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    10 Replies Latest reply on Feb 3, 2009 5:30 AM by carolen

    Help with new business in SoCal...great idea, poor execution

    tommybruin Newbie
      I currently own a Cajun casual quick-serve style restaurant in downtown Long Beach just outside of Los Angeles. It's a great concept and the response we've received from regulars and new customers have been great. We're always asked if we're a franchise. One problem: we have a horrible location and no marketing. We started off with minimal capital just to get open and in hindsight, should have looked at a better location and started with more capital. If anyone is familiar with downtown LB, it has struggled historically (something I failed to research on). I should have also not have been so gullible when the landlord said he was going to whatever it takes to get us off the ground (won't fix our AC/heater, or leaks in the roof). Nonetheless, I believe in my heart of hearts, we have a great concept that I completely failed to start off correctly. Can anyone offer any guidance how to pull us out of this vicious cycle of bleeding out every month, or is interested investing in our concept and help us take off? We are a very unique concept in SoCal. Think a Cajun Baja Fresh type business. Please help!
        • Re: Help with new business in SoCal...great idea, poor execution
          NoBullFunding Scout
          Well, that's a tough one. With retail it's all about location. I learned that the hard way myself. With regards to your lease, do you personally guaranty it? My lease had something called a "good guy clause" which basically said that I would not be personally liable for the lease if I returned the keys and left the store in "broom clean" condition. If you have something like that in your lease, you could maybe think about relocating the store.
          • Re: Help with new business in SoCal...great idea, poor execution
            snipperred Scout

            Hi there,

            sounds like you are only miles away from the beach, airports, military bases, etc. Maybe you could spice things up and make it a hot spot. You might consider incorporating mobility and delivery. Sounds like a great lunch! I stopped by a place not too long ago to rest before going to an early appointment after a long drive. I loved what I saw. This guy was simply mass producing a few different types of breakfast burritos. They were wrapped in foil and people were just coming in and cleaning him out. If you have a conventional lease, then I'd take a close look at the property manager's obligations. If he's not meeting his terms, you should be able to walk away maybe with a simple consult to an attorney. However, starting lean is a smooth move. In fact, we just had a Baja Fresh close up in NorCal and they were always busy. One of the best ways to market your product is to put it in front of hungry people on the go. So maybe look at doing some catering for lunch inservices, hit the docks and warehouses, etc etc. Why not go modern with some online menus and ordering- including some value added recipes or even tourist attractions in your area. Also, consider focusing in on the healthy food aspect. That could get you in the door on location in some health clubs and the like. Cajun is a unique theme. Build it out for all it's worth. Good luck!

            • Re: Help with new business in SoCal...great idea, poor execution
              LUCKIEST Guide
              Maybe this will help

              6 Steps to Small Business Success

              1. Start Smart
              2. Plan Ahead
              3. Set up Systems
              4. Seek out Sales
              5. Aim for Growth
              6. Leverage Opportunities


              1. Start Smart.
              Identify a niche. Don't compete to be the lowest cost provider. Look
              for what makes your product or service unique and adds a special value
              for the client and charge for that value. Every business has many
              facets. Start with what you know and like; start a business that has
              meaning to you. Keep in mind that we don't know what the future holds,
              many of the jobs and businesses of tomorrow don't exist today. You can
              create your own success.

              Now is the time to dream. To start smart, you should like the idea of
              the business. The way to earn a good income and build wealth is by
              serving clients well, making their life better in some way-it's more
              than filling a need in the marketplace. To succeed you want to test the
              idea to make sure your potential clients like the idea too. Test your

              2. Plan Ahead.
              People often ask me why bother with a business plan? Look at the
              lottery as an example. You may get lucky and get the winning ticket,
              but the odds are against you when you rely on random chance. I'm a risk
              taker...but not that much, minimize the risk of going into business and
              maximize your potential for success. Take the time to write a plan of
              how you get from point A to point B. A plan gives you a clear future
              focus and increases your chances of success.

              The first rule of a start-up is put some of your own money in the
              business. As the owner you must be willing to capitalize the business.
              The second rule is put as little of your own money as possible in the
              business. Prepare your plan and look for funding for your business from
              multiple sources, which can include a business loan or business line of

              Don't go it alone. Plan ahead now to build your team. Your team may
              include a CPA and an attorney that you work with as needed. Add a
              mentor from your industry and get a SCORE mentor to help you plan for
              success. No one has all the answers. You get more ideas and information
              by building a success, support team that can help you plan ahead.

              3. Set up Systems.
              The most basic system every business should have is a good financial
              system. Ask yourself how am I going to generate enough income to
              support myself and my family. Begin here. Put together a personal
              budget, so you know what it costs you to live. Now, you can move on to
              the business budget and sales planning, so you can see how many sales
              you need to break even and make a profit. The start-up expense plan,
              operating budget and your accounting software are vital to your


              4. Seek out Sales.
              The daunting question is how do you go about seeking out your first
              sale. Recognize that since you don't have a big ad budget to be seen by
              everyone, you need to target a niche and get connected in your market
              community, be it local, regional or national. You need other people
              selling for you-not employees-goodwill referrals. Get out and talk to
              as many people as you can. Join organizations that would have clients
              for your product or service. Become a visible part of your market, and
              then ask for the sale. You begin the sales process with people that you
              know. Yes, it's okay to start with friends and family as your first
              customers, and then broaden from there.


              5. Aim for Growth.
              The basic tenant of creating a company is that you own the company. You
              are not just creating a job for yourself. It's less risk and less
              investment to get a job. Building a business is creating a company that
              is more than the job itself. Think about the future. How large do you
              want the company to be in terms of sales, net profit and employees?
              Your answer to each of these questions will influence how you grow.
              There are varying costs and profits associated with growth. It's
              important to make a deliberate choice early about how you want to grow
              your company.

              6. Leverage Opportunities.
              Good luck. Good fortune. Good timing. All play a part in business. As a
              business owner, be very clear about your core focus for the business
              and how it serves clients. Your core business is what pays the bills.
              Then, as an entrepreneur you are about opportunity. When you see a
              potential opportunity or stroke of luck measure it against your core
              business focus. Good fortune is great, when it matches your vision for
              the business. Always consider if a good opportunity is the right fit
              for your business. If something looks great, but it's not in sync with
              your long-term plan and budget, think carefully before committing your
              company's resources.
              • Re: Help with new business in SoCal...great idea, poor execution
                Randolph Newbie
                If you're stuck with Verizon, you can lower some overhead costs going with a Charter cable solution.

                Shoot me a message if you want a quote.
                • Re: Help with new business in SoCal...great idea, poor execution
                  tommybruin Newbie
                  Thanks for all the advice everyone. I'm bleeding red and my credit card debt for our shop is up the wazoo. So I've decided to do a couple of things and hope for some improvement. Would love any advice you guys could give me.

                  First, I've decided to expand the menu and add something that Southern Californians might not find so heavy when thinking of Cajun food. I'm planning on adding muffalettas (a New Orleans original Sicilian deli sandwich) to draw the crowd that may be a little more health consicous and/or not so adventurous. Downtown LB is sizable business lunch crowd, so I'm hoping that this may interest them. I'm also thinking of adding cajun seasoned shrimp tacos (we are in socal after all).

                  Second, we have a homemade sauce that we make that we use as a dip for all of our fried foods(chicken fingers, fried shrimp, fried oysters, catfish, etc) as well as a spread in all of our po boy sandwiches. For the very few customers we have, they're addicted to it. Sometimes, they'll bring in hamburgers and other stuff not on our menu and come in just to purchase our sauce. So I thought maybe I can bottle it and sell it, maybe try to get it carried at Trader Joes or something. But I have no clue as how to begin and what restrictions I might come across. Does anyone have any knowledge of this might work. My gut tells me that our sauce may be our ticket to pull us out of this hole. Thanks!
                  • Re: Help with new business in SoCal...great idea, poor execu
                    Swil09 Newbie
                    I may be able to help... Take a look at the website and feel free to call if interested in talking more. Good Luck.
                    • Re: Help with new business in SoCal...great idea, poor execution
                      sdanil Scout
                      Consider inviting one of the food network hosts or someone that covers food locally in your area and ask them to make your destination a pitstop featuring your particular style of food. Put a video together on youtube and market it on twitter...I just watched the funniest's called virtual girlfriend...I think you can pull it up from keyword tag
                      • Re: Help with new business in SoCal...great idea, poor execution
                        LUCKIEST Guide
                        Help with new business in SoCal,

                        You are looking for guidance. Best suggestion, Contact SCORE. SCORE is FREE and they can help both online and in person.

                        Have you developed a Business and Marketing Plan that I can read??

                        Good luck, LUCKIEST
                        • Re: Help with new business in SoCal...great idea, poor execution
                          carolen Newbie
                          I guess it depends on what your idea is. I would start with the SBA
                          (Small Business Association). The website has a ton of information for
                          people who are wanting to start a business. They explain the process,
                          who you should contact, and even have information on obtaining loans.

                          I realize that may not be the exact answer you are looking for, but hopefully it will get you started. Good luck!