Behind the Business

Cienfuegos Cuban Cafe honors Tony Hernandez's family legacy of authentic, homestyle Cuban cooking.

Tony Hernandez, Cienfuegos Cuban Cafe - Watch the story Tony Hernandez, Cienfuegos Cuban Cafe - Watch the story

“Cash flow is king. It’s critical to have enough capital in your account in case something comes up or slows down.”

- Tony Hernandez

From Farmers’ Market to Brick-and-Mortar, Kabbage Supplements Growth

Tony has always known he would follow in his father’s footsteps. “I always had a dream to open my own restaurant,” he says.

In December 2015, Tony left his corporate career to open Cienfuegos Cuban Cafe in Simi Valley, California, inspired by the restaurant his father ran in the 1980s and his mother’s and grandmother’s home cooking.


Taking the Next Step

When you’re starting a business, especially a restaurant, “cash flow is king,” Tony says. “It’s critical to have enough capital in your account in case something comes up or slows down.”

Before opening Cienfuegos, Tony built a following from his presence at farmers’ markets, street festivals and on social media. Daily sales quickly jumped from $400 to $5,000. He felt confident about the future of the business and put his savings into opening the brick-and-mortar location — but he knew he’d need the security of additional financing to prepare for the unknown.

However, financing posed a challenge when Tony was starting out. Despite his loyal following and creative concept, he didn’t have two years of financial history required to qualify for a business loan from his bank. Plus, he also didn’t want the liability of a long-term loan.

His wife recommended looking into Kabbage, and Tony applied online. He qualified the next day and had funds available a few days after that.


Preparing for the Unexpected

Kabbage was crucial in the months leading up to the restaurant’s opening. A state health inspection required the purchase of an industrial floor sink, setting him back $7,000. A new restaurant code also required Tony to spend $2,500 on a specific tile for the counters. Having a Kabbage line of credit helped Tony access the funds he needed quickly to cover these unexpected expenses.

Now that Cienfuegos has opened, the Kabbage line of credit provides assurance for other costs, like payroll during slower months.


Building a Following

Just eight months after its grand opening, Tony has surpassed his first-year business projections. In the past two months, he’s continued to break sales records.

In the coming year, Tony hopes to expand Cienfuegos’ catering services, and eventually step back from day-to-day operations to focus on growth.

Don’t underestimate how much capital you need to start and grow your business, Tony advises. “Whatever funding you think you need, try to secure double,” he says. As he’s learned firsthand, access to extra financing can be the difference between a pipe dream and reality.

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