Name: Slader Marshall (BBA Finance, ’14)
Type of business: Restaurant
Business name: Slader’s Alaskan Dumpling Co. (SADCo.)
Year started: 2014
Locations: Searcy/Little Rock, Arkansas
It all started as a dream. “Not a lofty one, but one of those that you can’t really get out of your head,” according to Slader Marshall. Since the Alaskan entrepreneur was able to return home only once or twice a year after coming to study at Harding, he was determined to bring his home to college by sharing pel’meni, the Alaskan soul food dumplings from his childhood, with his adopted community.
From their first dumpling in 2014 to today, the startup has expanded from a single restaurant in a modest building on East Center Avenue to a successful food truck business, operating in Searcy and Little Rock.
This week’s Q&A digs a little deeper into Marshall’s thoughts about being a young, hungry, scrappy entrepreneur.
What personality traits do you think served you best as you started your business, and which traits might have been a disadvantage?
Confidence could be answer to both. You have to have unwavering confidence to start a business because, without it, you can’t project to your employees and your customers why they should believe in your product. On the flip side, confidence can humble you quicker than most personality traits. I have said to anyone who asks what it’s like to start a business that you should go into the process like you know nothing at all. Finding a good balance between confidence and humility is a great place to start your business planning.
What advice would you give a college student who wants to become an entrepreneur?
First, ask questions: stupid questions, smart questions — it doesn’t matter. Pick people’s brains who have been there before, and admit you don’t have all the answers. Second, start small, build big. It’s a lot easier to start with a little idea and grow along with your customer base than it is to have all the nicest things and the best space and have nowhere to grow. Finally, find your niche. Whether it is the target market you cater to or the type product you sell, finding your niche is the single biggest predictor of business success or failure. We serve a non-traditional food, so I knew right off the bat that not everyone would like it. I knew in Searcy there was a void of local restaurants and also a void of places that were catering to college students, who I thought would be more willing to try eclectic foods compared to a family of four on a fixed budget. So I found my niche.
Name a company or person in business whom you admire and explain what appeals to you about them.
My two biggest inspirations have been Walt Disney and Elon Musk, men from two different generations and from two different fields, who tried to make the impossible a reality. For Disney, it was not the cartoons or the live-action films or theme parks, but the feeling you had when experiencing all those things; it was the “magic” Disney created out of nothing that no one will ever be able to replicate. Musk inspires the passion to dream. Whether it is electric cars or privatized flights to Mars, he set his sights on the stars and encouraged anyone in this field that you should never let anyone tell you no. Entrepreneurs are dreamers, and those are two of the biggest.
For updates, follow Slader’s Alaskan Dumpling Co. on Facebook.
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