The remarkable saga of the Lara Family is the quintessential immigrant success story, one that has been played out in every community in every major city throughout America, where the smoggy air is unable to stifle the dreams that the less fortunate use to express their yearning for a better life. In this scenario, however the aspirations occur in Mexico and in East LA. Having just married Mercedes when he turned 18, Humberto Lara and his bride left the impovished town of La Cienega, Zacatecas in Mexico and headed for Los Angeles with the clothes on their backs and $50 that they were able to borrow. A cousin rented the young couple a small space in what, in effect, was a chicken coop and the Laras started the California chapter of their story.
Ten years and six children later the Laras purchased their first home. At this time, Humberto was working as a butcher and looking for ways to earn additional income to support the family. These thoughts became reality as the Lara Family opened Tacos Rinconcito to sell Mexican fast food to the surrounding businesses in the City of Bell. This operation served them well but did not completely sate their entrepreneurial spirit.
An opportunity to buy a full scale restaurant in Maywood presented itself and in 1987 Las Trancas Restaurant was born. In 1994, Humberto and Mercedes added a banquet hall business to complement the restaurant. By offering some of the Southland’s best Mexican seafood entrees, Las Trancas became a local Latino legend which helped underscore the early success of the family business. In 1997, CBS Channel 2 News rated Las Trancas as one of the top 500 restaurants in Los Angeles County.
The key to success was the familial atmosphere that transcended the presence of excellent cuisine. Las Trancas was truly a family owned business. It was obvious that Humberto and Mercedes headed the operations; however, four of the children actively work in the Restaurant or Salon, and the other siblings have a passive affinity for the business.
Demand soon exceeded seating capacity, and the Lara Family decided to expand. Plans were established to enlarge the restaurant and to add another banquet hall. This time the Laras had to reach outside of the family resources to achieve this phase of business growth. They were in need of substantial financing for expansion.
It appeared that the Lara story would have an abbreviated ending. Several attempts to procure outside financing came to no avail. Without access to outside capital, the family business would not be able to reach its full potential and the dream would be over. It seemed that area financial institutions were reluctant to underwrite the restaurant expansion, categorizing the industry as too risky. The feasibility of acquiring a loan for another banquet also became questionable, in light of the fact that local bankers did not understand that end of the business.
Things appeared dim for the family, but because of the entrepreneurial spirit of both Humberto and Mercedes they remained firm and committed to persevere, just as they had done in the past when confronted by what appeared to be insurmountable obstacles. Their focused tenacity paid off in 1999, when they had the fortune to connect with Craig Conner, Vice President of the SBA Loan Department at Pacific Crest Bank (PCB). Craig visited the sites, acquired a solid grasp of the business operations and became well acquainted with the family behind this family-owned enterprise.
As a result of the relationship established between Craig’s Bank and Las Trancas, two SBA 7 (a) loans have been made to the Laras. In 1999 the first loan doubled the restaurant capacity and added a beautiful patio eating area. The second loan financed the second location for the banquet business.
As an epilog, today, Humberto and Mercedes Lara are the proud owners of a thriving enterprise that provides security for the entire family, and has created three dozen jobs within the local community. In honor of their accomplishments, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) today selected Humberto and Mercedes Lara and Las Trancas Restaurant as winners of the Family Owned Business Award. The award will be presented to Mr. and Mrs. Lara at the SBA’s 23rd Annual Small Business Week Awards Luncheon to be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 25, 2004 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
SBA Los Angeles Office District Director Alberto G. Alvarado praised Mr. and Mrs. Lara for their accomplishments stating, “Humberto and Mercedes Lara epitomize the immigrant entrepreneur. They had to struggle to achieve each phase of their dream, but fortunately were endowed with the vision and the stick-to-it-tive-ness to persevere, and to seek the appropriate assistance. We are proud of what they have achieved for themselves, their family, and for Maywood and the surrounding community.”
Las Trancas Restaurant contact information:
5351 Atlantic Boulevard
To find out more about SBA Loan Programs and Services visit the Agency’s user friendly web site www.sba.gov or call one of the following Economic Development Specialists at the SBA’s Los Angeles District Office:
- Sandra Buck (818) 552-3308
- Chuck Edgington (818) 552- 3241
- Barbara Madel (818) 552-3314
- Fernando Olivares (818) 552 -3256
The U.S. Small Business Administration recently announced the Los Angeles District Office winners of their annual Small Business Week Awards competition. The Los Angeles SBA Office covers Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties. James E. “Jim” Whitney of Burbank-headquartered First State Bank of California was selected as the 2004
Financial Services Advocate of the Year.
The Award was presented to Mr. Whitney at the SBA’s 23rd Annual Small Business Week Awards Luncheon held on Tuesday, May 25, 2004 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. The luncheon was presented by Bank of America and was co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the SBA.
James E. Whitney, Senior Vice President and Manager of the SBA Loan Division at Burbankbased First State Bank of California, was acknowledged as Financial Services Advocate for his tireless efforts to advance small business lending, particularly to the underserved and emerging markets. For more than three decades, Mr. Whitney has sponsored and obtained approval for SBA guarantees with an aggregate value of $200 million utilized by approximately 1,000 small businesses.
Mr. Whitney is the co-founder of the National Association of Government Guaranteed lenders (NAGGL), the SBA lenders’ trade group, and is currently honored with Director Emeritus status. He also serves on boards of entities engaged in small business financing and in various other phases of economic development.
Jim Whitney was also selected as one of the SBA’s National Champions at the Agency’s National Small Business Week Expo which was held in Orlando, Florida May 19th -21st. This
honor carries much prestige, since there are only 10 Champions nation-wide, and Jim was the only Champion from banking and finance.
“We are extremely proud of Mr. Whitney’s accomplishments,” stated Los Angeles SBA District Director Alberto G. Alvarado. “He has perennially been a stalwart supporter of the Agency’s mission to provide capital access to the underserved small business community. Jim’s dedication to “make a difference” to minority and veteran borrowers is manifested in his personal involvement with more than a dozen organizations which foster the cause of entrepreneurship. He is a true Champion”.
James E. Whitney is available for interviews. Call Frank Brancale at (818) 552-3203.
There is a growing need for technical assistance to accommodate the dramatically increasing formation of business enterprises in the greater Los Angeles area. In its last fiscal year, the Los Angeles District Office (LADO) of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) financed 4,600 small businesses in the amount of $1billion. To support a capital access program of this magnitude LADO is proud to rely on a varied network of technical assistance providers, who often shepherd the individual entrepreneur through myriad obstacles related to all loan processes. Los Angeles SBA District Director, Alberto G. Alvarado confirmed the value of the Agency’s resource partners saying, “Without SCORE, the SBDCs, Women’s Business Center, and our many other important resource partners, we could not possibly serve the number of small businesses that we reach out to on an annual basis. These entities are the technical assistance work horses, through whose collaboration the SBA’s mission goals are met”.
SCORE stands for the Service Corp of Retired Executives. Its members, retired executives who have had illustrious careers with leading business organizations, volunteer their time pro bono to assist aspiring entrepreneurs and start-up business owners. Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) offer consulting, technical assistance and business training, on a gratis basis to the SBA’s constituent clientele. Both entities are funded through the SBA.
The Los Angeles District recently added a third jewel to its technical assistance crown. To specifically aid in the SBA’s initiative to foster the growth of woman owned business in the Southland, the Agency recently funded the CHARO-SBA Women’s Center. To understand how a business can benefit from an association with this new organization, witness the case of Fem Public Relations (Fem PR), a PR firm with a particular focus on the fashion industry.
Fem PR was established by Melinda Smith and Sharon Helfand to address the promotional needs of promising apparel, cosmetics, accessory, and footwear lines. The Toluca Lake based firm offers a full range of fashion oriented public relations services. If an up and coming cosmetic s business is in need of a press kit, or would like a special event planned to celebrate a new fragrance launch, then a visit with Smith and Helfand is in order. Fem PR is also expert at image consulting, as well as wardrobe and editorial placements.
In need of working capital, Fem PR initially contacted the SBA. The firm was triaged and immediately referred to the CHARO-SBA Women’s Center for evaluation and assistance. Marlyn Garcia, the LOS ANGELES PRESS OFFICE center’s business development officer (BDO), provided Melinda Smith and Sharon Helfand with a loan assessment and a detailed business evaluation. Ms. Garcia impressed upon the women entrepreneurs the importance of having a viable business plan that is founded upon realistic business assumptions as a major component of the loan package. She also counseled them on the firm’s revenues and costs and instructed the business owners on cash flow and debt service.
Through the CHARO-SBA WBC’s instruction and guidance, Fem PR successfully completed its business plan and became loan ready. Having completed this phase of the process, the company was prepared for capital access. They were helped with the loan paperwork which the WBC then processed for an SBA Express Loan.
Fem PR received its much-needed working capital. However, it also came away from the CHAROSBA Women’s Center with something extra. It seems that one of the WBC’s former clients was a maternity clothing line that planned to take its business to another level and desired public relations assistance. As a result, both entities were matched and Fem PR gained a new client in addition to a loan.
SBA District Director Alvarado voiced his praise for entrepreneurs Smith and Helfand particularly for their wisdom and initiative to seek out appropriate help stating, “They advanced their cause by researching and availing themselves of the SBA’s network of small business resources. Because they now have a known resource entity in the form of CHARO-SBA Women’s Center and an established consulting relationship with Marlyn Garcia, they have greatly improved their chances for continued success in their business endeavors.”
For additional information on Fem Public Relation Services, please contact Melinda Smith or Sharon Helfand at (818) 753-1753, or you may visit their website at www.fempr.com.
To find out more about SBA Loan, Technical Assistance and other Programs and Services visit the Agency’s user friendly web site www.sba.gov or call one of the following Economic Development Specialists at the SBA’s Los Angeles District Office:
- Sandra Buck (818) 552-3308
- Chuck Edgington (818) 552- 3241
- Barbara Madel (818) 552-3314
- Fernando Olivares (818) 552 -3256
- Juan Urbina (818) 552- 3244
To contact SCORE for a business consult, please call (818)552-3206. Additional information is available at www.score.org the SCORE web site.