It’s hard enough becoming a successful entrepreneur of one business. But two that are completely unrelated?! Jenny Sun proves that good things come in pairs as this eco-conscious mom/wife is helping run two highly regarded businesses — the hugely popular vegan restaurant Café Sunflower that her parents started, and her UX agency, Field, which she started with her husband. Though user experience design and vegetarian cuisine don’t share much in common, Jenny uses the same work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit for both (as well as at home). She is a modern Atlanta woman juggling it all — a self-described “geek” who knows how important math and science are for everyone, especially young girls. We can’t wait for you to meet Jenny Sun, our newest FACE of Atlanta!
Your family helped build Café Sunflower into one of the most popular vegan restaurants in the city. What’s your favorite thing on the menu?
Spicy Pad Thai noodles is my go-to dish. It’s a lot of our customers’ favorite too. It’s our original take on an otherwise traditional Thai dish. The combination of rice noodles, shiitake mushrooms, tofu and kale in the spicy coconut-peanut sauce makes it really yummy. Plus, it’s gluten free.
Besides working at the restaurant, you also started your own UX agency, Field, with your husband Andy. Can you explain what you all do and how you got into the business?
My full-time job is running Field — we work with healthcare companies on software applications so patients, caregivers and administrators can have optimal experiences. User experience is like the architecture of a building. We take into consideration how someone will move through an application, can find their way around and make sure it’s smooth and simple.
Flexibility and being able to design our lives around our values ultimately led us to starting Field. Andy was working as an art director in digital advertising, but he had been working on the same account for over four years with no variety. I worked at a few design consultancies with Fortune 500 clients. The work was great, it was challenging, but I wanted to be able to choose who we worked with. We were ready to start a business that had a positive impact; to be able to work on projects that enhanced human well-being. It was inevitable that we landed in healthcare.
How do you balance your professional and personal life, especially since you work with your husband and parents?
Balance is something I don’t know I’ll ever have! My family all gets along well, we communicate a lot. It’s hard for me to separate professional from the personal, because they are so intertwined. I’m usually the work-work-work one, which does drive the rest of them a little crazy. Fortunately, they’re the fun-loving ones, and they remind me to relax.
How can girls get more involved in technology and science?
I was a total geek growing up. Science and math were my favorite subjects. It helped that I had some very encouraging teachers in school. Today’s girls are exposed to technology so much more, and I would think that it would spark curiosity in them. However, messaging to girls needs to start early. If you walk down toy aisles, they have them labeled as “girl toys” and “boy toys.” Support needs to come from parents and teachers when developing girls’ interests in tech and science. My path toward technology was easy because I had guidance along the way — I was never told I couldn’t do anything because I was a girl. Let’s do that for other girls!
Besides Café Sunflower, where do you like to chow down in Atlanta?
My daughter and I love La Fonda’s veggie tacos, and we can get in and out quickly. I’m always up for going somewhere on Buford Highway. For Vietnamese, Lee’s Bakery has a great vegan pho. For Taiwanese, La Mei Zi serves it up authentic. I also love the mushroom bibimbap at Cho Dang. My husband always gets a kick out of their name, but dang, their bibimbaps are delicious!
Where are your favorite places to take your daughter for an afternoon of fun?
Woodruff Arts Center has amazing programming for young kids. My daughter loves going to the performances at Theatre for the Very Young. We’ve also scoured the city for great playgrounds, including on the Beltline on the northside between Ardmore Park and Collier Hills. There’s even a beautiful working train trestle that runs alongside the playground.
As more and more people become focused on what goes into their food, how has that changed your marketing and branding plans for Café Sunflower?
As people learn more about where their food comes from, it’s important for us to stay abreast of the ingredients we’re using and how our dishes are prepared. When it comes to marketing and branding though, we’re working on clearly delineating what our position is when it comes to the type of food we serve. The reason we’ve been able to stay in business for over 20 years is because we listen and adjust to our customers preferences. We’re continually testing different dishes to get feedback; if our customers love a dish, it goes on the menu.
What’s one vegetable you just can’t stomach? Any advice on how to make it tastier?
Eggplant has always been on my list of vegetables to avoid — it’s the combination of the taste and texture that has been off-putting to me. However, when it’s cooked or stewed with savory spices or tomatoes, the taste of eggplant just disappears. I love when an ingredient like that can change its personality.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
In elementary school, I really wanted to play soccer. Unknowingly, my mom signed me up for a boys’ team. I remember going to practice and games, and it was intimidating to play with the boys, so I just hung back on the field. My dad went to one of the games to watch and afterwards, he said, “Jenny, you gotta go to the ball. The ball is never going to come to you.” I really took that to heart. Although, soccer didn’t pan out for me, I’ve applied that idea to other aspects of life and learned to overcome any fear by facing it head on.
What three things can you not live without, excluding friends, family and faith?
Travel, my laptop and the internet.
Thanks to Jenny Sun for letting us delve into her life (and gorge on Cafe Sunflower’s outstanding food) while sharing what makes her happy !
And as always, a huge thank you to CatMax Photography for today’s wonderful photos.