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Founder Feature: Melis Aydogan of Rüya

Meet Melis Aydogan.

Founder of Rüya.

"Dream big & start small. Just start. "

Ruya is changing the narrative of immigrants in America through Turkish Coffee and immersive experiences.


Q: What makes Cincinnati a great place to start a business?

A: The community. People genuinely want to see their neighbors succeed here.

Q: How did a grant from Main Street Ventures impact you and your business?

A: Enabled us to continue providing immersive cultural experiences, both physically & virtually, to build empathy for immigrants in our community,

Q: What does a typical day in your life look like?

A: The thought of Rüya Coffee in the morning obviously fuels me to get out of bed -- both the taste & opportunity to learn from my team. I try to fit in as much work I can by 7 PM and then I have to get out and move -- I can't sit still! I love hiking, weightlifting, running, Taekwondo, & yoga. I round out the evening with family dinner & yes, I am my mother's daughter and will forever cherish her cooking - it's the BEST! She is the one that taught me how to make Turkish coffee after all.

Q: What is a lesson you've learned that has shaped your work?

A: As each childhood summer came to an end, I was zoomed out of my family’s hard-working hazelnut farm in Ordu, Turkey into an affluent school in Cincinnati, Ohio where my brother and I were the only Turks. It was here that I had my first encounter with being the “representative foreigner.” In our classroom, there were children from other nationalities and religions, yet this diversity did not necessarily lead to an egalitarian classroom democracy. Instead, it generated an atmosphere in which each child was seen -- not as an individual on his or her own, but as the representative of something larger.

We were like a miniature United Nations, which was fun, except whenever something negative, with regards to a nation or a religion, took place. The child who represented it was questioned as if they were partly responsible for the negative incident that happened. So, starting from a young age, I learned the precious lesson that people will always hold unconscious biases about others partially based on the narratives that the media writes for them.

It was in these moments growing up that the seed was planted for me to rewrite the narrative of my family, of my motherland, of my culture in America, despite how the media may marginalize us. With Rüya, we want to give immigrants and locals the opportunity to rewrite our own stories through the conversations told over Turkish coffee. In the end, stories move like whirling dervishes, drawing circles beyond circles. They connect all humanity, regardless of culture, politics, or religion, and that is the good news.

Q: What's next for Rüya?

A: Finding new ways through tech to change the immigrant narrative!


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