We’ve launched Secrets of Success, a new weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum. I’ve asked some of the smartest, most innovative, most successful people I know to share their insights and success secrets.
Meet: Allen Dikker, the founder and owner of Potatopia, a potato-focused restaurant chain. Allen is a serial entrepreneur—in the past 10 years he’s successfully launched five businesses. In 2008 his media business took a hit from the recession, and Allen decided to pursue his “true passion” and create a quick-service restaurant, but one that was different from what existed in the marketplace.
While searching for the perfect “vehicle” to build his restaurant around, he realized that potatoes were both “versatile and popular,” and pairing them with fresh sauces could be the answer.
Allen did his homework, even “shadowing” employees at a local sandwich shop, and launched Potatopia, an all-potato concept featuring high-quality ingredients and his signature sauces, in 2011. Potatopia has grown to three locations, and franchising plans are underway.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Allen Dikker: Ever since I was 10 years old, I was training to be a professional tennis player. However, I always dreamed of becoming a professional football or baseball player.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
DIkker: From an early age, I had an interest in branding, and always dreamed that one day I would create my own brand. At that time I did not have a specific industry in mind, but as I got older and developed a passion for cooking for my family, I decided to go into the restaurant/franchising business, which is why I started Potatopia.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Dikker: Earlier in my career, I owned my first business, which was a media company. My partners and I went to a convention to entice people with our product. However, there was a lot of competition at this event, and no one was really interested in what our company had to offer.
In the middle of the event, a well-known executive in the media industry arrived, and instead of shying away from him as most people at the event did, I went over to him and introduced myself. He was wearing tennis shoes, so with my experience as a tennis player, I broke the ice, noting I had played tennis my entire life and that I’d love to play with him sometime. Then, as anxious as I was, I invited him over to my company’s booth and pitched him my product, which he ended up liking. That was the first deal of my career.
To this day, I still have a relationship with this man. That moment at that event taught me a life lesson that I carry with me every day: You have to go after what you want, and believe in yourself no matter what. The higher the risk, the greater the reward.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Dikker: The best small business advice I’ve ever received was given to me when I walked up to a CEO I had admired for years at a tradeshow.
The best advice I can provide is to make it a point to study the industry you are in, and speak to industry leaders whom you admire and learn from them. In this case, the advice the CEO gave to me, which has really stuck with me through the years, is “Remember, Allen, one potato at a time.” This advice has been crucial in dealing with customers.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Dikker: I believe that for any entrepreneur to succeed they must have a strong team behind them. Once you have the right people who believe in your vision, they can be more involved in your goals for your company and brand.
Lesonsky: Do you have a small business prediction for the rest of the year?
Dikker: I predict that small businesses will lead the way in mobile payment options for customers.
Lesonsky: Do you have a favorite book?
Dikker: Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Dikker: “Everyone has ideas, but genius is the execution of the idea.”
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.