Entrepreneurs Must Dream and get Real

Retail

I live on a graveyard, metaphorically speaking, at least regarding retail outlets. Iʼve lost count of the shops, cafes and bars that have opened and closed on the street near me.

This is especially so in recent years, when even the dreamiest entrepreneur must have understood the increased competition from on-line competition would make any bricks-and-mortar operation a higher risk.

I admit, it appears tempting. At just 150 meters from the Déli pályaudvar (Southern Railway Station), there seems to be plenty of people nearby, with constant passing traffic. One unit, a former bar, attracted a florist start-up in the summer of 2017. The owners could not be faulted for enthusiasm or effort: they poured their hearts into the venture, and the place became an oasis of fragrance and beauty. It lasted until Christmas.

Undaunted – or perhaps just unobservant – another team promptly launched a health-nutrition outlet in the same unit. That too survived barely six months. Meanwhile, straddling both time lines, a matchbox-sized cafe opened on the opposite sidewalk, pleasantly fumigated its environs with the aroma of coffee for a month or two, and folded.

Perhaps these ventures were self-financed, perhaps subsidized with grants (which, perversely, may have encouraged a foolhardy rush to begin business). Whatever, a few enquiries into the fates of previous outlets, along with some good, old-fashioned eyeball checks could have saved an awful lot of money, time and heartache – because the heavy pedestrian footfall nearby mostly fails to make it 50 meters up the street and passing cars struggle to park.

These naïve endeavors contrast sharply with those of Árpád and Gabi Kreisz, a couple who, jaded by their years in the logistics sector, opted to change careers, opening a breakfast-restaurant-plus-luggage-locker service across town in Budapest’s popular District VI. (For more on this, see Wish List 2019: More Homes, Happy Children and Inter-generational Harmony, pages 18-19.)

The couple spent six months planning their enterprise, visiting and evaluating an assortment of potential locations.

Calculation

“I was a transport manager for 20 years… the base of every business is a calculation; if you don’t know your costs, you will not be successful,” Kreisz told me during a slack winter afternoon at his eatery.

True enough, even if the eventual location was more down to female intuition than hard logic.

“My wife found the place. When we first opened the door, I said I would never come back. It had been [derelict] for 20 years. But my wife liked it… [so], it was mandatory,” he recounted.

Put off by the bureaucracy and regulations, the couple declined applying for either a grant or a bank loan, and sank their savings into renovating the premises. But, always mindful of costs, Kreisz employed his architect nephew for the interior design while constructing much of the furniture, counter and lockers himself. His son managed the online marketing.

Lion’s Locker (named after four stone lions on the building’s facade) opened in May 2017. The couple’s cheery attention to customers soon won plaudits on TripAdvisor, but the first year finances were still “terrible”. However, buoyed by the synergy between the popular locker service, relaxed atmosphere and varied breakfast menu, the Kreisz family now has a going operation, largely based on foreign tourists.

Entrepreneurs are optimists and dreamers: it’s an intrinsic part of their nature, and essential for their own and society’s development. But they must also keep at least one foot on the ground – or find an adviser to help them do so. Had those ventures near me consulted Árpád Kreisz beforehand, they might have pulled through, though perhaps, by starting elsewhere.

The Bottom Line is a monthly column written by Kester Eddy, a long-standing and well respected Budapest-based business and economic journalist, who has written for the Financial Times and many regional publications. The opinions expressed in the column are not necessarily those of the Budapest Business Journal. To comment on this column, or on anything else in the BBJ, email the editor at robin.marshall@bbj.hu

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