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Chef Nick Benninger | Waterloo | Check Your Ego!

I've always known I had to be my own boss, I'm a leader naturally so starting my own business was inevitable! Our latest project Fat Sparrow came about as we prepared to open our forth restaurant. We needed to form an umbrella company to put all four restaurants under and to act as a one stop shop for catering needs for the local start ups and growing tech companies who feed their employees daily. We knew we would have a strong foot hold in the local market with our wide array of offerings and my long standing reputation for success and quality service!

After attending George Brown College I completed my apprenticeship working in kitchens throughout Ontario and finally settling back down in my hometown of Kitchener - Waterloo. In 2008 I opened Uptown 21 with my wife Natalie and in 2013 we went on to open Taco Farm. Uptown 21 has been included in Where to Eat Canada every year since it opened, and recently Taco Farm was featured on the television show You Gotta Eat Here! In 2016 we added two landmark restaurants: Marbles Restaurant and Harmony Lunch to the portfolio of kitchens in uptown Waterloo. I twice appeared on the Food Network, and in 2013 my contribution to the culinary community was recognized in Waterloo Region Record’s annual 40 under 40

My role at Fat Sparrow officially is Owner/Partner, Executive Chef and Operations Manager. Not even sure what that means really but I spend my days doing a real mix of things. Anything from menu development, staff training, emergency tortilla machine repairs and community outreach. The latter is really a big part of it, I've become the sort of spokesperson for our brand so I spend a lot of time promoting the restaurants, engaging with guests and spearheading events that go spread the Fat Sparrow message. In addition to that there is always hours and hours of boring paper work and administrative work to be done too.

What three pieces of advice would you give to college students (young and old) locally or internationally who want to become entrepreneurs?

Check your ego at the door, no room for it anymore and it will only lead to unwise decisions being made.

Be fully committed! If you can't promise this of yourself how will you ask it of others.

Make an honest business plan for the worst day in February, if your business plan can't survive without being true to your predictions the truth will eventually show it's ugly head and your business will fail despite your best intentions.

If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?

I would follow my own advice stated above. I've got no regrets really and the lessons I've learned making mistakes along the way are invaluable....but some knowledge of my future self would have saved me some money and stress:)

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?





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