Interview with one of the Founders: Talking about Vision, Accolades, Team Work, Competition, Positive Energy & Work-Life Balance.
Today, I’d like to introduce a wonderful café, based in South West London. Why? Well, I know it’s cliche, but I like to write (or spend time) in coffee shops. Yeha Noha Café is one of my favorite cafés in London.
‘Yeha Noha’ means ‘Wishes of Happiness & Prosperity’. It’s also the first single from a very successful album of Chants and Dances of the Native Americans, released in ’94. Back to my subject matter… When Yeha Noha Café won Croydon’s Best Independent Café Award its owners were surprised, but I wasn’t… This café is a gem amongst restaurants and cafés in the area.
The vicinity used to be grey and uninspiring. Gosia, one of the founders, was able to see the potential of the area which may not have been obvious to everyone.
I feel like smiling when I look at the café’s colorful outbuilding and its cutesy fence – they’re friendly, fun and unusual (in the area). Inside, the atmosphere is quite special too – some call it magical. Gosia says: “I had imagined that this place would provoke growth in people, but at the same time it was meant to stop them from running all the time. That was my intention.” She says. “When you enter the café, it’s like being transferred from one world to another. It’s a bit like going on holidays. You can sit down and think, ‘What can I do to be happier’? Maybe I can meet new friends here…”
I wanted to find out how the idea to open this precious place came about, so I sat down with her and listened as she told me their story.
Gosia: “We thought it’s difficult for a family with small children to live in London. My children were ‘half-orphans’ – Boban used to leave in the morning and wouldn’t come back until midnight…” Boban is Gosia’s and Yeha Noha’s significant other i.e. husband and co-founder. He used to work “in the City” managing a successful restaurant by the River Thames…
Gosia continues: “One day, when coming back from our friends place we noticed a restaurant lit with soft colorful lights transmitting a wonderful atmosphere of relaxation…” Mesmerised Gosia said to her husband: “You have a business background. I have ideas. Why can’t we open something like this?” He answered: “Actually why not?” That’s how the idea was born. It was a joint venture from day one. “Once the intention had been released into the atmosphere things started falling into place even though it’s taken a while” she adds…
Gosia, a self-proclaimed risk taker with a philosophy that “unless you do something you’ll never know if it could work” says: “I have to be able to make money independently – in such a way that kids can have free access to both mum and dad.” One of the initial challenges was finding a venue. They’d almost secured one in Crystal Palace, but that fizzled out. “It wasn’t meant to be” Gosia says. Today, Yeha Noha Café is just by their house. The kids used to go there after school – they’d eat dinner and do homework in the café, but most importantly they could spend time, with both parents, in a family-friendly work environment.
Gosia recalls being exhausted while painting the fence before the grand opening. She tells me how “passers-by kept shaking their heads with pitiful comments such as ‘I hope you survive for about 6 months’. People didn’t believe in us. Some laughed at us when they found out we were about to open” She says.
However, sometime after the opening, customers started showing up. The owners were excited to see their intentions materialize. People came. They ordered coffee, hot chocolate, food… They’d sit down and relax… In the first year, Gosia’s friends, from North London, organised all their events in the café. “Travelling the distance made no sense” Gosia says and adds how grateful she still is for the support. Yeha Noha is a labour of love – it is a sweet reflection of its owners.
The Best Croydon Independent Café Award (2016) came as a surprise to the owners. A client called yelling into the phone: “Gosia, congratulations! You won! You won!” They didn’t strive to win. They didn’t even announce that they’d been nominated. “I will not be part of a rat race… I don’t have the need to be the best. I like team work…” Gosia explains. When asked about the award, however, she admits it was encouraging. It re-affirmed their belief that it pays to be honest in life. The owners have a very interesting approach to competition. They believe there’s enough resources and space for everyone. On this note, they choose to support other cafés and collaborate rather than compete… “We can grow together” says Boban in an interview with a local TV station.
Boban is organised. He’s a social being and people like him. Gosia is more of a creative strength. Organizing events, courses, opening doors to meditation, Bible studies, live music & poetry is what she thinks about. He is an entrepreneur while she takes interest in psychology, psycho-biology, being assertive, designing your life rather than being a victim of circumstances. Her husband deals with finances, accountants, lawyers, etc. During a time of major challenges e.g. no building, no money – Gosia was there to encourage him, so he could fight those battles with confidence. They work well together, which is one of the “secrets” to Yeha Noha Café’s success.
Gosia shares with me that one of her desires is to bring positive energy into her world. She says: “I don’t want people to feel like they have to rush in, buy and then rush out of the café…” She encourages her customers to stay and enjoy the place & food (so tasty, by the way) while respecting the needs of other customers. “Just because I am born Catholic doesn’t mean I cannot serve a Muslim woman in a hijab. If we both have good will, there’s no problem.” She says. Yeha Noha Café is a place for everyone.
Reportedly, old & new friendships continue to grow in the café. Marriages have been born there. Couples come back to celebrate their anniversaries while new initiatives continue to develop within and around the café. Yeha Noha Café, recognized by the judges & journalists, continues to be appreciated by its loyal customers…
Consider visiting them if you’re looking for a café to call your own, or if you simply want a nice cup of hot chocolate or a delicious meal to warm your soul…