Sofrito Latin Grille

Before he opened his own restaurant, Hector Ruiz paid his dues within the industry, spending a decade as a chef and possessing over 20 years of experience in the restaurant business. It was this time working for others that inspired him to explore his entrepreneurial ambitions. “After working for others and being in the business for 20 years, I felt like it was time to buy my own job and explore my own vision.” He’s always loved cooking, and since moving to the area 16 years ago, Hector has enjoyed employing his Latino background to make food for both Hispanic and Non-Hispanic patrons alike.

Hector’s restaurant, The Sofrito Latin Grille, in Reading, PA, is the realization of his dream to create his own business. He describes the restaurant as “A globally inspired, locally sustained eatery” blending Latino food with a Caribbean feel. He wants the restaurant to be a “destination stop” where people enjoy good food that was grown locally. Hector describes his typical customer as “anyone who likes good, fresh food and is looking to try Latin food”. He feels that his customers come from all ages and demographics, and that anyone who is interested in a taste of Hector’s heritage is welcome.

Hector spent a good part of the last decade planning for the day when he would be able to start his own restaurant. During that time, there were a number of obstacles that he had to overcome to make his dream into a reality. Despite his experience in the industry, Hector needed help with a business plan to show potential investors. Also, because he did not have a formal business plan, he had difficulties in getting the funding necessary to open a new business.

When he went to the Greater Berks Development Fund for help, Chris Witmer, the Director of Project Development referred him to the Kutztown Small Business Development Center, where he was connected with Scott Schaeffer, Business Financial Manager. With the assistance of Scott and the SBDC’s finance team, Hector was able to come up with a business plan, business model, and financial projections that he could take to lenders and show them in order to obtain financing. Of the time working with the SBDC, Hector says, “Their work made it possible to speed up my process and enabled things to get done faster.”

Now equipped with financial projections and a business plan, Hector reached out to numerous investment sources, including the Community First Fund, the Greater Berks Development Fund, and the Community Economic Development loan program, as well as the city of Reading’s Microloan program and private “angel” investors. Thanks to his knowledge of the industry and the financial information the SBDC was able to provide him, Hector was able to acquire nearly $400,000 in financing, which enabled him to open his business. Sofrito Latin Grille is active in the community, donating to local food banks as well as making contributions to the local “culturally centered arts movement”, as Hector describes it.

Hector speaks highly of his time working with the SBDC and sees the assistance that they were able to provide as vital to helping him get his restaurant up and running. “They made everything so much easier. For me, that was showing me the business side of things and the numbers that I would need to know for my meetings with investors.” He also recommends the SBDC to “anyone who wants to start a business”, pointing out that their support played a key role in helping him to reach his goal of owning and operating his own restaurant.