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Ready to open a restaurant or food-related company? Hold tight... till you listen to Cesar Quintero, an entrepreneurship coach who also had food delivery businesses.
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From his list of must-read books to how to cut costs to start, in this issue, Quintero shares his wisdom on food businesses and, most of all, on entrepreneurship. Let's get to know Cesar Quintero.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS NOT ABOUT THE PRODUCT OR SERVICE
Cesar Quintero has heard it time and again.
“Oh, I have the perfect recipe of the best cookies, or I have the best thing around.”
“Entrepreneurship is not about the product or the service.”
“It’s about the growth, the scalability,” according to Quintero, the serial entrepreneur behind The Profit Recipe.
The coach for entrepreneurs is on a mission to help entrepreneurs, but he’s also going to tell it to them straight.
That’s why he discourages people from going into the food business.
THE TIP JAR (tips passed out courtesy of Cesar Quintero)
STARTING OUT: “I’d say, read a book…There’s a sequence of books I like.”
Here’s the list he recommends:
"Rich Dad, Poor Dad" by Robert Kyosaki
"The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It" by Michael E. Gerber
"The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses" by Eric Ries
STEEPED IN SKILLS (mid career): “I would say the same three [books above]. But, align with your [spouse] around the expectation of how long you’re going to be focused on this. I had this thing with my wife where I would go… so I’m going [into] startup mode. I’m going to be six months out-of-pocket. But I promise I’ll be back. But these six months, I need to focus on this – because I can’t focus on everything.”
Of course, I wanted to know, what if your spouse is lukewarm or against your big idea?
Quintero says, “Well, you need buy-in. If not, it’s not going to work. One of them is going to crack, either your business or your spouse.”
STARTING OVER: “Know your purpose, your strengths and what your ideal life is. And then find a business that aligns to those 100%.”
I’LL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN: “Being in the food industry. Never again... I don’t understand why entrepreneurs want to get into food. Makes no sense.”
BEST ADVICE FROM “LA CASA”/BEST “HOUSE” ADVICE: “My mom was always about, do the right thing. Do the right thing because it shows… Even if bad things happen, if you do the right thing, you know, it lives in your character… That’s the legacy that you’re leaving. So do the right thing. That’s my mom.”
“My dad is all about you get what you put in. So it’s all about the effort. Now I’ve learned with time that it’s about efficiency and not effort. But my dad is all about the effort.”
“I think that [effort] was true in my first 10 years of [entrepreneurship]… But with time, it was more around efficiency vs. effort.”
“I think he [dad] is now leaning more towards what I’m saying because he’s at retirement age and I’m, like, ‘Are you putting in effort every day still - at that level? That makes no sense.’ You’re doing something wrong if you’re continuing at this pace… It’s true for certain phases.”
REASONS WHY FOOD BUSINESSES FAIL
The entrepreneurs Quintero has consulted have said to him they have the best product.
Quintero has responded with answers like, “You’re not a good leader. You don’t have a good team. You’re not managing a good system.”
Quintero has experience with food and food service. He started a health food service called Fit2Go back in 2004 in Miami.
“There wasn’t much to eat healthy, and people didn’t have the time and convenience. So I said, you know what? There’s a bridge. I can start a company that cooks healthy meals delivered to people’s [offices].”
At the time, he actually had to convince people it would be convenient to have their meals delivered to them.
DON’T REINVENT THE WHEEL
Fit2Go reached revenues in the millions of dollars, but Quintero admits he made plenty of mistakes. And they were expensive ones, too.
For example, to ramp up, he spent $200,000 to build out a kitchen from scratch.
“We could’ve just rented a kitchen that had the permits. Like, how hard could that have been?”
Instead, he spent an entire year building the kitchen.
People told him it would take six months for permitting.
By the time, Quintero was actually was up and running, “it took a year and a half where I couldn’t sell one meal.”
So he had to live off the savings from his previous corporate job.
Now he would do things very differently and advises others to take note.
“Just go rent a kitchen. Sublease a kitchen. Use it for a couple of hours.”
“So that’s why I recommend the book, 'Lean Startup'. Because we don’t need a start-up concept all formed and perfect.”
There’s another thing Quintero swears by now.
TEST, TEST, TEST
“Prove the concept. Prove your market. And then go into it.”
But beware of cultural differences.
You see, even though he was born in the U.S., Quintero lived in Venezuela since he was six. So Quintero was raised with South American cultural norms and customs.
“As a Latino, I thought lunches are our most prevalent meal."
"Not in the U.S."
"It’s a cultural difference. So people were not willing to spend more than $10 for lunch [back in the mid 2000s]. And I’m giving them beef, soup, rice, like a whole meal – because that’s what you’re supposed to do at lunchtime, not at dinner. Dinner is a light dinner in our culture… Those are things I should’ve tested sooner.”
FOOD SHOULD NOT BE THE GO-TO BUSINESS
Quintero says people in the Latino community always seem to jump on food as the go-to business, rationalizing that “everybody needs to eat.”
Instead, his message is “No, food is hard! Food is low margin. Food is tough.”
He wrote about his experiences in a book called, “The Profit Recipe: Unlock Your Entrepreneurial Flywheel to Live Life by Design.”
NARROW FOCUS AND MARKET
So, of course, I had to ask him, is there any scenario where he recommends going into the food business?
“I think doing one thing – limited menu…So if you do one thing really [well] and you have your niche market that gets you, then that’ll [work].”
He says it could work under those circumstances “because you can charge high value for that.”
Looking back, Quintero now looks at Fit2Go with a different point of view. Before, he was convinced there was no way he could fail.
That’s why he built the elaborate kitchen to start.
“Fit2Go just helped me become an entrepreneur… It was my way of getting the experience I needed to call myself an entrepreneur.”
INDUSTRY: Coaching and, before that, food and food delivery
Fit2Go – 2004
Fit2Go Delivery System – 2013
RawBar 2 Go – 2014
The Profit Recipe - 2016
LATINO/HISPANIC CONNECTION: Parents are Venezuelan
Master’s Entrepreneurship Program - MIT
Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering – Universidad Simón Bolivar in Venezuela
DREAM JOB AS A KID: “I always wanted to be a teacher. My two loves in life are teaching and business. And that’s my business.”
BIGGEST GOAL YET: “It’s empowering a thousand companies to become impactful in their communities by 2026. That’s my target. That’s where we want to be.”
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
HELP ON THE OUTSIDE...because we can all use a helping hand:
THE CROWDFUNDING OPTION
I never thought of crowdfunding as a form of pre-sales, but that’s how it’s described in this FREE webinar. With so many businesses needing funding, get the facts and other important information to decide whether it’s a good option for you to consider for your business. Besides helping you understand crowdfunding better, I like that this webinar compares it to more conventional forms of funding. To register, go here:
SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives)
Is Crowdfunding Right for My Business?
Thursday, March 31, 2022
5:30 p.m. EDT – 7:30 p.m. EDT
WORKING ON THE INSIDE...because we know our culture has a hard time asking for help:
INSPIRATION BY EXAMPLE
Sometimes, you just need to hear a great personal story about leadership to inspire your own journey.
This sounds like a fascinating profile. For this Ascend event, you’ll hear from a CIA spy who was able to transition into the tech world and is now the sales chief for Mux – Rachel Belkin.
If you’ve been thinking about making a big career transition, sign up for this webinar to get some inspiration by example. Here are the details:
Women in Leadership: Rachel Belkin
Wednesday, March 30, 2022
3:00 p.m. EDT – 3:45 p.m. EDT
INSPIRATION FOR THIS ISSUE:
COVID-19, with all of the challenges it presented, gave many people the first real glimpse at just how hard it is to do well in the restaurant industry.
But, really, I’ve known for a long time that, unless you have some really compelling reasons, it is just not a good idea to go into a food-related business.
I learned this almost 10 years ago. I remember interviewing someone from a restaurant association who broke down for me just how low the margins are in this industry. That person explained to me back then that, if you make a 1 or 2% mistake on ingredients, staffing or revenue, you’re finished.
I got the message.
And that’s not even touching on the time commitment required.
Yet, still, so many people want to open a restaurant or food business.
I get it. You have a dream.
Far be it for me to squash your dreams. And, yes, some people are able to make a go of it, which is great.
There’s nothing like a good meal.
But, for most people, I have to agree with Cesar Quintero; it's going to be really challenging to make it work.
I want to be encouraging and optimistic, but I also think it’s important to inject reality into the equation.
That’s why I knew Cesar would be a great person to level with you on this topic.
He had so much practical and solid information, there was no way I could fit it into one newsletter.
So, in Part Two, you’ll hear Quintero’s specific advice and insights on entrepreneurship for any business.
I found his advice really valuable and look forward to bringing it to you in the next Generation Si! newsletter.
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