Diego Velasquez had worked in Georgia’s restaurant industry more than 14 years—moving up to district manager for a major chain—when he opened his first Tacos and Tequilas Mexican Grill in Buckhead.

“I had decided that if I can open restaurants for somebody else, I can do it for myself. I also hoped to show my daughters that one day they, too, can run their own business,” Velasquez said. “Why work for someone else when you can do it on your own?”

He wanted open a second restaurant in Cumming two years later, but needed a business loan to finance the start-up costs. A banker, who dined regularly at his Buckhead restaurant, suggested he contact the UGA Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for assistance. He was put in touch with Antonio Barrios, a consultant in the SBDC’s office at Kennesaw State University.

“Often people have the opportunity to get a small business loan, but they don’t understand the process,” Barrios said. “’Diego knew what he needed to do and was willing to get the information together for the bank. He knew there were challenges, but he was eager to do it and follow the process.”

Barrios explained the business loan options and application process to Velasquez. He then assisted him in preparing his loan package, which included three years of financial projections with detailed revenue projections, sources and uses of funds, an income statement, a balance sheet and a cash flow statement.

Barrios also helped Velasquez with the narrative part of his business plan and prepared a demographic report and competitor analysis.

“Antonio helped me a great deal,” Velasquez said. “He helped me with all the financial projections and the numbers I had to calculate. He gave me a lot of good advice and showed me what I can learn from other businesses, the expenses and other things I could project onto my business.”

Velasquez received the business loan and opened his second Tacos and Tequila Mexican Grill in 2012. By this time his restaurant had such a strong following that he pursued a third location next to the Atlanta Beltline on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta. On that project Barrios again helped him prepare financial projections and a loan package to obtain financing. He was approved for a $440,000 U.S. Small Business Administration loan, added additional owner equity to complete the project’s funding and opened his third Tacos and Tequilas in April 2014.

With at least 40 full-time employees at each location, Velasquez has created more than 120 new jobs in Georgia since 2010.

“Antonio offers lessons that every small business owner should know. He tells you what the realities are in terms of getting the business started, getting funded, and what you can expect. He opens your eyes to what you will need in order to succeed in your business,” Velasquez said. “I will continue to work with Antonio and the SBDC. That’s part of my strategy to keep growing.”