Van Nolintha began applying for jobs at the height of the recession after finishing both undergraduate school and graduate school. He was turned down nearly 300 times, so he and his younger sister, Vanvisa, returned to his home country, Laos, to reconnect with their roots. Returning home reminded him that much of his early life centered around food, so when he and Vanvisa later returned to the U.S. to Raleigh, N.C., they decided to start a restaurant. Having no restaurant experience, Van bought a copy of “How to Open a Restaurant for Dummies” and sent heartfelt emails to several of the most highly regarded restaurant owners in Raleigh, asking for advice and mentoring. They all agreed to help. In 2012, with little capital and lots of sweat, donations, and help from around 75 friends to complete their build-out, Van and Vanvisa opened Bida Manda. Today it’s one of the most loved restaurants in Raleigh. Of all of the stories I’ve heard from 5 years of interviewing restaurant owners, this is the most memorable. If you have dreams of opening your own restaurant but believe there are obstacles in your way, listen to this interview. You will finish it believing there is nothing that can stop you…
I can’t emphasize enough how inspired I was by Van. I asked him if we could tell his story on film, and he agreed! We haven’t made a video in a while, and this story is well worth reviving our video series for.
Thanks for reading,