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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
Gutter Werks, Inc., a family-owned business, was started in 1998 by Brad Howe and his son Joshua. No stranger to the industry, Brad actually started working in the rain gutter business in 1976. The experience provided him with a sound foundation when starting Gutter Werks, Inc. The company offers installation of a seamless rain system that comes in 40 colors and is formed on site creating a virtually seamless and superior product.
Brad and Joshua started small, getting a contractor’s license, placing an ad in the phone book, and distributing flyers. Today, Gutter Werks, Inc., has grown to include five full-time employees and two part-time employees. Brad and his son enjoy self-employment, but sometimes wish there were more hours in the day to get everything done. They also believe in giving back to the community and do so by installing rain systems on drug rehabilitation centers and battered woman shelters at no charge.
Their goal is to grow Gutter Werks, Inc., into a well-known, successful business while continuing to maintain a great reputation within the industry. Recently, Gutter Werks, Inc., acquired an SBA-guaranteed line of credit which will allow for better cash flow and provide funds to purchase new equipment.
Additional information on SBA loan programs is available on the Internet at www.sba.gov/ca/sandiego or
by telephone at (619) 557-7250.
In 1997, Matt Meis, now a 30-year veteran in the jewelry industry, was laid off from his job with a local diamond importer. He decided it was time to start his own business, Matt Meis Goldsmith. For years, while working various jobs in the jewelry business, from craftsman to retail store manager to wholesale salesman, he had been creating and selling jewelry privately to family and friends which led to referrals creating a broader customer base. Eventually he felt he had created a niche market for fine jewelry customers looking for an alternative to the traditional retail store buying experience. He provides a convenient, high quality, competitively priced option for clients looking for specialty fine jewelry.
Matt’s clients have nick named him the “wandering jeweler” since he goes to his clients rather than having them come to him. Matt prides himself on his ability to work closely and patiently with each customer to satisfy their fine jewelry needs, in the comfort of their own homes or offices. Earlier this year, when Matt incorporated his 8-year-old business, he chose Wandering Jeweler as its official name.
In the spring of 1998 Matt sought assistance from the SBDC to create a business plan for his new venture. In October of 2003, Matt once again contacted the Small Business Development Center – North County (SBDC-NC). This time he wanted to expand his client base and sales. The SBDC-NC worked with Meis to develop a revised marketing plan, in which he incorporated direct marketing strategies and promotional ideas. The SBDC-NC also counseled Meis on creating opportunities for publicity utilizing local television media. This advice resulted in an on-air interview on a local news show. In addition, SBDC-NC consultant Larry Kirsch reviewed and made suggestions for re-structuring Matt’s website to more effectively showcase his products. As the end of 2005 approaches, Matt is on track to report an approximate sales increase of 40% over the 2-year period since 2003.
To find out more about the SBDC-NC visit their website at www.sandiegosmallbiz.org or call (760) 795- 8740. The SBDC program is partially funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration. For information about how SBA can assist your business, visit our website at www.sba.gov/ca/sandiego or call (619) 557- 7250.