Sweet Brooklyn Bar & Grill: Good Times at a Growing Neighborhood Establishment
In May 2016, Kawana Jefferson opened the doors to her dream business, Sweet Brooklyn Bar & Grill, where clients find a lively mix of steampunk décor, creative cocktails and outstanding food and music. Since it opened, it has become one of the most popular venues in Crown Heights.
Like many entrepreneurs in the restaurant and bar businesses, Kawana had 15 years of experience in the industry, as well as passion for people and a vision of providing a great time.
“I was always inspired to own my own bar,” she explains, saying, “I’ve always loved the industry – especially the social aspects, because I’m a ‘people person.’ And I loved the idea of being an entrepreneur and knowing that, with business ownership, you get out of it what you put in and there’s no limit to the level of success you can achieve.”
Funding helps turn a passion into a business
In the years since Sweet Brooklyn opened, Kawana has experienced the joy, excitement and challenges of business ownership. As she points out, Sweet Brooklyn’s now four years into growth within an industry that’s known for high turnover. And although she didn’t have management experience when Sweet Brooklyn opened, she quickly identified a key element to business success – the need for sufficient working capital.
“I’ve successfully operated in an industry where many businesses don’t make it past the first year because they lack working capital,” Kawana explains.
Kawana sought funding early on. She applied for and received an SBA loan through Pursuit.
“My team of Pursuit business advisors provided me with incredible resources throughout the process. And although the SBA loan process was very involved, it ultimately guided me through the financial aspects of starting my business,” she acknowledges.
Using low-interest loans to improve working capital
Kawana also quickly learned to leverage funding to solidify her business’s foundation and fuel growth and her business advisors at Pursuit helped again.
“We’d taken on credit-card debt as the business progressed, so I applied for and received a SmartLoan about two years after opening Sweet Brooklyn,” she explains. “We used the funding to consolidate the credit-card debt to a loan with lower interest rates and better terms and our monthly cash flow greatly improved.”
She also worked with Pursuit consultants to strengthen her financial management skills. As a result, she says, “I’ve successfully paid all of my installments and Sweet Brooklyn’s become profitable. Every step gets me closer to my dream of securing additional funds for a new location.”
Kawana continues, saying, “The resources I had access to through Pursuit and the SBA have helped me understand my business and financials more thoroughly. I’m well-versed in the lending application process and it’s no longer intimidating. I have the tools and knowledge needed to secure loan amounts that I previously would have hesitated to set as a goal.”
She also says that Pursuit’s business consultants have also helped her identify sound practices and “red flags” that have helped drive increased profitability.
“Business owners should keep an open mind and not fear the process of lending. Securing a loan has helped to make my dreams come true,” she says. “Lending has helped me to grow my business and allowed me to have the capital and resources that have been essential in my success. And while going through the process can be challenging, it also helps you realize how important your business’s financials are – they’re one of the key factors in the loan process. Understanding them thoroughly has made me a better owner and manager.”
Looking ahead while overcoming pandemic-related challenges
As with nearly all businesses, Sweet Brooklyn has faced logistical, financial and other challenges during the pandemic-related closures and as it undergoes phased reopening.
“We stayed open through the pandemic with as much capacity as we were allowed, offering take-out and delivery services,” Kawana says. “Unfortunately, though, during much of the crisis, we operated at a loss. However, now as things begin to open up, we’re seeing significant increases in our revenue and are excited and hopeful to open our doors in Phase 3 of the reopenings and to begin onsite service to our customers again.”
Sweet Brooklyn received an SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, which helped her retain employees.
Her resilience is clear, though, as she says, “The impact has been pretty profound for us, as it has been for many businesses. Still, I do believe we’ll come out of this crisis stronger and better equipped, as we’ve had to scrutinize cash flow in a manner we’d not done prior. It’s also helped us identify ways to expand revenue streams, like focusing more on takeout, which we offered before, but now it has become an essential part of our business. We want to continue that as we move forward and things ‘normalize.’”
“We have a strong following with a lot of wonderful, loyal customers who have supported us,” Kawana says. “We want them to know that we’re putting our customers’ and our employees’ safety first and foremost. We’ll go above and beyond to make sure that Sweet Brooklyn remains a place where people can come to eat and socialize and enjoy themselves safely.”
“And,” she adds, “we truly appreciate and value the support of our community, patrons, friends and families when times were the hardest and the future was the most unclear.”