All of his life, Ernie Falco III of Sanford had a natural interest in exploring opportunities for making money. This interest translated into a lawn care business when he was just 12 years old, an internet marketing agency that made almost $2 million in sales the first year in his early 20s, and an air charter brokerage company that he built up then sold in 2017. Technically, he has never been employed by anyone other than himself.
Falco’s entrepreneurial instincts brought him success in many areas of business, but his most recent venture is one that is outside the box for him. At the end of 2018, he opened Kona Poké, a quick-service restaurant in Lake Mary that serves a variety of signature and build-your-own poké bowls, after discovering the popular Hawaiian dish on a vacation to the west coast.
“Never in my life would I have dreamed of being in the restaurant business,” he says.
But when Falco reviewed the logistics as he savored a poké bowl for the first time, he realized that opening a similar restaurant back home would be a smart business move.
“I looked at the simplicity of the business in the sense that there’s literally two high school age staff members there serving this food that tastes incredible,” Falco explains. “I didn’t see a chef. I didn’t see a bunch of cooks in the back. I’m just thinking from a business standpoint, the labor looks pretty light, the food is amazing, the concept is cool because they’re in a pretty small space, so I’m assuming the rent is pretty reasonable. It really just got my wheels turning.”
Paying attention to the details that others might overlook is one of the keys to Falco’s entrepreneurial success. When it comes to any business venture, he suggests also making the most of your resources.
For Falco, that meant getting his friends with experience in the restaurant business on board and using his market research knowledge to map out a plan. It also meant hiring a consultant who is well-known in Orlando’s sushi scene to help refine the menu.
While he has built and sold several booming businesses in his career, Falco understands that the idea of starting your own business can seem daunting and intimidating for individuals who have never done it. However, he doesn’t believe that should stop anyone.
“When I have people around me who are thinking about something or they might want to go out on their own, I always tell them just to go do it,” he says. “I really believe the only thing preventing someone from starting a business is really them.”
At the end of the day it’s about coming up with a solid idea and working toward that vision in a smart way.
“I feel like if somebody really wants something bad enough, they will find a way – there’s always a way to find a solution,” Falco says. “I think the biggest thing is just absolutely being resourceful and really utilizing those resources to the fullest.”