For 17 years, Yasuko Holt has been serving up authentic Japanese cuisine in the Twin Ports. With the help of the Entrepreneur Fund, Holt was able to recently purchase the Duluth building where she owns and operates her restaurant, Zen House.
Can’t Find It? Create It
Yasuko moved to the United States from Tokuyama, Japan when she was just 20 years old.
“Whenever I wanted to eat my food I grew up with, which is Japanese food, I had to go to the cities to get ingredients,” Yasuko said. “So I thought if I started my own business I would be able to eat my own food.”
Since starting her business, Yasuko has rented each of the three spaces her restaurant has been located over the years. For the past seven years, Zen House has been in Duluth’s Woodland neighborhood.
In the fall of 2021, Yasuko was presented the opportunity to purchase the Woodland building from her former landlord. She had dreamed about the possibility of purchasing the building and wanted to seize the opportunity but was unsure about the process. That’s when she reached out to the Entrepreneur Fund.
Navigating the Loan Process
EF loan officer Andrew Finco, whose regular Zen House order is the Yaki Meshi and the Warrior Roll, worked one-on-one with Yasuko to answer her questions. As they navigated the loan process, they worked together to ensure she understood the costs and expenses she could expect with becoming a landlord.
“As we were digging through the application and going through the loan process itself, there were some things that we needed to work on to make sure she was able to afford this building and be able to pay rent and her other bills,” said Andrew. “We do everything we can to ensure that each business owner we work with fully understands a loan’s terms and how the loan will affect their business before moving forward.”
Yasuko’s purchase of her building was made possible in February 2022 through partner loans from the Entrepreneur Fund and the Northland Foundation.
“Andrew was really helpful, tremendously,” said Yasuko. “We have really good communication even after this lending step was over. He’s helped me with a lot of tools like pricing and marketing, too.”
Impact of Owning a Building
Yasuko says she’s looking forward to the financial security owning a building will bring, especially as she thinks about her future retirement and wanting more free time with her family.
“I’m an entrepreneur because I like to be my own boss. I like that freedom, which I don’t have a lot yet, but we’ll get there,” Yasuko said. “I really enjoy coming to work, but I enjoy going home too.”
Along with financial security, Andrew said another benefit of owning the building your business occupies is the added peace of mind that you determine how long you will be in that space, not someone else.
“With Yasuko, she’s got a few tenants that she could take care of and provide housing to so that’s even more of a benefit,” Andrew added. “Also, she’s building legacy in the community and providing a long-term asset for her family down the road.”
If you are a business owner looking to purchase property, you can reach out to your EF advisor or contact our staff by filling out this form. We understand the value in business owners also being property owners and we are committed to partnering with you to achieve your goals.