Teamwork Makes a Growing Business Go
When you’re an entrepreneur, sometimes it’s hard to find all the answers. It’s hard to know where to look to next. “Surround yourself with a great team. You don’t want to be the only person looking at your business,” said Kerry Olvera. Kerry and her husband Javier are co-owners of Olvera Properties, along with Maricela and Pablo Olvera, their brother and sister-in-law, a company that owns and operates two grocery stores in Grand Rapids. Despite numerous challenges and setbacks, Kerry and Javier are a great example of what entrepreneurs can accomplish with hard-work and perseverance.
The Olveras journey began back in 2005 when they started exploring the idea of starting their own business. The couple knew that starting their own business would involve taking a lot of risk, but they liked the security of working for themselves. The Olveras first looked at the real estate market; a rather enticing market at the time. But some advice from family members lead the Olveras to the retail market and a local grocery store that was for sale. The owners of La Tapatia, a grocery store that caters to the Hispanic community, were looking for prospective buyers for the business. The Olveras decided to pursue the opportunity. Finding financing, however, proved more difficult than expected. The Olveras approached many different financial institutions, and finally in January 2006, a year after they started their pursuit, the Olveras acquired their first grocery store.
While they were still looking for financing, the Olveras contacted the Region 7 office of Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center in Grand Rapids to look for some help. “We have a lot of knowledge in different areas. I was an engineer and she was in marketing,” explains Javier “But we did not have a lot of experience running a small business.” Senior business consultant, David Sayers started working with the Olveras on establishing good financial metrics to use as benchmarks and provided some referrals for professional help. “We wanted to put together a team of ‘allies’ to help with our business to give us some professional assistance,” stated Kerry.
As the Olveras began to take over operations, Sayers provided them with analysis of the company’s key financial metrics. “We worked together to test feasibility with cash flow projections and break even analysis, supplied market research, and the Olvera's were very thorough in their due diligence investigations,” recalled Sayers. This process provided the Olveras with a lot of confidence. “We realized that we were really in a good position. The financial check-ups were very valuable to us,” said Kerry.
The Olveras were not finished growing. After the initial success with La Tapatia, they decided to expand to a second store in 2008. They began looking at buying a different grocery store across town. However, even with their previous success, the economic downturn made finding financing for the acquisition difficult. But the Olveras persevered and eventually finished the purchase of their second store in 2010.
As the business has expanded, they continue to come back to the MI-SBTDC for financial analysis, market research and advice on their business. “The service has been outstanding. I recommend it to everyone in small business,” responded Kerry. “Anyone looking to start a small business should go with the SBTDC. They can really help you get a handle on your business and provide a lot ways to understand your market.”
Buying the grocery stores provided the Olveras freedom and security for their future, but it also helped them stay connected with the local Hispanic community. Javier, a member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, saw that this was an opportunity to do both. “We like being involved in the community and helping out where we can and we knew that there were opportunities to offer superior service,” said Javier. “To be the best at what we do,” responded Kerry.
Despite purchasing their second store, the Olveras say that they are not yet done growing. “We hope to continue to offer great service and value to customers where we can,” said Kerry. Five years after starting their entrepreneurship journey, the Olveras have some advice for people starting small businesses. “You have to have a strong desire to succeed. Ask yourself ‘Where do I want be? Why do I want to succeed? That way, you will find the reason to jump past all the obstacles’” suggests Kerry. “Set goals for yourself and work hard toward them.” replied Javier.