Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage, but not sure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Camila Perry, managing owner of The Oaks Tavern, located at Sherman Oaks, California, USA.
Tell us all about your business...
My business is a neighborhood bar that was able to weather the storm of COVID. I have run the bar for almost 11 years, where I started as a bartender, manager, and now owner. We never served food before, but we decided to put it in a small kitchen because of the pandemic, and currently, we serve pizza. We have a great staff and a robust entertainment schedule. We do comedy, team trivia, singer-songwriter night, and of course, our claim to fame is karaoke! We have karaoke every night of the week.
What's your background and motivation to grow as a solopreneur?
My way into owning a business was not typical. I was a bartender, and the owner noticed not only how hard I worked but how much I cared. The company was failing, and he did not want to run it anymore, so he told me if I could come up with my own concept and dig the bar out of debt, I could become an owner. I had always dreamed about owning my bar but never really thought it could be reality. The bar became my baby. I didn't know what I was doing… I had run other people's businesses but never had complete control, where I had to generate the business myself.
It was a big jump from bartender to wonder, and it was a lot of literal blood, sweat, and tears. Luckily my (now) husband never let me give up or walk away, though I thought about it many times. It took several years to turn a profit, but then we finally became a valley hotspot! I love my staff and my regulars which is what motivates me to continue. Our regulars have a spot that they call home, and my employees have a job that they enjoy and make money at. Obviously, Covid was a huge hurdle we had to jump over recently. We were closed for almost an entire year, but we could weather the storm and make it through. In the beginning, we got a lot of support from regulars, coming in to buy to-go cocktails or simply donating money to help keep the lights on while we were closed. It's these people that keep me going each day!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
It sounds funny, but when I was able to stop tending the bar and just manage the place, that was a huge accomplishment! I worked two jobs the first year we were open and then tended bar to save payroll and oh the bills the next three years. So year 5 is when I was able to stop watching the bar and just manage. I had to tend the bar again when we reopened after COVID, but then it was just a blessing to be able to reopen; I didn’t care. I worked every shift!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a solopreneur?
For me, it’s always hardest to manage my employees. Many have worked for me for 6+ years, and I consider them my friends, so it’s hard to reprimand them, and often they take advantage of my good graces.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Be patient. Save more money than you think you need, so you always have a safety net (I learned this one during COVID). Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Running a business isn’t easy. I’ve often thought it would be easier to have a job, or I clocked in and out 40 hours a week rather than being on call 24-7. But I love being my own boss! I don’t know if I could ever go back to working for someone else.
Where can people find you?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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