Written By: Imran Patwary
Ana Ivkosic is the CEO and founder of Wattle Cafe. Born in Australia, Ivkosic had a twenty-year career in Banking. She then found her passion for entrepreneurship and founded Wattle Cafe in New York. It was after becoming a parent that Ivkosic changed gears and decided to become a business owner. She decided to recreate the memories of eating healthy food in Australia. Her intention with creating Wattle Cafe was to create something that was authentic. Since opening the first store in 2017, her business has expanded rapidly.
TIQC asked Ana Ivkosic about the choices she made when designing the cafe at first. “The big thing is that we don’t have any sugar in any of our food,” Ivkosic says. The intention from the beginning was to offer vegan and dairy free options. As a matter of fact, there is no sugar on sight. The ingredients for the vegan menu items are sourced locally. “There’s a lot of thought going into what we use and where we buy our ingredients from,” Ivkosic tells us. Wattle Cafe is immensely proud of supporting other female entrepreneurs when sourcing ingredients locally. Some ingredients are also sourced from the West Coast. What is most important to Ivkosic is working with partners that are trying to achieve something similar to her: “nurturing through food.”
We asked Ana Ivkosic about Wattle Cafe’s mantra / statement. “It’s about nurturing through food and giving back to the community,” she replies. Wattle Cafe was created in order to create a space that would support the local community. There is a sincere commitment to investing in local schools. That is why the stores are close to local schools. Discounts are provided to students from these schools. The company is also interested in teaching kids about food while making it a fun experience.
When asked about her biggest inspirations, Ivkosic cites her parents. She grew up in a household “with a lot of heart” and commitment. She tells us about the food she ate in her household with her parents and how the experience of making it was as valuable as the consumption for her family. Her intention was to bring these teachings to her brand to share with her customers. She expresses gratitude toward her team members for helping her make this a reality. “As much as it’s my vision, it’s a team effort,” Ivkosic says.
Three things are most important for her business, Ivkosic tells us: “Persistence, tenacity, and passion.” Before starting her own venture, Ivkosic worked as a health coach because she wanted to work with the correlation of health, wellness, and food. Although faced with tough times in the last two years, Ivkosic held on with sheer determination. “You must keep going forward!” she excitedly tells us. The challenging times are only temporary and will always work as learning experiences, according to Ivkosic.
When asked about failures she has faced, Ivkosic quickly reminds us that failure is natural as success is, the only important thing to have is one extra success on account.” She discussed the challenge of losing stores. While that was tough to take, Ivkosic and her team forced themselves to think about strategies for moving forward. Ivkosic tells us, “For me it was the universe… challenging us to think outside the box.” The problem of stores closing was solved by the creation of an e-commerce platform where the most popular grab-and-go items are now sold. “If it wasn’t for COVID-19, myself and the team would not have forced ourselves to think of different ways of continuing,” she tells TIQC.
We asked Ivkosic to speak about her relationship to Tech Incubator Queens College. Due to COVID, Ivkosic was forced to look into resources available to her in New York. That is when she attended a meeting hosted by Ying Zhou, the Executive Director of Tech Incubator Queens College. “TIQC has been phenomenal,” she exclaims. It was a great opportunity for her to share her story with other entrepreneurs through TIQC. Ivkosic tells us, “One thing that is forgotten is that as much as it is glamorous to be an entrepreneur, it could be quite lonely.” Although operating with respective teams, Ivkosic realizes the loneliness sometimes felt. She tells us that it has been “a blessing” for her to get connected with her peers through TIQC.
As a small token about Wattle Cafe, we asked about Ivkosic’s favorite product. She tells us it’s the Acai Bowls or the Bliss Bites. She categorizes both as healthy snack items. She jokes about the need for these in order to achieve her “summer body.” She reminds us again that Wattle Cafe uses fresh ingredients and has many vegan options. The most important thing Ivkosic has learned over the years is “ how food can make you feel.” What food should do according to her is make us “feel clean and nurtured” and not tired afterward.
Connect with Wattle Cafe:
Website: Wattle Caffe