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From a young age, Nadine Boudreau dreamed of owning her own business where she could help children. Her passion led to a degree in sociology with a focus on women and children’s studies. Boudreau originally thought she’d be a social worker, but found a different opportunity in 2008 with the purchase of a failing preschool in St. James, Long Island.
Boudreau kept the same location and staff, but completely overhauled the curriculum and materials to turn the business around. Her philosophy that children need challenging and creative experiences to develop their innate creativity and fuel their desire to learn new things is reflected in the school’s new motto, “Where your children grow and learn while having fun.” Boudreau’s commitment to becoming involved at each level of the business, including teaching classes, and focus on getting the children’s writing and pre-math skills ready for kindergarten has been highly regarded by the preschool parents.
The Story Book Hollow preschool was only the beginning of her success, as Boudreau purchased another struggling St. James daycare in March of 2011. With the second location, Boudreau increased her staff to 11 employees and provided services for 70 children between both programs. Within a year, the impact of her leadership resulted in waitlists for both centers and Boudreau started looking for a third location to meet the demand. A short drive from St. James, Boudreau discovered an aging preschool building that would require no major renovations, though it was in desperate need of cosmetic makeover. Boudreau found a perfect match in financing her expansion plans this year with SBA and TD Bank.
“When we launched into the task of securing funding for the new location in Selden, it seemed monumental and insurmountable until we met Tom Blackburne from TD Bank,” Boudreau said. “We would also like to thank the SBA and the men and women behind it. It would not be an exaggeration to say that without the SBA program, Story Book Hollow would not be in the new location today.”
Story Book Hollow used an SBA 7(a) loan worth $440,000 from TD Bank to purchase a third location in Suffolk County. TD Bank also provided an SBAExpress line of credit worth $75,000 for working capital. The new location has nearly doubled the size of Boudreau’s business, creating 12 new jobs and openings for over 60 children.
“With three children to raise, three locations and working six days a week, it can be a little crazy. Owning your own business is not the same as a regular desk job-every day is different and it’s something that I love,” explained Boudreau.
In early 2007, brothers Hoover and Wilson Zuluaga saw an opportunity with a Long Island bakery that was struggling and about to close. Paisapan Bakery had been operating for a full year but had failed to gain popularity among the community. The Zuluaga brothers recognized the main cause was poor customer service and felt they could turn operations around.
Although Hoover was a network security specialist and Wilson was an industrial engineer by trade, the Zuluagas were able to develop their entrepreneurial skills, change employee training, product quality and variety to get results within 18 months. By 2010, the brothers had the bakery’s profits rising when they noticed a growing demand for Hispanic food specialties in their retail bakery.
“We saw an increased in demand for specialties from Columbia, Peru and Ecuador so we started investigating importers and bringing in more and more products for our bakery,” explained Wilson.
Together they capitalized on the business opportunity and developed HWZ Distributors, Inc. dba Latinfood USA, a second business distributing imported specialties from Central and South America. In only six months, Wilson convinced a major product manufacturer in Colombia to sign an exclusive distribution and importing rights agreement for the tri-state area. After intensive marketing efforts, Wilson has increased that manufacturer’s position in the market with a sales increase of almost 300 percent.
Today, the company distributes to bodegas, bakeries and chain grocery stores across the tri-state area. Latinfood’s wide portfolio of products, ranging from canned and frozen foods to coconut and caramel candies, have also helped the company gain access to large distribution channels such as A&P, Supremo, Shoprite, Westernbeef, and others.
The Zuluaga brothers have benefited from savvy business assistance from the Stony Brook Small Business Development Center (SBDC) since 2011. The SBDC has assisted Latinfoods through its international trade events and Hispanic-based market initiatives. With consistent 30% growth in sales, the retail bakery operations have grown to employ over 25 people and the import distribution division now employs 17. Wilson has also expanded the distribution business to include a line of frozen foods and added operations in Mexico. The company aims to become the most reliable importer for food specialty products from South and Central America by 2015.
Wilson Zuluaga summarizes his entrepreneurial experience: “To be successful, you need to have a clear understanding of where you want to take the business, a laser-like focus to achieve it, and utilizing the tools available to you – such as the SBDC – who have proven to be my partners in my enterprise.”
The midst of the worst recession in decades was Volkan Muti’s opportunity to open his own wine bar in Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighborhood. Wine:30 was originally named for its 30 seats and 30 wines available by the glass and in only three years has grown into a 120-seat wine bar and restaurant popular with tourists and locals who live and work in the neighborhood.
Muti started his epicurean journey 10 years ago and 5,000 miles away in Bodrum, Turkey. He worked his way up from wait staff to restaurant management as he traveled from Turkey to Malta and eventually the United States. While working in Manhattan, Muti came across the ideal location on East 30th Street that was previously occupied by a small cell phone retailer.
“I approached the landlord with my idea and my life savings. Since the economy was shaky and he didn’t have other offers, he agreed to rent me the space. I continued working my job as a restaurant manager and started putting my plan together,” explained Muti.
Muti turned to Rawle Brown, a business counselor at the Pace University Small Business Development Center (SBDC), funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). At the SBDC, he studied the neighborhood’s demographics, learned the table turnover required to make a profit, and developed a tapas-style menu to pair with the perfect wines. Muti built on his working knowledge of wines by taking wine classes at WSET while still working two jobs at different restaurants. With Brown’s free and expert assistance, Muti developed a thorough business plan and SBA-backed loan application with the New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC). But Muti’s initial prospects to build a reputation among diners had quite the challenge when his liquor license application took months to pursue.
“I started out serving food at lunch only while waiting for the liquor license to come through. By July, my life savings had been spent down to the last $5,000. When my liquor license was finally approved, my loan was approved the very next day and allowed me to invest in the wine list I had planned. For me, it was the best day ever because I had the support and confidence to do what I wanted,” recalled Muti.
Muti hasn’t looked back since, with full dinner service seven days a week. The wine and food menus were a hit and locals quickly turned into regulars. Glowing reviews from the New York Magazine also helped raise the profile of the wine bar. Within the first year, Wine:30’s growing popularity created a demand for more tables so he expanded the restaurant space into a second unit on the same floor. During demolition of the studio apartment’s shower, Muti discovered a basement to the building that wasn’t on the original architectural drawings. The landlord agreed Muti could use the space if he completed the required renovations, which involved removing hundreds of buckets of dirt by hand. It took Muti a year to empty the basement by himself, revealing 700 square feet transformed into a true wine cellar for his 6,000 bottle collection and a private dining room. Muti also expanded into al fresco dining with tables in front of the building and the small outdoor courtyard.
Fortune has certainly favored Muti, a bold entrepreneur who leverage his life experiences and savings into small business success. With his hard work, Volkan Muti has secured his future as a small business owner and in the process, created a Murray Hill mainstay and over 20 jobs for his fellow New Yorkers.