NTID AlumniNews

RIT/NTID business alum has a recipe for success in entrepreneurship and finance

Michelle Giterman poses in the kitchen of Crepe Crazy

Michelle Giterman ’14 (finance) grew up in a Deaf immigrant family that owns Crepe Crazy, a restaurant in Austin, Texas, where Giterman is the general manager. 

With a strong family background in entrepreneurship, Giterman was always fascinated by how the business world works. Eventually, she attended RIT/NTID to major in finance with an emphasis in communication. 

She says her time at RIT/NTID and her involvement in the entrepreneurship programs led her to a successful career in finance. Giterman teamed up with the student founders of MotionSavvy to participate in RIT’s Saunders Summer Startup, a 10-week program designed to assist entrepreneurs and innovators to develop new business ideas and concepts to invest in real companies. 

Upon graduation from RIT in 2014, Giterman accepted a full-time role as a chief financial officer for MotionSavvy, focusing on assisting the startup in managing their finances. A year later, she moved back to Austin to join her family’s restaurant business.

Now as a general manager for Crepe Crazy, Giterman is proud to be a part of the growing restaurant business that serves savory, sweet, and breakfast crepes and uses the universal language of food to connect and communicate with patrons, while continuing to promote the importance of Deaf culture and make a difference in the Deaf community. 

What made you interested in business and finance?

Photo of the Giterman familyI grew up watching my parents try a few different business concepts before we finally started Crepe Crazy. I always find it fascinating how businesses rule the world. As for the financial aspect, life is full of gray shades. Sometimes, we need something black and white to balance out life. Math is either right or wrong; nothing ever comes in between. As long as the financial planning is done correctly, it’ll help us to make the most of our assets and give us the confidence to weather any bumps along the way. There is something about finance that comforts me and gives me security. It is important that we stay in charge of our finances. Basically, for me, financial planning is life planning.

Tell me about Crepe Crazy and your role in the business.

One of Crepe Crazy's CrepesMy parents and brother are from Ukraine and Russia. They moved to America to pursue their American dream. They started in 2007 with pop-up events at festivals all over Texas and in other states. In 2014, they opened our first location in Dripping Springs (DS). I was still working on obtaining my degree during that time. Then, they wanted to open a second location in 2015, and that was when I joined the family business, bringing my knowledge to Crepe Crazy. I moved back to Texas and opened the second location in Austin on South Lamar. We also picked up two food trucks. In 2020, we started a franchise in Baltimore, Maryland, and then sold Dripping Springs to a deaf couple. Now, we own two food trucks, one location (South Lamar), and two franchises.

Throughout my journey from opening a second location to the present, I’ve been wearing so many different hats, ranging from payroll, accounts payable and receivable, and bookkeeping to monitoring restaurant finances, working with the CPA, interviewing new hire candidates, and more. I also monitor the quality of food and beverages, manage events, customer complaints, and other issues in general, and provide continual support to all in every area. 

What are the most rewarding and challenging parts of your role?

I have too many rewarding moments. For one, seeing the family business come to fruition. I take pride in hiring deaf employees and hearing individuals who are interested in Deaf culture and the Deaf community. Second, it always gives me chills knowing how many people we’ve impacted being the showcase that deaf people can do anything, including establishing a business! We’ve proved the concept that food is a universal language no matter who is behind it.

The challenging part is knowing what I am doing is 100% right for the company. There is no rule book on how to run a business. No one in the family has experience in the restaurant industry. We all learn as we go. Especially since we are deaf, there are not many other deaf businesses we can work with and learn from. We are one of the first in the restaurant industry to be deaf-owned and operated. To be a well-rounded business, we must stay on top of everything and think a few steps ahead. 

Communication barriers can be also challenging, given the fact that almost all of us are deaf.

How did your education and your involvement in activities at RIT contribute to your success today? 

RIT has definitely contributed to my success in many ways. I took RIT business courses and experienced every aspect of business from marketing to finance to business law.

Saunders Summer Startup benefited me vastly. My colleagues started MotionSavvy and got accepted into the startup program. They asked if I wanted to complete my internship in finance working for their startup company, and I agreed to it. It was the best decision I ever made in my lifelong career, as it taught me how to start a business from scratch. The program was taught by well-educated RIT professors with knowledge of business and networking. They even helped point us in the right direction and connected us with several accelerator programs and venture capital. After graduating, we eventually moved to California and fully emerged into the startup community with a wide range of resources. Eventually, I parted ways to be with my family business, using everything I learned from RIT and real-world experiences.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

We’ve fed so many happy tummies. From local to big-name businesses, Hollywood movie crews to Tesla, weddings to schools, baby shower parties to the homeowners association (HOA) community, restaurant and food truck customers, and all the customers you can think of, we’ve done it all! We have played an important role as deaf individuals showing hearing parents who have a deaf child, disabled folks, ASL learners, hearing individuals, and anyone else, that we are capable of doing anything and not letting a language difference stop us.

Donating a portion of our sales to support fundraising needs and making a difference in the Deaf community is always a great feeling. It’s important for me to educate and impact people, helping them to understand that a minority group of deaf people exists and how to interact with us, and not look down at us, thinking we are incapable.

What is your favorite memorable experience(s) when you were a student at RIT?

The college experience at RIT has helped shape me into who I am today. All the friends and colleagues I gained will stay with me forever. Those late-night group study sessions have always been my favorite.

I founded the Deaf Volleyball Association (DVA), which is one of my fondest memories as a student at RIT. During my time, only the Deaf Basketball Association (DBA) existed. I thought about people like me who don’t like basketball, so we should have a second intramural sport option to pick from. 

What advice would you give to RIT/NTID students who might be interested in pursuing a career in business or finance? 

Hard work is an essential ingredient that leads to success. To tell you the truth, the road to success is never straight. There will be bumps, twists, and turns in the road ahead. It can be seen as a delay in our journey or an opportunity to see and experience more of what life has to offer. Head north, my RIT/NTID friends, head north.


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