Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ahmed Labbate, CEO of Vaca Group, located in Costa Mesa, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

We are in the restaurant business and run two different fine-dining concepts—Vaca in Costa Mesa and Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach. Our clientele is sophisticated and discerning people.

Tell us about yourself

I majored in hotel and restaurant management. I love the industry because of the excitement & the talent of the people we work with. My business partner is an incredibly creative and talented Chef. I also love the reaction of our guests when we have met or exceeded expectations. I even love the constructive criticism from our very few unhappy clients. We are always learning from both our staff and guests alike. My motivation is the continued growth and evolution we go through with every challenge that arises.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My biggest accomplishment is seeing the growth of our team members that start from entry-level, be it cook, server, dishwasher, or host, to becoming a chef, GM, or HR manager. And, of course, that, we are still in business after 10 years and continue growing restaurant units.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

Responsibility. We are employees, so we are making decisions that will not affect only our restaurants but our employees as well, hopefully always for the better. The other hardest thing is keeping staff motivated and engaged every day.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Be IN the industry you are hoping to open so you know the ins and outs, not just because it is your dream business.
  2. Discipline, maintain your discipline no matter how hard it gets; if you don't do it, no one will - bad times don't last forever.
  3. Consistency.

Where can people find you and your business?

Instagram (Vaca):
Instagram (Broadway by Amar Santana):

If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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