Eleazar decided to start his food business because he has always had a love for the food & beverage industry where he has spent his career. Plus the desire to introduce Guam to his style of authentic El Salvadoran/Mexican flavors. Eleazar has always had a dream to be a business owner and now with the timing right for him and his wife, he wants to take the opportunity and make a better life for his family.
With his 30 years of food & beverage industry experience in every facet of cooking responsibilities with many different types of menus, he is uniquely qualified to establish this small food business. Further, Eleazar operated his own sole proprietor food business called D&J Hotdog Stand located in Hagatna from 1997 – 2002. He ended up closing that operation due to economic circumstances. The economy declined and sales slowed to the point it was difficult to continue. He is the first to say that he gained valuable knowledge in running a business at that challenging time. As a result, he believes that has made him a better operator with an eye on food costs and always looking to attract new customers.
Mr. Lopez noted business advisor, Fred Granillo, has been instrumental in getting their business to where it is today. Mr. Granillo assisted in the completion of the business plan and financial projections required by the Chamorro Village. By assisting with the business plan, he helped clarify how he intended on doing business differently from his last business venture. Further, the additional business advice on licensing and noting all the leasehold improvements needed up front was key. The business plan also helped secure the business loan which was not the original objective but extremely needed. Mr. Lopez noted the SBDC is an important assistance to all of Guam's small businesses and encourage others who want to start their business to utilize them.
The start-up process was time consuming and detailed in just completing the licensing process. He had to endure changes and delays in the governmental department clearances in order to secure the business license. Once he completed the Chamorro Village requirements, then he had to complete the licensing process which took over one month. But well worth all the effort and stress as the business once established had a clear direction with the business plan. Eleazar was ready for all other facets including suppliers, menu set up, and product pricing.
The business was funded partially through personal savings but primarily through a Bank of Guam loan. The total funding key to establish equipment, improvements and start-up costs like inventory and supplies. He is grateful to the bank and fully intends on paying off the loan because he realizes that he will likely go back to request for more financing when he needs to expand his operations.
The biggest challenges they faced in starting up the business was applying for all the permits and setting up the inspections for all the respective agencies that have different schedules for their offices. This was done while he still worked at a job. So he endured about three months of the total process before he could actually have the opportunity to open his business. The completion of the business license and sanitary permit represented the most memorable triumph. That is because of the lengthy process and scheduling involved. The day the business opened denoted a personal triumph as well for Mr. Lopez after 12 years he finally re-opened his food business which made him very happy to be a business owner once again.
The Lopez’s goals are in the short term constantly come up with new ideas for the menu including new products and fresh ingredients. Also work with his children to help him market the business on a modest budget. Long term is to expand upon the sales volume and eventually leave his part time job, and then he can devote all his attention to his business. Also look to invest in updated equipment after a about four years.
The Lopez’s would advise anyone to follow their dreams of business ownership. Although it is not easy and there is no guarantee of success, the freedom and independence is addicting to one’s personal well-being. But he does note preparing a business plan this time for his business has greatly helped him focus on the priorities. Plus take advantage of the available free business resources such as the Guam Small Business Development Center.