Jessica Bologna

Company: BEC Industry: Food Services

 

 

BEC is a fast-casual restaurant, featuring fresh takes on the classic bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. Their sandwiches are made to order using the highest quality, locally-sourced ingredients. They have healthy options, hungry options, sides, salads and sweets and are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7 days a week. The first BEC opened in May 2015 and is located at 148 8th Ave in Chelsea, NYC.

What was the biggest surprise as an entrepreneur?

I’ve always prided myself on being a strategic thinker with a solid grasp of operations. When I conceived of and created a business plan for BEC, I was hyper-focused on the concept, product and growth strategy. Once I launched the business, however, I realized as an Owner/Manager that day-to-day operations, which are nearly 24/7 in the restaurant industry, is all consuming. I clearly underestimated the intensity of this prior to opening. It can be really difficult to find time to take a step back and think big picture. That luxury is now often forced to take a back seat to tasks required to simply open and operate the restaurant on a daily basis. Any future growth for BEC, however, clearly depends on the success of my first unit, so it is critical for me to now prioritize the daily operation of this first location over long-term planning.

Another challenge in the restaurant business is communication. Given my employees work across multiple shifts and days of the week, coupled with the fact that English is a second language for many of them, it can be very difficult for me to communicate my strategy and vision to the team. It certainly gives me a greater appreciation for the convenience of staff meetings in the corporate world, because in a restaurant, it is nearly impossible to get everyone in the same room at the same time. As a result, I’ve quickly become adept at identifying the leaders and influencers amongst my staff, and I’m working very hard at leveraging their ability to effectively disseminate my message on a regular basis.

What is a sign that you should not be an entrepreneur?

It might be different for me because I’m a sole owner and manager, but if you aren’t willing to embrace every aspect of your new business (yes, I’ve washed dishes, mopped floors and cleaned toilets at BEC on many occasions), work 18 hours a day and forego a robust social life, you shouldn’t quit your corporate job and go out on your own. It can seem much more glamorous than it often is on a daily basis. But there are tremendous benefits that I believe make it all worthwhile. I love being my own boss, controlling my own destiny and striving to create something great.

How did you know you were ready to be an entrepreneur?

I think I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. I grew up in a family where both sets of grandparents built their own businesses, and I went to HBS with a desire to learn as much as possible about entrepreneurship so I could eventually launch my own hospitality venture. I’ve had many interesting business ideas since I graduated from HBS, but none of those ideas were ever as compelling to me as BEC. For nearly two years before I launched my business, I woke up every day feeling even more confident in the viability of the concept and its growth potential. I spent any free time I had working on the venture to ensure I was prepared to launch before finally leaving the corporate world. I also felt I had sufficient professional experience, enough money saved and a strong support network in place to finally take the plunge.

Why should people pay attention to HBS Alums in the Alley?

I think people should pay attention to HBS Alums in the Alley because we can all learn from each other’s experiences. We are all doing interesting things, and the HBS alumni network is second to none, in my (obviously) biased opinion. It’s an incredibly valuable resource we are able to tap into. In the brief time since I opened BEC, my HBS friends and peers have shown incredible support, whether it’s coming to the restaurant as customers, or connecting me with people and vendors who might be able to help me. It’s very humbling and extremely gratifying.