Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Lavell Bynum, Owner of BlaqhausATL, located in Marietta, GA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Our brand was founded in North Hollywood, California, and we have expanded to Marietta, GA. We are a black-owned southern cuisine restaurant/lounge. We have a full bar with some of our specialty cocktails, along with hookah. We specialize in our brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11-4 pm. Our top seller for brunch is our Shrimp and Grits and also our catfish and grits. We are also the only restaurant that offers Karaoke for brunch on Sundays. For our dinner menu, we are known for our “Soul Rolls,” which is an egg roll that has mac&cheese short rib and greens. You definitely have to come in to try this. I’m more proud that we built this brand from the ground up; we used our hard-earned money and used our savings to build this brand to make it successful. Everyone that comes to this location loves the vibe and always has a good time. I love seeing my customers and also employees coming to the establishment and having a great time.
We offer bottomless mimosas for brunch every Saturday and Sunday; we also have birthday packages and a private room that is available for rent. We have different events throughout the week and weekend for all age groups, including a happy hour on food, drinks, and hookah. We are also open seven days a week.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up in Panamá City Panamá, where my great-grandmother raised me. She raised a lot of us, including my sister’s cousin, etc. I saw how hard she worked doing it with little money. I didn’t really understand until I came to the U.S. in 1997 and realized how we really did not have the funds compared to what we had in the States. After high school, I decided not to go to college due to an ACL injury I obtained in high school wrestling. I had a scholarship at Kennesaw State, but due to the injury, I was unable to continue, so I decided to try corporate America. I worked in corporate America for roughly around 12yrs in sales. I was making great money but realized I did not want to work for anyone else. Throughout my work career, I started a few side businesses, including personal training and also credit repair, but that still was not enough for me to decide to quit my job because I could not see it as a full-time career. One day my business partner called me and told me about a location she was looking at in North Hollywood, California, and asked me if I wanted to be part of it. Neither one of us has worked in the restaurant industry, but we both worked in management, so we figured we would be able to handle it. We decided to move forward and open up our first location, called Blaqhaus Noho. We opened this location in June of 2018; we had a few struggles due to COVID, but we have succeeded every year.
One day I was online just browsing different locations for sale in Atlanta, GA. I found a location, not knowing it was located in Marietta, GA. I felt that it would be a great location since I went to school in the area. Decided to take a risk and open up during COVID. I did not know what to expect because it was COVID, and also, we are the only black-owned restaurant located at Marietta Square. I opened up the location on March 27, 2021, and we have had a fantastic outcome. We are looking to expand in different states really soon.
I’m also involved in the marijuana industry out of California. We have a legal grow house that we launched in December of 2021. The brand is called Tremendo Icy business partner with Blaqhaus is also my partner in this venture. My kids and my family is my motivation, everything that I put my mind to is for my family. I want to make sure they have everything I did not have, plus more, and I want to show them that anyone can be successful as long as they set their goals and go through with their plans.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment is stepping out of my comfort zone. Like I said before, I worked in corporate America and was comfortable, I never worked in the restaurant industry, but I applied all the knowledge I know from management to have a successful business and more to come.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
We have had some difficulties throughout the years with the hiring aspect, specifically for cooks. It’s difficult finding cooks here in Atlanta since the day we opened. This is part of the restaurant industry, especially here in Atlanta. We are still working on overhiring so we can make sure we are fully staffed and can deliver to the best of our ability.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Three tips I would give to someone looking to start a business, 1st make sure you have the proper staff. If you have the right staff in your establishment, your business is going to run smoothly, and you, as a business owner, can work on everything else rather than working in your space as an employee. Second, make sure you are hands-on with your business in the beginning so you can be aware of everything that is going on. You want your business to run the way you want it to run, so gain the knowledge of your business and work in it for at least the first 6-9 months. Last, never let your ego get in the way of taking tips and suggestions from other individuals, especially some employees that have worked in the industry for a while.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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