

  • Adult Tickets $25
  • Children Tickets (Ages 6-12) $17

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Kevin Le Vu Photography

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