When chef and proprietor Carl Redding decided to establish the Harlem restaurant named after his grandmother, Amy Ruth’s in 1999 he didn’t foresee it becoming a multimillion-dollar company that he would one day no longer lead. Yet, that is exactly what happened when he was forced to sell the restaurant four years ago due to financial mismanagement, which led to tax debt. After relinquishing power Redding made two more efforts in the culinary business with Ruthie Mae’s in Englewood, NJ, which lasted only seven months, and Doc’s, a take-out soul food spot in Harlem that was also short-lived. These disappointments may have convinced any other entrepreneur to quit but it only made Redding’s resolve to succeed stronger. Finally, he has managed to do just that with Redding’s, a popular soul food attraction in Atlantic City, NJ that recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. Mr. Redding’s latest achievement wasn’t easy and now he shares with BlackEnterprise.com his most significant tips for any businessperson intent upon making a comeback. —Souleo
LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES
After the failures of his first three restaurants, Redding recognized that he was not present in the moment and heeding the warning signs before him. It wasn’t until he took a hiatus to truly reflect upon his previous endeavors that he was able to clearly see where he went wrong. “The tax situation was a problem for me in my first business,” he reveals. “Instead of paying taxes I used my revenue to fund the business and keep it going. In business you have to pay Uncle Sam.” Now with such insight he is finding success as a result of avoiding those same mistakes. “If you identify the mistakes that made you fail the first time then you won’t make the same mistakes twice,” he continues. “Or, in my case four times.”
RAISE ENOUGH MONEY BEFORE OPENING FOR BUSINESS
Redding opened up Amy Ruth’s in 1998 with a $73,000 investment and it went on to become a $3 million company. While that achievement is to be lauded, under further inspection it should also to be avoided because Redding launched his business undercapitalized, a trend that he believes is all too common for many African American-owned businesses. “As Black people we always end up opening businesses underfunded,” he notes. “Due to that we rob Peter to pay Paul and don’t pay taxes or purveyors or utilities. Redding knew that opening his latest restaurant would mean securing enough funding—$2 million to be exact. The only way he was able to achieve that round of fundraising was by revising his business plan, something that he recommends for every entrepreneur looking to start over. “You have to put your new business together with a solid business plan so that you can get proper funding.”
KEEP THE FAITH
The right business plan, investors, marketing agenda and positive attitude were not enough for Redding to reclaim his glory. Redding’s final and perhaps most important step to making a comeback is having faith in yourself to achieve your dreams and then some. “If I didn’t have faith I would have crumbled up and threw myself off of a bridge,” he reveals. “With faith I know I can do anything that I set my mind to. It gives me strength and courage to believe in the unknown.” Now with faith in his recipe, Redding is cooking up more success than he deemed possible.