Investing in your ideas is of course risky too, but can have high potential returns. Perhaps the rough analogue among securities would be a call option: inherent leverage on the upside if events go your way, versus the possibility your investment will expire worthless if they don't. Today I found myself in Manhattan with some free time on my hands, after a business meeting canceled, so I visited a couple of 'call options' that worked out for their investors: Sarita's Mac & Cheese, and Joe.
I'd been to Sarita's Mac & Cheese (S'MAC, for short), a few times before. Sarita and (her husband) Caesar Ekya were both engineers before quitting their jobs and starting S'Mac. You can read more about that in their bios here, but I was fortunate to hear the story from Sarita's mother once. I went to S'MAC a few times the year it opened, and back then, I'd always see Sarita and Caesar behind the counter. One time, while waiting for an order, and older Indian woman sipping coffee at a table nearby said something to me. We started talking, and she explained that she was Sarita's mother, and gave me the scoop behind the place. Today was the first time I'd been to S'MAC in several months, and business apparently has been going well: now they have an additional storefront on the same street, to handle the takeout and delivery business. Here's a short video clip from the S'MAC site of Sarita and Caesar telling their story:
The other business, Joe, I hadn't been to before, but had read about a few years ago in this New York Times article, "Forging a Coffee Chain Just a Few Links Long". The founder of Joe, Jonathan Rubinstein, was, according that article, a talent agent before starting the business. His idea was that a higher-end, local coffee place could successfully compete with Starbucks1. I actually stopped by two Joe outposts: first, the one on East 13th Street, which was so crowded there was no place to sit, and then the one on Waverly Place in the West Village, which started to fill up after I got there. The espresso at Joe was better than Starbucks -- it had the rich, chocolate-like feel of a well-prepared Illy espresso. My palate isn't refined enough to differentiate it beyond that, but suffice it to say it was good. No WiFi at Joe though, perhaps to discourage customers from lingering too long?
1This point was also made by letter writer to the Financial Times, as I noted in this post last December.