With Sister Pie recently winning the 2014 Hatch Detroit contest, I wanted to check in with a past winner to see how their business is doing since they won the contest. I recently interviewed 2012 Hatch Detroit winner, Elias Khail, owner and operator, Detroit-based La Feria Spanish Tapas, about their business and what’s happened since they won the contest two years ago. Other business partners include, Pilar Baron-Hidalgo and Naomi Khalil. The restaurant itself has been open since October 31, 2013.
La Feria, which is located at 4130 Cass is Michigan’s only authentic Spanish Tapas restaurant, serving traditional Spanish Tapas paired with a full bar and an exclusive Spanish wine selection. The restaurant was founded on the basis of providing authentic Spanish cuisine in the region. The food served consists of all family recipes which distinguishes it from any other place in the state.
And it’s the only restaurant run by a Spaniard in the Detroit region and the State of Michigan.
Lee: At what point did you decide to start it and what was your motivation behind it and what makes it different?
The idea was born in November 2011. However, the restaurant opened 10/31/13. Our motivation was to share Head Chef’s, Pilar Baron-Hidalgo, vision of having amazing Spanish cuisine in Metro Detroit. At that time, there was no Spanish restaurant around and we saw an opportunity to offer authentic Spanish cuisine in Detroit.
This business concept actually goes back several years when we would reminisce about Spain and what it had to offer. We wanted to bring that feeling to Detroit and we did this by offering traditional tapas and recipes. We believe it’s a food of the people and it’s definitely unique to Detroit. The food is always fresh with fresh ingredients and it replicates a corner restaurant you would normally see in Spain here, in Detroit.
With Hatch, it helped us to bring it to fruition.
Lee: You are Hatch Detroit recipient. Please share your overall experience and how it’s benefited your business?
We were a 2012 Winner and Hatch was amazing in putting us on the media and food map of Southeastern Michigan. Their financial and legal support were critical in helping us realize our dream. It was awesome because it put us on the culinary map in Southeastern Michigan. By winning Hatch, we attracted so much publicity. This gave us a marketing strategy without developing it. We were very fortunate and grateful to Hatch for the opportunity because 10,000 people knew about us before we even opened the doors.
Lee: Prior to your selection, what were your most significant business challenges and how did Hatch Detroit help you overcome them?
Finalizing our financing through our lenders. Winning Hatch gave our lenders the confidence they needed to move forward with our project. Also, procuring a lease with the building owner and negotiating other procurement opportunities was beneficial and a part of Hatch’s in-kind legal services.
Lee: Outside of the funding, what resources did you have access to and how have they helped you attain business sustainability?
Legal services that we used to acquire and secure our liquor license. Hatch had a whole package of bundled services, including accounting, marketing services and others which we didn’t use. However, we needed legal assistance which provided us with the experience and expertise we didn’t have.
Lee: Subsequent to your selection, are you experiencing growth and what is the one thing you’ve focused on to ensure growth?
We are doing better than expected, but there is always room for growth. We are concentrating on increasing our lunch business as a means to grow our sales. For being opened only for 9 1/2 months, the reception from the region has been tremendous and has far surpassed sales projections. We’re a thirty-five (35) seat restaurant but we have twenty-five (25) people on the payroll. This is a hugh catalyst for job creation in Detroit.
Lee: What advice would give to those considering starting a business and those whose business have growth challenges?
Don’t hesitate, just do it! Be willing to do your homework on the market, competition, trends and understand your competitive edge. Dig deeply into the marketplace and understand the financials required to launch a business and to be successful This coupled with on how to make it work will provide you with a solid start. Be humble, yet confident, in pursuing your passion.
Lee: What advice would you give to this year’s Hatch Detroit winner–Sister Pie?
Use Hatch as leverage to build your customer base and attract more financing if needed. Since Sister Pie has been in business, they appear to be doing well with a customer base, a product and a market for it. With Hatch, they will continue to gain traction, interest and success. With us, we weren’t open when we won the contest so really, we were at two different stages of launching and growing our respective businesses.
Lee: Other thoughts?
Hatch needs to be enlarged and replicated to afford the opportunity to other aspiring entrepreneurs to realize their dreams and in turn improve the quality of life here in Detroit.