“It’s been my lifelong dream to own my own restaurant. I didn’t give up when I realized I didn’t have half a million dollars to start a restaurant. I stayed focused and learned how to enter the market from a different door. I’m so proud to have gotten this off the ground.”
“I learned early on not to give up,” observed Lancelot Brown, owner of Jamaica Grill Jerk Center. “I wanted to open up my own one hundred seat restaurant at first. It didn’t quite work that way.”
Lance has the type of conviction and enthusiasm that lights a spark in those around him. As a young man, he grew up enjoying the bountiful flavors of the Caribbean. He learned the art of Jamaican cooking from his family – his grandmother ran a cafeteria on the island and the entire family helped out. As soon as he was old enough, he fine-tuned his skills with a degree in culinary arts and began his career.
“I had done it all – fine dining, fast food, catering. I gained a lot of skills from working in all the different segments of the food industry,” said Lance.
It was an unfortunate accident that spurred Lance into taking his career into his own hands. While working at a catering company, he fell on the stairs and broke his back. Unable to work, Lance commenced researching what it would take to start his own company. As he began to recover, he turned to cooking again. With the help of a partner, Lance started catering small events.
“I would say that I’m fully recovered compared to where I was, since I’m no longer walking with a cane. From time to time, I do still feel pains in my back. But I’m not going to let that stop me,” stated Lance.
Word about Lance’s cooking quickly spread throughout the community. Soon, he received an opportunity to cater lunches at local businesses five days a week. Ready to formalize his business operations, he attended classes as part of the Food Business Pathways Program, a business accelerator program offered to residents of the New York City Housing Authority. Soon, he was able to incorporate and get the necessary licensing needed. There was just one more obstacle to overcome.
“I did not have a strong financial base. Since my accident, I had been on public assistance and had limited funds. I had to do something to get off the system, to pull myself up,” explained Lance.
Lance attended the WIBO financing workshop to learn about options for his business. He approached a representative from CAMBA, who recommended Accion.
“The loan from Accion has allowed me to enter the second phase of my business. I’ve been able to purchase enough equipment and expand operations Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. We’ve really been able to grow.”
Lance prides himself on thinking big and not getting discouraged. His next step is to begin looking for a space to open up a storefront.