Earth Café of Sarasota County
Vera Cristea is one of 17 graduates from the 2014 Community Entrepreneur Opportunity (CEO) Program, sponsored by CareerSource Suncoast, City of Sarasota, Sarasota County, and various other partners.
Her experience through the CEO Program, and the subsequent contact she’s had with the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, helped her to open Earth Café in North Port.
Cristea , who was looking to make a career change, was searching for a restaurant location prior to the CEO Program, to open a health conscious restaurant. “I saw an ad in the paper for a class, so I called and filled out the application, and I am glad I did. I did not just attend a class but I found a magnificent support team,” Cristea said. “I’ve learned so much and what I really enjoyed is the support afterwards.”
She has worked with both Davis and Dr. Anita Rose, another certified business consultant with the FSBDC at Sarasota-Manatee, on a variety of aspects, including location analysis, demographic research and marketing. “At every step of the business, I’ve had a lot of help,” she said, “I’m the type of person that likes to work with people and it heIps me greatly when I have someone to bounce my ideas off of.”
The CEO Program, according to certified business consultant Ed Davis, is “an 11-week entrepreneurial academy. Participants have a business idea and we show them what they need to do to get into business. If they’re in business, we’re going to show them how to grow that business.” Davis is the coordinator for the CEO Program.
Cristea has owned multiple businesses in the past, but decided to return to the restaurant industry because she enjoys cooking and being with people.
The immediate future includes continued renovations for Earth Café. Cristea has already made improvements to the dining area and menu, and will focus her efforts on updating the kitchen, outdoor patio and completing the dining area transformation. She also will continue to tweak her business model based on client feedback and adding new items to the menu.
“My vision is to incorporate some vegan, gluten-free items along with sandwiches, soups, salads, fresh fish, and of course, the famous Gyro sandwich,” Cristea said. “I started a concept and because of the clientele that I’m seeing, I have to veer off of my original idea. It will still have healthy food along with other items.”
Davis said that Cristea is approaching change in a good way. “She’s coming in and making small changes at once instead of coming in and changing everything at the same time. She’s listening to what her customers are saying about the menu items.”
Cristea hopes to be able to take advantage of additional classes to continue to help grow her business in a positive manner.