THEEntering a restaurant doesn’t happen overnight. It takes planning, hours of hard work, a good team, and solid funding, said Esra England – the head chef and founder of KC Cajun.
“I knew opening a restaurant was a strategic move and everything had to be calculated,” said England, who grew their company’s sales by 500 percent from 2018 to 2019.
England founded KC Cajun In 2016 as a catering company and later in 2018 as a food truck. With the business growing exponentially in a short period of time, England knew he and his team were ready to take the plunge into a business on the east side of Kansas City.
“Last year we were geared to make a quarter of a million in sales, but COVID obviously derailed that a little,” England said. “But we’re getting back on track.”
KC Cajun’s store is slated to open on East 27th St. in May, he said.
click Here to check out KC Cajun’s menu.
Nonprofit organization based in Kansas City Generate income for tomorrow (GIFT) Brandon Calloway, GIFT’s executive director, noted that KC Cajun received a $ 22,000 bonus that resulted from an excess of donations.
“We announce grant recipients every month,” said Calloway. “But we’ve had a really great year of fundraising so we were able to get an extra grant.”
click Here to read how GIFT raised over a quarter of a million dollars in less than its first year.
England, which supported GIFT with public relations and had applied for a grant back in November, was completely surprised when it heard about funding from KC Cajun, he said.
“It was a surreal, humiliating moment for us when we found out about the award,” said England, noting that he was struggling to get scholarships. “It was a nice change from what we went through.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly difficult for KC Cajun due to the unclear regulations for food trucks.
“We ended up having to shut it down for a while because it was just too confusing to navigate through the different jurisdictions between the different counties,” explained England, referring to inconsistent COVID-19 restrictions that were cropping up in every parish in all parishes The subway. “The other problem we encountered was that because people were working from home, there wasn’t a lot of public traffic. So we changed our business model to host more events in neighborhoods and outside of residential buildings. ”
The Mississippi Native’s passion for bringing Cajun food to the Midwest dates back to his childhood, he shared.
“My father was a cook in the Navy. As a teenager, I experienced a coastal lifestyle – fishing, crab fishing and just living off the sea, ”recalls England. “That was an integral part of growing up. When I moved to the Midwest, I really missed the Cajun food. ”
KC Cajun is about giving a twist to traditional Cajun recipes in the Midwest, as England discovered.
“And it’s not just about the food,” noted England. “We really try to introduce our customers to the history and culture of Cajun.”
The next food truck event will take place on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Calibration brewery in northern Kansas City.
A common misconception among business owners: When they fail, they need a better business model or help with accounting, Calloway noted.
“Esra [England] is a great example of someone who is an exceptional businessman; It is fully structured and it showed in its growth and success, ”explained Calloway. “So this whole tech help story wouldn’t have helped him.
“[GIFT] makes deliberate financial investments in the urban core, ”he continued. “I think this is very effective in bringing about change in an entire part of our community.”
click Here to read how GIFT helped Ruby Jean’s Juicery, which recently reopened its Whole Foods location after setbacks caused by pandemics.
In addition to opening a store, England plans to have KC Cajun and surrounding businesses use their craft – whether culinary, hairdressing or other talents – to create programs for the surrounding community.
“[My team and I are] Finding new programs to educate and empower people to be entrepreneurs; We want to convey this message to young people in particular, ”said England. “We hope to work with the companies around us to work together on these programs.”
England hopes such an effort creates more job opportunities and sheds light on entrepreneurship, he said, noting untapped potential in the community ready to be unlocked.
“People are starting to build more on the east side, but right now it really is [you get to] Troost, ‘said England. “[KC Cajun is] more centrally located on the east side of Kansas City so we feel it is necessary to raise awareness of what is going on in this area. Then others are more likely to invest in them. “
This story is possible thanks to the support of Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, impartial foundation that works with education and entrepreneurship communities to create unusual solutions and empower people to shape their future and thrive.