April 21, 2022
Dr. Jennifer Le
We’re excited to announce the $10,000 March Amber Grant recipient. Congratulations to Dr. Jennifer Le, owner of Lêberry Bakery and Donut.
She is the March qualifier for the 2022 year-end Amber Grant ($25,000).
Recently, WomensNet Advisory Board member Marcia Layton Turner sat down with Jennifer for an exclusive interview. You can listen to their conversation and view the transcript below.
WomensNet: Hi everyone. Welcome to a conversation with our Amber Grant winner for March, 2022. Today, we’re speaking with Dr. Jennifer Le, who’s the owner of Lêberry Bakery and Donut. I’m Marcia Layton Turner, and I’m a WomensNet Advisory Board member. So Jennifer, thank you so much for joining us today.
Why don’t you tell us about your business.
Jennifer: Well, I’m actually a healthcare provider turned entrepreneur, and also mother and lover of dessert. Out of selfish reasons for me — I love desserts — [I] established Lêberry Bakery and Donut in 2019. A year right before COVID. We specialize in mindful sweets. Why mindful? Because we’ve essentially merged donuts and bakery into one industry and made it a hundred percent plant based. I don’t wanna use the word vegan, but essentially that’s what it means. And what that means is little to no cholesterol in our treats. And that’s what I want to do in terms of changing the mindset of what vegan is. It could be fun. It could taste delicious and still be healthier versions of what we eat.
WomensNet: What are some of the flavors?
Jennifer: My favorite flavor is the cake batter; it’s the vegan cake batter. Even our sprinkles on top is vegan. Meaning it does not contain any eggs, milk or butter. And it can still taste great. 99% of our customers come in and think — we don’t tell them that it’s vegan, first of all… we surprise them with that at the end. And when we first had this concept, it’s like, okay, no one knows that we’re vegan. And then when we went to Donut Fest, Los Angeles, this was like two months before COVID…and there were like 20 other donut vendors. So essentially you have to buy a ticket. There were, I think, 200 spectators there, eating donuts, different brands and washing it down with beer. It can’t taste great. And we won by a landslide because people were shocked when we told them at the end that we were a hundred percent plant based.
WomensNet: I would think that you would market to the vegan crowd though, because they’re the natural buyer, right?
Jennifer: Correct. The vegan community loves us. My partner and a manager who’s been in the business, franchise business, for over 40 years, he said he’s never seen so much love in a brand. And so it’s quite an accomplishment…and I would never compromise on taste, oh my gosh, I eat donuts. You know, cupcakes and cakes every day, literally every day. And to just offer healthy versions, I feel less guilty as a mom. I feel less guilty eating it.
The reason why I adventured even down this [business path] is because of a healthcare background; I was diagnosed with hyperlipidemia five years ago. And I said, okay, I cannot give up sweets. I gotta find another solution to this. And vegan donuts and bakery was the solution.
WomensNet: So you’re based in the LA area, is that your current service area or do you ship nationwide?
Jennifer: Right now, our first corporate store is in Pasadena, California, which is right on the Rose Parade route. I have so much fun every year. And the nice thing with the city of Pasadena is that there’s diversity. I came here originally when I first came to America…I lived in Pasadena in the roughest part of the neighborhood. So I embrace it. I love the sense of community there. So that’s why I decided to open one in Pasadena, and it’s worked out beautifully for us.
WomensNet: So how did you hear about the Amber Grant and what made you decide to apply?
Jennifer: With my healthcare background, I’m actually a researcher in pharmacology clinical pharmacokinetics. And so I’ve gotten NIH awards from a national student of health for my own research. And I sit on the FDA and a AHRQ grant review board. And so I’m very into competitive grants, you can say, and well established, reputable grants. And so I started visiting different websites. I came upon, I believe it was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website, and WomensNet was on it. I love woman empowerment at this point, especially when we have a vice president, as woman. So I love being an engaging, empowering woman. And so I said, okay, let me find out what this Amber Grant is about. And then I found out WomensNet was founded in, I believe 1998, which is 24 years ago. So you have that longevity of reputation and to have the foundation have the foresight to support and empower woman entrepreneurs…it’s an honor for me to receive this recognition.
WomensNet: Now that you’ve won, how do you plan to spend the $10,000 on your business?
Jennifer: With the concept being so well received and loved by our community, one of the things that we actually do is offer free baking classes and decorating classes for little girls. And I want to continue that — I want to engage the new younger generation to start thinking plant based. Plant-based is not just about our health. Yes, a little cholesterol, meaning it prevents heart disease, healthier versions. But it also is sustainable in the long run using plant-based products. We know about reduced carbon. I’m very into the environment and I have two boys, they just won California Envirothon, the whole state, and they’re going international. So I’m so proud.
I want to preserve our United States. I want to preserve not just only culture of diversity, but our environment too. And there’s such a need for that right now. I believe in going green. And so, I want to use this grant to really market the expansion of our business. So we got approved by the state of California for franchising, and now we’re on the SBA directory. So our goal is to just increase access of award winning treats throughout the United States. I wanted to grow as much as we can as a franchise, and for a long time.
WomensNet: So looking at three to five years, where do you think you’ll be?
Jennifer: Well, I hope I’ll be outside of California. Our focus now is California, but we wanna do this strategically in terms of hitting the big, metropolitan area cities first. And then my goal is to have a Lêberry at every corner where it’s accessible to everyone.
At this point, our price margin for vegan is high compared to regular products. But our donuts are huge by the way. But my goal, my hope, in 20, 30 years… however long it takes us to grow a brand that is affordable and accessible to everyone. That is my goal.
WomensNet: Can’t wait to try one when it comes to the east coast.
Jennifer: Yes. Oh my gosh. We’re targeting that hopefully in the next two, three years.
WomensNet: Good. So, do you have any advice for women entrepreneurs, maybe aspiring female entrepreneurs, anything you’ve learned along the way that might help them?
Jennifer: I think that everything stems from passion. Find your passion. And of course I eat desserts every day. So that has to be one of my passions…
I think everything starts with that. One thing I’ve learned in my life is that, of course I wanna enjoy every day, but what drives me? I’m passionate in everything I do. What drives me is the impact on others. There’s always a bigger purpose, a bigger reason for me to do things. And for me, my dream would come true if I’m able to make half Americans eat healthier. If you have two donuts, one that’s zero to no cholesterol, and one that has that, and it tastes the same…why would you not get the one with little to no cholesterol? And it’s friendly on the environment? So that’s a bigger purpose for me. I love that dream. To mesh that with what I love eating has been a wonderful journey for me.
WomensNet: Thank you so much for taking a few minutes to share your story with the WomensNet community, Jennifer, and congratulations again on being the winner of our March Amber Grant.
Jennifer: Thank you so much.