This 16-Year-Old Boss Is Opening Her Own Cafe

By Isabella Cueto
The State (Columbia, S.C.)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) From picking out color schemes, designing the restaurant layout, planning a menu, sourcing equipment, researching coffee roasters and reaching out to contractors, 16 year old Zoya Rizvi is tackling restaurant ownership head on.


During her senior year at River Bluff High School in Lexington, Zoya Rizvi wants to start a club to save the bees. Then, she wants to graduate, go to college and medical school.

But right now, she’s spending her last few months as a 16-year-old entrepreneur, opening a cafe on Whaley Street.

The Hideout will be in the former White Duck Taco location. Rizvi and her father, restauranteur Arif, took over the location in March.

“When I saw it, I just fell in love,” she said. “I saw so many possibilities for it … next thing I know, I was taking the reins.”

Rizvi is a first-time businessgirl, but she isn’t a total novice. The eldest daughter to two Pakistani immigrant parents, she spent time around a lot of adults as a child. She grew up around her father’s business partners and friends of her mother, Samina, who is a physician at Lexington Medical Center.

Now Rizvi is going out on her own … sort of. Minors can’t own businesses in South Carolina, or obtain permits necessary to serve alcohol, so that’s where parental guidance is needed.

“I’m going to be relying a lot on my dad,” she said. “My dad is very experienced in this and though I won’t admit it, he’s quite a lot smarter than I am.”

The Hideout will have a bit of everything, she said. It’s an espresso bar, but with a full menu of sweets, as well as entrees; both quick to-go bites and sit-down meals, like tacos, burgers and wings; morning coffees and afternoon spiked coffee drinks; craft beer and alcoholic drinks.

“It is not really specified that you’re going to come at a particular time,” said Arif Rizvi, who previously owned One Taco, Two Taco and who runs RF’s Corner Grill in Lexington.

Both Arif and Zoya are planning to earn barista certificates, and the younger Rizvi plans to be hands-on at the restaurant, even when she goes back to high school life in August.

She had to take a leave from school during her junior year because of chronic pain and debilitating weakness that was ultimately diagnosed as inflammatory arthritis. The experience of being sick — and almost dying from being given too large a morphine dose — but without a diagnosis was frustrating, Rizvi said, but it was deeply humbling. It made her more grateful, she said.

“It also made me realize that I need to stop waiting for things to happen and I just need to do them,” she said.

Rizvi took the lead on The Hideout in the following months. As she felt better, she started picking out color schemes, designing the restaurant layout, planning a menu, sourcing equipment, researching coffee roasters and reaching out to contractors.

“I almost will never mention my age unless I’m asked about it,” she said. “I just let them assume whatever they want.”

When doing research for The Hideout, Rizvi said she and her father surveyed students and community members around the University of South Carolina campus to find out what they wanted.

They saw a void The Hideout could fill. It will be a place for students to work on projects or share weekend breakfasts with friends, but it will also be a venue for slam poetry performances and a great neighborhood lunch spot, Rizvi said. And ultimately, Rizvi said she hopes to make her business a mostly locally sourced, eco-friendly restaurant with sustainable practices — that is, once paper straws aren’t two cents more expensive than plastic ones.

More than anything though, Rizvi said she wants to uplift other small businesses and in particular, those run by ambitious girls.
“If there’s noone there to encourage you, I’ll encourage you,” she said.

The Hideout will open in mid-July. It is located at 612 Whaley Street in Columbia.

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