Today we’d like to introduce you to Traci Davis.
Hi Traci, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Upon examining the Los Angeles dining scene, I noticed there was a small void in the space. 1) There isn’t a lot of Vietnamese representation. 2) There aren’t a lot of fast-casual Asian-inspired food. 3) Asian restaurants, aside from Japanese restaurants, are often one-off mom and pop shops. While also piecing together what I learned throughout my corporate experience, I realized that people want restaurant-quality food while not breaking the bank and not having to sit down for 2 hours. During constant travel for work and hours on sales calls, I spent my evenings conceptualizing and bringing to life, on paper, my ideas while also cooking and putting together my recipes. I’m lucky to have a husband who is a trained chef and has worked in the industry for over 20 years, who guided me through my process. We were strolling through a park in Copenhagen when he received a phone call from an old friend, stating there was a space available in Mar Vista and asked if we knew someone who is looking. He knew this was my moment., we took all of our savings and put it all into building this concept. Upon open, it was a success!
Then one and a half months later, COVID-19 and statewide lockdown happened, crushing my spirit and leaving me in a state of panic. My husband is an events caterer, he lost all of his events within a blink of an eye, we had to furlough all of our staff, then the hard work began. Day and night we went to the shop, cooked everything, cleaned everything for 15 hours a day, every single day. On a good day, we would make $500, and on a bad day we would make $100. I thought I was done, but slowly business picked up the old-fashioned way, through word of mouth! Customers took notice of what we were doing and making, they loved my food. To this day, I still can’t believe it when someone says to me “Your food is incredible!” or the other day a customer said to me “We’re moving to Brazil and my husband asked me what I wanted as my last meal in LA, and the answer was My Lai.”
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
In 2018, when I created the concept, we decided we can’t do it with our own money, we wouldn’t have enough. A very good friend of mine decided he loved the idea and wanted to invest, I started looking for spaces and drafting partner and operating agreements to make sure we all knew our part. I spent a couple of thousand dollars in legal documents when my friend decided to pull out of the investment. In an instant, I went back to square one. My husband and I are not the types of people who ask for money. It’s funny b/c I’m in sales, my job is to sell, but yet I can’t sell myself. He and I decided, if we do this, the first one will be done on our own, with our own money. We sink all of our savings into this business and then COVID 19 emerged, shutting everyone down. So no, it has definitely NOT been a smooth ride. To add insult to injury, as a business owner operating during this pandemic, I strive to do everything perfectly, to follow every single rule, but people will see or find one mistake and then publicly skewer me for it on Yelp/Internet. It’s disheartening, but I pick myself up, I tell myself it’s just one review, and continue on.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I have worked for some pretty prominent companies and for a long time. My first job as an administrative assistant at Bear Stearns (three years). My second job was at Live Nation Entertainment for seven and a half years where I went from admin to Investor Relations Analyst, then onto Business Development in the Sponsorships department. Lastly, at an up and comping tech company changing the face of education called GoGuardian. They have been pivotal in transitioning students into a remote learning environment by allowing teachers to communicate, teach, and even lockdown devices from any location as well as filtering what students are allowed to see and search. My combined experience has shaped me into an organized business owner who crosses every tee and dots every I. I run my business logically by looking at numbers and percentages and let the food speak for itself. You have to love what you do, but you also have to follow the numbers.
Do you have recommendations for books, apps, blogs, etc?
I love to read biographies of the inspiring people in our world. My favorites are Michelle Obama’s Becoming, Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened”, and Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime. These people were/are marginalized and have made their lives better and fought for themselves. I relate to their stories. I also listen to Podcasts such as Full Comp: The Voice with Josh Kopel which is are interviews with successful restaurant owners and “How I Made It” by Jasmine Browley which are conversations with founders of famous start-ups.
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: www.mylaikitchen.com
- Instagram: @themylaikitchen