Alum expands business with help from ASBTDC

Rafael Alvarez always knew he wanted to start his own business, but he didn’t know that one day it would be a successful restaurant.

“I had lots of ideas of what I could start up, but nothing ever made it past the concept stage,” he said. “It wasn’t until my uncle visited from Mexico that he planted the seed in my head. He has successful homemade Mexican ice cream shops all over Mexico. He suggested we do something similar in Hot Springs.”

Alvarez was a junior at Henderson State University in 2010 when he opened Nom Noms, a “Mexican ice cream shop,” in Hot Springs.

After opening the shop, Alvarez soon noticed that sales declined when summer ended.

“I knew Hot Springs was a tourist town, but I didn’t realize just how much business was coming from out of town,” he said. “I knew we would have to sell food to get us through, but I didn’t want to do another traditional Mexican restaurant.”

While doing research, Alvarez learned that fast casual dining, a hybrid of fast food restaurant speed with sit-down restaurant service and quality of food, was gaining in popularity.

“There was nothing like it in Hot Springs,” he added, “and I knew this would give us the advantage I was seeking.”

Alvarez said his mother and grandmother are “in charge” of developing the recipes and training the cooks. They still work everyday to ensure the quality stays consistent.

Building on the success of his Hot Springs restaurant, Alvarez recently opened a second restaurant in McKinney, Texas. He said he plans to begin the process of franchising in Texas and Arkansas, where people are lining up for the opportunity.

Alvarez credits much of his success to Henderson’s Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC). “The center played a significant role in the initial startup. They helped me put together a business plan to pitch to investors to help raise the capital needed to open our doors,” he said.

The ASBTDC helped Alvarez form another business plan to pitch to investors.

“I was able to secure $250,000 from a successful Henderson alumnus to build my dream Nom Noms in a booming location in McKinney,” he said.

Alvarez, who is originally from Orange County, Calif., has been living in Hot Springs since 2004. He graduated from Henderson in 2011 with a degree in business administration.