Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Le.
Hi Jennifer, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
Raynard: What excites me about the hospitality industry is that no two days are the same and the opportunity to make a difference in people’s life through food. My passion for the hospitality business was initiated when I was 13 years old. Notably, to demonstrate how far America has come, hospitality was the only business back then where I could secure a dishwasher job with a staggering minimum wage of $2 per hour at a Chinese restaurant. From there, I advanced my experience at fast-food franchises, including Little Caesars and Wienerschnitzel, which eventually became my expertise in hospitality. After a few years at Wienerschnitzel, I proudly became a general manager. By the time I was 18 years old, I had saved enough money to purchase my own restaurant and, more importantly, realized my passion for this industry that I embrace to this day. I also graduated from the most prestigious program in the United States, Culinary Institute of America.
I became Vice President at Universal Studios Hollywood, where I was recruited to start a restaurant and retail company. Today, I am a highly successful businessman in the hospitality industry, particularly as the founder and former owner of the Prime Restaurant Groups that was responsible for 300 restaurants and their real estates, including prosperous franchises like Fatburger, Popeyes, Pizza Hut, Subway and Papa Johns. Through my executive roles, I have traveled to over 22 different countries, including most states in the United States, to build businesses. I had the wondrous pleasure of learning to speak Cantonese in Hong Kong, visiting Karni Mata in India, and enjoying peace at the most remote part of Russia. I am grateful for all these experiences during my travels, allowing me to appreciate different people, cultures, and lifestyles. The lifestyle I chose for myself 20 years ago was vegan in order to lead a healthy life and committed to sustainability in our food source. As such, I aspire to merge my vegan lifestyle with my expertise in hospitality.
Jennifer: I am a Professor and Doctor of Clinical Pharmacy at the University of California, San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy (https://profiles.ucsd.edu/jennifer.le) and specialize in pediatric infectious diseases and pharmacology for over 20 years. Serving in the capacity of an invited member for the Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health, I support human health by consulting on pharmacokinetics – the process by which a drug is absorbed, distributed, metabolized and eliminated by the human body. I have published over 150 articles in reputable medical and pharmacy journals and books, including a national guideline that applies vancomycin pharmacokinetics (an antibiotic that treats serious infections) to ensure its safe and effective use in hospitalized children and adults.
In addition to my passion for research to improve human health through drugs, I am always exploring for delicious desserts to consume each day and extremely inquisitive in making healthier versions of my favorite desserts yet retaining their palatability, including donuts, brownies, cupcakes, and cookies! I believe the scientific pharmacokinetic or “digestion” process of drugs can be extrapolated to food since food is handled similarly to drugs by our body. To achieve this end, I took a leap of faith to initiate a bakery focused on plant-based ingredients, dairy-free, egg-free, vegan and gluten-free. This has been a dream come true for me for two reasons — (1) enjoying “healthier” sweets every day made by one of my favorite culinary vegan chef, Mr. Raynard Ledford, and (2) playing a part to offer health-conscious food to Americans, especially those with food allergies to gluten, eggs and dairy.
We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Every successful business takes time and face challenges. Challenges are critical to development and growth, especially for the anticipated trajectory for our business concept to build into a national brand. With two distinct backgrounds, we serendipitously met and became business partners and good friends three years ago. It has been a very bumpy road for us, with a multitude of ups and downs largely arising from the COVID-19 pandemic accompanied by inadequate staffing and a desire for rapid growth.
Nonetheless, united by our passion for healthy food, Lêberry Bakery & Donut has survived the pandemic to introduce America a scrumptious “sweet” vision to health-conscious living by integrating sustainable plant-based ingredients to facilitate food kinetics in and out of our body – in a healthy way. We capitalize on each other’s strengths to flourish Lêberry, even during our COVID-19 pandemic. With the success of our flagship location in Pasadena, California, we are now franchising our award-winning concept!
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
The plant-based-vegan and gluten-free concept embedded in Lêberry Bakery & Donut was rooted in our vision for health-conscious food among those with food allergies and everyone who wants a healthier version of sweets to enjoy daily. The case favoring plant-based food, shifting from the traditional animal-based diet, is not new; however, the expansion of 100% plant-based vegan and gluten-free food into the donut and bakery industry is novel and ultramodern, appealing to capture the increasing popularity of health-conscious living for everyone including those with food allergies like gluten, eggs and dairy.
MASSIVE MARKET DEMAND: Our focus combines two global market shares within the fast-food industry that are complementary—the market size of a bakery at $200B and donut $40B USD. In addition, the compound annual growth rate for plant-based food is escalating, a lucrative sign based on market demand that will further grow as science demonstrates the benefits of plant-based food on human health and our environment—“going green.”
STRATEGIC SHIFT WITH MARKET DISRUPTION: Lêberry is an innovative and one-of-a-kind concept that offers plant-based donuts and baked desserts in one shop. We: (1) strategically shift service of desserts by unifying donuts and baked goods; and (2) disrupt the current market to meet increasing market demand for plant-based food to emerge as a world leader within a specialized niche. Currently, there is an absence of a plant-based franchise in the USA and the world. Even among the current franchises, there is none that combines donut and bakery.
FRANCHISING NOW: Lêberry Bakery & Donut has arrived, with our first award-winning store in Pasadena, California to popularize delectable plant-based sweets. We have received multiple accolades that substantiate our concept and popularity, including Best Donut during DonutFest LA in 2020, in which we defeated Krispy Kreme and ten other gourmet donut shops, 4.5-star Yelp with Favorite Certificate among Yelpers in 2019 and 2021 (not 2020 due to the pandemic), and featured on Guy Fieri’s Restaurant Reboot for high growth potential (link to video https://youtu.be/DUtkvtjjiNE). We are excited to announce that we are now franchising and thrilled to expand to SAN DIEGO, where there is a large health-conscious community. https://leberrybakery.com/investment/.
Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
In any business, we don’t believe in luck as hard work, determination and perseverance are keys to success. We both work 60 hours or more per week, and it feels like only 30 hours as we enjoy or learn something new every minute. With our keys to success, we have achieved multiple accolades for best bakery and best donut within the first years of opening, including a 2019 Yelp award, 2020 winner of DonutFest Los Angeles, and Award announced on Guy Fieri’s Restaurant Reboot made possible by the California Restaurant Foundation, Dawn and Cascade. We are extremely grateful for their support!
In life, we both, fortunately, had luck as we found careers that energize us every day. We relish meeting people from diverse backgrounds and motivating the young minds of today, hopefully, to engage them to believe in hard work and determination to achieve all their dreams.
- Vegan or Gluten-Free Donut: $3 – $5
- Vegan or Gluten-Free Cupcake: $3.5
- Vegan or Gluten-Free Pie: $20 – $25
- Vegan or Gluten-Free Cake: $50 – $100
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: https://leberrybakery.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/leberrybakery/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/leberrybakery/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/leberrybakery
- Youtube: https://youtu.be/DUtkvtjjiNE
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/lêberry-bakery-pasadena-3
Images by Duc Do and Jenna Wu