Awatif Yahya, owner of Moyoni Desserts, was born in the Middle East, where she spent most of her adult life. After receiving her MBA from Golden Gate University, in August 2013, she pursued a cooking license under the California Homemade Food Act. She registered her business, December 2013, under the name “Moyoni”, which in Swahili means ‘from within the heart’.
Being one of our newer members, we at the Bayview Underground Food Scene thought we’d sit down for an introduction…
John: What is your business and how did you get it started?
Awatif Yahya: My business right now is doing desserts. I focus on three areas which are cupcakes, cookies, and donuts, but I do variations of those [desserts] too. When I was doing my research on the food scene in San Francisco, as a whole, I came across the California Homemade Food Act, which was passed in January 2013, and that’s how it all started. The CFHA (California Homemade Food Act) seemed a feasible option for me as it required low capital; low investment, which I could afford. So if we look at it in a marketing terminology, this act allows potential food entrepreneurs to run a pilot test as proof of concept. I wanted to test the market, to see if they [the consumers] would be receptive to my idea, my concepts, the spices I use, before I go into phase 2, phase 3, be it a commercial kitchen or anything else.
This [CHFA] was a good, soft introduction into the food industry. Through my research I found out about all the license types and the requirements, I completed necessary forms, woke up early one day, went down to City Hall, and got my Business registered.
I was working in parallel for the period of 2 months, I researched the act, and built up myself to actually comply with the requirements, in addition to developing my brand, logo, menu, food, etc.
So how did you become involved with the Bayview Underground Food Scene (BUFS) and the Community Pop-Up Market?
I live in the Bayview, and I kept seeing the Market on 3rd every time I passed. I went a couple of times, and I met Earl and Jen who then introduced me to Andrea; I met other people, and I found out they [The Community Pop-Up Market] accept the CHFA, and “Cottage Food Operators”, which are part of this act. Everyone was very friendly and the pop-up market was super convenient for me.
Moreover, when I went to register my business at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, I asked them who else accepts the CFO license and they also talked about the Bayview Pop-up. So to answer your question in a nutshell, what drew me to the Bayview Popup market was a combination of visibility, I saw the place, it’s proximity, I live in the area, convenience, and they accepted my licensing.
It’s crazy how venues like the Pop-Up Market stand out within a community like the Bayview, huh? Since there aren’t many events like it…
Yeah, things like that [The Pop-Up Market] really stand out and people get excited about it. For us to meet today we had, to look at multiple options [restaurant/cafe] because there’s nothing around here [The Bayview], so people want that here; people find it [the Pop-Up Market] positive. The Bayview has great potential for growth and attracting people not only from District 10 but also from other areas in San Francisco. If this [the Pop-Up Market] were to happen in, let’s say, the Marina, it wouldn’t stand out as much beccause there are so many options. I would like to see the Bayview becoming the latest San Francisco Foodie magnet.
Awatif selling her baked goods at the Community Pop-Up
So what are your goals and aspirations as they pertain to your involvement with BUFS?
I would like to see us [the vendors] have more involvement with investors and people who have interests in developing small businesses. Investing doesn’t have to mean they just give us money. They could come to give advice, consultancy, or just even being there [at the Pop-Up], using their brand/name to build awareness of the Community Pop-up. It brings more spotlight into the Bayview and that’s already support. I would also like to see more collaboration within the various food outlets in the Bayview. Fo example, vendors at the BUFS can do pop-ups within existing Bayview resturants such as Radio Africa and Old Skool. This will support local resturants integrate and give the BUFS more exposure.
How do you balance your business with being a vendor at the Pop-Up and do you have any advice for aspiring/new vendors?
To be honest, it’s balancing quite well at the moment, seeing how the Market is only once a week. So I have the rest of the week to research other channels where I can sell my products, so right now I’m using my own networks, like right now I’m catering for a baby shower, I’ll do weddings as well as other events, those are examples. Balancing is a just a matter of good scheduling and time management.
Why do you choose to be a vendor at the Pop-Up Market? What keeps you coming back every Thursday?
Well I like it. [laughs]. I like what I do. I like to be involved in the full cycle of my business. At my previous job I only had one specific job, everyone was responsible for one area of the business be it finance, sales, IT or whatever. This kind of business [Moyoni] gives me an opportunity to do everything. I am sourcing supplies, looking at cost reduction, managing my time, packaging and production, marketing and I have the enjoyment of interacting with the customers, and that’s what I like doing.
I take pride in what I do, and though everyone may not like what I make, I take pride in putting a smile on their faces when they do. That’s what I like about this kind of business, I can have my hand in everything…
We talked briefly about your goals with BUFS and the Pop-Up Market, but is there anything you would like to add about your personal goals, for your business?
I like baking, and since the CHFA has a restricted list of low risk foods, of which baked goods is one of them, I decided to start my food venture in baked goods, but what I really love to do is cook, hot meals. So that’s what I want to be doing in the future; I want my own restaurant. I’ll have my baked goods and my hot meals as well. I had to test the market, I’m all about testing market. I grew up in a different culture with different foods, so I had to see if people here are going to be receptive and it’s gonna sell before I move on to bigger ventures. Currently, I cook for neighbors and friends. All I ask for is honest feedback, in terms of what they like. The restaurant is a completely different business model all together. With the Pop-Up, you have your inventory and supplies, etc., but with a restaurant you have deal with people on another level, it’s more complex, hence more research is needed, but that’s always in my long-term plans…
Week of February 9th, 2014
OUR VENDOR OF THE WEEK IS:
Yvonne’s Southern Sweets
Yvonne Hines, owner of Yvonne’s Southern Sweets, has been a member of the Bayview community since she was a child. Her family migrated to San Francisco from Texas in the late 1940s, and with them they brought all the creativity and delight of down-home, Texas style comfort food.
Yvonne’s grandmother, Vermile Hines, had always been known as an avid enthusiast in the culinary arts. From cooking to entertaining, being behind the scenes and the face of the events she was hosting, Vermile Hines was known in the Bayview community as a “classy lady” of the culinary arts. At her grandmother’s side, Yvonne played the role of sous chef, kitchen assistant, and “designated taster” when the most enticing dishes were being created; learning her grandmother’s craft every step of the way.
Unfortunately, it was in the late 1990’s that Vermile’s health started to fade. Yvonne took it upon herself to acquire her grandmother’s recipes before she passed, allowing Yvonne to continue a legacy that had been apart of her family for generations.
Halloween at The Pop-up Market
After Vermile’s passing in 2000, Yvonne moved into her grandmother’s house and has been a Bayview resident ever since. In 2002, Yvonne enrolled in San Francisco City College’s culinary arts program and on October 26th 2006, Yvonne opened Yvonne’s Southern Sweets. Her menu included traditional southern desserts such as her signature, mouth-watering pralines and ol’ fashioned butter cookies; decadent lemon pies on Fridays, which eventually becomes a staple of the menu due to their popularity amongst the shop’s patrons.
“I want to be involved in something up and coming…It’s (Pop-up Market) a way of meeting people in my community, and at the same time, I’m showcasing my desserts…”
After being approached by members of the Bayview Underground Food Scene (BUFS), Yvonne became a vendor at the Community Pop-up Market and continues to sell her sweet treats every Thursday. When asked why she continues to be involved with BUFS and their efforts in the Bayview community, Yvonne responded by saying, “I want to be involved in something up and coming… It’s (Pop-up Market) a way of meeting people in my community, and at the same time, I’m showcasing my desserts.”
Yvonne with other members of BUFS (Gratta Wines, Comfort Foods National inc., Earl’s Bread & Brittle) catering an event at the office of District 10 supervisor, Malia Cohen
Yvonne and her one-of-a-kind desserts can be found at Yvonne’s Sounthern Sweets, 5128 3rd Street, San Francisco and every Thursday at your Community Pop-Up Market.