After teaching high school English in Detroit, Michigan and then Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, I decided to take my lifelong passion for food and make a career of it. I moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to work and study with a prominent female chef, and quickly moved my way up the ladder from prep cook to line cook to sous chef and kitchen manager, eventually spending a full two years managing an intense, bustling, always-busy, farm-to-table restaurant in the heart of downtown.
Being an educator is still a deep passion of mine; that said, the education system in the United States is so flawed that I couldn’t continue to pursue that passion without compromising my beliefs in what is equitable and just. In opening a new restaurant in a neighborhood with so many young people who are unemployed and lacking adequate opportunity to provide for themselves, I get to fuse my two passions. For the past six months, I’ve been writing business plans, consulting with chef/owners of other Milwaukee and Detroit restaurants, doing pop-up dinners around town, getting to know the Lindsay Heights neighborhood*, and fielding a handful of phone calls each day from eager young people looking for work. A little over three years ago, an amazing Milwaukee chef took a chance on a young woman who had spotty culinary experience but a passion and drive to make a career out of something we all take for granted, food. I want to offer that same opportunity to the next generation of young chefs who may not have the experience, but know their worth and are motivated to make a change.
This loan is special because:
More about this loan
The Tandem is a full-service lunch and dinner restaurant in Milwaukee’s Lindsay Heights neighborhood. I was approached about this opportunity in February 2016 by a local real estate developer, Juli Kaufmann, who was interested in finding a restaurant concept that would suit the needs of the neighborhood and provide a welcomed addition to the burgeoning entrepreneurial push in Milwaukee’s 15th district. We are projected to open October 1st of this year.
I may have been approached to lease the space because of my grit and determination, but it was by no means handed to me. I had to work with a dozen neighborhood stakeholders – heads of community organizations, other small business owners, urban farmers, the alderman, and a handful of invested neighbors – to ensure the restaurant was not simply a destination restaurant for downtown diners who wanted to check out a new neighborhood, but instead a neighborhood cornerstone for meeting, eating, and simply being. Our primary customer base is the 20,000 residents of Lindsay Heights along with the nearly 1,000 office employees who have recently been injected into the neighborhood during 9-5 working hours. In addition to folks from The Tandem’s district, our customers are the rest of Milwaukee at large, with a heavy emphasis on food and beverage industry service workers, sports fans (the new Milwaukee Bucks arena is being built just a mile down the road from us), and foodies with a taste for fried chicken!
The Tandem is not simply a restaurant, though, but a fusion of my backgrounds in education and culinary arts. The Lindsay Heights neighborhood suffers an unemployment rate of over 25%, the vast majority of that unemployment falling in the 18-24 age range. The young folks of the 53205 zip code are overwhelmingly intelligent, driven, and capable people who have not yet had opportunity to learn a good skill, find a paying job, and do work that is respectable and worthwhile. Meanwhile, as Milwaukee’s dining scene is booming, restaurants are increasingly having trouble finding good help, particularly in the kitchen. Each employee of The Tandem will work from dishes to prep cook to line cook, until they have mastered all we have to offer in our kitchen; at that point, the cook and I will find a handful of other restaurant placements based on their interests (do you want to do fine dining? Spanish food? Sushi? Try them all!), with the eventual goal of being hired on in a kitchen where they can continue to learn new skills. And at The Tandem, we can hire another neighborhood kid to start the process all over again. It might be a little harder to steer a bike when there’s two people on it, but it’s amazing how much more power we have when riding together.
What is the purpose of this loan?
Under-capitalization is the number one killer of new restaurants. While we have raised $75,000 in the past two months, and have a few months until opening day, most of that $75,000 is being used on buildout, furniture and kitchen tools, legal and licensing fees, staff training, tableware, and the like! In order to ensure our success, I am trying to raise funds for four (4) months working capital before October 1st.
Every month, these costs include, and are estimated at: -Rent $3,000 -Wages $14,000 -Payroll Taxes $2,000 -Utilities $1,000 -Telephone+Internet+POS $300 -Accounting/Legal $200 -Loan Repayment $4,000 -Miscellaneous $1,000 -Food+Drink Inventory $10,000 TOTAL: $35,500
These costs are not to say we will be throwing that money away each month; instead, adequate capital for the first several months’ operations will ensure that we are able to get into our groove and reach our full potential in terms of profitability without having to purchase food and drink items on credit (which is not readily available to new restaurants). After four months, we project having net profit of at least $36,000, which grows by between $4-6,000 each month moving forward. This profit will then be sufficient working capital moving forward.
Years in operation: 6 months – 1 year