Michelle Dell is the Owner/Operator and Sole Proprietress of Hogs & Heifers, Inc. in New York City and Hogs & Heifers of Las Vegas, Inc. Although she’s a resident of the Big Apple, she currently lives in Las Vegas while conducting business in both her home town and that famous city of flashing lights and reckless gamblers.
Raised in the restaurant, this entrepreneur recalls working for her mother “after school five days a week, doing everything from running errands, washing the linens, setting the dining room, doing dishes, helping in the kitchen to office and accounting work.” With that background, she discovered in her college years that “waiting tables and bartending was the fastest way to make money.” Although she initally planned to pursue a career in “Psychology, Criminal Law or Film Production,” Michelle met her future husband “when he was building what would become Hogs & Heifers, in November of 1992. I was wearing blue jeans, cowboy boots, a cowboy hat, a cropped denim jacket and a long white duster. He hired me on the spot” as the first bartender hired. She eventually became the manager, head bartender, and comptroller — and his wife!
After her husband’s death, Michelle took on the management of the initial bar and a new one. “The drawback to being the sole financier of my expansion project is that I am always behind the gun and have limited resources for advertising and promotion,” she admits. “I have a huge amount of faith in various forms of gorilla advertising and promotion, and am blessed with an incredibly dedicated and hard working management and office team, made up of a total of 8 people between both locations in New York City and Las Vegas.”
Today, she reflects that “my greatest motivator and mentor has always been my mother. I have watched her struggle and succeed, fail and come back to succeed, time and time again. Failure has simply never been an option for my mother. Even her failures are conquests in my eyes, as she has always managed to come through standing on her own two feet, all the stronger and wiser. The greatest lesson I have learned from my Mother’s experiences is to love many, trust few and always row your own canoe. It is imperative to have people in business that you can trust and critical to have solid financial and legal advisors, but nothing compares to a solid support system of friends and family, however small or large that may be. Ultimately, it is self-confidence in the form of a true belief in and love of yourself and your talents that will see you through in life, love and business.”
Currently, Hogs & Heifers NYC employs “an average of 30 people and has an annual gross of 2.1 to 2.5 million dollars” in its 900 sq. feet building. “Hogs and Heifers Las Vegas opened for business in July of 2005 and is projected to do approximately 1.5 million in gross sales in its first year of business,” reveals Michelle.
Her advice to others who want to start their own business? “Pick an industry you enjoy because you will be spending an inordinate amount of time doing it. Do not open a restaurant if you hate to cook and do not open a clothing store if you hate being bothered by annoying shoppers. Do not open a bar if you hate being around drinkers and do not open a bakery if you hate sweets. After you have worked out all of your financial projections for getting your business open and surviving its first year, take that figure and double it AT LEAST! Whatever time you have calculated that you will need to spend in your business, take that figure and TRIPLE IT!”
In addition, Michelle emphasizes the importance of doing adequate research. “Regardless of your business concept, there are very few left today that are entirely new and lacking in models for you to study. If you are opening a clothing store, you should go to several different types of similar clothing stores, in size and concept, and browse through them. Take notes of the things you like in design concepts and accessibility as well as the things that bother you while you were shopping.” And to avoid costly mistakes, she recommends making “solid decisions about what you can afford to do in your
business right away. Choose other areas that you can add on to or expand to after your first year or two of business as you grow and become more financially stable.”
Her comments to women who want to be entrepreneurs but aren’t sure that they have the qualifications? “For women, I really believe that the key to success is versatility and flexibility and obviously strength of character. I always encourage my female employees to reach inside of themselves and embrace the various aspects of their personality in order to discover their own range and inner power. I think women are innately suited to be business owners. It is more acceptable for women to be social and warm and creating a comfortable and inviting environment for your customer base is essential in any business. In this respect, I think women definitely have the upper hand as we can use any number of unlimited social resources to accomplish this goal and we rarely need to take a course in communications, human resources or anger management to tap into our sensitive side.”
In addition, Michelle is “a firm believer in the notion that sex sells. As Donald Trump once said, and I cannot believe I am quoting a man with SUCH bad hair, “any one who thinks that sex does not exist in the board room, doesn’t belong in the board room!” It is the reality of life and as such, I am never afraid to sex it up when I need to, which does not mean I am ever “trashy” or “slutty” in appearance. Even in a suit, I am always sure to look my sexiest, as it is an option that is always available to me and is never inappropriate in any scenario. Women have much more flexibility then men in their choice of business attire and why not use that option to our advantage whenever possible!”