CHEZWaWa’s mission is to introduce Brussels to the freshest and highest-quality California-style Mexican food (“Cali-Mex”), including burritos, tacos, salads & much more. Their flavorful menu options are all about #HealthyDecadence and they strive to maintain a farm-to-counter concept at their two fast-casual restaurants using as much local & sustainable farm-produce as possible. In normal times they do Custom Catering & Delivery for both private and professional events, and also keep a “Pequeña Tienda” at their Châtelain restaurant which stocks those hard-to-find quality Mexican ingredients for creating some of your own #CaliMexMagic at home!
Palmer Colamarino, founder of CHEZWaWa, told us about becoming an entrepreneur for the first time, in Belgium, at the age of 50.
Before I became an entrepreneur, I did a lot of research, and I made myself a business plan. Those things are fundamental, but I quickly came to realize that nothing was as important as choosing something which you have a true passion for, and a real interest in.
I worked in the hotel sector before this, in many roles both in corporate and operationally, although never directly running a restaurant. And back then, I thought I worked hard. My dad, who was also an entrepreneur, used to have a saying - "When you are an entrepreneur, you work 8 days a week, 26 hours a day, and 35 days a month". I'd heard him say that many times, but I never fully understood it until I became one myself. Then I understood that you need that passion and interest, to continually find the energy for what you do... otherwise you can burn out easily.
Another important thing is that when you are an entrepreneur, you have to learn to use the skills that you have, and surround yourself with the other resources which you don't have. You can do those by spending time with other entrepreneurs and sharing your ideas with them, or by finding and even paying the people you need who can fill your knowledge gaps. There are some great free initiatives here in Brussels, such as 1819.Brussels and hub.brussels. It's all about knowing how to ask for the help that you need, finding your network of resources to guide you in the right direction especially when starting out.
And when running a business, it's important to be able to stop and reflect - and choose to build on what works, and to drop the things which just aren't working anymore. This is sometimes very hard to do, and as someone coming from a business background, in some ways I thought I knew everything already.
How do I feel now, after opening CHEZWaWa 5 years ago? Well, it's possible that I transitioned to becoming an entrepreneur too late - I was turning 50 when I started the restaurant, and it definitely takes a lot of energy. That said, timing is always a trade off, isn't it? If I had started earlier I wouldn't have had all the life experience I already had - I was able to take my skill set, my previous experiences, and my nest egg... and just go for it!