Come at The Falafel King, You Best Not Miss

Fares “Freddy” Zeideia immigrated to Queens from Palestine as a teenager. He didn’t know English so he took the only job he could get, working in his cousin’s pizza shop. He worked all day, six days per week, for which they paid him $100 a week. When he asked for a raise he was fired.

Out on his own, the teenage Zeideia started his on/off career as a cab driver. And from these humble beginnings rose The King of Falafel and Shawarma.

John and I met up with Freddy at his new restaurant in Astoria. It’s half a block away from the corner where he first started making falafel in 2002. Since then he’s added a lunch outpost in the city and earned several accolades so journalists no longer have to write “self-proclaimed” before “King of Falafel and Shawarma”.

After starting and closing his own American-style restaurant in the 90s, Freddy jumped back into his cab, a gig he kept in his back pocket for whenever Plan A wasn’t working out. Driving around the city he noticed that food carts were increasing in popularity and wondered if he could create one that served falafel and shawarma the way it’s prepared in Palestine. He spent a few months working on his recipes, picked his corner, and started cooking.

In the early days he was barely breaking even — many people in his neighborhood didn’t seek out or even trust street food vendors at the time. The real turning point for Freddy was the Blackout of 2003 because most restaurants lost power and had to close. Freddy, operating his cart off a generator, stayed open and had a line that wrapped around the block. From that point on he was a neighborhood fixture.

Freddy distills his success to two elements: quality product and excellent customer service. Combined, they’re what differentiate him from competitors and what he’s determined to maintain as The King of Falafel and Shawarma franchises and expands.

Thanks to Freddy Zeideia, Jon Ferrer, and our sponsor MailChimp.

You can subscribe to new episodes on iTunes or download them through Libsyn.

Thanks for reading! If you like this sort of thing you can subscribe to our newsletter where we write about each episode.

How Peter Shankman Built a Business by E-mailing His Friends

Peter Shankman and his favorite activity.

Peter Shankman and his favorite activity.

Peter Shankman is a revered figure in the public relations industry. He made his mark founding and selling Help a Reporter Out (HARO), a website that connects journalists with sources. HARO started out as an e-mail list connecting Peter’s friends. Running a story about the growing cupcake trend and want to talk to a baker? Peter knows a guy. Doing a story about extreme sports but don’t know any sky-divers? Chances are, Peter does. 

Peter would get up before work and sit with his cat and a cup of coffee, and send e-mails. At first, Peter connected people for free. Eventually he started selling text ads on three e-mails per day. When the company was acquired two years later, it was making over $1 million per year. He sold it to his biggest advertiser. “I think they got sick of paying me for ads”, Peter says. 

Now Peter manages several businesses and investments in addition to his career as a writer and speaker. He is also a very outspoken about ADD/ADHD and managing his own. He lays down a lot of wisdom about work, life, and managing the two of them in this episode. 

You can subscribe to new episodes on iTunes or download them through Libsyn.

Thanks to Peter Shankman and our sponsor MailChimp.

Thanks for reading! If you like this sort of thing you can subscribe to our newsletter where we write about each episode.

Balancing Fun and, You Know, Making Money

royal palms shuffleboard club ashley jonathan

This is the story of a voiceover actress and a piñata maker creating a massively successful hospitality business. It’s called the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club and it’s in Gowanus, Brooklyn.

Unsurprisingly, Ashley and Jonathan met in an odd way. Ashley did a voice on one of Jonathan’s favorite shows, Daria, so he found her email, contacted her, and before long they started playing shuffleboard together, as one does. On a whim they began looking at buildings where they could open up a shuffleboard club and after seeing their current space they decided it was either that or nothing. Spoiler alert: they went for it.

Being total rookies to the hospitality industry they immediately started buying coffee for anyone that could offer advice. In our conversation Jonathan was quick to point out his ongoing dismay at the cost of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) among other things they knew nothing about just a couple years ago. Yet through a combination of great advice, natural talent, and plenty of luck they pieced together a plan for a business that really works.

The two went on to raise the funds to build out the space and have been on a roll ever since. Ashley and Jonathan dish out plenty of advice in this episode but what stuck with me while editing it all together is their emphasis on fun. They’ve clearly had to make sacrifices while creating the Royal Palms but as an outsider you’d be hard-pressed to spot them. Ashley’s dream of snail races has yet to come true though there are plenty of goofy, definitely not cost-effective touches throughout the space that make it feel much more like an eccentric clubhouse than a bar or event space. All that said, the Royal Palms is doing quite well and just a few years after opening they’re already eyeing new cities for expansion, so stay tuned.

You can subscribe to new episodes on iTunes or download them through Libsyn.

Thanks to Ashley Albert, Jonathan Schnapp, Jessi Arrington, Creighton Mershon, and our sponsor MailChimp.

Thanks for reading! If you like this sort of thing you can subscribe to our newsletter where we write about each episode.

Passion is Profit: How Michael Miqueli Built a Trucking Empire

Michael Miqueli

Picture an industrial park on a nondescript road. Now imagine a huge building next to that with trucks at every loading dock. Now imagine a gravel road behind that complex, which leads to a truck lot and in that lot is just one building with a door that you can’t really tell if it’s the front door but you go in. You make your way upstairs and are greeted by a receptionist. Congratulations, you’ve made it to San Antonio Broker Services, home to Michael Miqueli, NJ’s 2015 Small Business Person of the Year and funny dude.

Michael greeted us at the door, “I wasn’t sure if you guys were hipsters but I decided to do this interview anyway.”

During our conversation Michael walked us through how SABS became what it is today. In the 90s he started his own produce business, which went under so he had to take a loan out from “a friend” and later had to sell his house to repay the loan. With only a small box truck to his name Michael called everyone he knew asking for work. 

He was able to piece together odd jobs delivering produce for most of a year before he hired someone to drive the truck. As he puts it, he was making a tiny bit of money but if anything broke he would’ve been screwed. He eventually made his first break — $10,000 — selling yams he’d been warehousing for his father-in-law. And with that he began developing the warehousing side of his trucking business.

After a few years of moderate growth he ran the numbers again and discovered that with increased competition his warehousing arm had gone from highly profitable to basically breakeven. He shut down that part of the businesses and ramped up his trucking efforts. Since then he’s taken on money to build the business and his growth has skyrocketed. As Michael puts it, “organic growth sucks.”

When we asked Michael for advice to new small business owners, he was blunt. He says that people shouldn’t follow their passion because oftentimes someone’s passion isn’t a good or even viable business. “My dad was a jeweler, I was an art student, and now I’m a trucker. Passion is profit.”

Thanks to Michael Miqueli, YouTube, and our sponsor MailChimp.

Thanks for reading! If you like this sort of thing you can subscribe to our newsletter where we write about each episode.

11: Tyler Electric, Brad Tyler

Brad's an electrician in Dorset, Vermont. He employs 10 people, has 1600 customers, and has a masterful command of the English language when it comes to backwoods slang.
We caught up with him in his barn for this interview. Brad shared what is was like to buy a business from his father, how he keeps business flowing in a "little hick town", and what he thinks the upcoming workforce could learn from the old guys.

We're taking a break to record more interviews but we'll be back online soon. Thanks so much for listening!

Sign up for our newsletter to get information about the upcoming season 2!