Founder of Maman Bakery
Elisa is the heart of New Yorks most charming bakery MAMAN. We met with her in their original location in SoHo which initially launched in 2014. Maman is today a floating business with 5 premium locations in New York and Toronto.
Like every success story, their early beginning was a long road, acquiring profound skills and valuable experience.
Elisa took the time to tell us how it all came together:
“ I started out as a fashion design student but soon set my mind onto the business side of things. I educated myself in marketing, branding, merchandizing and store design.
After hosting several branding events for other companies, my passion for PR and community crystalized more and more. I continued to host plenty of private events which allowed me to incorporate my second passion: baking.
From weddings to birthdays, I loved planning intimate occasions and celebrating people as opposed to “things”. Before we opened Maman, I felt that I was doing a little bit of everything but nothing whole heartedly. From my own personal standpoint, I therefore dreamed of a world of my own that would combine all of these things.
There were my love for food, baking, coffee, design, events, friends, family and the man I love.
I really felt that there wasn’t any other space that was encompassing all of those things. Many coffee shops and cafes are just trendy and hipster. But none of them had a warm, home-like atmosphere – something people love, know and relate to. The goals were set: I wanted to create a home away from home. Especially in a cosmopolitan place, were most people are craving that kind of feel.
Even if it’s only for a quick meal, you are surrounded by a beautiful environment that makes you forget about the outside world for a moment. Most of our clients come back regularly and consider it their second home. We are one big family.”
Launching Maman, was a heart decision for Elisa. It was not only a combination of her present world, but also a journey back to her roots. Inspired by her own childhood, she tried to reanimate her most cherished memories under one roof.
“The name MAMAN is a tribute to our moms, who are the inspiration and role models in anything we do. Most of my baking and cooking skills can be credited to my mom. I grew up in a home with a similar feel and decor. My father was an antique dealer which reflects in the rustic aesthetic of our café.
Large farmhouse tables, mismatching chairs and plates. Something that happens in a standard household unwillingly but that ultimately creates that distinguished charm. Every individual piece got its own history. Every item is chosen consciously.
Many people underestimate the importants of indoor plants and upcycling. I love to reuse materials.
All these things contribute to a certain uniqueness that you can’t find anywhere else. This is what makes Maman so special.
We put a lot of effort into detail. From our one of a kind disposable coffee cups to our old postal carts converted to seating units. It is these small elements that make us memorable from a marketing perspective. And Social Media proves us right.
It's boring to buy standard items that you can find anywhere else at mass production. We try to be creative in anything we do. It’s that little bit of extra effort that makes all the difference.
People come to us for the unique atmosphere and comfort. It has always been an important tradition in our family to bring friends together around one table. And yet is it difficult to keep up with that routine in a city like New York. Most people don't even have the space to install a large dining area. Their busy schedules barely allows them to find the extra time to shop quality ingredients and cook for themselves.
Anything we try to achieve in our personal standards, we try to pass on to our customers and staff. It is our priority to create a warm and welcoming environment to bring people together who can share an authentic moment.
Running several places at once is a stressful job. Elisa stands on her feet all day long, taking care of operations behind the scene while always finding a friendly word for the people who surround her.
“I try to be aware of the things I can be grateful for. I find beauty in details. That can be a wild flower growing through the cracks of the sidewalk or a smile from a stranger. I always try to see the glass half full even if that is not always easy in this hectic industry where so many things can go wrong on a daily basis. I always try to remind myself to stay positive though. It makes such a big difference in my life and overall outlook. And you must stay sharp. Owning your business, means no routine. I chose to not even give myself one specific job title. It can literally change every day. From Owner to Creative Director to Waitress to Dishwasher. I enjoy that it’s different every day. It keeps things stimulating. There is no such thing as a standard 9-5 day. I am fortunate to even have several “offices” to mix things up. There is email work, venue visits, partner meetings, food tasting and it can also happen that I must jump in at the service.
It is important to know how to do every position in your company to have a better understanding of how we work and what we can improve. It is healthy to see things from the perspective of an employee.
Clothing complements our aesthetic. I stick to neutral colors. But that is also because I am personally not a “color person”. I don’t like bold prints or loud patterns.
It matters to me that clothing is comfortable and versatile. I need to switch my attire several times a day, depending on the task. Throwing on a blazer and heels to transition from kitchen to client meeting can be it. My wardrobe consists of a lot of classic items that I can dress up or down.
As for future planning: we intend to not necessarily open more locations but to focus on partnerships with more like-minded brands. To me that is the future of shopping & dining. The market is so competitive. I want people to see Maman as more of a lifestyle as opposed to just food & coffee shop.
I wish to give 100% to every space to maintain its uniqueness and intimacy. Decorating and creating are the two things that bring me the most joy. It was a blessing to turn that into my work and create a visual identity for Maman.
My best advice to others who are starting their own business is to identify their weaknesses at first.
It seems easier to point out our strength because we know what we CAN do. But it is by far harder to define the unknown. I always knew that I wouldn’t be good with the administrative work. I would have closed down within a week of business if I had to deal with book keeping and numbers. I therefore made sure to find someone to cover me in that department. Which is probably the key division for most successful brands.
Nobody should put the pressure on themselves to think they can do it all on their own. ”