“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” – Martial artist, actor and philosopher Bruce Lee.
When Luke Nicolette approached the Onondaga Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Onondaga Community College close to two years ago, one thing was apparent. Like many successful people, Luke is a young man with a singular, laser-like focus on the task at hand. He had a concept for a new business in Central New York and our job at the SBDC was to clear away the “speed bumps” and help him get his business from point A to point B. With Luke’s focus and work ethic, and with the help of the SBDC, he was able to open Syracuse’s first and only Acai shop offering healthy bowls, smoothies, juices and salads.
American virologist, Jonas Salk once said “Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.” As an advisor for the Onondaga SBDC whose objective it is to help our clients fulfill their business dreams, I’m always extremely curious what drives the various entrepreneurs I meet who want to start or purchase an existing business. For Luke, the drive comes from a variety of personal hardships and challenges in his life that he’s been able work through and use as motivation. In a positive way, those challenges have helped him realize several things that were important to him from a business perspective. He realized he wanted to identify and pursue his passion, he wanted to help others as a business owner, he wanted to enjoy the creative freedom that comes with owning your own business, and (most importantly) he realized he could achieve anything he set his mind to. Luke believes his communications and psychology degree from State University of New York at Oswego has helped him understand what he does well and how best to service his customers.
I asked Luke how he happened to connect with the Onondaga SBDC following his decision to start a business. He told me that he searched the internet for “cost-effective” resources in CNY that may be able to help him with implementing his business concept. He came across several resources but decided to “click through” to the website for the Onondaga SBDC. Luke stated “I am so appreciative of how quickly my advisor, Mark Pitonzo, responded to my request and how willing he was to help me with all aspects of implementation. If I was going to make this concept happen, my challenge was that I needed help with everything from formation of the business and business planning, to financial projections including cash flow analysis and income statements since I needed to finance the project. Mark helped with every aspect including introducing me to some of the financial and legal consultants that they work with at the SBDC. Their help was amazing, and I couldn’t have done this without my advisor and the SBDC!”
Luke and I spoke weekly as there were many moving parts that needed to be resolved prior to serving the first customer. There were financing and permits that were required prior to moving forward with construction, and the actual “build-out” that required a lot of patient collaboration. Luke confided in me that there were many times when he thought he should give up on the project – but that was not an option for a man that has faced challenges in his life. Thomas Edison once said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
After facing all the challenges with opening a business, Luke’s incredible attention to detail paid off. During late January of 2022, the Purple Banana opened its doors to the public at 754 South Crouse Avenue, adjacent to the historic campus of Syracuse University. Despite the realistic expectations that accompanied their recent “soft” opening, Luke and the staff have been pleasantly surprised by the number of students and other customers that have enjoyed the variety of healthy options offered by the Purple Banana.
Purple Banana offers a variety of all-natural acai bowls made with quality, natural, wholesome ingredients. All the products they offer are carefully crafted with the help of a certified nutritionist. They use 100%-real fruit with absolutely no refined sugar, dairy or juice. Additionally, they offer healthy smoothies and salads. What makes the Purple Banana unique is the acai berry that is used in their products. The acai berry is native to South America and is filled with antioxidants and vitamins. Luke is certain their products will become more popular as consumers learn how wonderful the taste is while boosting their immune systems in the process. They also offer Green, Coconut, and Pitaya (Dragon Fruit) bowls, all of which offer a host of health benefits.
Luke stated “Mark kept me on a path and on track every week. I knew where I wanted to be but didn’t know how to get there. Mark didn’t influence my decision but supported the process of getting this accomplished. I’m happy that we were able to open the Purple Banana as it will allow me to employ people and do something good for our community. This could not have been done without the help of the SBDC and Mark Pitonzo.”
Article published in the CNY Business Journal on March 24, 2022.
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