A Cajun dream come true
Equipped with a business plan, a love of all things Cajun, a supportive family and a big push from the University of West Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Jerry Mistretta is living the life he's always wanted. With a little help and guidance along the way, Mistretta has been able to make his dream a reality and has owned Jerry's Cajun Café and Catering for 16 years.
Equipped with a business plan, a love of all things Cajun, a supportive family and a big push from the University of West Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Jerry Mistretta is living the life he’s always wanted. With a little help and guidance along the way, Mistretta has been able to make his dream a reality and has owned Jerry’s Cajun Café and Catering for 16 years.
A proud business owner, Mistretta moved to Pensacola in 1985, with a drive to open his own restaurant and bring a little bit of Louisiana with him.
“I realized I was tired of my previous job and I wanted to just go and follow my dream,” said Mistretta. “I had no money, no job, but the first thing I did was go to the SBDC to get a business plan. They were definitely my reality check and worked with me to get things started.”
The SBDC played a key role for Mistretta, preparing him to open a restaurant through training, which included seminars like “Steps to Starting a Business,” “Business Planning” and “Understanding Financial Statements.” Through the SBDC, he was able to map out a business plan and made several connections that led to his incredible success.
“It was monumental what the SBDC did for me,” said Mistretta. “The people that guided me truly opened my eyes and gave me the knowledge I needed to not only open my business, but to make it work.”
As Mistretta’s business grew, in 1994 and 1995 the SBDC also provided student teams to assist with the creation of human resource manuals, employee policy manuals and evaluated the prospect of expansion. Mistretta worked with the SBDC to acquire a loan to build his current location and throughout the years, has also worked with him on marketing and developing the restaurant’s Web site.
“It is definitely the best part of my job and of what we do at the SBDC to see a business like Jerry’s succeed,” said Larry Strain, director of the SBDC. “To help people reach their dreams and beyond is so gratifying and an important part of the university mission that we perform.”
“You simply couldn’t meet a nicer guy than Jerry and he has always been the kind of employer people want to work for,” added Strain.
Located in Pensacola, Jerry’s Cajun Café and Catering, serves authentic Cajun/Creole cuisine in a casual New Orleans style atmosphere. Whether he’s teaching one of his 50 employees a new recipe or guest speaking at a UWF business class, Mistretta loves that regardless the obstacle, each day is incredibly different than the next.
“It’s amazing when you get to do what you love and get paid for it,” said Mistretta. “My parents inspired me, my friends helped me and it was my Faith in God that kept me on the track to success. Also, the SBDC in turn did what they love to do – strive to help people and give them the tools they need to become business owners.”
For more information about the UWF SBDC, visit sbdc.uwf.edu. For more information about Jerry’s Cajun Café and Catering, visit jerryscajun.com.
By Megan Tyson, University Marketing Communications