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A Taste of Success by Neil Clark

Innovative Lease Chatter Learn About Your Industry Restaurant / Food Service Small Business & Industry News

Written by Neil Clark, VP of Sales, Innovative Lease Services, Inc. – Issued in “Member Line” of Newsline by Nefa, January/ February 2014, Volume 6

Being a self- proclaimed “foodie” and lover of all drinks, I had always had thought opening a restaurant would be wonderful opportunity. In 2007, I recall Rachel, one of my best friend’s (and now business partner of 7 years) driving by this old restaurant building that was for sale in Nashville Tennessee. We looked at each other and said “Let’s do it”.

Being in your early thirties, taking on anything and everything seemed like such a great idea. We were both working full time jobs so why not just whip up a restaurant and add a side venture to the mix? My visions of restaurateur grandeur shifted as soon as we bought the building. Being that we had never been involved in the reconstruction of a home, rehabbing a kitchen, or even assembling a doll house from Toys-R-Us, we were certainly in for a real education. We were under quoted on the construction costs of the building. We were given false hope on the timelines to rehab the building. We didn’t even think that the city has to stop by and to approve or disapprove of the rehab in stages. Needless to say, a project that was expected to take three months to complete turned into a frustrating thirteen months. It all seemed so easy on HGTV! Being so heavily involved in the construction aspect, we realized about 2 weeks prior to opening that we needed to hire an entire staff and get a menu together. Oops!

After all of the hiccups, we finally open in March of 2008, and then the economy took the worse turn I had seen in my lifetime. There we were, ready for business, and our potential customers were losing their jobs and watching their retirement accounts disappear. Rachel and I immediately shifted from frustration to panic. I had never experienced that kind of panic before and felt helpless. Thank goodness, I was blessed with a business partner that shared the same thoughts on needing to come up with the solutions to overcome folding, as many of our business neighbors did during that time. We explored and took on all viable options that lead to a solution from re-organizing our debt, to revising our menu, dealing with suppliers that were calling for payment, to the tax office threatening to put chains on our doors.  Rachel and I were shaken to the core. Reflecting on it now, I found the earth shattering experience to be one that unknowingly (at the time) to be a character-builder. We learned how to operate in an economy that I only heard my grandparents compare to the “crash of 1929”.

The experience has helped us grow in ways that cannot be described. After now being open for over 5 years, the sense of relief has turned to gratitude for the experience. We’ve become more open-minded, business savvy, and left with the sense that if we can get through that experience, we can get through just about anything. Experiencing obstacles are to be expected in life, but how you choose to overcome them can make you a stronger person. Trying, and succeeding, is the most valuable lesson learned here.

Check Out Mad Donnas for yourself!