Matt Basile always knew he wanted to be his own boss. When he was just 26, he launched his culinary brand Fidel Gastro's. He started serving his signature Cuban-styled sandwiches wherever he could, quickly earning the title of Toronto's pop-up king.
Basile's success is well documented. Fidel Gastro's evolved into a food truck, and then he opened a brick and mortar restaurant, Lisa Marie, which serves street food in Toronto. Matt says the stars lined up perfectly for him, but it was an early lesson that put him on the right path.
The Importance of Saving
“My parents always instilled saving money while I was growing up," he says. “I was always putting away money at a young age."
As Basile got older, student loans and debts came into play, but he focused on paying those off so he could prepare himself for the ultimate goal of becoming an entrepreneur.
Oddly enough, before he started Fidel Gastro's, it was his day job as a marketing copywriter at an online stock brokerage that helped him get ready for his eventual business venture. He was exposed to different types of investing products and account types, which helped him build a strategy with his money to work towards his business goals.
With his finances in place, and with the support of his family, friends, and even a former boss, he launched Fidel Gastro's in 2011.
“I was debt-free and able to self-finance the early days of the business," says Basile. “I started in reverse from most food companies. As a pop-up, I had very little overhead and therefore was able to invest in getting my business noticed and really building an audience."
Not having to take a loan helped his business, but that doesn't mean there weren't any risks. Every dollar Matt put into the business was his own, and that meant he had the potential to lose all of it — but it was a risk he was willing to take.
“I can honestly say there's been nothing harder than building something from nothing. It completely changes how you see work," he says. “It's not about punching in or punching out, it's about seizing every opportunity and creating the best impact possible with what you have to work with."
Like any entrepreneur, money was an issue, but Basile's investment strategy changed based on what his priorities were at the time. At the start, any income was put back into the company to continue to build the brand. In fact, for a while he wasn't able to invest at all in his future; he was more concerned about focusing on the moment instead of the long-term.
“Money today doesn't mean money tomorrow. One day you can't keep up with the demand, the next you're trying to make anything work," says Matt. “Food is an incredibly volatile industry, and it really forces us to be creative about how we see ourselves within the industry and about how we generate multiple forms of revenue."
The Business Lifestyle
For Basile, the different revenue streams have come from his food truck, restaurant, cookbook, and TV appearances. This has allowed him to invest money into his employees and into the business. He's now even thinking about purchasing an investment property so he can further diversify his assets.
After all of Matt's success, he believes he's just on chapter one or two of his long-term goal.
For those who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs like Basile, he offers one solid piece of advice:
“Be prepared to work for little to no money while everyone else in your life isn't. It's not a job, it's a lifestyle, and it takes 100% commitment to make it happen."