Featured Spotlight: Coffee Project

“All you need is love and a coffee,” and that’s exactly what you’ll get at Coffee Project in the East Village.  As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by a friendly hello and some smiles by co-owners, Chi Sum Ngai and Kaleena Teoh (pictured below, respectively).  Sum, who is Malaysian-Chinese, had completed her barista training in Portland. She learned to blend different beans together, creating flavors that were beyond just the popular coffee that comprises of nuts and chocolate notes.  She moved to New York City five years ago and began her planning to open a shop with Kaleena.

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Featured Spotlight: Mahalo New York Bakery

Imagine a drive along the coast of a Hawaiian island. One minute you see sea turtles washing up on the shore of the beaches. Then you’re swerving left and right along the cliffs and passing by banana and guava trees. You decide to hop out of the car and jump into the most refreshing pond of water, swimming to the waterfall to let it crash over your head.  Lastly you drive to see the sunset on top of the mountains. There seems to be nothing but beauty, nature, and relaxation. Hawaii is one of those places in the world where your breath gets taken away.  It’s also one of those places where you will never forget how good their food tastes, and luckily, there are some people who have finally brought Hawaii’s exotic tastes to New York City.

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Meet Mike and Sunita (Sue) Shiwdin, the couple who owns Mahalo New York Bakery.  They met back in high school, when Sue was already dreaming of opening her own bakery one day. Back in Guyana where Sue grew up, there wasn’t much electricity, so you can imagine how having an oven to work with when coming over to the States meant exciting times to bake and make her own creations.  After a trip to Hawaii for their honeymoon, she realized how much the food and culture there resonated with Guyana. Flavors such as guava, mango, and hibiscus, as well as friendly people saying hello were all very similar.  She and Mike decided to open a bakery in New York City that spoke to this resonance. “We named it, Mahalo New York Bakery,” Mike explained, “which means thank you New York for giving us this opportunity to open this bakery.”

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Featured Spotlight: Wine O Club’s Mark Fang

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Ahhh it’s that time of the year again!  As you may or may not know, I LOVE featuring some incredible founders / artists every summer. If you know anyone who would love to be featured, please contact me and I’ll be glad to share their story! It’s incredibly inspiring to hear what happens behind the creation of a particular product, company or store. For the next month, you’ll learn about 3 founders that I met who are incredible human beings with such a strong passion about what they do.

First, I’m thrilled to introduce Mark Fang, the witty and humble co-founder and teacher of the Wine O Club.  Co-founded with Jabin Kim, the two have created a club that customizes to people’s personal tastes and provides classes to teach the basics of identifying, tasting, and pairing wines.  It’s up to you what wines you get, when you get them, and how often. What makes this company stand out for me was that the 2-hour wine tasting session was classy without being pretentious and provided a really fun and comfortable way of learning the different kinds of wines and what to look and smell for.  If you think your sense of smell is strong, you may be surprised (I sure was!).

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So to find out a little more about the story behind this company, I was fortunate to have a one-on-one interview with Mark at Wine O Club’s new event space in an elegant but casual atmosphere in Midtown.   If only you can hear the chuckles and the sense of humor behind the scenes with him, but you’ll definitely know what I mean by that if you sign up for the class as Mark is often the teacher!
When you’re done, be sure to read below for a little surprise just for YOU!

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A Valentine Special

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Are you ready for a special treat?

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It has been a while since Lilspirations had a Featured Spotlight post! (In case you didn’t know, Featured Spotlight is when we shine the light on someone and readers can go behind the scenes to learn about the maker/owner!)  2015 was a good year where I had the incredible opportunity of meeting owners such as Solomon Choi (founder of 16 Handles), Tony Quach (founder of Snowdays), and makers like the talented Andrea Watson and Kristine Brookshire.  This time, I’m super excited to feature someone new to the business and having a really awesome purpose behind her work.  

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Got a Picky Eater at home?

Since this isn’t a mommy blog, I won’t have the answers for you.. But I know someone who will!  Parents of picky eating munchkins, this one’s for you! 

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I’m so excited on this February 1st to announce a Kickstarter project created by my close friend and mentor, Kendra Chao. Kendra is now the author of Read Them and Eat, fun interactive books that help children see food in a new and adventurous way.  Because her son Lucas, is a super picky eater, she created these books to help children enjoy eating their vegetables. Sometimes, the airplane trick doesn’t work and neither does bribing your kids. So why not turn eating into an activity that results in a finished plate?  It’s an awesome idea, and I know it’ll positively impact many people out there!

If you’re interested, through the Kickstarter website here, you can support her project (even $1 helps!) or get your own copy of Sally Strands and her Wacky Hairstyles and The Most Delicious Train Ride.  I’m quite excited to get my own copy to read to my niece! 

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Here’s Kendra and her son, Lucas! 

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 I hope you’ll support this wonderful project and really fun cause! The campaign will run until February 22nd!  xoxo 

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Featured Spotlight: 16 Handles Founder, Solomon Choi

Are you all ready for another featured spotlight?? This will be my last one for the summer and I am super honored to share this as this person really hits the spot when it comes to success. Not to mention he is someone who can easily inspire you to do ANYTHING your heart desires.

Recently, I had the opportunity of meeting founder of 16 Handles, Solomon Choi, at a friend’s birthday dinner. Sitting across from Solomon with good friends, I listened to his story about finding the frozen yogurt company and was inspired by his philosophy, his passion and drive to go beyond simply having a good product to sell.  I remember when he shared, “Be authentic. Stand for more than your product if you want to build a lifestyle brand.”  So I asked if he can share this story with Lilspirations and we enjoyed a nice interview and conversation over a frozen yogurt at one of his stores. For those of you who seek to be entrepreneurs, perhaps this may give you a little push and bring a smile as well!

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Featured Spotlight: Christina Seid

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Happy National Ice Cream Day! While I am away in the bustling city of Hong Kong right now, it doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten to celebrate this awesome day that gives all an excuse to eat ice cream till there’s no tomorrow! 🙂 In celebration of this day, I would love to introduce to you the owner of one of the top ice cream stores in New York City. Meet Christina Seid from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. She has a huge heart for the community and runs a blog that confirms her passion for giving back and for her business. Recently, she awarded three students from the Lower East Side prep high school with scholarships for contributing to the Lower East Side and Chinatown. “I have never been so moved by a graduation!” she explained.  While chatting over some condensed milk on toast and sipping tea at a local restaurant, Christina shared her story with me again about her store! Enjoy this read of a glimpse from our conversation!

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Featured Spotlight: Christina Shirley

I really admire people who are self-taught in a skill. It takes a lot of patience, time, and motivation to learn something on one’s own without needing to be pushed or taught. Some people just naturally do it whereas I feel the need to be taught or given a push first before going off on my own – I think they call me lazy… sometimes.

But that’s not even close to describing Christina Shirley from the Stella Blue Gallery.  She’s a 34-year-old artist and mommy with a beautiful 7 year old girl and a supporting husband.  She is self-taught all around!  “Everything I have done I have taught myself.  From the bare bones of cutting and shaping wire for intricate earrings.  Firing my first torch to melt glass, (something I am on hiatus from but hope to pick back up in the near future-glass shards don’t mix well with a 7 year old and a home studio).  All the way to purchasing my first jewelers saw, sterling silver sheet and solder so I could create my first ring.”  She explains her journey further, “Each endeavor was embarked with my fingers crossed, hair pulled way back (can’t take your chances with fire) all in hopes that it would work.  Thank God it did!”

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Featured Spotlight: Michelle Luu

Bringing you a microbiologist and self-taught potter all the way from California, here is my last featured spotlight of this week’s handmade and nature-inspired Meet the Makers series!  Meet Michelle Luu all the way from California. We did our interview over the Web and it was a delight to know the background behind what and where she fulfills her creative interests.  Read all about her below!

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Michelle and I am the maker behind Michelle Luu Pottery. I am a full time Microbiologist who is a self taught potter. I create a variety of one-of-a-kind pieces for the home.  My hope is that these pieces will become part of your daily routines and rituals–from Sunday morning breakfasts to family and friend get togethers. I believe in the art of handmade elements so all my pieces are wheel thrown or hand built. Each piece I make is crafted with care and love for the process in and of itself as well as the final product it will become. Because each piece is handmade there is always an element of imperfection or uniqueness and I believe that there is a certain beauty derived from these so-called imperfections.  I want to make things that are used every day. When I’m not making pottery, I love to experiment with cooking and playing rock songs on my ukulele. I have a weakness for pretty flowers, sunsets, and frenchies. I’m an optimist, dreamer, and I truly believe in happily ever after!

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