SBA Loans Put Wind in Popeye’s Sails

When Mr. Ed Rice was approached to comment on his business success, he humbly replied, “what success” and mused further, “It’s hard work and ever-present”, intimating that success in entrepreneurship comes from the complete dedication of oneself to the enterprise in question. You better believe that Ed Rice is committed to his Popeye’s stores. No matter what time one visits the operations for a Cajun Cuisine Catch-up, he or she will most likely encounter Ed Rice involved in any one of the myriad management details, or even pitching in to serve the customers or to staff the cash register.

A demanding but fair manager, Ed has made it his policy to staff his enterprise with the best and most well rounded students from the neighboring high schools. His interview process involves a review of the individual job seeker’s report card with special stress placed on attendance record, comments from teachers, and grades. Mr. Rice feels that, if the student is a responsible team player and is respectful at school, he will undoubtedly treat Ed’s customers in a manner worthy of their patronage.

Ed Rice is a true inner city entrepreneur. At age 19, having just graduated from Fremont High School, he started his own real estate office, and successfully ran it for 10 years. In 1985 Ed opened his first Popeye’s franchise, the 103rd Street store, using a 7(a) SBA guaranteed loan underwritten by American Pacific State Bank, an institution which was subsequently merged into City National Bank. As one would expect from a borrower as responsible as Mr. Rice, the loan was repaid in advance of when required. The 18 jobs created are a living tribute to Mr. Rice’s business acumen and vision.

Unfortunately, Ed’s Watts restaurant was damaged during the 1992 civil unrest; however, the structure was reconditioned via an SBA disaster loan used in conjunction with his business insurance. An interesting anecdote relating to this establishment centers on the fact that Popeye’s was the food of choice of the National Guard in 1992. In fact, Mr. Rice cooked for and fed those guardsmen assigned to keep peace in Watts right out of the 103rd Street store.

SBA Los Angeles District Director, Alberto Alvarado offered praise stating, “Ed Rice epitomizes the meaning of the word entrepreneur. Ed assumed tremendous risk, expecting the concomitant return on his investment in his first venture. His dedication and tenacity earned him the appropriate rewards.”

Employing the ingenuity referenced by Director Alvarado, and by using personal capital and CRA funds, Mr. Rice followed the traditional path taken by most entrepreneurs. He parlayed some of what he earned and everything he learned from his first success and opened another Popeye’s in the Crenshaw District. This second franchise, at 3268 West Slauson Avenue, is operated in the same fashion as the original site. The 14 employees, whose jobs were created through Ed Rice’s enterprising spirit, remain focused on excellent customer service, an integral part of the core competencies of Ed Rice’s company.

Ever the entrepreneur, Mr. Rice is in the planning stages to open another Popeye’s. Feasibility studies and site consideration are currently in process. Expectations are for the third operation to create 20 new jobs in the Central Los Angeles community. Ed Rice may, again, call upon SBA financing to help provide clear sailing for this new Popeye’s franchise.

The Watts Popeye’s can be contacted by calling (323) 566-9402. The Crenshaw District location can be reached at (323) 569-0071.

For additional information on SBA Loan Programs and Services please call the Los Angeles District Office at (818) 552- 3210 or visit the SBA’s user friendly web site at www.sba.gov.




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