The Happy Cooking Hospitality Group Business Story

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is in full swing! SmartBiz employees are working hard to help thousands of small businesses qualify for forgivable funds needed to recover from the 2020/2021 pandemic. Small businesses are truly the backbone of the American economy and it’s a win for everyone when they thrive.

SmartBiz team member Danny V. shared an email recently sent from an accountant working on behalf of The Happy Cooking Hospitality Group:

Please make sure you take a rather large measure of satisfaction and pride with you this evening.  It is because of your effort that the following happened just a few moments ago:

    • 18 wonderful employees dodged a bullet.  Nobody is getting laid off this Friday because the PPP Loan money is on the way!
    • Those 18 people make up 17 separate families. That’s over 50 men, women and children that are keeping their main source of income in the middle of a pandemic.
    • One business that has thrived since 2010, is now able to make a go of it and keep its doors open.

You are nothing short of a hero to this group!

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SmartBiz connected with the owner of The Happy Cooking Hospitality Group to learn more about his entrepreneurial journey and plans for moving forward.

Gabriel Stulman is a certified foodie. “I love food, cooking, and eating. When I was 17, I started traveling for food.” he says. “My parents would encourage me to sell candy, mow lawns, rake leaves or shovel driveways, so that I could make money to go buy the things that I wanted to buy. That mentality grew from wanting a Nintendo game to being a 23 year old wanting to backpack in Europe, and to go to South America.”

His interest in the culinary industry led him to jobs that included
Bussing tables, waiting on customers, and bartending. He had strong opinions about what worked and what didn’t as he moved from restaurant to restaurant.

“There were always elements of the restaurants where I worked that I loved and didn’t love. For example, one place may have a great interior but bad food. Another might have great food but an unpleasant vibe. When I put my first restaurant together, I was inspired from many.”

Gabriel raised money for his first venture by selling equity. “I sold equity in the restaurant, took on silent investors, and sold shares in exchange for capital. People who believed in my vision took leap of faith with me.”

Happy Cooking LLC was founded in 2009 and started as one small corner restaurant space in the West Village of New York City. Gabriel now owns four New York restaurants. Joseph Leonard, named after his two grandfathers, is an American Bistro with a classic French style. (The Pommes Frites are a must-try). Across the street is Jeffrey’s Grocery, a seafood restaurant and oyster bar. The Fairfax Tavern & Bar is a gastropub, and the fourth restaurant is currently in hibernation. “The Jones has been closed for the last five months but we plan to reopen in April,” Gabriel reports.

The pandemic has been particularly hard on the restaurant business. Gabriel says, “The hardest element of this has been the legal ineptitudes around opening safely. I’m on board with human life being a priority. The problem is that the landlords still need their rent. How do you cover money for a space you’re not allowed to use?”

Gabriel and his accountant came to SmartBiz Loans for help processing their PPP application. “I’m calm and grateful about the loans I’ve been granted, the role SmartBiz played supporting me to the finish line.”

Gabriel has achieved a good work/life balance since the pandemic. “Honestly,” he laughs. “I married above my station. My wife is amazing and I have two children, aged nine and three. I’m very fortunate.

To learn more about Gabriel and his unique approach to entrepreneurship, check out his TED talk from 2014.

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