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Bringing burritos to Glasgow with the help of Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network

By Allan Bell - Posted on 12 December 2014

University of Strathclyde alumni, Allan Bell, shares his experience of working with the Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network to build his chain of Taco Mazama restaurants…

I first got the idea for Taco Mazama backpacking round California one summer whilst on holiday from studying psychology at Strathclyde University.

The Mexican fast food along the West Coast was amazing and there was absolutely nothing like it in Glasgow (or even in the UK) at the time.  The idea went on a back burner for a while and I was always sure that someone would open a Burrito Bar here. But after waiting and waiting, and waiting some more, eventually I decided if I wanted a burrito anytime soon I was just going to have to take the plunge and set one up myself.

One of my first ports of call (after a few more research trips to California) was the Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network (SEN) – a collaborative network that brings together the University’s academic and professional services, influenced by research from the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship.

The advice and support I received from SEN was incredibly helpful, particularly as someone who was new to setting up a business.  They provided advice from consultants with experience in the restaurant industry and helped with everything from costing the first business plan to finding premises.  They also provided considerable input into marketing concepts in addition to sourcing funding and suppliers.

The first Taco Mazama opened on Glasgow Renfield Street in 2009 and the business has gone from strength to strength.  There are currently four units in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh.  We are now even feeding the next generation of SEN entrepreneurs with our unit in the Strathclyde University Union, which opened earlier this year.

I worked closely with SEN for at least a year before opening and, to a lesser extent, the first couple of years of trading.  I still apply a lot of the advice and resources I was given by SEN when planning new units and looking at the growth of the business, which I’m hoping to continue to do in 2015.  Without it, I’m sure there probably wouldn’t be a Taco Mazama.

Setting up my own business has undoubtedly been challenging, but definitely worth it. I would recommend to any graduates who are thinking of starting their own business to invest as much time as possible on pre-planning before you launch.  This includes approaching organisations such as SEN that will give you much needed support and advice from industry professionals. As soon as the doors open time to plan is a luxury that you won’t often have much of! Also, read every contract and all terms and conditions carefully. Hardly any of the consumer protections you are used to will apply and something as simple as a badly negotiated contract could literally cost you your business.

Have you seen any businesses while travelling you think Scotland would benefit from?

www.tacomazama.co.uk            facebook.com/tacomazama       @tacomazama



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