Major: MBA ’07
Job: Owner/operator of Hakka Bakka restaurant
“If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.”
It was that line of thinking that led Quinlan alumnus Kaushik Guha to open Hakka Bakka, a restaurant offering his take on fresh Indian street food.
While working at EY (formerly Ernst & Young), he avoided the nearby Indian restaurants because the options were “too heavy” and not something he could eat on the go. He was looking for something similar to Chipotle or Panda Express, but for Indian food.
And that’s when his entrepreneurial spirit kicked into high gear. He decided to leave his job as an economic consultant, earn a certificate in culinary arts, and enter the restaurant business.
What inspired you to open a restaurant after getting your MBA?
Throughout my career as an economic consultant, a lot of my clients were food clients. And it seemed like when dealing with multimillion-dollar projects, restaurants could do no wrong. So I thought, “Why do small restaurants not do well? Why do 95 percent of them fail?” So in addition to wanting a better Indian food option, I was inspired by professional curiosity about the restaurant business. Eventually I quit my job, earned a certificate in culinary arts, and concentrated on my restaurant full time.
How did Loyola prepare you for your career in the food industry?
In my MBA program, there was a focus on entrepreneurship. That really influenced me. More directly, Quinlan helped me get my first job at a firm that normally only hires Ivy League graduates, and I was able to save up enough money to start my restaurant. Without my MBA, I wouldn’t have landed my first job, so if it weren’t for Loyola, I wouldn’t be here. And finally, the program at Loyola gave me enough credits to become a CPA, so I don’t have to hire an accountant. I run the books myself.
What’s your favorite part of owning your own business?
Every time I worked for someone else, I thought things were overly bureaucratic. There were so many layers to decision making. Now my wife and I call most of the shots. We’re more nimble, and it’s a lot less bureaucratic. Also I can see an immediate impact of my decisions, whether they are good or bad. Working for large corporations, that’s hard to see.
What’s the biggest challenge in the small business industry?
Capital is a challenge. For small businesses, money is always tight. Maybe I’m just too numbers oriented, with my background, but that’s the biggest stress factor. How many people are coming in and out? Day to day? Hour to hour? Another challenge is working 18 hours a day. It’s a change in lifestyle; there are no vacations and evenings off. Even when you’re not at the restaurant, you are doing things—entering invoices, thinking about marketing strategies, or paying credit cards.
Any advice you would give to someone looking to get into the same field?
I think my biggest advice is you really have to jump into it—there’s never really a right time, so you have to jump in and do it. Obviously have a plan, but know things will never pan out the way you expect. I think I had a wonderful business plan, but there were still issues. So it’s important to always have contingency plans and contingency funds.