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Startup nearly ready to start up
By Jim Kendall | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 6/30/2010 11:59 PM

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Reluctant entrepreneurs who have decided that starting their own business must beat a never-ending job search will find Paul Chaudury's experience interesting.

The good news is that Chaudury's Fresh D'Lite, a restaurant concept built on healthy, fresh fast food, is closing in on a late July opening in the upscale Geneva Commons shopping center in Geneva.

It's been a long haul:

• Chaudury "looked for a year" after being riffed by Downers Grove-based Sara Lee Corp. in 2008, "but it was hard to find the same type of job," he says. "I consulted, worked with a few restaurants to improve their meals and got a taste of the restaurant business."

That taste, a commitment to nutritious foods that he and his wife share and research that tells Chaudury consumers want fast and fresh when it comes to eating out are behind Fresh D'Lite's "100 percent healthy without losing the taste" concept.

"But what keeps me awake at night is that we haven't done it yet," Chaudury says. "What will happen when they eat the food? How do I manage the consistency of the food and the taste?"

• Financing has been a problem.

The institution that is Fresh D'Lite's everyday bank "showed extremely high interest and said I had a wonderful PowerPoint presentation," Chaudury says. "Four months later they denied my loan because they had a limit on restaurant financing."

Ultimately, First Capital Bank, a Schaumburg unit of First National Bank of Colorado, Paonia, was impressed enough, Chaudury says, to tell him, "you put in half, we'll put in half."

The bank's half is somewhat north of $200,000.

• Chaudury's lease at the popular lifestyle center "is a 75-page document that took (lawyers) two months to negotiate," he says. "There's also a 100-page manual on what I can do."

Still, Chaudury "has a lot going for him," according to Kriss Knowles, director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Elgin Community College. "He was high up in the corporate world and has lots of connections, lots of people to talk to."

"The difficulty," Chaudury explains, "is that I don't have the everyday restaurant background." To help atone for that missing experience, Chaudury has developed an advisory committee of 15 restaurant owners up and down Randall Road.

"If we were in the corporate world, they'd be scared to talk with me," Chaudury says. "But they help a lot. I've never been refused when I've asked for advice."

The SBDC's Knowles is another individual who has helped. The two connected last August.

"Kriss is the only one who held my hand," Chaudury says. "He told me 'This is how to incorporate, this is how to negotiate.'"

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