Beep, Beep!

A Restaurant

Still, there may be something to the idea of rolling up your sleeves and really getting your hands dirty. Malik Armstead, for instance, 29-year-old chef and owner of The Five Spot Soul Food Restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, still works seven days a week, four years post-start-up. "I don't want to seem arrogant. But I can say everything I've put my mind to I've accomplished," says Armstead, who opened his restaurant using every penny of his savings ($20,000) and proceeded to earn back his investment in just four months. Favorable restaurant reviews and word-of-mouth have made The Five Spot popular with locals, the downtown office crowd, blue-collar workers and families. To accommodate the throngs, Armstead recently bought the restaurant's building . . . and the one next door.

All this despite the fact that owning a restaurant wasn't Armstead's first dream. "I always wanted to work on Wall Street," he says. After receiving a finance degree from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Armstead headed to Wall Street and landed a job at Morgan Stanley. As a financial analyst, he analyzed companies in distress. But the dream wasn't all it appeared to be. "After two and a half years, I developed a disdain for the corporate world and all the politics," he says. "I didn't like someone having control of my destiny."

It seems Armstead, like many young trailblazers, probably never liked leaving destiny in someone else's hands. When he was in high school, he enrolled in The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepre-neurship (NFTE) program, which offers an entrepreneurial education program to inner-city youth to teach them business ownership. Armstead was one of NFTE's first graduates.

According to Steve Mariotti, the former New York City high school teacher who founded NFTE in 1987, it's this kind of desire for autonomy that's elevating many of today's young entrepreneurs to trailblazer status. "I think we're in the middle of an entrepreneurial revolution, a cultural shift that's making the entrepreneur the hero," says Mariotti. "It isn't for everybody. There is great risk. But overall, this great interest in owning a business is creating value in the marketplace-especially for minorities and women who traditionally might not have considered becoming entrepreneurs."

Want a new business to cook up? Read Piece Of Cake to find out how to start your own restaurant.

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This article was originally published in the January 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Beep, Beep!.

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