Sunday Business Interview, JC Hibachi
We have some fantastic local businesses that are going to be featured, typically on Saturdays or in this case in honor of Father’s Day – Sunday! We try to keep the questions consistent from interview to interview (with some changes possible). I hope you enjoy this series!
I am so thrilled to introduce you to JC Hibachi! It is a locally owned and operated family business that originated in the Houston area. The business is run by Carlos Benitez , some of you may know him as JC – a local dad in the Cypress community. I first heard about JC from a friend, I saw she had a hibachi grill at one of her events and I immediately reached out and booked my husband’s birthday party. I am so glad I did because the owner is such an incredible human. My husband’s birthday that year ended up being right after the big winter storm that wiped power out for most of Houston. JC and I kept in touch during that week since we weren’t sure what the food shortage or weather situation was going to be like. But mostly, what I took away from that week was that JC is such a kind person. He reached out that week during the February winter storm because he wanted to share his services for free and wanted to see if there was a church or place that needed to feed people. He wanted share what he does best as a way to give back to the community. This is the amazing type of person that Carlos is. When I asked him about it he said he was glad he was able to help – “we were worried with the food shortages at stores but we decided to do it anyway. I like to think that everything we do is like a seed. I like to think it will come back to my kids in the future somehow”. I hope you read this full interview, his story is incredible and inspiring to say the least. A true tale of hard work and dedication, and I’m so glad to support amazing small businesses like this one.
Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in the area?
I’m originally from Mexico and I’ve been living in Houston since 2003. Although we have been to a few parts of Houston, we like this area the best. I really love this area very much.
Do you have any children? If so, what are their ages?
I have 3 sons who are 11 , 9, and 6 years old.
My house is always busy full of activities – soccer, baseball. My kids are the main reason why I launched my business, the restaurant business is so hard for families. Hours can be 10am-10pm during weekends. I was looking for different things to do outside of the restaurant business as I prioritized my family. At one point I even considered the 18 wheeler business. I initially started with wanting to spend time with my family. I did this to be able to find a good balance for my family and to be more present for my kids. I can adjust my schedule now, this past week we took a few days to go on vacation!
Tell us about your business?
We bring Hibachi right to you! Everything from the food, tables, chairs, hibachi grill, and hibachi entertainment! We pride ourselves in setting up for your event and then we take care of cleaning up all that we bring as well! The only thing you need to provide is drinks or any special decorations.
When did the idea of creating your business start? How long have you been in business?
My father was an entrepreneur, my goal was to have my own business by 35. I first started in the kitchen but I would watch youtube videos on how to cook and practice in my room after work. Eventually, I was able to get hired cooking Hibachi. I’ve been cooking hibachi since 2003 – that’s 19 years now. In 2016 , the idea to start my own business came to me because a guy wanted me to come cook for him for Super Bowl Sunday at his house. He said, “I have a grill like this at home”. I was nervous at first but then when I cooked for him and his friends, at the end of the event most of them were asking for my number. After that I did research on how to buy the grill, put it on wheels etc. I thought I was the first one, but I discovered they were doing this in Cali. I didn’t find anyone that did it in Houston or even in Texas before I started. So, I think I was the one that started this in Texas. But I think we opened the path for other people to create their own business. For me, I was happy about this. It doesn’t mean they’re taking from us, I think there’s so many ways for us all to grow and flourish. Think of it like hamburger spots, there can never be too many hamburger spots . I’m happy to see those small business owners go into the business and grow.
What is one thing you can point to that helped make your business successful?
It’s hard to say what makes it more successful, being the first was hard because people had so many doubts about what our business provided. Making a reputation for our selves and loving what we do helped make our business successful. I love what I do and I do think clients can feel the energy and when they see you enjoy it – it definitely helps.
What was your biggest challenge as a business and how did you overcome it?
Being the first was hard. I’ve never paid for marketing, so for us 50% has always been recommendations. Most of the people we cook for go on to share about my business and that is the best way to spread the word about us! Figuring out how to make it right from the beginning was a lot of trials. I cooked for family until we got it right. At our early stages, we would go to Brenham to cook for our family and they kept calling us to come back and cook for them. We liked sharing with people. We cooked for the church, friends, family until we got it right.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What is your favorite part about what you do?
Family and the time I get with my children. When I was younger, I didn’t get to see my dad all of the time because hew as always working. He was wonderful but I didn’t get too much time with him. When we had our first child I told my wife I wanted to be there for my kids and be present and spend the most time I could with them.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
We have started expanding to different cities – we now opened in San Antonio! I’d like to continue doing that growth.
What advice would you give to others that want to start something new?
1) Do research about what you want to do, so you’re not going in blind.
2) Just do it, most of the time we waste time and then get stuck being afraid.
So basically, try to be prepared and do it!
Any advice for juggling all the things in daily life?
It is hard to find a balance, especially with 3 little ones. Just try to have a balance. I try to do my best. I would say – choose your time wisely in terms of quality time. If you have time set aside for your family, then do all your time to your family – no business when it is family time. Then by the same token, when you are doing business, focus on that 100%. Whatever it is you’re doing, give it your full effort during that time.
Anyone special you’d like to thank for helping you through?
My wife! She has been my teammate the whole time since before got married. She always worked alongside me . When this idea began, she went to work full time to help as the business grew. Once we made money at our business. she quit her job and started to help more with our business . She has been an excellent partner for me. She pushes me and reminds me that this is for the business, and for the family. I can’t imagine myself being married to anyone else because everything I have is because of my wife, I’m very lucky.
As a local Dad, any favorite things you like in our area ?
Sports, my kids love baseball and soccer. Whenever we have free time we like to go to the park to practice their sports. We always have one bag with soccer equipment and the other with baseball equipment. For baseball we love Fairfield Sports Association.
Any advice for dads this father’s day?
Something that really pushed me is time. Spend as much time as you can with your children because they do grow up so fast. Work is and will always there – it will be there forever. Work hard, but don’t work so much that you don’t spend time with the kids.. We work so much to give them everything. But work in a way where you can provide for the family but also give them as much time as you can. At the end of the day – what they need most, is spending time with us. One day you will turn around and they will be 20 and you can’t get that time back.