By Jesse Hertstein
Randolph and Kathleen Bobe seem to have hit the jackpot with their $11 million food distribution service for Atlantic City, New Jersey, casinos. However, theirs is not a story of luck so much as a history of hard work. After receiving a bachelor's degree in food marketing in 1980, Kathleen, 39, worked her way up from assistant director of food service for a hospital to food buyer at Tropicana Hotel & Casino before collaborating on the opening of Chispanic Enterprises Inc. in 1996.
Randy, 49, has always been an entrepreneur: At 10, he caught and sold pigeons to Chinese restaurants and poultry markets in New York City and used the profits to buy women's shoes and clothing to sell from the trunk of his father's car. He rolled cigars for his grandmother, attended the Food and Maritime School, became apprenticed in a butcher shop, and now works as general manager of a major meat supplier-while also serving as vice president of the partners' Egg Harbor City, New Jersey, company, ranked No. 7 in Entrepreneur's Hot 100 ranking.
From the start, the Bobes have drawn no salary from the company, and they do all the work themselves. This hands-on approach has kept Chispanic ahead of the competition. "We're a very small company where we answer the phone, we don't have voice mail, and we're in tune with what customers need," says Kathleen. "If there's a problem, we address it immediately."
But this steadfast patience isn't always easy. "Find what you do best, stick to that, and perfect it," Kathleen advises budding entrepreneurs. "Don't grow faster than you can afford to." With plans to expand their product line as well as sell to the newest casinos in Atlantic City, the Bobes hope their winning streak continues.