Monday, February 7, 2011

Bakery Delivery Boy Turned Successful Baja Fresh® Franchisee

Owner Knows The Only Failure Comes In Never Trying

Roy Ferrara isn’t the kind of guy that sits around just waiting for success to happen. Starting his career in the restaurant business as a young delivery boy in a small family bakery, he quickly learned the value and reward of hard work and hustle. By the time the bakery grew into a popular sandwich shop in downtown Los Angeles, he’d moved up to full partner. Not only did he have the required food service savvy, he had a real talent for identifying previously unexplored revenue streams and then developing those opportunities with fervor and fearlessness.

For example, given the deli’s southern California locale, he opened a small theater in the back of the shop, giving local actors an informal, yet fun venue to hone their skills. He also expanded into the parking lot business when the sandwich shop needed more space for their growing clientele.

“My job was to figure out how to make money and go after it,” he reflects.

Twenty years later, he owns and operates a large Baja Fresh Mexican Grill franchise, which by all accounts is flourishing, even in this challenging economic environment. He’s extremely pleased to be passing on his winning business skills and work ethic to his two children, both attending college in L.A. It’s becoming a real family business, as both kids work part-time at the restaurant.

Roy believes there is a lot to be learned by being “belly to belly with customers and knowing what it’s like to survive on a tip.”

“It’s actually one of the major reasons we got involved in it. My kids could be involved in the business and learn some management skills. I wanted to get into a franchise and have a little structure to it so that not everything had to be learned at once. I have twenty years of restaurant experience so it’s nothing new for me, just the franchise experience,” Roy says.

A year and a half ago, Roy purchased the Baja Fresh restaurant in Bakersfield, about 100 miles north of L.A. Instead of letting the economy deter him from purchasing or opening a franchise, he looked for diamond in the rough-type small business opportunities.

“I was looking at trends. I wanted to buy something in a down, depressed market, which is exactly what I did. I used my experience from another business and my creativity and cost-cutting skills to take this business that was down and turn it around,” he says.
“Instead of looking at dangers that are out there…look at the opportunities,” he advises other people who would like to be small business owners or entrepreneurs.

Roy doesn’t understand the negative mentality held by many unemployed professionals and executives, who send out resumes, get no response, and then whine and complain about the job market.

The reason Roy chose the Baja Fresh franchise was simple – he liked the food. The lure of associating with a renowned and superior fast food product along with the timely opportunity to purchase an existing year-old franchise also helped make Baja Fresh the obvious choice.

His timing couldn’t have been better!

“I got out of stocks and bonds and was looking at commodities. I soon came to the conclusion that the commodity I knew best was myself and my ability to run a business, rather than gold or oil. So I said ‘let’s do it’”.

Once he made up his mind on the purchase, he contacted Guidant Financial. Instead of using traditional forms of franchise financing, Roy was able to buy a franchise by investing his existing retirement funds into the small business without incurring a taxable distribution. He believed there was a unique opportunity to invest those funds into assets at today’s depressed prices and profit from the turnaround. In addition, he loved the fact that he and his employees could defer income into their company 401k.

According to Roy, is passing valuable experience to his children through his business. Both of Roy’s sons work in the restaurant, learning from the bottom up, including food preparation, sales, marketing, operations and management responsibilities. They are excited at the prospect of gaining the well-rounded restaurant experience they need to follow in and carry on Roy’s success.

Roy’s franchise operation now employs 12 people and business is trending upward, despite a couple of slow months recently. That’s not bad, considering the current economic downturn, especially in the hard-hit San Joaquin valley where the oil and agriculture industries have contributed to a nearly 15% unemployment rate.

However, being the eternal optimist and opportunist, Roy is using this slight dip in business to get his sons even more involved with the inner workings of small business entrepreneurship, which he’s confident will reap many rewards in their promising young careers.

With their father providing a shining example of true entrepreneurial enthusiasm, both of Roy’s sons are getting ready to carve out their own American Dream and proudly continue the Ferrara family legacy.

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