Rex Rozario’s Next Big Thing, Part 1


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The thing that struck me, despite all of that, was what Rex said to me, "You're why I’m investing. You're the reason why we’re getting involved. We believe in the concept. We think it’s going to be great." They came and looked around the house. It was fairly dilapidated, but they could see the potential too. I had to sort of talk about the vision. There’s one particular painting that caught Rex’s eye and Ruth's eye, because it’s actually painted by somebody of the same name. We managed to save that from the building and give it to Rex.

Rozario: When Michael signed with David, I said, "Can you look at the picture?" We were in the car. Michael came out to the car and said, "You can take it with you." It’s in our house now, that picture there. It’s signed "Rozario." I tell everybody, "That’s me. That’s me."

Caines: Once I found the property, I didn’t have all the investors. We had to put out the memorandum. We had to try and put a cost plan together, and we had to raise money. Some of it obviously coming from the bank. We’re very, very lucky that we ended up with a good group of investors that are all Southwest-based, very successful in their own right with great track records, but also, people who could see themselves enjoying the property for itself. Overwhelmingly, they were all of the same mindset, in that they were helping me fulfill my dream. Yes, it was a business deal. Yes, it had to stack up, but they believed in the product.

Matties: Well, the thing that you said that really strikes me is, "Business isn't anything but people working together." You’re investing in Michael, and that's where a great investment starts, is with the people that you invest in. Not the concept. If you invest in great people, the concepts are going to work.

Rozario: And Michael was also a celebrity. He was on television.

Matties: Oh, "celebrity chef" is what we call that in America.

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Rozario: Like at Gidleigh Park, for three consecutive years, which was the number one restaurant in the UK, according to the Sunday Times. Now, there were other celebrity chefs as well, and they've got restaurants, but Michael’s restaurant was the number one. That was a big thing that he was in front of all those guys.

Matties: Well, another thing that struck me when we were talking during lunch is it’s not just about the food. Your background is also on the business side of this, and I think that really helps to the formula of success in any model, having that acumen.

Caines: Yeah, it was acumen that perhaps wasn’t always visible. Clearly, I’ve been able to show a lot of different skills in this project. We took a very hands-on approach. We've very much driven the project from design, to interiors, and then even the project itself, where we had a few challenges, and we became the principal contractors. I had always the back and forth, because we always demonstrated a full understanding of those challenges. My personality and perseverance through the project was also very important, that I wasn’t absent when the key time mattered, and that I remained proactive in making decisions.

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Actually, what your board and investors want is to know what the facts are, and the solutions you are offering. They don’t want procrastination or hesitation. The good thing is that all of us had bought into the idea that we wanted to create something fabulous. All of us recognized that the price point had moved. It was unfortunate, but we decided as a team that we would continue down the path of creating a fantastic product.

We all knew that we were challenged, and we all knew that the building game can sometimes be difficult. But we never lost focus on the end goal, nor did we dilute along the way our aspirations to create something incredible. That trust and that bond over those challenging months has given us a very open and honest, and I think a very transparent relationship between the investors, the investment in the project, and the team that work here to deliver that.

The most satisfying moment of all was actually having the investors here and showing them what we had created and them staying and being a part of it. Because so many people invest in things that aren’t tangible and that don’t really impact in their lives. You don’t see them. They’re silent. With this project, it really has become a part of people’s lives, where people talk about it. It’s in the papers, and they take a huge amount of pride in knowing that they’ve helped realize my dream, and in doing so, they give themselves a place to come and be welcome, and be entertained. Also, that have put faith in me to show that I have those skills. Not just as a chef, but as a businessman or entrepreneur. Also, that with the team that we put together today, we’ve been able to demonstrate that our figures are working and that we've got the right measurements and tools to manage it.

We don’t want to be going back to our investors saying that we’re not very successful. We're bad at managing the business. We need more money, because we don't have any fiscal discipline, or the right accounting or accountability within our company. Because we’re all about attention to detail. It’s in our mindset to look at everything in that way, whether it’s the figures, or the business plan, or the aspirations to grow. We’re always looking at it with key measurability based on performance, and delivering a high-quality product.

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I think that’s good, having been trusted as a businessman in your own right with that opportunity. To show that we're able to now, three months on, deliver to them not only a great product, but also a product that’s going to make the return on investment that we’ve anticipated. It gives us a chance to look, acquire, and develop the business, and add a star perhaps in time and what not, and grow the business, knowing that we have created something special together.

Then we share through what we do with events, like our Formula 1 event next week, which is something which doesn’t happen very often. We’ve got that partnership that we're growing, and the relationships that we're growing outside of this business, because we’ve created something that everybody wants to be a part of.

Matties: It’s unique.

Caines: Yeah, it is unique. In this landscape, these types of things don’t happen very often. It’s not like we bought a hotel and turned it into a better hotel. We bought a run-down country house and transformed it into this beautiful hotel. It’s easy to sit here now and say what it is. It all makes sense. But when we started, it didn’t always look like that.

Editor's note: Click here for Part 2.

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