Watch: Ajay Relan talks business ownership
Ajay Relan wanted to build something special in Los Angeles’ Crenshaw community. Before long, he became the co-owner of Hilltop Coffee & Kitchen, where you can get the best coffee and breakfast sandwiches in the city.
Relan had lots to share with us about the challenges of becoming a business owner and serving a community that may question you.
The following is a transcript of what he shared.
Ajay Relan: As a person of color starting a business, you’re sometimes you’re starting at a deficit. I think people are questioning your intentions or your capabilities and your ability to operate at a high level. On the intention piece, I think, you know, there’s always people that are questioning your motives, whether or not you’re from the community, whether or not you are ironing out every single detail of your space and your offering. The majority of the community embrace us because they just wanted our offering. And then there’s always that small subset of the population that questions your intentions, and you just overcome them by pushing through and continuing to deliver on a quality experience.
I think one of the challenges that we faced early on is people questioned our intention and if we were actually the owners. They didn’t think that, you know, a Black and Indian man, that the both of us were the actual owners; they thought that we were kind of talking heads for another group. There was a lot of chatter online and Facebook groups and Nextdoor apps. But, then, overall, we overcame that pretty quickly by, you know, consistently delivering on our promises — even beyond our grand opening.