Meet Berwyn’s Entrepreneurs: Salvador Figueroa
Name: Salvador Figueroa
Hometown: Cuernavaca Morelos, Mexico
Current Residence: Berwyn, IL
I was born in North Platte, Nebraska, but grew up in Morelos, Mexico. When I was 15 years old, my family decided to move back to the United States. As the oldest of three, I had to help my parents at an early age.
For as long as I can remember, my mom has been involved in the food industry. She worked long hours in and out of the house to provide for us.
After high school, I worked in corporate sales and marketing for 20 years. Although I had a career set in place, I always made sure to make time to help at our family restaurant.
I knew that the restaurant had a lot of growth potential, so two and a half years ago I made the tough decision to put all my energy into our family restaurant, La Lupita. This transition was one of the best decisions I had made for my career and family. As a family man, I pride myself in putting my family first. I am a proud father to my two children, Isabel and Emiliano. When I’m not working, I enjoy working out and traveling with my family.
In 2003, my mother, Lupita started her food business by going door to door and selling her amazing cuisine. She would whip up delicious lunch plates at home and deliver them during the lunch hour to local businesses. One day, while she was walking down Cermak Road, she noticed a small 4-table storefront with a commercial kitchen for rent. On May 22, 2004, that 4-table restaurant became our family’s pride and joy—La Lupita Restaurant! Since then, the dining floor has expanded to 15 tables. Our restaurant has been recognized around Chicagoland, including a feature by Channel 9 WGN as one of Chicago’s Best for Mexican comfort food and by the Chicago Tribune for Favorite Appetizer. Recently, La Lupita catered Rick Bayless’ James Beards Awards after-party.
Describe yourself using 3 words.
I think these are more than words, but core values that can set you up for success in any life goal:
Team-oriented: Whether you’re working for big corporations or small businesses, it’s hard to accomplish something on your own. You have to recognize that it’s a team effort.
Inquisitive: I’m always trying to find ways to be more efficient, proactive, or creative. In the past two weeks, I’ve been shadowing general managers from other restaurants. When you expose yourself to new things it gets you out of your comfort zone and helps you learn. I’ve learned that La Lupita has a long way to go and that excites me.
Committed: I am committed to learning and helping others. I am where I am because of the support I received and as a result, I want to ensure I can do that for others.
What inspires you?
I get inspired when I see change and growth, especially within our restaurant. I love seeing people take accountability and take initiative to make a change. It is very rewarding for me when I find people who are on the same page as I am and work daily to be better.
Tell us something that people might not know about you.
When I moved back to the Unites States, learning English at the age of 15 was one of the hardest things I ever did. Colors were especially difficult.
Berwyn is our hometown and a community that has helped my family grow together. My whole family lives here. The support that we’ve been getting from the people at City Hall has been great. Whether it’s licensing, inspections, permits or anything else we need, they’ve made it easy for us to achieve our goals. If you look at where Berwyn was 10-15 years ago, you will notice that the city has really had some redevelopment. There’s been a real effort to bring more businesses and visitors to this area. The city clearly wants to grow, and you can see that.
What is one question you get asked repeatedly about your profession?
Do you cook? The answer is: No! My mom is the best cook; I’m not good at it. She’s been trying to teach me, but I’m never going to get to her level. I help with the prep work and whatever else is needed in the kitchen. I do mostly management and finding talent for the restaurant. I feel very confident and very proud that we have a good team, but there is always work to do.
Where is one of the most interesting places you’ve been?
Cuba was a unique experience. We were there for about a week. When you’re there, you feel like you’re taking a journey back in time. The culture there is so unique. We have so many more freedoms that the people in Cuba. Rather than complaining about the restrictions they have, they just make the most out of life.
If you could collaborate with any person on a personal project, who would that be and why?
Danny Meyer. He’s a restaurateur in New York and he has a different philosophy than most in this industry. He values employees as #1 and customers as #2. He believes that the team should be the most important. If you take care of your own people first, they will take care of you and take care of the customers.
I first learned about him when I decided to move into the family business. I happened to come across some of his YouTube videos and I fell in love with the first speech I heard. I started watching more of his lectures and looking for his books. I’m in love with his ideology and the way he runs his businesses—it’s completely different than the norm.
What gets you through a rough day?
A good workout. It always does the trick.
What skill would you like to master and why?
Communication. I feel that communication is key everywhere you go and in today’s world we have endless forms of it. We must adapt and be open to change in order to stay concise, accurate and be able to appropriately deliver a message. Whenever you ask something from your team, you have to know how you’re going to connect with people. When we have a meeting and we’re asking the team for something, you need to know how to properly ask for it. With all of the legalities involved in running a business, you have to be very delicate. You must learn to read different personalities and how they’ll respond to you. You have to put in the effort and time on how to properly communicate, no matter the time or place.