A young man, on the edge of becoming a doctor, decides to enter the hospitality industry by opening a Mexican resturant with a healthy twist. Back in 2005, Dr Sam Prince started his new venture with a goal of opening 100 restaurants at the age of 21. Now at the end of 2016, there are 150 Zambrero restaurants, with more to come, thriving on an international scale.
Not only that, but he also has a variety of different organisations running alongside Zambrero and Zambrero International within the Dr Sam Prince Group, including One Disease, Life Letters, Indu, Mejico and Shine+.
We spoke to Sam about starting a business as a 21 year old medical student, Zambrero’s early days, being a mentor, inspirational people and advice for young entrepreneurs.
Source: Hospitality Magazine
Sam was keen to remember his humble beginnings. “I think I was pretty naive, foolish, kind of a curious blend of being foolish and ambitious, and passionate and wilful,” he said. “I hope that I was similiar to what I am now, but with all the lessons that I’ve learnt so far, probably more willing to jump into things head first.”
Of course, being so young and ambitious often ignites fear in the hearts of those who love you most. Sam describes the reaction of his parents following his decision to start his own restaurant. “It’s not that they weren’t supportive. They were very excited about me becoming a doctor, so anything that threatened that seemed foreign, strange and maybe scary to them. That being said, they never resisted it.”
With that boundary out of the way, he needed to make the rest of the world believe in him. At 21, it doesn’t sound like an easy feat. “When you’re running a business, you do at times, and maybe it’s a chip on your shoulder, you go ‘well, not being 35 or 40 or 45, do people take you seriously?’” he asks.
He recalls a conversation he had in which a highly successful businessman explained why he envied his young age. “I said ‘How could you possibly envy me? I’m still paying cash to my tortilla people because they won’t give me a line of credit because I’m a uni student, I’m still too young for that. What could you possibly envy about me?’” Sam recounted.
Turns out, this businessman had been through a lot during his long career; a divorce at 35, a remarriage, kids, issues with business partners, the list goes on. Although he was successful at the time, he had changed because of all these things in terms of his will to jump into things and take risks. “‘The way you look at life is very different. As a 21 year old person, you’re looking at life in a way that is still that is unthreatened by some of the things that are more conservative,’” Sam was told.
This was obviously an important conversation that stuck with him throughout his career. He understood that while starting a business at such a young age was a huge risk, he was able to do it at an age where he didn’t have the problems that come as you grow older. He was able to set up his business, while his life was still growing around him. That was a huge plus.
He quotes Steve Jobs when he says, “The heaviness of success is replaced with the lightness of becoming a beginner again.” By doing this, he shines some light on the fact that there are some weaknesses and challenges of being an entrepreneur, but the strengths and the beauty in the industry cannot be overpowered by those difficulties.
One of those strengths Sam has is to see the value in giving back to the community. Like Shine+, Zambrero has a sense of humanitarianism built into its identity. With the ‘Plate 4 Plate’ initiative, we see one plate of food given to a person from a developing country who would otherwise go without when a product is brought from a Zambrero restaurant.
So, where does this undeniable will to help the less fortunate come from?
“When I turned one instead of having a birthday party, my mother decided to actually give food back to an orphanage for people who were disabled,” Sam recalls. “My parents wanted me and my sister to think about the opportunities we had by having the basic human rights of health care and education that they maintained for us, and the basic needs that exist across this country.”
He continued, explaining the importance of remembering what we have when we have the opportunity to help someone else.
“The fact that [the rights of education and health care] exist for us, is not something to take rather lightly. Instead, it’s something to appreciate and be grateful for, so then you can look at where you can uphold those for other people. It has been something that has been upheld for us in our background. My parents were given an opportunity because someone protected those human rights.”
Sam’s Zambrero journey began with a goal of opening 20 stores around Australia, eventually raising that to one hundred for three to four years until that goal was conquered too. His plan was coming together.
“I think that when I started Zambrero, being a Canberra person, we have dreams too, but they can be shy because we’re from Canberra,” he said with a laugh. “But, that being said, sometimes because you’re perspective is set by what you seen in the past. So you look for precedent to try and work out what is possible in the future.”
“Now that we’ve crossed that one hundred restaurants, 10 million meals, we’re approaching 12, the aim is very clear that by 2025 to get to one billion meals. That requires us to kind of ramp up once again,” he reflects on the goals for the years to come.
As for his other businesses, they are still in the earlier stages of development. One Disease was his next venture after Zambrero was officially off the ground. He added various other businesses to form the Dr Sam Prince Group.
Sam says he doesn’t believe that there is a specific time that multiple business owners decide to move on. “I don’t know if I made a conscience decision to move on to the second business, or rather I had a thought that I needed to try and bat and see it was something that could add value in the world.”
He continues, “I think that’s what an entrepreneur is; a person that can bring life into an idea and these ideas, by instinct, need to get out.”
His thoughts and ideas of entrepreneurship have been admired by many who have seen what he has done and respected his efforts. One of those people is our CEO, Stephen Chapman.
Source: Australian Financial Review
Stephen begun his entrepreneurship journey as Sam’s apprentice and mentee after approaching him and asking to learn from him. “Stephen pursued me, and in him, I found a lot of similar interests. We liked hip hop and basketball, and had very similar humour as well. So, in a lot of ways, it was cool to hang out with a young guy who had similar interests and similar ways of looking [at things],” Sam said.
Their passions for entrepreneurship and the world of business were also aligned. Because of this, their ability to work together was strong. Sam was able to teach Stephen a lot throughout his time as an apprentice with a mix of structured and unstructured phrases.
“We went through a fairly structured process. The first part was actually Stephen working on himself, without sounding too ‘Mr Miyagi’. He had to go inward right, so he had to go through his past, his first 10 years of his life, the second 10 years of his life, and his next decade, kind of go through all the really terrible things that happened to him and lean into that. And then, he needed to reconcile to his own reality, understanding his strengths and weaknesses,” he explained.
Some of the more unstructured phases were thrown into the mix, where he was watching the operations of the business and helping to form the ideas for future ventures. “He was definitely was in the room a lot we made big decisions that created things like Indu or Mejico or even Zambrero, One Disease and so forth,” Sam recalls. “He knew exactly what it was like. He felt those blows with me and he also experienced the highs of the wins. He was there. He was in for the ride.”
Stephen and Sam share some of the people who have inspired them. Sam lists people like Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs and Gandhi, naming them huge sources of inspiration for him. “I like the trail blazers. I like the people who found their own path. I like original thinkers,” he said.
As someone who has being on both sides of mentorship and has been in the entrepreneurial business for over a decade, Sam was bursting with advice for young people who are looking to create their own business.
“Go inward. I’d say that entrepreneurship is probably the best vehicle that you can take to understand yourself and kind of be aware of, and reconcile to your own reality. They will be really important tools along the way. But also, try to understand your own flaws and weaknesses. Forgive yourself for those things and the person that you are, rather than the person that you should be,” he says.
He also mentions the importance of being guided by your intuition. “You’ve got two calculators, an intuitive one and an analytical one, and you need to know how to overwrite one with the other.”
Sam’s story is one to pay close attention to for any young entrepreneurs looking to shape the direction of their own careers. As we reflect on all the things Sam has accomplished in the past 11 years, it's amazing how a simple idea can be developed it into something that can change the world one meal at a time.
INTERVIEW BY JESSICA TESTA
Featured Image: Startup Daily