Richard Valente is the founder of Roberto Pizzeria, and co-founder of Fratelli’s and Raw Pulp & Grind; all located throughout the city of Ottawa.
Before launching these ventures, Richard graduated from university with a degree in business. Even with this certification, he bases his success more so on experience working in the industry rather than anything he learned in school. The value of having gone to university was not nearly as impactful in his opinion. “It doesn't hurt but learning on the job and by making mistakes is definitely more valuable.
Raw Pulp & Grind, on the other hand, is a more recent establishment that is co-founded by 3 other individuals; Melissa Shabinsky, Jordan O’Leary, and his wife Nicola Wharton Valente. The restaurant is a healthy locale that serves freshly squeezed juices, smoothies, and various other food options that are completely all-natural, gluten-free, and vegan. So unlike big-name competitors like Booster Juice, they differentiate through higher quality ingredients and no fillers added to their products.
The thought process behind entering the health food industry was different from his other Italian themed restaurants. “This was my wife’s idea.” Richard states. “We made several trips down to California where the streets are filled with juice bars and things like that. In Ontario we’re years behind when it comes to that sort of thing, so she wanted to bring it here. I think we are the first to reach this kind of magnitude in Ottawa.”
The business’ sales tend to increase over the spring and summer since the temperature is warmer and the demand for cold beverages increases. The only business operations that change during their off-seasons are adjustments to staffing and inventory. “Your staff goes down, and your product purchasing also goes down to meet demand.”
Of course, the vegan industry is one that has demonstrated significant growth in recent years, as more people are becoming concerned about their health, as well as global sustainability. As of today, almost 3 percent of the Canadian population has adapted to a completely vegan lifestyle.
Due to the recent changes in peoples’ eating habits, the restaurant has had multiple offers from larger retailers asking them to wholesale their juices. “[Wholesaling] is just a whole other business, and our juices only have a shelf life of four days. It’s just too risky.” Richard also claims that they have had buyout offers for this chain, to which they have also rejected.
Richard thrives on ensuring that the reputation of all his restaurants revolve around delivering a quality product, even if that means charging slightly more for what they have to offer.
I asked Richard what he thought were the most important qualities/skills that attributed to his success and that he would advise other up-and-coming entrepreneurs to follow. He responded with:
Diligence is not just putting in the hard work, but also ensuring that there is an element of care put into all your company’s core operations. Customers will notice the extra effort that goes into your good or service, and they likely won’t mind paying slightly more for a higher quality product.
As an entrepreneur, you need to have an exceptional amount of knowledge for both your market and in terms of emotional intelligence (EI). Knowledge for your market will allow you to further expand/grow your company with less risk and unpredictability. Emotional intelligence - being the extent of your ability to assess, control, and be aware of one’s emotions - is important to anyone at such an upper level of management. Having a higher emotional intelligence will ensure higher moral levels of employees, as well as a lessened likelihood of legal issues revolving around a poor capability to act upon another's emotions.
- Ability to handle stress
Entrepreneurship is a job that comes with its fair share of stressful moments. Shifts in the economy can work against your business, and many don’t have what it takes to compose themselves and adjust to the new conditions. Rather, they get stressed out and their business ultimately fails. If you cannot handle stress, then entrepreneurship is not a career path you should pursue.
Honesty is important to both the customer, as well as the employee. Being honest and upfront with your clients is a key to success. Once they begin to trust you and your brand, then they will become more likely to invest their money in your good or service. As with employees, making sure that they always know what's happening in the background of your company ensures that they can consistently deliver a more honest and upfront response to customers’ needs.
- Knowing market trends
As mentioned earlier, the economy can shift very quickly and very unpredictably. “Things change so rapidly now with the young generation, and you have to be ready for this change.” Being able to look ahead at market trends and modify your operations based on its movement is key to sustainability.