Experienced Chef, Jimmy Wu, had a dream of opening his own Japanese restaurant and sushi bar. He thought his moment arrived when he had an opportunity to purchase an existing business in a trendy Southern California neighborhood. Thanks to SCORE mentor, Sam Engelman, Jimmy didn’t purchase that business. With Sam’s help Jimmy did some valuable research and created a much better scenario for himself and his business.
Three years later, Jimmy reports that Ahi Sushi is doing great. “Our gross revenue is at or above what I had planned for the original location,” he says. “Business has more than doubled, which is a good sign, since there are many other sushi bars in the area.”
“It’s unbelievable how much they were willing to help, and all for free,” Jimmy says. “It’s a totally different experience from meeting other professionals who charge fees to simply listen. Sam and Ken have played a remarkable role in my business.” Jimmy’s mentors were not only able to save him from a potentially bad investment, but they guided him through the research process of starting a business and saw him through to the actual opening of Jimmy’s dream Ahi Sushi as well as the operation of the business currently.
When Jimmy was initially inclined to buy the existing business in Southern California, SCORE mentor Sam advised him to pause. “Sam recommended that I take things slower,” Jimmy says. “He said that because I needed to minimize start-up costs, I shouldn’t have to invest in an ongoing business that I was going to change anyway.”The more Jimmy evaluated the location, the more he realized that his counselor was right. “Sam helped me avoid a lot of problems,” he says. “Buying that restaurant would’ve been like jumping into a hole. I might never have gotten out.”
Engelman put Jimmy in touch with a commercial real estate broker, and joined them in visiting potential sites. He also encouraged Jimmy to return during different times of the day and night to observe to observe customer traffic in the area. They even visited potential competitors nearby to evaluate their menus, ambiance and business patterns.
An empty storefront in Studio City appeared to offer everything Jimmy was looking for. “I talked it over with Sam, then he guided me through the lease negotiations,” Jimmy says. “With his help, I was able to save money on my start-up costs.”
Engelman and Ken Mann, another SCORE counselor, worked with Jimmy to ensure that Ahi Sushi could sustain its promising start in early 2003. They recommended techniques and technology for effectively managing cash flow and inventory, tracking labor costs, and planning extra expenses, such as advertising and improvements.