Mary Nguyen Aregoni and Theresa Nguyen are sisters who were born in Laos, lived in Vietnam and Thailand, and came to the United States as young children with their family in 1976. Inspired by their mother (Mama Suu) and grandmother, who were successful entrepreneurs in Vietnam--having grown an open-market grocery into a large food market operation that was the main supplier to nearby embassies--the sisters opened a Vietnamese street food kiosk in the Chicago French Market.
Their kiosk became so popular that they decided to expand their horizons by opening a full restaurant in Chicago’s Fulton River District/West Loop neighborhood. It was at this point that they sought the advice of SCORE mentor, Brian Stinton. Brian helped them to create a business plan and cash flow analysis which enabled them to obtain bank financing. He also worked with them to establish a sound bookkeeping system and to set realistic goals.
In November 2010, Mary and Theresa opened their restaurant at 567 W. Lake Street in Chicago. As they said, “Our passion is to bring the delicious street foods we grew up with to Chicago, offering creative, contemporary interpretations but using authentic Southeast Asian ingredients. Saigon Sisters Restaurant is a contemporary casual restaurant where our guests can enjoy deliciously fresh, quickly prepared food at lunch and can come back to relax and enjoy a frequently changing menu of interesting small and large plates at dinnertime.”
The Saigon Sisters website can be found at www.saigonsisters.com
Their restaurant soon received great reviews and continues to attract new and repeat customers.
Brian Stinton’s contribution to the sisters’ success is best described by them:
“The thorough analysis and unbiased advice we got from our SCORE mentor, Brian Stinton, helped us understand the risk and the reality of what we were getting into so we could be better prepared for it. It gave us a roadmap of what our sales goal should be and what capital was needed to overcome startup hurdles and risks. It gave us the realistic picture of what to expect and gave us the courage to proceed with the venture.”