From the founder of an e-discovery firm to restaurateurs, foreign-born business owners explain how they have made it in America.
Restaurateur • Founder and owner of BoHo, a restaurant in Hollywood; previously founded and sold the Gaucho Grill chain and other L.A. restaurants; he’ll soon open Osaka and Surly Goat in Los Angeles
When did you arrive in the United States, and why did you come?
I arrived from Argentina in 1986 to study filmmaking.
Did you intend to return to your native country at the time?
Yes and no. Of course I missed home, but L.A. was so exciting at that time and I quickly realized I would be staying. Going back to South America was always very important to me, so I made sure to maintain my roots there. In 2007, I opened my boutique hotel Casa Suaya in Jose Ignacio, Uruguay, a place I spent so much time in as a child, in order to always have a place to retreat to out of Los Angeles.
Do you now?
No; L.A. is my home now, but I will always go back to visit and continue to expand my business outside of Los Angeles.
Why did you start your business in the United States instead of your native country?
I did begin to work in and learn the business of real estate and hospitality in Argentina. However, when I arrived in Los Angeles, I realized I could successfully create a niche for myself. I saw an opportunity to take over a space in the heart of West Hollywood and decided to bring my native country here. That space was the birth of the Gaucho Grill chain.
What’s the worst thing about starting and running a business in the United States?
Overhead is so expensive here. From labor to permits to raw materials, everything will run higher here than it ever would in South America.
What’s the best thing?
The sky is the limit!
What were the biggest surprises?
How fast it all grew. From one small restaurant to a chain all over the L.A. area to a slew of other restaurants, bars, lounges and nightclubs. If you put the energy in and do the work, the options in this market are endless.
Would you tell someone from your native land to start a business there or here?
Depends on what you want to do. Both are good for different reasons. In the United States, especially in Los Angeles, the options for expansion are endless and there is of course the celebrity aspect, which always helps drive a brand to global recognition. This isn’t as easy in South America. They may know who you are there, but not beyond.
What advice would you give someone from there about starting a business here?
Not to think that everything that shines is gold. Take a chance, do your homework and go for it. Follow your instinct, it may pay off big time!
Do you go back often?
Yes; as much as I can.
What was your view of the United States when you were growing up?
I knew it was far away and I wanted to go there someday.
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