Although there are many casual take-out spots in Syracuse that offer Latin food, there is a noticeable lack of appreciation for dine-in dishes and the culture behind them. That's where Clara Cedeno comes in.
After many years working in the corporate world, Clara decided to pursue her dream of owning her own business. Bringing this dream together with her love of food and Latin culture helped her create her brain child, La Patria Café.
While waiting for the approval of funding that would be needed for further interior and exterior renovations, Clara had a soft opening back in March of 2019. She planned to increase her seating capacity and enhance the overall customer experience. But these repairs were significantly delayed due to the federal government shutdown at the end of 2018 that held up her business loan approval. Suddenly, she was forced to take out a personal loan for a significantly smaller amount to complete the renovations. Clara found herself reevaluating her plans, saving whatever she could, wherever possible.
Time has passed, and Clara was able to re-open La Patria Café on October 30th, 2019. The Café has two stories with just over 2,400 square feet of serviceable area. Clara has also employed 6 people currently, but she is expecting to hire 4 more in the coming months. Customers are excitedly returning to La Patria Café to see the new and improved space with added seating options, a full bar and outdoor seating (when the weather permits).
Using the project management skills that she mastered in the corporate world, Clara had no trouble creating a business plan and a timeline, but she struggled when it came to her financial projections. Clara states that the “SBDC was recommended to me by the bank I was working with to secure start-up funds. I was struggling with getting my numbers (start-up costs, financial projections, etc.) together and was encouraged to reach out to Keyona Kelly, an SBDC advisor. Understanding the bank’s ‘mentality’ in terms of what realistic and healthy financial growth looks like, that insight was and continues to be helpful as I assess where the business is currently and what I need to do to ensure steady growth moving forward.”
During Clara’s journey of opening her business, creating renovations and expanding, she remained in touch with her advisor. When asked how her advisor helped her the most, she explains, “This is a loaded question for me. My advisor was a therapist and business counselor all rolled into one. Being able to put all my angst, fears, and excitement on the table and have her understand, provide support, and her own set of ideas helped keep me grounded. On the other hand, Keyona provided – above and beyond the numbers – connections that assisted in my journey to understanding costs but better yet, cutting down on the costs.
Owning La Patria Café is now allowing Clara Cedeno to live her dream, serving the quality and nostalgia of her parents' homeland (the Dominican Republic as well as other Latin American and Caribbean countries) through every delicious dish.
Article by Keyona Kelly, Certified Business Advisor at the Small Business Development Center located at Onondaga Community College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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