When Luis Elu, a trained machinist, was laid off from a major aerospace manufacturer, he started to reinvent his career. It wasn’t the first time: Elu had been a professional Jai-Alai player for more than 20 years after moving to the United States from Spain at the age of 18.
He retired from the sport and started his second career as an engineer. After being laid off, he further developed his hobby of cooking Spanish dishes, and launched a catering business. One traditional dish stood out as a perfect signature for his business.
“Paella is ideal for parties, since you can cook large quantities in 45 minutes and on site in front of the guests once food prep has been done at the commissary,” Elu says.
But while Elu’s cooking skills were top-notch, he didn’t have a business background to help him get started. He worked another job for three years while picking up the knowledge to navigate the requirements and licensing process for setting up a catering business. “Word of mouth finally did the job and I was able to work on my own,” Elu recalls.
Ten years after his catering business launched, Elu made plans to open companion restaurant Paella Grill.
Paella Grill and Catering offers authentic Spanish cuisine to dine-in, takeout and catering customers in Palm Beach County, Florida.
Elu attended SCORE workshops on business planning, QuickBooks, and crowdfunding. His mentors have assisted in elements of marketing, finance and accounting. “On many occasions I meet my mentors once per week, especially regarding marketing,” he says.
As Elu’s catering business gained popularity, it became evident that the lack of Spanish cuisine in the area made a strong case for opening a restaurant. The opportunity to take over and refurbish and empty restaurant would also allow Elu a larger facility to prepare catering orders.
And with an email list of more than 2,000 customers, Elu knew just where to go when he opened his new eatery.
Elu was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Palm Beach SCORE in 2015.
“We were able to bring the restaurant to a break-even point in a very short time,” Elu says. His ultimate goal is to have happy customers and healthy compensation for his employees.
“Several small details can make your business go under, so don’t underestimate the importance of getting advice from the ones who have been through it all,” Elu says.