Kathleen Daly: From Medical Devices Marketer to Coffee Shop Owner.



Why did you step back from full-time employment?

I was working in the medical devices field, doing marketing, clinical communications and product launches. I loved what I did. But it got to the point where there were too many emails, meetings and other corporate barriers to being productive. The bigger my company grew the more we were responding to outside forces and that meant less innovating and making a difference.

What surprised you most about the transition?

All of a sudden, my life was an open book that I could rewrite. Approaching this was a little bit daunting. I wanted to find something to do that was going to be fulfilling and where I could really interact with people. It was 2008—not the optimal time to start a business!

What are you doing to fill your time?

Running Café Zoe. We love good coffee, but we’re about things that really matter to me too: art, community, cooperation and giving jobs to young people in the community.

How did you decide to pursue these opportunities?

I ignored the ad for the place that I run for a year.  I wasn’t really thinking coffee—I was actually a tea drinker. But one day, I drove over out of curiosity and there were two guys out front—disabled Veterans from the VA, which is close by, and they opened my car door for me. I have a disabled brother, so this moment struck me. Then, it felt right the minute I walked through the door. I’m in a little eclectic, diverse, corner of Menlo Park near East Palo Alto and it just felt like the right neighborhood. I’ve realized that selling something you know people want makes it less about the selling and more about the engagement with people. Coffee is the best way to bring people together. It’s a magnet—a reason for community.

What advice would you give to someone in the same circumstances?

Be prepared to work really hard. A café is very different from other environments—it’s a different kind of stress. Find passion in more than just the product itself. Find a way to build something around it—an environment.

Given your vast experience both professionally and personally, do you have a top 5 or 10 list of things that you would tell people if they would like to follow in your footsteps or follow a similar path?

-Be careful about using your own money.

-Customers can become friends and it enriches your life.

-Look for different ways to give back using your place and space as a platform.

-Staffing can be expensive and difficult in an affluent area.

-Engage with people—it’s a personal business.

-Talk to young children and watch them grow!


Kathleen is a community-builder, a mom, a worker and a doer. Learn more about Cafe Zoe here.


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