Entrepreneur of the Month – Manny’s Tortas

Congratulations to NDC Entrepreneur of the Month Manny’s Tortas!

28 years ago, Manny González moved to Minnesota with two dreams: to learn English, and to own his own restaurant. He realized his first dream quickly. In 1998, he read about an innovative, Latino-organized, NDC-supported project coming to East Lake Street: the Cooperativa Mercado Central. They had space for five food businesses, and Manny saw a chance to realize his second dream. Manny enrolled in NDC’s 16-week entrepreneur training program. From that class he developed a business plan, and as Manny says with a contagious grin “that’s how everything started!”

Twelve years later, Manny’s Tortas is a Lake Street staple with successful locations at both the Mercado Central and the Midtown Global Market (MGM). Manny gives thanks to NDC for their continued partnership: “NDC has been really powerful help for a lot of entrepreneurs. My experience with them, it was tremendous. Because basically, they take you by the hand and say okay, this is how you’re supposed to get into the program, get loans, get permits. I knew about food, but the business aspect is totally different, and NDC helps you with that.”

This year, NDC’s partnership with Manny expanded into a new venture: a booth at the Minnesota State Fair. After two years participating in the Midtown Global Market’s State Fair booth, NDC worked with Manny to achieve a long-time goal of securing his own permanent location at the Fair, featuring his trademark tortas and a Fair specialty- non-alcoholic piña coladas, served right in the pineapple. Was the wait worth it? Manny laughs and exclaims, “It was insane! It was beautiful insane. It was work. I’ve never seen so many people! But we were ready.” The fair was a resounding success for Manny’s Tortas, and Manny gives many thanks to MGM manager (and NDC employee), Jeff Alexander: “Oh my goodness! He was like a guardian angel. He was excellent!”  Manny’s Tortas was one of eleven Midtown Global Market vendors that participated in the Fair this year in partnership with NDC  – a service that is part of NDC’s mission to incubate and create broader opportunities for small businesses.

Manny, along with his sister and business partner, Vicki, currently have 12 employees at the two restaurants they operate, and they have cultivated a strong following of torta-addicts in Minneapolis. “The sky is the limit. That’s the vision I have. We can do great things and change neighborhoods. Like with MGM- we’re changing the neighborhood. I think NDC is doing a great job (in the community), doing a lot for entrepreneurs. Sometimes people don’t really know who’s behind it all. NDC is the heartbeat that keeps the whole body moving.”



Ultimate Look

When Dominique Wells was 12 yearsDominique Wells - Ultimate Look old, he began cutting hair as a hobby, never imagining it would turn into a career. His aunt, Wendy Lane, had opened a salon on University Avenue in 1992, and Dominique put his hobby to work there. In 2005, when his aunt became too ill, Dominique took over the business, expanding the main floor salon to include a full barber shop in the back.

Since opening its doors, Ultimate Look has been a strong anchor for many other salons on University Avenue; four salon owners currently operating along the Avenue started their career at Ultimate Look by renting a chair and gaining a good flow of loyal customers.

From the day he took over Ultimate Look, Dominique has had a great vision for his business. Already a skilled barber and staffed with five stylists, two nail technicians, and two barbers, Dominique has focused on the professional and managerial side of running a business. Facing the upcoming disruption of the Central Corridor Light Rail construction along University Ave, he had been seeking help to improve his branding. Unexpectedly, the U7 team walked into his shop to drop off a packet of services that were available to him to enhance his marketing with their ‘results driven’ approach. “It was a little odd at first that people were willing to come help me. Usually you have to go out and seek help”, Dominique states.

Dominique has been working with U7 for many months, and is greatly appreciative of the help they have provided him. He commends the staff on their patience, creativity, and ability to be innovative. He now has a new logo, new business cards, a consistent brand, and is preparing to launch Ultimate Look’s website at the end of August. Dominique is more optimistic about finding stylists to rent out chairs, as well as increasing his customer base, and he is now confident of Ultimate Look’s ability to conduct business during construction.

“Our businesses are basically our livelihood. That’s how we support our families. Without the help [from U7], it’s hard to see a lot of these businesses staying open during construction.”

When asked what motivates him to keep his business thriving during and after the light rail construction, Dominique sincerely states, “It’s never just about me. I always consider the next man (or woman!)…  …Our businesses are basically our livelihood. That’s how we support our families. Without the help [from U7], it’s hard to see a lot of these businesses staying open during construction.”

U7 is now helping Dominique with financial projects. He is putting together a plan to increase sales, and starting a savings account to prepare for any potential loss in revenue during construction.

*Neighborhood Development Center is the host organization of U7, a collaborative of eight organizations helping to strengthen small businesses along University Avenue before, during, and after the Central Corridor Light Rail project with free marketing services.

All Washed Up

All Washed Up, the new laundromatShantae Holmes - All Washed Up in North Minneapolis powered by entrepreneur Shantae Holmes, houses 44 pieces of brand new, energy efficient equipment, including 22 dryers and three sizes of both front and top loading washing machines. In addition to Shantae, All Washed Up has three fulltime employees to manage the business from 7AM to 10PM, seven days a week (office manager JoAnn Bell and attendants Shaurice and Sonia). There is also a seamstress on site and free Wi-Fi with plenty of space to relax while you wash.

The idea for opening up a laundromat came during college when Shantae received a rejection letter from the Department of Human Services, citing a criminal past as a reason not to hire her. Discouraged, but then inspired to not let her past stand in the way of her future, Shantae decided “I’m going to have to have my own business so I can hire myself!” She knew that two essential steps to opening her own business were writing a business plan and securing funding. She was referred to Neighborhood Development Center, where she successfully completed the Microentrepreneur Training program in the spring of 2008, with a solid business plan that would lay the groundwork for All Washed Up. What she hadn’t expected, however, was the financial assistance that would come from this relationship. 

It had been an emotional process going through traditional banks, who all offered different reasons for why they couldn’t help. Through a coordinated effort of non-profit lenders, including the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD), NEON, MEDA and NDC, Shantae was able to obtain the financing needed to invest in 3128 square feet of beautiful potential- an abandoned restaurant that had closed its doors after a shooting five years ago. Shantae has proceeded to revitalize an empty store front, converting it into a clean and friendly business that the community can be proud of.

“NDC has a mission statement that describes me, and the fact that they have a program targeted in my community was very important to me.”

She laughs and proudly exclaims “North Side!”- her roots are here and she wanted to give back. Shantae is hoping to show her community that you can have a second chance in life. All Washed Up will give a sense of renewal, trust, and a level of understanding that the North Side community is valuable, has integrity, and is worth investing in.

Address: 3008 Penn Avenue North·Minneapolis, MN·55411

The District Barber Shop

The District Barber Shop is a 450 square foot four seat – start-up barber shop at 1116 Lowry Avenue North, Minneapolis that allows families to have their hair cut in one convenient visit. There are many “quick salons” like Cost Cutters, or Fantastic Sams, however, most of these salons only provide the minimum services. These upscale barbers can be inconvenient due to scheduling requirements and cost.

Owner of The District, Terry Turner, perceived an unfulfilled customer need for a low-cost barber shop that provides maximum flexibility and strong customer attention. The District provides walk-in hair cutting services for the entire family; however a main focus will be marketed towards African American male adults between the ages of 20 to 35 and male children of ages 6 to 12. The District will also offer mobile services to various senior and assisted living facilities throughout the north, northeast, and southeast metro areas.

Mr. Turner originally came directly to NDC in August, 2009 for a small business loan. To gain eligibility status, and learn more about entrepreneurship, Mr. Turner successfully completed the NDC Emerge Entrepreneur 2009 fall training class and received a $5,000 NDC loan in March, 2010.

Mr. Turner now manages the shop in the evening and weekend hours while his Master Barber manages operations during the day hours. His customer service skills and tenacity for being well organized has been a helpful driving force. He continues to work his full-time job at DTM Distributors as a Route Driver to supplement the household income. This job position offers a flexible schedule allowing him to be at the shop several times during the week. His business venture continues to be supported by NDC with continued coaching and technical assistance. In fact, Mr. Turner sent NDC Lending Officer, Romaine Turner (no relation) the following email acknowledging his appreciation:

“I would like to take time to thank you and NDC for believing in my vision and allowing me the opportunity to equip myself with the tools necessary to achieve my goals. The help that NDC provided has allowed me to position myself as the premier barbershop in the Cleveland neighborhood as well as provide employment for residence of the community”.