Reuben Ibanez and three partners had a dream. The residents of Austin Texas wanted to open a Filipino restaurant - even though none of them had ever owned a restaurant or had any restaurant experience. Reuben spent 20 years in information technology, one partner is a nurse, one is a customer service representative and one is a homemaker; several of them could cook. Insurmountable odds? No, not for a team that realized the importance of being prepared and was willing to do the work.

For more than a year before they opened their doors, the partners planned and researched their idea. It all began in October of 2012. They soon realized how much they needed to learn before they could bring their dream to life. Their on-line searches lead them to SCORE. After contacting a local chapter in Austin, the partners were paired with John Cuddeback a mentor who met with them and helped address their restaurant concerns and questions. When it came time to find a location, John called in another mentor, Harris Husted to help and he directed them toward an area on the outskirts of Austin that would offer them the highest probability of success.

Once their plan started to come into focus and they began to see that they could make it work, they directed their attention to the financial aspect of the business. They knew they needed someone with a deep accounting background to educate them and when they could not find anyone locally, they returned to the SCORE website to request email assistance. Soon they were connected with Jeneen Perkins, CPA who volunteers through the SE Wisconsin SCORE Chapter. Reuben and Jeneen interacted via email and Jeneen responded to their questions, offering information on everything from organizing as an LLC in Texas and using a calendar year versus fiscal year to operating QuickBooks with other software. Reuben refers to Jeneen as his “most utilized mentor.”

Obtaining a loan for a start-up restaurant can quite challenging so the partners elected to “start slow” and self-fund their venture. Even though they were not seeking to finance through a lender, Jeneen pushed them to create a business plan to help them focus on what they wanted to accomplish, create a timeline and establish financial projections. All of this was new to Reuben and his partners, so Jeneen guided them through the process. They gave themselves 6-8 months to set aside the necessary funds and because of their faithfulness to their plan, they were successful. “I was really impressed that Reuben put a lot of thought into his business plan. His timeline to execute everything was seamless. It was very easy to work with him because he was already focused on the light at the end of the entrepreneurial tunnel. I just simply made sure his plan didn't derail his hopes and dreams,” she said.

Without any advertising, Kawali restaurant opened it doors in January 2014 to overflow crowds. Original customers have returned time and again and word-of-mouth has quickly spread, bringing in new customers every day. The partners were pleased – and a bit surprised - that the business was received so warmly. Apparently, Austin was primed for Filipino cuisine and now everyone wants to try it. They are slightly overwhelmed by the hectic pace and the work involved and are adjusting to this new life, refining their processes and as funds allow, gradually hiring more staff. The future looks bright!

Reuben’s advice for others starting out, “Don’t just jump in; do lots of planning. Do your homework. I can not overstate that enough. Curb your excitement and try to be logical. Learn up front. Get good advice from experienced people.” The partners plan to maintain their connection with their SCORE mentors, “As we go on we know we will have more questions.”

About their experience with SCORE Reuben says, “I am so thankful for Jeneen; she helped us tremendously! And I am just amazed by what is available through SCORE. The whole spirit of SCORE is understated. It is just mind-boggling that there are volunteers out there with so much expertise who want to help people like us. This was all FREE! Everyone should know about SCORE.”

It’s true. Whether through email and phone support or in-person meetings, in their own cities or across the country, SCORE volunteers like Jeneen, John and Harris are there for one purpose: to help others succeed. Jeneen explains, “When I joined SCORE back in 2012, I did not really plan on having an impact outside of Milwaukee. I wanted to help people in the inner city understand what running a business really requires and help them get that. I am just overwhelmed by the impact I have had in other states, across various industries and at different stages of the clients' lives.” SCORE helps make all kinds of dreams come true.

 

How SCORE Helped: 

Reuben Ibanez and three partners had a dream. The residents of Austin Texas wanted to open a Filipino restaurant - even though none of them had ever owned a restaurant or had any restaurant experience. Reuben spent 20 years in information technology, one partner is a nurse, one is a customer service representative and one is a homemaker; several of them could cook. Insurmountable odds? No, not for a team that realized the importance of being prepared and was willing to do the work. For more than a year before they opened their doors, the partners planned and researched their idea. It all began in October of 2012. They soon realized how much they needed to learn before they could bring their dream to life. Their on-line searches lead them to SCORE.