Francis Yeung and Nick Troen are the 25 year old founders of Poncho No. 8, a Cali-Mex gourmet food business. The company is based in London, but the idea comes after the pairs numerous visits across America.
Having seen the popularity of this cuisine in America, they researched the UK market and found only a couple places in the UK. With a rise in interest in fast casual dining, the University friends from Oxford decided to seriously start thinking about opening their own chain of restaurants.
Nick even did a 10,000 word dissertation on the ‘fast-casual food sector in London’ while doing an MSc in management and economics at the London School of Economics.
The restaurant chain is more premium focussed, with quality meats sourced from British farms and cooked on site. Research for their venture included exploring London sampling lots of Mexican food. Now that’s the kind of research I like!
Both guys had always wanted to start their own business since meeting up at University and since they both had backgrounds in catering or food, this seemed a logical step.
“Working with a best friend is awesome and working for something that is your own beats working for someone else,” they say.
They are self funded and raise additional cash through selling equity to private investors. Francis and Nick sensibly decided not to take a loan from a bank in order to stay debt free. To raise money they made sure they did the research and perfected their pitch. They got rejections but that is normal and they stay determined and didn’t give up.
One of the greatest tools to help get them on their way has been the internet and the ability to use social networking and blogging as free PR and marketing.
Since forming in August 2009, Poncho No. 8 has seen an impressive growth and although they haven’t opened as many stores as they were hoping they have seen a greater turnover than expected.
The steep learning curve upon starting their venture has been the greatest challenge they have faced as well as getting their first property since “Landlords can be very reluctant to rent out to inexperienced kids without a proven business model,” they said.
So what to take away from their experience; well, do the research and also stay positive, once you know what you want don’t let anyone discourage you from going for it.