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Today, the focus is on how a Boricua family came together to build a business - a restaurant.
In The Tip Jar, you get to hear advice from the siblings' point of view and from the mom's perspective.
Let's get right to it, shall we?
WHERE TO START?
"We started this business, mainly to make my mom’s dream come true."
Nancy Anyasi says it started with a simple dream. Nine (yes, nine!) Puerto Rican brothers and sisters coming together to make their mom, who raised them by herself, happy.
Anyasi says, "When we started, we had a lot of challenges. The place was hidden" behind a building. It had been vacant for years.
But it was Nancy's sister, Marlene Alva, who pushed for them to take a chance on the obscure property since the family didn't have a lot of money to start the family-style restaurant.
Where others saw a bad location, Alva saw promise.
STARTED BUSINESS: April 2017
Family is from San Juan, Puerto Rico
Nancy: University of Central Florida - Master's degree in Business Administration and Bachelor's degree in Business Administration
Marlene: Siena Heights University - Bachelor's degree in Surgical Technology and Health Care Management
Mercedes: High school (p.s. Marlene says her mom has a Master's degree in "mom", "grandma" and "great-grandma")
DREAM JOB AS A KID:
Nancy - Astronaut
Marlene - Surgeon
Mercedes - Flight attendant
BIGGEST GOAL YET:
Nancy - “We’d love to expand and share the culture, the food, the flavor of Puerto Rico in many places of the U.S., if possible, and here in Florida, too.”
Marlene – “Expand. I want to try to sell our products in stores – salsas that customers really like.”
Mercedes – Marlene says her mom’s greatest dream right now is to travel. She says her mom wants to discover the world.
A WORKING CHRISTMAS
She said, "We're going to remodel it."
So the family members spent their entire Christmas holiday in 2016 renovating the property. That included everything from cleaning walls to installing cabinets to decorating the authentic Puerto Rican restaurant - which came to be known as Latin Flavor.
EVERYONE HAS SOMETHING TO CONTRIBUTE
They also pooled everyone's specialized talents and skills.
Three brothers had previously worked in restaurants - from Italian fare to international cuisine to Mexican and even Greek food.
I was surprised when Marlene said she had a background as a scrub nurse in a hospital operating room.
I thought, how could you possibly apply those skills to a restaurant?
Well, it turns out, you can.
Alva said, in hospitals, "We try to prevent infections... In the restaurant, it's, basically, the same."
From sanitizing plates to making sure food preparers properly wash their hands before handling food, she makes sure it's a sterile environment.
Even her siblings tease her about it.
But the spirit of the restaurant is anything but sterile.
It's based on their mom's focus on love.
THE BIG BOSS
And the whole family is involved in some way. They are all partners in the restaurant. But Marlene makes it clear about who is in charge.
“The boss is my mom. She is the CEO. She is the big boss.”
There were challenges along the way. The pandemic was a big one.
“A pandemic was something unexpected that we did not know how to [handle] initially. We were not expecting how something like that would interrupt our business operation and how that would affect our finances.”
It also affected supplies. They had problems, at first, finding certain products and containers. Anyasi figured customers would understood the supply chain issues because so many other business owners had been going through the same problem.
It was a learning experience in dealing with criticism.
The sheer number of hours required to put into a restaurant is also something many people don’t expect. The scarcity of workers applying to restaurant jobs has made it worse.
Even when I called to interview Anyasi, I caught her in the middle of serving customers. Apparently, there was a rush at the restaurant.
BUILDING THE FAN BASE - AND KEEPING IT
It seems customers are finding the restaurant, even though it’s in an out-of- the-way location.
It’s been almost five years since the siblings came together to try to fulfill their mom’s dream, converting a place that no one wanted to rent into a restaurant filled with the aroma of Mercedes Cardenas’ family recipes. But the real secret, according to Cardenas, is her approach. She says, “The most important thing when serving someone is to wear a smile and tell the person, 'Thank you. This is your house. You’re welcome to return as many times as you want.'” And she says that’s the way to get ahead.
THE TIP JAR (tips passed out courtesy of the Latin Flavor restaurant owners)
Mercedes: “You have to have a lot of energy. Besides that, you need to surround yourself with people who are going to cooperate.”
STEEPED IN SKILLS (mid-career):
Nancy: “Be flexible. Try to adapt to a different situation. Also, apply the things you learned in other jobs.”
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: “For example, if you previously did marketing, you can apply those teachings to the restaurant. Or if you were a product manager, you can use that knowledge for the products. You have to have flexibility in the process in a new business.”
Marlene: “Don’t be intimidated by younger people. To the contrary, you should teach young people that, even though people may be older, they can do much in life – for the community and for the country.”
I’LL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN:
Nancy: “Look for a [good] system for processing your payments. If you can, have it ready on day one.”
Mercedes: “When you’re doing business… treat your employees well because they are the ones who will support your business, from the chef to the person busing tables to the people who are serving the client…”
Marlene: “When you’re going to start a new business, if it’s a restaurant, work with a food distributor from the start so you won’t be spending a large part of your time in different stores looking for the best price. That was my biggest mistake when we first started.”
BEST ADVICE FROM “LA CASA”/BEST “HOUSE” ADVICE:
Nancy: “Mom taught me two things: Do things with love. Whatever you do, do it with love and sincerity. The other thing is to be honest. If you’re not an honest person, you can’t be an honest business person. So, you need to always be honest.”
Marlene: “Mom always taught us, treat clients the way you treat me or the way you would treat your siblings, nieces and nephews or your children. Never do to someone what you wouldn’t want done to you.”
Mercedes: “El respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz.” (Note: This quote is attributed to Mexican politician Benito Juárez).
TRANSLATION: If you respect others, they’ll also respect you, and that will keep the peace.
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
HELP ON THE OUTSIDE...because we can all use a helping hand:
The National Entrepreneurship Center (NEC) is sponsoring a class to help you learn best practices for marketing your business, regardless of whether you focus on services, products or a combination of both. From helping draft that all-important mission statement to figuring out which customers to target, the FREE course will guide you to help you get started on the right foot. Here's the link: https://nationalec.org/event/marketing-your-business/
NEC and SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives)
Marketing Your Business
Saturday, January 15, 2022
9:30 a.m. EST - 12:30 p.m. EST
WORKING ON THE INSIDE...because we know our culture has a hard time asking for help:
Making the Connection Through Mindfulness
It's times like these that we need to check on each other even more. If you're an employer, it will go a long way toward keeping your employees' morale up.
This webinar from the Florida Library system is geared towards helping you encourage and inspire your team. The webinar description says it will also teach you "positive coping mechanisms" for yourself (because self-care is important) and employees. Check out the link for more info:
Tuesday, January 11, 2022
10:30 a.m. EST - 11:30 a.m. EST
INSPIRATION FOR THIS ISSUE:
How many times have you come up with an idea for a business and said to your family member, "We should do this!"
How many times have you actually taken the next step?
And how many times has that resulted in you opening a business?
We're all guilty of not following through, especially when it comes to thinking we want to open a restaurant, but not actually doing it.
One of my contacts at the SBDC (Small Business Development Center) told me about Latin Flavor Restaurant.
So many people dream of owning a restaurant. And, in reality, it's very hard to make it work. And that was even before COVID.
I loved the idea of a family coming together to find a way to open a restaurant. When I checked reviews, the patrons seem to really appreciate the authenticity of the food (I haven't been there myself).
In the end, many people don't follow through with opening a business because they think it will cost more money than they have - just to get started.
Granted, most families are not made up of nine siblings. But this family found a way to make it happen - and the restaurant is still going, despite the challenges that small businesses, especially restaurants, face because of the pandemic.
A key mission of this newsletter is to inspire and show you how other people have made their dreams come true.
Now, it's your turn to make your dream a reality. Good luck!
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🌴If you'd like to get more how-to tips and advice from Latino small business owners who know the ups and downs of entrepreneurship in Florida, subscribe (it's free).
🌴Most of all, make it a great week! I'm cheering you on!