Lesson 11: Perseverance, Creating From Your Why, and the Best Donuts in LA


How one of the most popular cafes in LA was built from the ground up through pure grit, a clear intention, and a heart of service.

With James Choi

Intention, hospitality and your why.
At the end of the day, if all those things are in line and you’re clear with that, then whatever you’re doing to do, it won’t fail. You’re going to succeed at some point.
— James Choi

How did an aspiring pro-golfer turned accountant end up opening one of of LA's most popular cafes with ZERO restaurant experience?

Tune into today's episode of Creativity School, to find out the incredible origins story of how my good friend James Choi started Cafe Dulce, one of the most popular bakeries and cafés in the entire city. With 4 locations, thousands of reviews on Yelp and lines out the door, people can’t seem to get enough of Dulce’s specialty coffee and creative pastries – especially their famous donuts. (My favorites are the Snickers and Green Tea, and I love their iced Vietnamese coffee!)

James explains how he quit his job in accounting 8 years ago to build Cafe Dulce from the ground up with his late mother, thanks to a whole lot of grit and perseverance. He also talks about his struggles during Dulce’s early days when he had to “fake it til you make it” and how he ultimately began to grow his business and loyal fan base through having a very clear intention for his business and a heart of service for his customers and community. His advice for how to build something meaningful and impactful is really insighftul and applicable to any creative work.

And you'll have to listen to find out the surprising way I met James back in the mid 90's, when he was a kid in Southern California and I was in Philly. (It's pretty funny and so very 90’s!)

Mentioned in this episode:

  • How James pursued a career in professional golf since he was 10 years old

  • Why he ultimately quit college level golf and majored in accounting

  • How he was able to keep Café Dulce afloat in the early days when they had maxed out credit cards and piles of debt

  • Why James says you have to be clear with your messaging and be intentional with why you’re doing it

  • Why good hospitality is NOT just for the hospitality industry and will help any new business thrive and stand out

  • How to add heart to your business

  • The best way to create something meaningful and impactful

  • James’ advice on how to be patient when you’re building something, especially through hardship and obstacles

  • Simon Sinek – Start With Why Ted Talk

  • CEOs Say How You Treat a Waiter Can Predict a Lot About Character


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