Small Business Profile: Geraldine Ridaura, Founder of Holy Matcha
Hi Geraldine! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Geraldine Ridaura, founder of Holy Matcha, San Diego’s first matcha café. I am very passionate about matcha — drinking it, preparing it, and sharing it with my community!
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I went to the University of San Diego and graduated with a degree in business administration and marketing. I discovered matcha when I was no longer able to drink coffee. I started experiencing negative side effects from coffee, which I suffered tremendously from, and so I needed to find an “alternative” and it turned out to be the best thing that has ever happened to me. Traveling to Japan certainly cemented my love and passion for matcha. What lead me to create Holy Matcha was the simple fact that I was tired of ordering matcha online and having to wait for it to arrive. I wanted to drive a couple a minutes to a cafe that offered it and prepared it traditionally. This is what inspired me to create San Diego’s first matcha cafe.
What led you to begin Holy Matcha? What was the transition like of leaving your previous job and creating something of your own?
I was working a corporate job in benefits and finally decided to dedicate my energy to building my dream of opening a matcha café in San Diego. I knew that with my business degree from USD and my passion for matcha I could make it happen. I didn’t want to work so hard in the corporate world and devote my life to something that didn’t have true meaning to me. I thought that it would be incredibly meaningful to open my dream spot and put my stamp on a neighborhood in my city.
How do you source the matcha you have in your cafe?
My matcha is grown for me in Kyoto, Japan
While matcha has always been beneficial to health, it has recently become quite popular. What would you like more people to know about matcha itself rather than the trend?
That it’s not just a trend. Matcha is a beautiful tradition that has been around for centuries and it has beyond amazing health benefits. It’s a healing tea loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and amino acids. While it may seem to some that it just popped up out of nowhere, it has a long, revered history and I believe it will continue to be a popular beverage in the global world.
How do you come up with your delicious menu items? What was your process of recipe creation/testing to putting them on the official menu?
I’m not a chef, but all the recipes are mine. I wanted to keep the menu simple yet impactful, which meant all the flavors needed to be amazing. Every item on the menu I had been making at home for myself prior to opening Holy Matcha. All I did was perfect certain items on the menu. The drinks were all my personal taste, especially the lemonades. The horchata, which is traditional in my culture, is my grandmother’s recipe and I grew up drinking it all my life (although without matcha when I was younger).
Did you have a clear brand vision when you began (the bright, colorful, light decor and branding) or did that develop when working with designers?
I’m very inspired by hospitality and pulled from worldly references in the hotel and restaurant industries: Le Sirenuse in Positano, Italy, Sketch in London, Bar Palladio Jaipur in India and The Royal Hawaiian in Honolulu. I grew up going to The Royal Hawaiian in Waikiki and was (and still am) in awe of it. That’s why I have all the huge flower arrangements at the café – The Royal Hawaiian does flowers in a big way. Since this was the first matcha cafe in San Diego, I knew from the beginning that it had to take a different form than the minimalist look that’s found in many of the coffee shops here (which, by the way, I love as well). I decided to pull inspiration from my travels and up the wow factor with the design to create something entirely unique, elegant and of the moment, then brought my ideas to the interior design firm HOMEWORK. From the quartz bookmatched waterfall bar to the custom pink velvet banquette to the custom brass shelving, every single item in this cafe was thought of for months and months prior to opening to make it feel like you’re at a modern-day tea parlor.
How do you connect with your customers and community?
I’m always at the café — it’s very rare that I’m not there. I love talking to everyone, learning their stories and sharing mine. I’ve heard so many stories in the past nine months and made new friends through these conversations. I am a matcha convert so I will talk to anyone who’s willing to listen about the amazing benefits of drinking matcha and why I love it so much.
Why do you think it’s important to shop small and support local?
It’s definitely important because you’re giving back to the community. Each and every single business owner that has their own little brick and mortar shop made a conscious decision to take a risk, so I 100% believe that it is very important to support people who decided to open a business in your community. Small shops are what shape our neighborhoods and inject individual communities with culture, personality and excitement!
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
I love matcha and I love talking about it. Customers come into the café who are coffee lovers and ask questions, try our matcha and some have evolved to become serious matcha lovers. It’s so rewarding to help customers enter the world of matcha and educate them on the wonders of the tea and then, over time, see the impact that matcha has made in their lives.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you faced when starting your business?
For one, not having a single clue how to run a business (in a practical sense) when I started out. There were a lot of unknowns. From forming the LLC to learning (and trying to understand) all the codes and regulations during construction to familiarizing myself with health department rules it was and still is a journey! It’s tough, but I’m a firm believer that if you are determined there’s nothing that’s impossible.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
I grew up in a society where there’s a lot of gender inequality (machismo is very real). I was taught to work hard every single day and to never expect to be given anything. I certainly believe that creating a network of women that understand one another’s journey and values is very important. We not only get to create a beautiful, safe and solid community, but I truly do believe that supporting each other helps us not only individually but it also sets the tone for a new generation. We hold the power to create a better tomorrow and it is up to us to make that change and show girls that women need to work together to continue to make headway in this society.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
My mother, Sophia Amoruso and Amanda Chantal Bacon.
What tools or resources have been most helpful for you in creating your business?
Reading and researching. Never underestimate the power of spending hours Googling things.
How do you manage your time?
I carry a planner everywhere I go, but I also rely heavily on iCal alerts on my phone. I also have a huge calendar in my office and at home. I realize it’s very old school, but print calendars get the job done and make life easier! I love to see everything I have going on for the month.
How do you deal with moments of self-doubt?
A lot of my self doubt comes from me caring too much. I don’t want to fail or have something go wrong — no one does! I give myself a moment to freak out, and then I collect myself, extract the emotions and tackle the task at hand. If it works out, awesome, if not, I use it as a valuable learning experience and try again!
What are some of your favorite places in San Diego?
Sunset Cliffs. I love the ocean and the views there are beyond amazing, especially when I want to clear my head and enjoy life for a moment. I love picnics, so I pack one and set up at Balboa Park (I always take my matcha horchata with me). Lastly, and I know this may seem cheesy, but I truly love being at Holy Matcha. Even when I tell myself I’m going to have the day off, I still go in and sit on the pink banquette, order a Ceremonial and take it all in.