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Brazil Express Churrasco Grill

  • SBDC - Small Business Development Center
  • August 11, 2015

Brazil Express Churrasco Grill Photo
"The SBDC gave great guidance and was very approachable."

- Ana Santos-Vitelo, Owner 
Brazil Express Churrasco Grill, Schaumburg, Illinois

When Ana Santos-Vitelo saw a void in the Brazilian food scene, she wanted to fill it. She and her husband did just that when they opened Brazil Express Churrasco Grill in May 2012 in Schaumburg. A casual steakhouse and affordable alternative to other Brazilian restaurants, Brazil Express offers a pleasant, family-friendly atmosphere and extensive selection of Brazilian fire-grilled meats, salads, side dishes and desserts. 

Q: Why did you choose to open a restaurant? 

A: My husband and I have been in the restaurant business for more than 12 years. We know this job and know this business, but I wanted to open my own business. At first, I wasn’t exactly sure what type of restaurant I wanted to open. Initially, I thought about opening something much smaller. When I decided to do something bigger with the steakhouse, it required more financing, but once things got started, they started to take on their own momentum. 

Q: To what do you attribute your success? 

A: I recognized a need. People wanted the Brazilian experience, but they wanted it to be more affordable. A lot of Brazilian restaurants are very fancy and often over the top. I saw an opportunity to open the first casual Brazilian steakhouse. We could deliver the same amazing quantity and quality, and we could make it a more affordable experience. 

Q: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be? 

A: I started pursuing this in the middle of the recession, and I had a hard time getting people to believe in me. No one would partner with me. But I didn’t give up, even when people kept saying “No.” I kept looking for people who could help me. I found a landlord who was willing to rent space at a reduced price, and the savings allowed me to buy equipment for my kitchen. Even though no one believed in us at first, something told me it was the right time to do it, and I kept making progress. My advice would be to follow your instincts. Listen to that voice inside. 

Q: Would you recommend small business owners use the services of the SBDC? Why? 

A: Yes. I started meeting with the SBDC and taking their classes before I opened the restaurant. One of the classes highlighted the difficulties of opening a business. The instructor wanted us to know it wasn’t going to be an easy-breezy experience. At the end of the class, when he asked who still wanted to open a business, I raised my hand. I still believed I could do it. I started visiting the SBDC offices more often-sometimes every other week, sometimes once a week-to get information and talk about how things were going. They gave great guidance, and they were very approachable. Every time I called, they helped me. I’m very happy I found them. I don’t think I would be where I am today without them. I’m even thinking about expanding now. Free programs and assistance like what the SBDC provides make a big difference for entrepreneurs.