How Dogged Persistence is Growing a Business and a Community

'No' Is Simply Not Acceptable: How Dogged Persistence is Growing a Business and a Community

By Karen Axelton

 

up & coming article image

Photo Credit: Jason Clark

How do you launch a successful restaurant in South Central Los Angeles—an inner-city area plagued by gang violence and poverty, where there are few businesses other than liquor stores? For Karim Webb and Edward Barnett of PCF Management, the answer is simple: Show the community you care, and the community will support your business.

Webb spent 25 years in the restaurant industry, while Barnett works in finance. When the two spotted a Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW) Grill & Bar franchise in Las Vegas, they immediately saw its potential. But it was 2009, the depths of the Great Recession, and the BWW brand wasn’t well known in California.

“Landlords were leery to do business with us,” recalls Webb. Finally, thanks to dogged persistence, the Torrance Mall took a chance. Their first store opened in late 2009 and was so successful that in 2011 the partners opened a store on Crenshaw Boulevard.

“After the 1992 [Rodney King] riots, a lot of businesses on Crenshaw went up in flames,” Barnett recalls. “Many never came back. Ours was the first full-service, sit-down restaurant [there] in 25 years.”

Their BWW won awards from corporate headquarters for year-over-year sales increases, and became the approved training store for other BWW locations to train their employees. “We’ve proved there is a market [in this community] for quality restaurants and services,” Barnett says, which inspired a Chipotle to open two doors down.

Not only have Webb and Barnett brought a desirable restaurant to the area, they’ve also created new job opportunities in the community. Employees receive essential training in life skills ranging from how to balance a checkbook to how to budget.

Webb and Barnett take part in community programs such as the Brotherhood Crusade’s BLOOM (Building a Lifetime of Options and Opportunities for Men) program, which mentors 14-to-18-year-old African American males who are or have been on probation for nonviolent crimes. “They go through a program to become work-ready,” explains Webb. “We interview and employ some of them and take an active role in mentoring them. That initiative and others Ed and I are involved in have driven sales. When you’re visible in the community, doing work that makes a difference, people want to support you.”

Their store has outperformed all other California BWW for two years and continues to grow each quarter. Committed to building four more BWW locations in and around Los Angeles, the partners are also working on their own restaurant concept and in five or six years, hope to own 36 units employing 1,200 people.

What advice do these smart hustlers have for other startups? “Have dogged persistence and don’t take no for an answer,” says Barnett.

“Know your local representation and get involved at the local, state and federal level,” adds Webb. “Politicians are interested in businesses creating jobs, and when you engage with them, there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity, information and resources to help you.”