How to open a restaurant when you don’t have a lot of money

How to open a restaurant when you don't have a lot of money

That’s not even the whole story when it comes to Esperanza and Stephanie Lopez. This mother-daughter team owns Spurs Bar & Grill in Willmar, Minn., which was hit hard by the pandemic — but they persevered, with the help of their community.

How do you survive as a business? How do you keep going?


  • Esperanza was educated as an engineer in Mexico, but she decided to move to Willmar to pursue better opportunities and safety for Stephanie.

  • Chris Farrell and Twila Dang talked to Esperanza and Stephanie for their podcast “Small Change: Money Stories from the Neighborhood.” Farrell is also senior economics contributor at MPR. He told host Cathy Wurzer more about their story.

Finally, with a boost of financial support from the Latino Economic Development Center and the local Willmar community, Esperanza and Stephanie opened Spurs Bar & Grill in 2018.

It took the duo four years to build their restaurant. During that time, both Esperanza and Stephanie worked their own jobs, they had a side hustle and they remodeled and renovated their restaurant space themselves (with instruction from local tradespeople and YouTube videos).

When the pandemic hit, local businesses rallied around the restaurant, buying gift cards and placing massive orders. “It was mostly other businesses that helped us get by,” Stephanie told Farrell.

Latino-owned businesses are key to overall small business growth in the U.S. The number of Latino-owned businesses in the U.S. grew 34 percent over the last 10 years — compared to just 1 percent of growth for all other small businesses, Farrell said.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation. Subscribe to the Minnesota Now podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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