SB Family & Life Article
May 1, 2018
By Isel Longoria
Contributing Writer, SB Family & Life Magazine
Near the corner of State and East Victoria streets in Santa Barbara is a unique blend of Brazilian music, food, dance and culture. Jennifer Yannella Yoshimi and her husband, Daniel Yoshimi, made one of their dreams come true when they opened Brasil Arts Cafe in Santa Barbara.
She was living in Portland when they met.
“My husband came to Portland to teach a workshop” in the Brazilian martial art called Capoeira, a combination of music, dance and acrobatics, which they both still practice.
“It was a fun little dance in the beginning with this Brazilian man,” Yannella Yoshimi said, and then they fell in love.
After moving to Santa Barbara, the couple got married and had two daughters.
“I had my (second) daughter, she was two, when we decided that we would open” the café, she said.
First, she mentioned the idea of bringing Brazilian food to Santa Barbara to her dad.
“He was the first one to back it up and put the money down,” she said. With the support of her parents, the couple was able to open their café in August 2013.
Her dad suffers from polycystic kidney disease, which is known to cause clusters of cysts in the kidneys. She remembers when her dad was an active man and credits her parents for her work ethic.
“He gave me his retirement money to start this business. He’s a huge reason why this business exists,” she said.
Once the cafe opened, the couple experienced the challenges that any new business owners do.
“The second year came and it was like, ‘Oh my gosh. I don’t know if we are going to make it,’” she said. At the time, she was balancing the effort of taking care of her children and the cafe.
The fear of having to close their business was so strenuous that it was affecting their household as well. That’s when the Yoshimis turned to the community for help by creating a rally to raise money for their business.
“We are going to have a pay-the-rent rally this weekend. Come by and buy some food. Come help us,” she recalled of her announcement. That rally lasted four days and raised approximately $20,000, enough to keep the Brasil Arts Cafe alive.
“The fourth year we grew a lot … and that was really beautiful, because we just saw this huge growth spurt in sales,” she recalled.
Along with a rise in sales also came an addition of partnering up with local performers and the rest of the community. They have implemented salsa night, comedy shows and more.
“It’s really cool because it just brings the whole community out and together,” she said. The Yoshimis also have a dance studio behind the cafe where Capoeira, samba and other forms of dance are taught.
Through all the hard work and challenges, their determination and positive attitudes have helped them continue to believe in their business.
“There’s always been a spark in my heart and inside of my husband’s heart that is like, ‘This is going to be successful … this is going to work … look at what we are doing,’” she said.
Yannella Yoshimi is proud that the Brasil Arts Cafe brings culture, community and organic food to Santa Barbara. She says the partnership with her husband inspires her to be a better person and business woman.
“My husband, he’s such a hard worker and he’s so committed to his work, and it’s such a beautiful thing to witness,” she added.
Yannella Yoshimi advises entrepreneurs who want to start a business to seek local resources. Through Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV), the Yoshimis learned how to create a business plan. Getting involved in business operations, going to school and seeking the right help are great forms of preparation when starting a new business venture, she said.
Equally important, though, she said: “What does your heart tell you? Really listen to your intuition.”
The cafe has been open for five years and has been rated 4 stars by reviewers on Yelp.
Yannella Yoshimi credits her success to hard work and determination.
“As a woman, as a mother and as a wife and as a business owner, just feeling that I kind of did it. I’m proud of myself for sticking behind this,” she said.
The Yoshimis focus now is to keep their business stable and potentially expand in the future. Even though the cafe has been doing well, there are still moments when they hit obstacles.
“We still believe, through it all, as hard as it has been, that this is going to totally work,” she said.