AANHPI Month Busines Spotlight Oats Chocolates Shinhee Lee

This week for Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Month, we interviewed Shinhee Lee of Oats Chocolates Bakery and Café!

Oats Chocolates Bakery and Café provides trendy, artisanal, high quality and tasty baked treats. A “well-being” concept has been incorporated into our lifestyle. More and more customers are looking for wholesome baked goods. We offer healthier baked products to our customers by using high quality ingredients and by excluding artificial ingredients and preservatives. Our products also contain lower amounts of sugar without sacrificing the taste and flavor. We have developed a variety of vegan and gluten-free products. These products have satisfied our customers at the farmer’s market. Our philosophy is serving our customers as our extended family and friends. Indeed, the products of Oats Chocolates have been our families and friends’ beloved treats.

What is your ethnic background?
I was born and grew up in South Korea. At that time, at home baking was not popular in Korea. Consequently, a bakery is a favorite place to the community. Visiting a local bakery with my family always made me smile.

How does your cultural background influence your business values and practices?
My culture can be defined as family and hospitality. In particular, my mother has been my inspiration. She has taught me the importance of sharing. I have shared my baked goods with my friends and church community. With their encouragements and supports, I started to sell my baked goods at a farmer’s market. That’s the starting point of my business! Therefore, my culture has influenced my business on prioritizing customer care. As I mentioned before, my major mission is developing and providing wholesome products to customers.

What are some hardships you have overcome as a woman-/minority-owned business?
Securing a business loan was a breakthrough.

How long have you been working with MWBC?
I have been working with MWBC for almost one year.

How has MWBC helped you in your business journey?
When I contacted MWBC, I was a bakery vendor at a farmer’s market. I had a concept and desire to start my business, but I did not know how to start it. MWBC team provided me with resources and guidelines for my business registration and assisted me to start a process for my business loan. With this support, I was able to accelerate the establishment of my business. Currently, I am getting help in shaping my online business.

What advice would you give to other Asian American aspiring entrepreneurs?
We all face different types of challenges in operating a small business with limited resources. It is critical to find and turn into a right place, such as MWBC, for help. I cannot emphasize enough to say: Don’t give up even if you are overwhelmed by an uncertainty and a huge challenge.

We asked Francisco Cartagena, Shinhee’s MWBC business counselor, what Shinhee has accomplished that makes her stand out.
Shinhee’s eagerness and commitment to make use of the resources available to entrepreneurs like herself is admirable. Her journey is a testament to the collective impact of the entrepreneurial ecosystem nurtured by MWBC. I am looking forward to seeing Shinhee progress as she opens her first brick and mortar bakery in Prince George’s County.

Learn more about Oats Chocolates Bakery and Cafe at www.oatschocolates.com

Happy Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Month! At the Maryland Women’s Business Center, we take pride in leveling the playing field for women and minorities. We are here to support Asian-owned businesses every month of the year.