I’ve been a fan of Ninong’s ever since they were located on Chatsworth Street in Granada Hills. After my husband and I moved into the area, we tried their breakfast. I remember being happy to find a restaurant serving Filipino food near my home because I am of Filipino heritage, not to mention that their Ube pancakes were to die for! 😉
Ninong’s eventually left Granada Hills and moved to a bigger location in Northridge. Back in February 2020, we visited the restaurant for breakfast and after seeing their space, considered renting it out for my daughter’s 8th grade graduation. Then COVID-19 hit, which changed everyone’s lives.
Last month, at The ValleyFest in Woodland Hills, I reconnected with Ninong’s baked goods, now sold under the name Ninong’s Dessert Lab and found at various pop-up events. I got to talking with Kissa and thought it would be great to share her story about perseverance and having to pivot during the pandemic.
Please meet the latest Real Mom of the SFV – Kissa Ortega!
How/why did you begin your business?
Kissa: My family started Ninong’s in 2008 with the goal of sharing Filipino culture and food with the world through our family’s recipes. We have always wanted the tone and vibe of our place to give you a taste or remind you of what it was like growing up Filipino-American. So instead of opening up a restaurant in an area that already had a lot of Filipino representation we chose to open where I grew up, the North Valley. It was a long road finding a location, but we ended up finding our original home in Granada Hills in 2008 and later moved to Northridge in 2018 before closing due to the pandemic. Though we’ve had to pivot many times, our goal still remains the same to this day.
Because of the growth we were experiencing with Ninong’s, I started getting a lot of questions about how we started the business, how we grew our following, how much it costs to run a restaurant, etc. It had always been a dream of mine to coach and in 2019 I decided to start coaching entrepreneurs in the food and product-based industries. It’s been so rewarding to help people grow their businesses and sharing the knowledge I’ve learned in my 17+ years of being an entrepreneur.
As a working mother, what is one tip or piece of advice that you would give to other female entrepreneurs?
Kissa: Remember why you started the business in the first place. When I first became an entrepreneur, I remember the sparkly hopes I had of creating my own schedule and working in my pajamas if I wanted to. While it was true, I very quickly found myself obsessing about work and having no work/life balance because let’s be real – owning a business is HARD WORK. I quickly became a workaholic that thought about nothing but business. Though it’s not all fun and games, it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life. Now that I’m a mom, boundaries are so incredibly important and I’m brought back to the reason why I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I want to show my children that they can do anything they put their mind to. I want them to see actual proof that you can create something from nothing. I want them to know that being who they are and learning about their family history is something they shouldn’t be ashamed of. But I can’t teach them those things if I’m spending all my waking hours working.
What do you like best about having a business in the San Fernando Valley?
Kissa: One word – community. As a person that was born and raised in the SFV, I’ve really had the privilege to reconnect with childhood friends, meet great colleagues in the area that have shown me so much kindness (especially when we had to close our restaurant), and meet new people within our area. When we had the last day of service at our restaurant on November 1, 2020 our community came out and really showed us so much love. I was moved to tears to see so many of our customers wanting to come and order from us one last time. It’s something I’ll never take for granted.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you began your business, what would that be?
Kissa: There’s going to be times where people are going to doubt you, lose faith in you, question your decisions, and be negative. DON’T LISTEN TO THE HATERS. Just strive to always improve, keep your head down and do the work, have faith, and stick with it. It’ll be hard but it’ll be one of the best things to ever happen and will change your life.
For more information on Ninong’s Dessert Lab, check out their website here. Want to be coached by Kissa? Check out her website here. Also, don’t forget to follow Ninong’s Dessert Labs Instagram account to find out where they will pop-up next!
Disclosure: No monetary compensation was received for this post. The images shown in this post are used with permission. As always, my opinions are 100% my own.