4:14 a.m. That’s the time James Park, CEO of Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, wakes up every morning. “I also have meetings at 9:09, 10:10 and 11:11,” Park said. “You’re not going to miss a meeting that starts at such a weird time. It’s memorable and has become a part of my brand.”
The restaurant industry veteran emphasized the importance of “grinding it out” as an entrepreneur to an audience of 50 on November 2, 2017, at 7:30 a.m. at the University of Colorado Denver Business School. The Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship brings in Colorado’s greatest entrepreneurs as a part of its monthly Best of Colorado Speaker Series.
“I felt like I was listening to a Ted Talk!” Laura Doty, University of Colorado Denver MBA student and professional ice skater, said. “He was extremely inspiring, and I left with a lot of great quotes I want to share with my ice skating students.”
Park opened his talk with an exercise in the power of visualization. He had everyone in the audience stand up with one arm out and twist as far as they could to their right. Next he had everyone close their eyes and imagine themselves twisting 20 percent farther. Then he had the audience try twisting again, and everyone achieved a deeper twist, thanks to the visualization.
The exercise exemplified Park’s number one belief, which is that “anything is possible and nothing is crazy.”
That belief resonates through his personal life story. Park was born in South Korea and moved to the U.S. with his family when he was a toddler. They were extremely poor, living in a two- bedroom apartment with 10 people, but his dad was a risk taker who taught himself how to be a chef, ultimately pulling them out of poverty.
Learning from his dad’s example, Park got his first job at Circuit City where he learned how to sell. He took that knowledge with him to many successful business ventures, and by the time he was 26 years old, he was the most profitable operator in the company at Penn Station Subs.
After Penn Station Subs, Park found himself working at Charley’s, where the CEO became his mentor. “When you find a great mentor, latch onto them,” Park said. “You can’t teach what a mentor teaches you in an MBA class.”
“I consider myself one of the most well-networked pros in the restaurant industry; it’s helped me get to where I am today,” Park said. Those industry connection and mentors can help entrepreneurs shape who they want to be as business leaders. Park stressed the importance of knowing who you are and embracing it, so that you can learn from your mistakes and weaknesses.
That being said, Park also warned that “you never want to be an entrepreneur who doesn’t know their numbers. You need to understand finance. It’s the backbone of business.”
Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh started a decade ago, under its original name Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill. However, Park noticed that as the company grew, the business fundamentals were lacking.
Three years ago, Park joined the board at Garbanzo, saved the company from dire financial straits and rebranded it as Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh.
Now all of the food at Garbanzo has no MSG, no preservatives, and no artificial ingredients. Park also brought in an expert baker from Israel to help perfect its pita recipe – now Garbanzo’s pitas contain only five ingredients, made from scratch every time. “Today, the company is the most successful it’s ever been because we invested for the better,” Park said.
Park left the audience inspired with a message of perseverance. “Repetition is the mother of skill. Once you have momentum in your business, keep going. Keep grinding!”