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Eight years ago, George Constantinou and Farid Ali-Lancheros opened the restaurant that would turn their dreams into reality and make them role models to small business owners and entrepreneurs looking to succeed in a competitive industry. Through determination and years of in-depth planning and research, Constantinou and Ali-Lancheros created what would become one of Brooklyn’s most popular restaurants: Bogota Latin Bistro.
Bogota Latin Bistro is a Pan-Latin eatery located in Park Slope, Brooklyn that now serves 2,600 customers weekly after opening in the summer of 2005. During its opening night, the restaurant served over 250 customers and continued its success to generate over one million dollars in sales during the first year of operations, and today employs over 60 employees from the local community.
Part of Constantinou and Ali-Lancheros’s journey included working with business counselors from the local Business Outreach Center. They were able to create target financial projections and a solid business plan to support their application for an SBA microloan. Despite initial rejections from 13 commercial banks, their perseverance and encouragement from the BOC helped them receive a $25,000 microloan from the U.S. Small Business Administration as well as a $100,000 loan from HSBC. Bogota Latin Bistro’s relationship with the BOC has continued to grow over the past 10 years which has supported them with on-going technical assistance, guidance on strategic growth planning, and preparation to look for new financing to support additional business endeavors and expansion.
Constantinou credits their high value for management ethics and success to their strong family backgrounds. “We come from immigrant parents and appreciate the value of hard work,” Constantinou said. “We pass that on to our employees so they can be successful in their own right.”
Their managerial style is described as being infused with reward and respect. Bogota Latin Bistro offers employee health insurance, paid time-off, 401K, and they also hire from the community and promote from within, to work towards developing a dynamic team of people.
Another side to their success was having a business plan that was prepared to manage growth and infancy in its early stages. This was achieved by only opening for dinner in the evening, having a multi-faceted marketing strategy, and leveraging social media and the internet to develop brand awareness and build business.
As their sales grew, Bogota Latin Bistro was able to take advantage of new opportunities by introducing a new line of specialty sauces after noticing it was in high demand. This product alone helps produce $25,000 in annual sales and has now developed into a specialty food line, Miti Miti Foods.
In the past three years, Bogota Latin Bistro has grown over 56 percent, which has supported their efforts to open an executive office space and learning lab for staff, launch a catering wing, and create jobs. Constantinou and Ali-Lancheros are also active community members, volunteering their expertise to the local small business community, donating tales to charitable organizations, and promoting cultural initiatives.
“George Constantinou and Farid Ali-Lancheros are great role-models to any entrepreneur looking to break through in a tough industry,” said Acting New York District Director Adalberto Quijada. “Many businesses fail early on because they weren’t prepared for scaling up and dealing with rapid growth, but Constantinou and Ali-Lancheros’ preparation and planning really paved the way to their success.”
Constantinou and Ali-Lancheros were also honored with the SBA’s New York District Office Small Business Person of the Year award for 2013. Their perseverance and preparation, relationships with local business resource partners, and continuing contributions to their community, demonstrate the positive impact they have made toward economic growth and the New York small business community.