An Interview With Carissa Ortega: The owner of Ninong’s Cafe

Q: Could you please provide our readers with a brief introduction to your
amazing cafe/bake shop?

A: Ninong’s Pastries & Cafe, Inc. opened its doors in October of 2008 with one main
goal in mind: to share Filipino culture and food with our community. Ninong’s is a
family owned and operated business and runs our day-to-day operations out of
our cafe/bake shop in Northridge, CA, a suburb north of Los Angeles.
The bake shop offers Filipino-American inspired Pastries, Breakfast, and Lunch
items. Our pastries are made and baked in our shop from our family’s recipes. We
also offer our popular Barako Coffee and Filipino Teas imported directly from the
Our shop is open Tuesday through Sunday from 8am to 5pm. We are closed on

Q: In terms of building a community of loyal customers, have you done a
strategy that you feel has been effective for you guys?

A: When we first started my mom did this really great thing. She started a news
letter and she had no idea, an email news letter, she had no idea that she was doing
digital marketing. She was just doing it you know. And so what she came up with
was she came up with this idea of if you sign up for our online newsletter, every
week we’ll have a different special during the weekend. And the only way you’ll
know what it is, is if you sign up for the newsletter. So she would get people to sign
up and she would have me input it into our email system and then she would think
of something to create every single week that was different. It wasn’t really going by
a textbook playbook of how it is now because now you have people with do the
newsletter, they would have like all these landing pages to catch emails, so on and so
forth, so your mom was actually was more like a natural, ability to recognize, hey I
do this news letter, I get your email, you get something by giving your email. That’s
genius. That’s amazing! Very much ahead of her time.

Q: Can you share with us tips on how to completely turn around failing

A: I’ll go over the 3 main things, but the first one I think that I have to talk about is
timing, because the timing of when we opened Ninong’s a lot of people would look at
it as “are you crazy why are you starting a business in the middle of a recession” you
know they’re thinking of it that way and you know, when we were going into it I
had to have faith that we were doing it in the right place at the right time and we
were right because what was happening at that time was the birth of social media. It
was you know facebook was a thing, yelp was a starting to becoming a thing, google

maps, I mean even at that time yahoo maps was, what was kind of budding at that
time and so I went in and I put us on google maps, I put us on yahoo maps, and
people didn’t know how to do that at that time you know yelp was just starting to
become a thing, and so part of it was being seen in the internet. It was a huge factor
of I think we were able to really survive because then I would put us on google maps
and the suddenly a random person would walk in the door and tita would be like
“how did you find us? Just curious” and they said “Oh we found you on google” and
she was like “what’s google?” It was completely foreign. I was trying so hard to think
of all these things that I can do to help them because at this time I wasn’t working at
Ninong’s full time it was still my mom, dad, and uncle and so I was just trying to help
them as much as I could and here I am on the computer trying to just throw the
name out there create a website for them and do all of the digital all the marketing
because that’s my background, so that brings me to number 2 is online marketing
because the timing was just right our online marketing really put us aside because
prior to that, you know my mom was trying to advertise in print you know she
would do the bulletins at church she would try and do the coupons in the mail that
type of thing which worked because there were a few people that would come but
the digital marketing and digital media did it in a day and it costed nothing at that
time. It cost zero money. It was just effort and time. That’s all it was so that’s
number two definitely and number three I think is being willing to pivot when
something doesn’t work. Being able to spot what’s working and immediately being
able to react.

The owner of Ninong’s

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