Urban Solace restaurant, located in North Park, is the first independent venture for partners Matt Gordon and Scott Watkins, who have 40 years of combined restaurant experience. Their restaurant serves delicious comfort food at neighborhood-restaurant prices, and it has exceeded revenue goals by 58 percent since opening in 2007. Urban Solace is also a critic's favorite, having received 13 food and restaurant awards in 2008 for such dishes as New York Cheddar Mac n' Cheese with caramelized bacon and charred tomatoes, and char-grilled prime Omaha hanger steak with homemade steak sauce and sweet potato mash.
Success was immediate at the North Park location, and he has since opened two additional “Solace” restaurants to accolades; Solace & the Moonlight Lounge in Encinitas, and Sea & Smoke at Flower Hill Promenade, Del Mar.
Best known for his American comfort foods, served with health and sustainable ethics in mind, Gordon's newest restaurant, Sea & Smoke, an American restaurant, explores the flavors of the wood-fired oven, a central feature of the space, with a modern interpretation of an American menu.
Gordon and Watkins
When preparing to open Urban Solace, partners Gordon and Watkins used SCORE San Diego's free business consulting for financial advice and business plan guidance.
"SCORE San Diego helped us with numerous aspects of opening our restaurant by pairing us with a diversity of counselors," said Gordon. "We had a team of consultants who could advise us on a wide range of topics because of their specialized business backgrounds, and there are no restrictions on the number of counseling sessions."
Starting a small business is always tough, and the small business loan application process is especially difficult in the current economy. So, when Gordon and Watkins decided to open a second restaurant, they returned to SCORE San Diego for assistance.
Gordon's personal accolades include "50 People to Watch" by San Diego Magazine in 2011, "40 Under 40" by San Diego Metropolitan Magazine and "Best Chef" by San Diego Downtown News in 2008.
What's Great About My Mentor?
"Due to the current economic crisis, banks have increased their credit requirements and, at the same time, have decreased the number of loans they're approving," said Paul Hollenbach, SCORE San Diego business consultant. "Our business consultants know what information banks require when reviewing a loan application and are able to help small business owners put together a strong business plan and resume that will increase their likelihood of approval."
How SCORE Helped
"We returned to SCORE San Diego for help because restaurants are notoriously risky investments and the help SCORE gave us the first time around was invaluable," said Gordon. "Their connections and knowledge of bank loans helped identify lenders willing to finance a start-up business during a recession."
While setting up national distribution of faux waterscape products more than 6 years ago, Jamie Kocher and Steve Raketich became convinced they could streamline the process by purchasing direct from the factories. As a result, they started Backyard X-Scapes, a landscape retailer/ wholesaler specializing in fountains, pottery, bamboo fencing, bamboo products, thatch palapas, thatch products, artificial turf, artificial rocks and rock waterfalls.
Year Company Formed
In need of financial planning and marketing guidance, Kocher and Raketich contacted SCORE San Diego and attended several workshops, including Internet Marketing, Small Business Marketing and Business Plan 101: How to Develop Your Competitive Advantage. The Internet Marketing workshops proved especially beneficial as the Backyard X-Scapes and their Bamboo and Tikis web sites currently account for more than 25 percent of total sales. To further expand their horizons, Backyard X-Scapes has hired an online marketing team to increase sales and awareness of the Backyard X-Scapes name.
What's Great About My Mentor?
Kocher and Raketich received financial planning guidance from SCORE San Diego counselor Paul Hollenbach. "Paul explained how important it is to have open lines of credit for future expansion. We supply bamboo fencing, carved tikis, and faux rocks to more than 120 Home Depot stores nationwide, and when The Home Depot wants us to supply more stores, we now have the ability to finance this expansion immediately," said Kocher. "Having great cash flow and this solid line of credit has also allowed us to purchase our products in container load quantities directly from the manufacturer and sell at wholesale prices, which gives us an advantage over any and all competitors. We guarantee the lowest pricing of everything we sell, plain and simple."
How SCORE Helped
Kocher and Raketich continue to use SCORE San Diego's services to stay in touch with the latest developments in the business world. Kocher states "Six months ago, Steve and I handled most aspects of the day-to-day business, but with Paul's guidance, we hired Ray Valdez as controller and general manager to solidify operations for the future. SCORE San Diego has been a great source for information and guidance. I cannot say enough good things about them and how much they have helped us."
Even in the current economy, Backyard X-Scapes continues to prosper, with sales up 27 percent this year. Due to this success, Torrey Pines Bank has nominated Backyard X-Scapes for the Small Business Administration 2009 Small Business of the Year award.