By age 29, Sadaf Salout ’07,’10 (entrepreneurship and MBA) owned two businesses: Sadaf Restaurant, a Persian restaurant and bar in Encino, and Home Instead Senior Care, a non-medical care franchise for the elderly in Sherman Oaks.
Her career journey began at age 13, when she started working at her father’s Darya Restaurant in Orange, one of the first Persian restaurants in Southern California.
Salout discusses her entrepreneurial ventures, the impact of her Mihaylo education and her career hopes.
You opened Sadaf Restaurant at age 26, with juicy chicken as your “claim to fame.” What advice would you give to Mihaylo students and alumni on how they can develop a unique yet actionable restaurant business concept?
First, do your research and see what’s out there and whether it is working. What can you do differently from the competition? I always remember what John Bradley Jackson, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, said: “You have to be first, best or different.” Also, create focus groups and allow family or friends to critique your concept. Don’t get discouraged when your plan is not working out the way you hoped.
A business plan is invaluable, for it helps to break down your idea or concept and tackle every aspect, such as marketing, finance, operations and organizational strategy. It is important to ask for help, and not try to do everything yourself. If finance is not your strong suit or marketing is not your strong suit, bring in other people who have those strengths.
What is a typical “day in the life” in running a restaurant? Besides culinary skills, what business-related skills do you find invaluable in your business?
Managerial skills, leadership abilities, relationship building and marketing are all key. Being able to delegate is also vital, though I have always had difficulty doing this. Staying calm under pressure is very important, as there will be customers, employees or vendors that will push your buttons. Take 10 minutes each day for yourself to collect your thoughts and get in the right state of mind.
Be ready for hiccups and challenges each day. The action is what makes restaurant owners thrive. I try to handle all challenges with grace and a good attitude and laugh at things that are out of my control.
You earned your B.A. in entrepreneurship from Mihaylo. How did this education assist you in developing your startup? What extra skills did you gain from earning your MBA at Mihaylo?
My experience at Mihaylo has helped me tremendously, and I owe it to my professors, who helped educate and form me into the successful businesswoman I am today.
In my undergraduate program in entrepreneurship, we were able to come up with our own business idea and develop a proper business plan, as this allowed me to go through the steps of preparing for an actual business venture.
The group projects and business mentors in my graduate program helped me understand and feel what it would be like in the real world, having to work with others, build relationships, thrive in group settings, not be controlling, put pride aside and focus on the goal.
Where do you see your restaurant in the future? Do you have plans to expand to additional locations?
I see Sadaf Restaurant doubling its annual revenue and becoming the foremost Persian restaurant in Southern California due to impeccable service and quality food. I am focusing on adding a catering department and offering banquet events. I am also currently working on a second restaurant concept.
In addition to Sadaf Restaurant, you are also franchise owner of Home Instead Senior Care in Sherman Oaks, which provides 24/7 non-medical, in-home care for seniors. What does this entail and how did you get involved?
A few years ago, I was working on a second graduate degree in clinical psychology, as I was seeking to work in an industry in which I could help people, especially seniors. I came across a reputable franchise that a friend of mine owned, and he was looking to retire. I thought it would be a good fit for me to take it over, and a year after initial discussions with him, I owned the business.
I enjoyed their business model and their corporate structure. It was everything I had studied in business school. I hired and trained caregivers to provide seniors with care and support in the comfort of their own homes, giving them optimal quality of life.
For More on Starting a Business
For more on how to launch your business concept, stop by Mihaylo’s Center for Entrepreneurship at SGMH 3280 or visit them online.