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.”



East Side Pride’s Spotlight

This fall’s East Side Pride’s Spotlight features NDC graduate Lisa Johnson, of Lisa’s Wash n’ Fold (page 4). Lisa's Wash n' Fold

Good News on the Front Page of the Star Tribune

The announcement was made yesterday that the Twin Cities will be the recipient of $16 million in grants and loans for housing, businesses, and development for the communities affected by the Central Corridor Light Rail construction.

Star Tribune’s article: Star Tribune LC article 10_28 (3) or read online

For more information on the award, check out Finance & Commerce‘s article: FC_LC_10 27 10

Big Daddy’s BBQ in the News

City Pages reports on NDC-supported business, Big Daddy’s BBQ.

U7 Newsletter

University Seven (U7) presents the first edition of their quarterly newsletter, which will highlight a small business owner along the Central Corridor and provide small business tips, advice, and resources.

The U7 Team

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.