Buffalo Boss cranked out more than 73 tons of organic chicken wings in 2013. The casual restaurant, with 32 employees at three locations in Brooklyn, is poised to top $1.8 million in revenue in 2014 and open its fourth location.
It was a much different story in 2010, when Jamar White and Ron Lee were looking for money to open their first location, a 400-square-foot storefront on Fulton Street in northern Brooklyn. The fledgling entrepreneurs had been rejected by traditional lenders, and so they maxed-out their credit cards and brought on friends and family (including White's cousin, rapper and music producer Jay-Z) as investors.
Buffalo Boss was a hit from the start. Customers loved the all-natural, hormone-free chicken wings, and business grew at rapid-fire pace. The restaurant on Fulton Street turned a profit in its 13th month.
"When we started building up a fan base and seeing high-volume sales, we realized this concept had legs. We also knew that a single, small store doesn't pay the rent," White said.
White and Lee began plans for a second location, this one on Jay Street in Brooklyn. On the advice of a friend, whose Blue Marble Ice Cream in Brooklyn received a loan through NYBDC in 2011, the two men pursued a similar loan program through NYBDC's affiliate, The 504 Company.
Immediately, The 504 Company's Christina Lopez saw the partners' passion and enthusiasm for building their brand, as well as their 16-hour-a-day dedication to the enterprise.
"Buffalo Boss is an example of a company that knows its customer. Both primary owners are personally committed to the company's success and are involved in day-to-day operations and decision making," said Lopez, vice president, The 504 Company.
The $243,600 loan that White and Lee received in 2012 through the Community Advantage loan program helped fund the opening of the partners’ Buffalo Boss on Jay Street. “If we’d not gotten that loan, we would have found another way. But it probably would have taken us at least a year and a half longer to pull things together," Lee said.
Proceeds from the loan also helped pay off a high-interest loan that the partners took out to cover fees when they opened a Buffalo Boss concession at Brooklyn's Barclays Center earlier that year. Those concession rights established Buffalo Boss’ wings as the official chicken wings of the Brooklyn Nets.
Now, the partners are working with NYBDC to close on a 7(a) loan that will help finance a fourth location. It will be in Manhattan - the first Buffalo Boss outside Brooklyn - and create another 20 jobs. Their model includes a five-year plan to open 10 more Buffalo Boss restaurants.
"We want to continue to promote our brand in the five (New York City) boroughs, then push nationwide," Lee said.
White and Lee take great pride in the jobs that their restaurants create, especially for a population of individuals that have difficulty finding employment. They work with local rehabilitation programs and halfway houses to train previously incarcerated people and recovering individuals to work in their establishments.
"At the end of day, these types of business loans are so important to small businesses like ours. They create new opportunities and jobs, and help grow the economy as well," White said. "We really believe in investing in a community that is investing in us."
Jamar White and Ron Lee of Buffalo Boss with Christina Lopez of The 504 Company