I've been a chef for 25 years, really my whole career, and I love it! I've been exposed to all sides of the restaurant business, but I have been focusing on vegan-friendly cuisine for the last five years.
After being laid off from Mill Valley Kitchen in St. Louis Park due to the Pandemic, I asked myself if this was something that I wanted to continue to do. I took some time to reflect and ultimately decided it was time to start my business and started writing a business plan. This is where SCORE came in. Fast forward seven months, and we are hopeful that August 1st remains the date we see Advellum come to life!
My wife, Viorica, and I had a dream of opening our own business. Since I've been a chef all of my career, and we met in the hospitality industry, it made sense to open a restaurant. After being laid off from my Executive Chef position, we decided it was the perfect time as any to start making money for ourselves, rather than for someone else.
It's part of a food hall, The Market at Malcolm Yards, which is made up of nine different chefs. Advellum offers vegan and gluten-free friendly dishes. There are protein add-ons available. Advellum is a name that was created from the Latin words “adventum” and “elementum”, meaning Adventure and Element, which are two cornerstones of my cooking.
There have been some construction and delivery delays. Finding staff in general has been a challenge, and then keeping the new employees engaged as timelines get pushed back. Those experiences have prepared us for the reality of when we do open, there are going to be things that we just can't control.
The highs? It's awesome to feel liberated and see the business develop. I have learned a lot. I love taking risks and rolling the dice. This experience has also allowed Viorica and I to grow in our marriage. We have both learned and grown stronger together.
My neighbor recommended SCORE about the time that I was writing my business plan. I reached out to SCORE for a mentor and Gary See got back to me. My wife and I met with Gary and Bill Werb on a monthly basis. These meetings really helped keep me on track.
Gary helped with the business plan and contracts. He was brutally honest about the risks, which I wasn't prepared to hear, but I needed needed to hear it. Gary was able to predict many situations that came to fruition, such as the opening being three months late. Gary also provided the forethought that being a standalone, strictly vegan restaurant was too narrowly focused. I needed to appeal to a wider audience, which led us to our current vegan-friendly menu. The opportunity with The Market at Malcolm Yards happened at the right time, and I realize now that the food hall concept was the right path for us.
Gary is a seasoned entrepreneur with a ton of experience. He has been a solid mentor to me as I came to rely on his expertise and knowledge. He kept me on track. Gary wasn’t shy; his honesty is what made him stand out. I have really enjoyed the experience working with Gary as he was honest, but supportive at the same time. It's really cool to have someone like him in your corner who has been through the experience before.
Working with Bill Werb was a great experience as well. Bill is more of a details guy. He really thought outside of the box. He brought a different business perspective to the table.
Just start the process. Stop thinking about it as there is no "perfect" time. Start working on a business plan. You may have a vision, but be open minded. Be willing to adapt and be flexible. Don't be afraid to use the people and resources around you for guidance.
Pictured below: Viorica Pierce, Co-Owner of Advellum and Michael's wife. Bottom photo: Michael Shaughnessy, Owner and Executive Chef.