Nov. 17, 2011
By Steven Frank
Finding one of the youngest — possibly the youngest — female business owner in Williston requires an excursion from the main commerce center around Taft Corners to a daytime eatery tucked away in the White Cap Business Park on Industrial Avenue.
There one can find 22-year-old Mikaila Stanislas behind the counter of her Simply Divine Café — providing service with a smile to a regular crowd of customers in and around the nearby Avenues A, B, C and D.
Stanislas got her feet wet in the industry working for her mother at another café in Williston. Now the St. Albans resident is calling the shots — purchasing the light fare breakfast and lunch eatery that used to be Yvonne’s Café seven months ago and overseeing five employees.
Simply Divine, which also provides catering, specializes in bakery items and sandwiches. In addition, the café offers homemade soups, wraps and 15 types of dressings.
Stanislas recently sat down with the Observer and talked about her café and what it’s like to be a business owner.
Williston Observer: What led you to buying the café?
Mikaila Stanislas: My mom owned a café for six years and I actually worked there. She ended up selling it. I then got into the corporate world and missed every second of the restaurant business. My father did all the construction in this development and owned this spot. He was leasing it to Yvonne (Brown, owner of the site’s former eatery) so I took over the lease.
WO: Why didn’t you stay in the restaurant business after your mom sold her café?
Stanislas: It was at the point where I wanted to finish school and venture into a job with health benefits and all that fun stuff, which ended up to be not all it was cracked up to be — with all the 14-hour days. It got overwhelming.
WO: What did you do in the corporate world?
Stanislas: I worked for an international fulfillment center. Basically, you import and ship goods from outside the U.S. into the U.S. We also did distribution, we ran a lot of websites. So we would take orders off the website, put them into our ordering processing centers and they would ship them out.
WO: When the café became available, did you get any advice and assistance from your family? How did that process go?
Stanislas: My mom was able to help me as far as how to go about licensing with the state. She helped push things along for me. My father was there to be the paper-pusher, too.
Stanislas: I was looking for something catchy but not overextravagent. I figured the simply part would make people know that we’re going to sell simply baked items, nothing fancy. My AOL (America Online) username (had divine in it) so that’s what led me in this direction.
WO: What are your thoughts on this location?
Stanislas: It’s a great location. It’s a great development with all the avenues around here. So, luckily, we get a lot of business off the avenues. With the catering aspect of things, we go all the way to Colchester. So catering opens up the window a little bit, and that’s been great. It’s been about getting the word out there, not so much a location thing.
WO: What are the challenges you face now as a business owner, compared to when you worked for your mom?
Stanislas: Before, when I was an employee, I did my job and then I would leave. The responsibility changes when you become an owner and time management is a huge deal.
WO: Let’s face it. You can look in Williston or anywhere else in the world and it would be difficult to find a lot of 22-year-old business owners out there. Does your age present any additional challenges?
Stanislas: The younger you are, I think people tend to take you less seriously. Luckily, when it comes to the café world, people know me from my mom’s café and know all the work I did there. From that, I have been able to develop a good reputation.
WO: As an owner, what are some of the things you have to do that others wouldn’t realize?
Stanislas: There is all of the daily preparation, especially with the catering that goes in and out the door. A lot of that goes out before six o’clock in the morning. Then there is the other end of things, the paperwork and all that fun stuff. Nobody sees that.
WO: What do you enjoy about owning Simply Divine?
Stanislas: It’s an accomplishment — that’s probably the best way to put it. At the end of the day, you feel accomplished as opposed to just working 14 hours for somebody else … Looking back at the end of the day and seeing everything you did just makes you feel great.
WO: Given how old you are, does your age give you an extra sense of accomplishment?
Stanislas: Yes. If I can do this at 22, what can I do at 40?
WO: What are some of your popular menu items?
Stanislas: The quiches are very popular. The scones are popular, too. Soups are always a good seller. Our sandwiches are really yummy as well.
WO: What does the future hold?
Stanislas: Honestly, I don’t know. I didn’t plan on doing this. I had the opportunity and jumped. I just go one day at a time.
WO: Is there anything you’re planning for in the short-term?
Stanislas: For the winter, we’ve been trying to do a hot dish every day. I want to do seasonal changes but do things one step at a time so there isn’t a drastic change for the customer.
WO: Why should some eat at Simply Divine?
Stanislas: We use all fresh ingredients. Our bread is baked fresh every day. And a lot of people come here because of the interaction they get. On most days, when somebody walks in — I know what (he or she) did last week and sometimes what (he or she would) want. If somebody comes in and they get the same thing every day, who wants to come in and tell you what it is every single day? So it gets to a point where knowing your customer and their name is very important to your business.
Simply Divine is located at 426 Industrial Avenue, Suite 155, in Williston. It is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Catering can be arranged outside of business hours.
If there’s a business owner that you’d like to see featured in “Follow The Leaders,” let the Observer know by contacting editor Steven Frank at 872-9000 x17 or firstname.lastname@example.org.