Friday, November 28, 2014

Casa Bonita: Authentic Mexican Cuisine

By: Fred Granillo
Business Advisor
(Guam SBDC)

Eleazar Lopez is originally from the country of El Salvador in Central America. He and his wife Reina immigrated to the United States about 30 years ago. Today, the couple has one daughter, Anna, and two sons David and Jose. Eleazar came to Guam to work in the old Sizzlers Restaurant that has since closed. Eleazar worked for the owner in Los Angeles so he trusted Eleazar to help strengthen the cooking operations for that business. After the Sizzlers closed, Eleazar has worked as a cook for various restaurants on Guam. The Lopez’s have lived on Guam for 22 years and love the island life that is family oriented. The Lopez’s value their El Salvadoran heritage that they want to pass on to others through their food, whether it is at home or the business.
Eleazar decided to start his food business because he has always had a love for the food & beverage industry where he has spent his career. Plus the desire to introduce Guam to his style of authentic El Salvadoran/Mexican flavors. Eleazar has always had a dream to be a business owner and now with the timing right for him and his wife, he wants to take the opportunity and make a better life for his family.
With his 30 years of food & beverage industry experience in every facet of cooking responsibilities with many different types of menus, he is uniquely qualified to establish this small food business. Further, Eleazar operated his own sole proprietor food business called D&J Hotdog Stand located in Hagatna from 1997 – 2002. He ended up closing that operation due to economic circumstances. The economy declined and sales slowed to the point it was difficult to continue. He is the first to say that he gained valuable knowledge in running a business at that challenging time. As a result, he believes that has made him a better operator with an eye on food costs and always looking to attract new customers.
Mr. Lopez noted business advisor, Fred Granillo, has been instrumental in getting their business to where it is today. Mr. Granillo assisted in the completion of the business plan and financial projections required by the Chamorro Village. By assisting with the business plan, he helped clarify how he intended on doing business differently from his last business venture. Further, the additional business advice on licensing and noting all the leasehold improvements needed up front was key. The business plan also helped secure the business loan which was not the original objective but extremely needed. Mr. Lopez noted the SBDC is an important assistance to all of Guam's small businesses and encourage others who want to start their business to utilize them.
The start-up process was time consuming and detailed in just completing the licensing process. He had to endure changes and delays in the governmental department clearances in order to secure the business license. Once he completed the Chamorro Village requirements, then he had to complete the licensing process which took over one month. But well worth all the effort and stress as the business once established had a clear direction with the business plan. Eleazar was ready for all other facets including suppliers, menu set up, and product pricing.
The business was funded partially through personal savings but primarily through a Bank of Guam loan. The total funding key to establish equipment, improvements and start-up costs like inventory and supplies. He is grateful to the bank and fully intends on paying off the loan because he realizes that he will likely go back to request for more financing when he needs to expand his operations.
The biggest challenges they faced in starting up the business was applying for all the permits and setting up the inspections for all the respective agencies that have different schedules for their offices. This was done while he still worked at a job. So he endured about three months of the total process before he could actually have the opportunity to open his business. The completion of the business license and sanitary permit represented the most memorable triumph. That is because of the lengthy process and scheduling involved. The day the business opened denoted a personal triumph as well for Mr. Lopez after 12 years he finally re-opened his food business which made him very happy to be a business owner once again.
The Lopez’s goals are in the short term constantly come up with new ideas for the menu including new products and fresh ingredients. Also work with his children to help him market the business on a modest budget. Long term is to expand upon the sales volume and eventually leave his part time job, and then he can devote all his attention to his business. Also look to invest in updated equipment after a about four years.
The Lopez’s would advise anyone to follow their dreams of business ownership. Although it is not easy and there is no guarantee of success, the freedom and independence is addicting to one’s personal well-being. But he does note preparing a business plan this time for his business has greatly helped him focus on the priorities.  Plus take advantage of the available free business resources such as the Guam Small Business Development Center.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The SUP Shack Guam is Open for Business

By: Denise Mendiola-Hertslet
Senior Business Advisor/WIB Program Coordinator
(Guam SBDC)


High school sweethearts Jonte and Lad De Leon are the proud owners of The SUP Shack Guam. They have been married for 9 and half years and are raising two beautiful daughters, Gabrielle and Mylee and have three fur babies: Biggie Smalls, Ruca and Mochi.  After stepping foot on her first paddle board, Jonte said it was “Love at first paddle!” Her addiction of paddle boarding started out mild with paddling by herself to paddling with her dog then her family and now with the community. For two years, the idea of owning a stand-up paddle (SUP) retail/service business has been running in the back of her mind. Jonte thought that since she enjoyed it so much why not make a career doing something she loved doing. Her passion for paddle boarding coupled with her 14 years in the retail, business management, and customer service industry, motivated her to pursue her dream. She spent countless hours researching and educating herself about stand-up paddle boarding and also went out in the water and constantly learned from trial and error. Jonte felt that that she needed to take that next step but where to begin?

A friend had referred her to the Guam Small Business Development Center (SBDC) which she heard of but was not familiar with the services they provided. So, she went onto the website and went through the request for counseling process. She had set her appointment to meet with Denise Mendiola-Hertslet to start preparing her business plan. Jonte did not realize how much work was needed in writing a business plan and creating the financial projections. She states, “I was amazed at how much work it was to open a business. I think to some degree, everyone knows it takes work, but until you go through the planning process, you never realize how much work is required.” She found herself questioning whether this decision to start was the right thing to do and ultimately it was. She explains that the Guam SBDC program helped her write her business plan and come up with a financial projection sheet that helped her visualize how her business would grow over the years. She continues saying that what the business plan did for her was dissect the business into different sections and strategies. This enabled her to focus on certain areas where there was room for improvement. After weeks of modifying the business plan and what seemed like a ton of hours dedicated to research, Jonte saw things coming together and could see her end result. She was motivated more than ever, because now she had a structure and a measurable goal to reach. 

Her next step was to seek additional funding. Jonte adds, “Helpful hint: I went to my bank, Bank of Guam, with my business plan, financial projection, resume, and tax returns for the past three years. Having almost all those documents helped speed up the business loan process.” At the Bank of Guam, Jonte worked with Esther Reyes, a loan officer, who assessed her business plan package and her personal financial status. Esther was very professional, friendly, and expeditious. With Esther’s assistance, Jonte was able to get a loan from the Bank of Guam.

Opening up a business is a stressful task and Jonte faced some challenges along the way.  Research and time difference between Guam and the U.S. were the top two obstacles in opening up her business. She states, “The research is the hardest part of the process, because it takes a lot of time and a whole lot of patience. Since all my inventory needed to be ordered from off-island, I had to deal with questions not always being answered in a timely manner. “ She goes on to say, “That was very frustrating because on my end, I am trying to go 100% full steam ahead, but was at the mercy of the companies to get answers. Being that I am new to all this, sometimes I would have to modify my questions about inventory and wait again for an answer. The worst would be when the weekend hit and I’d have to wait until Tuesday Guam time because we are a day ahead.”

Opening up a business is not all about the challenges, there are victories that every business owner encounters whether it be completing a daunting task or serving a certain number of customers. With an optimistic mind-set, Jonte says that every step is a triumph because every step meant that she was all the more closer to her dream. She recalls on the moment that she completed her business plan and financial projections with the Guam SBDC and getting her loan approved from Bank of Guam as victories. “I was in heaven because all the hard work of researching, modifying, prioritizing, and most of all patience had paid off,” Jonte describes. She goes on to say,” I am quickly learning that no matter what stage I am in with my business, I will always feel a sense of triumph because the hard work put into it resulted in another day of being in business.”

The SUP Shack Guam has marketing as their priority. They are humbly starting their business in a 40 foot container out of their home and want the community to know that they are open for business. They take pride in knowing that they are building their dream literally from the ground up. In the long run, the De Leons hope to one day be busy enough to have to open an actual store location. In addition, Jonte has been lining up ducks to start distribution out of Guam sometime in the near future.

For everyone planning to open up their business, Jonte advises how important it is to have a business and financial projection plan. She states, “The plan, to me, is the foundation of my business. It’s provided me with guidance to stay on track with building my business from the ground up as well as increased my chances with a business loan. I find myself constantly referring to it because not only does a business plan help you breakdown start-up costs, but it also breaks down who you are and what you and your business is all about.”

To inquiry about The SUP Shack Guam, contact Jonte or Lad at 929-0436 or 929-8428. You can also visit their website at or find them on Facebook at

For more information on how the Guam Small Business Development Center can assist you, contact their office at 735-2590 or contact Denise Mendiola-Hertslet, Women in Business Program Coordinator and Senior Business Advisor at 735-2594. Visit their website at


Friday, November 14, 2014

Ms. Pinetree’s Hostel/Bed & Breakfast: The First in Micronesia

By: Lisa Abraham
Palau SBDC Director


Is it a bed and breakfast? No…it’s a hostel. What is a “hostel?” If you google the word “hostel” on the internet, Wikipedia defines “hostel” as budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex, although private rooms may also be available.   A popular type of accommodation among backpackers or college students in the United States as well as European travelers.


Ellen Dirrengas Toribiong-Marcia, Ms. PINETREE’s, is a sole proprietor woman-owned business in the accommodation industry.  The business is located in the back road Koror.  Although known as backroad on the way to Ngerbeched, Pinetree Hostel is actually in the heart of Koror; a walking distance to Bank of Hawaii, several restaurants and the recreational track & field as well as the national gymnasium.  The location also provides a peaceful area away from the main road commotion and is around a residential area for a local touch.  Mrs. Ellen D. Toribiong-Marcia’s main target market is the tourists on a short stay or diving visitors who are seeking clean, comfortable beds with access to food, water and amenities of a home.  “It’s like a home away from home type of accommodations”, commented Mrs. Ellen D. Toribiong-Marcia.  Visitors mainly pay for the bed and lockers, but all amenities of washing your own laundry, TV room and internet access as well as cooking for yourself is all there for self service.

To assist in the start-up costs, Mrs. Toribiong-Marcia was awarded a commercial loan through the National Development Bank of Palau (NDBP) to accomplish her start-up goals.  For reservations and/or inquiries, you may visit the PINETREE Hostel web site at or call Mrs. Marcia Toribiong-Marcia at phone (680)488-2441 or e-mail at

Palau SBDC provides free confidential counseling to startup and existing businesses.  One of the primary uses of services is to assist interested loan applicants with their business plans which are needed to determine feasibility and credibility of the loan request. Similarly, the Palau SBDC offers trainings and workshops throughout the year targeted at individuals venturing into or currently in business as well as the general public interested in learning more on business.  

For more information about the Palau SBDC and its services as well as other incentive programs, please call 680-587-6004 or e-mail Ms. Lisa K. Abraham, the Palau SBDC Director, at
You can also visit us at to find resources to help bring your business to life and to learn more about the Pacific Islands SBDC Network and its mission.