Small Business Success Story: Porta Del Sol
When you think of authentic Mexican food, you probably wouldn’t consider a trip to Mound, Minnesota. But you should! SmartBiz Loans™ customer Michael Regan is earning accolades for his creative restaurant and has plans for expansion. Here’s how he’s using proceeds from a SmartBiz® SBA loan to strengthen and grow his business.
Before he became a restaurateur, Regan was the manager of a private golf course. Many of the employees he worked with were Hispanic and he developed close relationships with them. He even visited their families in Mexico, enjoying the food and experiencing the local culture. On one trip in the Yucatan, he had an inspired vision. He returned to Minnesota and opened Porta Del Sol, an authentic Mexican restaurant with an emphasis on freshly prepared food and quality service.
“My golf course friends helped me develop an authentic menu that included recipes from their families. I even convinced some of them to come work for me,” he says.
With five competing Mexican restaurants in his area, he’s proud that Porta Del Sol has been named the “Best Mexican Restaurant” seven years in a row by a local publication and has always received a 100% health department rating. Several 5-star Yelp reviews confirm that Porta Del Sol is THE place for Mexican in his community:
“Great authentic Mexican food! We go there every Tuesday for their taco special – its easier and cheaper than cooking at home. I also love eating in – the restaurant is smaller, but really quaint. Staff is always really helpful and friendly!”
Regan has always had the entrepreneurial spirit. He owned a few small businesses early in his career. Twenty years ago, he hooked up with friends who were in the bar and restaurant business and became interested in that industry.
When he decided to launch his own restaurant, he self-funded the operation through savings. He found a location that was a former Subway® franchise and worked with a small business friendly landlord who allowed him to get up and running before he started paying rent. To save money, he went to auctions on a regular basis and bought used equipment from another restaurant that had gone out of business. He did most of the installations himself with the help of friends.
Porta Del Sol prides itself on authentic Mexican fare. “Some of our more popular dishes are handmade tamales and tacos made the way they do in Mexico.” His favorite dish on the menu? “I love our enchiladas made by hand – those are big sellers.” The restaurant also offers a traditional menu for those that might be reluctant to try unfamiliar fare. “Our price point is right,” Regan reports. “People that want a good meal can afford our restaurant over the expensive ones. We also have a meal club that’s financially helpful. Customers collect stamps for every entre purchased. Fill up the card and you get a free meal.”
Other than the in-store free meal offer, Regan doesn’t need to do a lot of marketing and stays busy seven days a week. “We have a website and a Facebook page but word of mouth is big. We’ll do a little advertising for schools and sports groups as well as in business directories and with local media outlets,” he says. “We average roughly 100 guests a day and have a really good lunch crowd during the week.”
Regan has needed working capital over the years. He wasn’t interested in high-interest loans that take payments out of credit card transactions daily or weekly. He found that most credit card rates were too high to be helpful. A Sam’s Club® member, Regan came across information about SmartBiz SBA loans in a recent mailer. “The SmartBiz interest rate was really good. I’ve been to my local bank but they just weren’t giving out money. Banks don’t loan the way you think they would.”
He logged onto SmartBiz and started the online process. “Documentation that I wasn’t familiar with was required but once I spoke to someone at SmartBiz they helped me a lot.”
Regan says his SmartBiz Relationship Manager was vital in helping the process move along. “Once I got in touch with Neil, he helped me immensely. He really took the ball. When I couldn’t get something done, he would take care of a lot of the details.”
Regan took out a SmartBiz SBA loan for $55,000 with a low interest rate and a 10-year term. He quickly put the funds to work. “Some of my equipment was getting close to 10 years old. I used $15,000 to upgrade. I also used $15,000 to pay off existing debt.” Regan put the remaining funds into the bank for emergencies.
What are his plans for the future? Regan is looking at properties for a second location and wants to explore franchising his restaurant. “We have a niche in our community,” he says. “I was very nervous when the economy went down but we were able to maintain. For the last two or three years we’ve been going like gangbusters.”
“I hope to pay off this SBA loan fast and do it again,” he adds. “I would absolutely recommend SmartBiz.”
SmartBiz has worked with thousands of small business owners and receives rave reviews for our SBA loan process that is swift and smooth. If you’re looking for low-cost funds to expand and strengthen your business, find out in about 5 minutes if you’re pre-qualified on the SmartBiz website. We conduct a “soft pull” of credit so your score won’t be impacted. Save time, save money and get ready to grow!