Maize Tacos: A Small Business Success Story
Under the direction of owner Brian Noguera, Maize Tacos has grown from a single farmers market standto multiple locations including a new restaurant on Regent Street in downtown Salt Lake City.
Brian Noguera’s Maize Tacos sits at the intersection of two wildly popular culinary trends: Food trucks and tacos.
What started with Noguera and his wife selling their street tacos at a farmers market — just so they could spend more time together — has grown into two food trucks and a brick-and-mortar restaurant that opened in May at 135 S Regent St, Suite G, in Salt Lake City.
“When we saw the growth coming month after month, I knew that we needed to open up a brick and mortar,” says Noguera, who uses many family recipes on his menu. “When I researched, there wasn’t a taco shop like the one we’re doing, so definitely I knew that this was the place we needed to be. There wasn’t anything within miles of downtown.”
Noguera was recently honored with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Growth Award after Maize Tacos experienced a 78 percent increase in net sales and a 70 percent boost in total transactions in a one-year period.
Name: Brian Noguera
Hometown: San Francisco
Current residence: Draper, Utah
Education: Bachelor’s degree from BYU-Hawaii
First job: Working in a French bistro in San Francisco as a busboy and helping in the kitchen.
Why did you start your business?
We started out at the farmers market because my wife and I had our full-time jobs and we were always so busy that we wanted to find time together. We enjoyed our time together and cooking and it was fun.
We started with one market, then two per week during the summer, then we grew into a third farmers market a year later. People would ask, “Do you have a location or anything besides the farmers market?” That’s when we realized, we have something here. We can definitely grow.
What’s the toughest part of the restaurant business?
Long hours. It’s definitely not a 9 to 5 job. I wear a lot of hats, but that’s typical for a startup business. There’s also a lot of competition and it seems like every month there’s a new food truck coming out.
What’s the biggest obstacle you have faced in growing from a booth at a farmers market to a multi-location restaurant business?
Staffing is one of the things that we find is the hardest. As we grow, we obviously have to hire more employees and that’s tough in a seasonal job like the food truck business. That turnover every year is tough. We’re always training new people.
What was the biggest blind spot when you were opening the restaurant?
The construction and how long it has taken to complete and get permits to open. We signed our lease in April 2017 thinking we would be open no later than 2018. (The restaurant opened May 28, 2019.)
Luckily, we’ve had the food trucks to help us get through the last year-and-a-half so we could continue working and making revenue.
Name one thing that prepared you for being a small business owner?
I played soccer in college and I’ve always been a naturally competitive person. So when it comes to business, it’s no different. I read somewhere that being an entrepreneur is a battlefield and it’s only for the brave. The ones that go out on a limb and take that leap of faith, those are the brave ones.
What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
One thing that I’ve always said is, you have to have believe in yourself, be confident in what you’re doing and who you are. Believe, persevere and work hard. Nothing comes easy. There’s going to be failures, and there’s going to be lots of obstacles. It’s easy to give up but you just have to keep pushing forward.
Find someone that is doing what you want to do and see if you can shadow them. There are always people who are willing to be mentors. Find out what works and what doesn’t and get real-life information instead of going into it blindly. I wish I would have done that. The first couple years were a learning experience. Nothing prepares you for it.
What role has Zions Bank played in your journey?
We self-funded the food trucks, but when it came to opening a brick-and-mortar location, it took more money than we had in cash. We reached out to Zions Bank after we started the food truck business and they helped with creating a business plan and setting real numbers and looking at the numbers a little more closely.
They were also able to help with a U.S. Small Business Administration 7(a) loan to open our Regent Street location. It’s been a huge help; otherwise we would have had to wait years.
Looking to follow in Brian’s footsteps into the restaurant business?
It’s a great time to take advantage of low rates and start or grow your business with a 25-year fixed-rate loan from the top SBA lender in Idaho and Utah.
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