Have you heard the story about the entrepreneur who bought a business because she was looking for a job? Seriously. She bought a bar and grill in Rico, CO, with no previous business experience. A year and a half into it she sought assistance from the Small Business Development Center. This woman took a class designed for entrepreneurs, implemented the suggested practices, became business savvy, and now has a goal to buy the property her bar and grill operates on. Let me tell you about it.
Brandy Randall wound up buying the Enterprise Bar & Grill shortly after returning to Colorado after living abroad for seven years. Her boyfriend sent her a Craigslist ad about a bar and grill for sale when helping her find employment opportunities. Brandy said she initially took that as a joke. However, after two weeks of consideration and running the idea by her family, Brandy went all in. “I took a leap of faith without planning or experience while knowing how hard the restaurant industry was.”
Her plan was to utilize the same operational structure the previous owner used and then learn from the employees the day to day stuff, such as ordering and closing out the cash register. In time, Brandy had difficulty managing the financial side, specifically with cash flow and sales projections. She hired professionals to do what she didn’t know what to do herself. Brandy realized she needed to know how a business operated with a deeper level of understanding. She contacted the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Durango and signed up for their Leading Edge (LE) class in the summer of 2018.
LE is designed for entrepreneurs with the intent to create a functional business plan by the end of class. They do this by teaching effective and specific business practices each week. The class was taught by two SBDC consultants and the occasional guest speaker. Brandy said, “They all played a different role. There were three different perspectives and presentation styles, yet all of it was integrated. Everyone was very good. I felt a little intimidated being back in a classroom setting, but after meeting the teachers and reviewing the material, it was a confidence booster. This was going to help me.”
Creating multiple revenue streams and marketing were the two areas Brandy benefitted the most. There were rooms above the bar that had been rented out as apartments for employees, but she changed that and rented them out on Airbnb. “The rooms are doing very well bringing in revenue. In a small town, hoping people will walk in the door and spend money won’t pay the bills. I had learned from class the importance of finding additional revenue sources other than food and drink.”
“One SBDC consultant lit a fire under me to find out if my current marketing methods worked. He taught me I needed to bring people in and direct them to buy what I offered. I began to host special nights like Taco Tuesday and Burger Night. This gave reasons for people to come in. I also learned about creating a marketing budget and track how much I was getting back from my efforts.” Brandy realized that being in a rural town, print advertising worked better than online advertising. “I created print ads and took them to local shops and campgrounds. The ads had codes on them. When people came in with the handouts, that told me who I was reaching and what people were coming for.”
The final objective of the LE class was for students to present her business plan in front of professionals in the community. “This was great for networking. I met bankers and loan officers. Another reason why I took the LE class was to help me get a loan and show lenders I was organized. I am currently implementing ways to bring down operational costs so I can eventually buy the building instead of lease it.”
The LE class brought the problem areas to the surface and showed Brandy where she needed to put her focus. “It was a great introduction and got my brain turning on basic business principles, take time to think things through, and do what is right. That is what needs to be done.” Brandy had some advice for entrepreneurs too. “Don’t be afraid of diving in. Go for it. Learn as you go. I went without a goal and don’t regret it because the time invested into the business made what the class taught applicable.”
That’s Brandy’s story. And a successful one at that!