While small businesses across the U.S. are reopening and adapting to the new normal, we’ll be highlighting stories of OnDeck customers who are facing these challenges head on. They share ways they changed their business operations to deal with new realities and how they used financing from OnDeck to help along the way.
We recently spoke with OnDeck customer Maritza Paz who owns Chef Paz in West Allis, WI. She has used her OnDeck financing to stock up on inventory, manage cash flow, and remodel her restaurant.
Tell us about your business. How did it come about?
I was retired from a bank in Peru, and in 2002, after my divorce, I decided to emigrate to the US and focus on my love of food. I worked at restaurants and quickly became an executive chef with the goal of making enough money to send my children to college.
My business started over eight years ago, and I get my inspiration from my mother who was a chef back in Peru. For several years, I was consulting and my job was to open or reorganize restaurants around the U.S. I saw an opportunity to open my own restaurant in West Allis, a city with a lot of potential, and thanks to the mayor’s invitation I went ahead with the investment.
What have been some of your biggest challenges as a small business owner?
My biggest challenge was teaching my team to prepare Peruvian food from scratch – something brand new to them – and then getting our customers to choose us over more traditional cuisines like Mexican, Chinese, or Japanese.
Getting customers to return to my restaurant was real work, and it was not easy at first. My goal was for our customers to return because of the food and service, and I made sure I always took care of each one. I supplemented the in-person care with my social networks, posting photos and sharing anecdotes from the very beginning to make my restaurant feel inviting.
Why did you choose OnDeck and what’s been your most memorable experience working with us?
I worked with other lenders in the past but once they got what they wanted from me they slowed down communication, and that wasn’t going to work for me. I was charged high fees and forgotten about at the same time. That’s not a way to keep a customer.
I chose to work with OnDeck because they explained everything in detail quickly in my native Spanish and the process was without complications.
How have you used the money?
I mainly used the money to purchase merchandise and inventory, remodel the restaurant, and pay taxes. Small businesses pay a lot in taxes, so the OnDeck funds were very helpful in that regard.
How has the coronavirus impacted your business?
We were only affected for about two weeks because I made the quick decision to close and clean the restaurant. I didn’t want to leave my employees without jobs, so I switched our waiters to delivery. I also went online to my social pages to encourage our customers throughout the city and surrounding towns to choose our delivery option. It was very successful – I kept my team together and our sales went back to normal within four weeks with only deliveries and carry out as options. It was incredible.
What do you love about being a small business owner?
To me, it’s all about community. I love that my customers keep coming back to my restaurant and leave happy and satisfied. I’m also involved with feeding the homeless. For the last five years, I’ve provided hot meals to the homeless and this has helped the local community support my business.
What does the future look like for Chef Paz?
I would love to franchise my business here in Wisconsin – I already have two restaurants that bear my name in my native Peru, but the future is promising here in the US.