Social Marketing Helps Restaurant 'Squeeze' Customers In . / Credit: Social Media Image via Shutterstock

Misty Young may not have taken the traditional route to becoming a business owner, but her business journey can teach small business owners an important lesson about the role of perseverance in business.

"For a dozen years, my husband and I had dreamed and talked about owning not any restaurant, but a particular restaurant — the Squeeze In," said Misty Young, president of the Squeeze In and author of "From Rags to Restaurants" (Advantage, 2013). "When the opportunity to purchase the Squeeze In serendipitously appeared in our lives, we did whatever it took to fulfill the dream. We cashed in, and leveraged and borrowed everything we could to make the dream come true. That was 10 years ago."

In the 10 years since Young and her husband made that decision, the restaurant has performed better than they could have ever imagined. The Squeeze In has been featured on Food Network's "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" and grown to have multiple locations, thanks to an impressive social media marketing strategy. BusinessNewsDaily spoke with The Restaurant Lady about how her business has grown, the top challenges she has faced in her journey and how she has been able to overcome those challenges.

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BusinessNewsDaily: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Misty Young: Oddly, I'm not one of those entrepreneurs who had an early vision, drive or focus. I was always just a happy-go-lucky kid, interested in a wide variety of topics, somewhat aloof about school. I always knew I wanted to go to college. That was my big goal. Outside that, I wasn't focused on anything but being happy. I fulfilled my college goal and allowed life to open up and unfold as it did — until I became an entrepreneur; then, all bets were off. I became insatiable about building business: systems, growth, continued refinement, development.

BND: Can you talk a little about your businesses and how you got your start?

MY: For me, owning the Squeeze In was like coming full circle in life. Feeding people is really meeting them at their moment of need, their desire — it's very real and worthy. In the 10 years we've had our business, we have had a number of challenges in getting to where we are today with four successful locations in the Lake Tahoe/Reno, Nev., region and a fifth opening in San Diego next year as we begin our larger expansion. The Squeeze In is currently in the development phase to offer franchises this fall.

BND: What's the best part of owning your own business?

MY: I control my own time. Of course, that means I have to be as disciplined as possible to accommodate everything I want to accomplish and to do all the extracurricular activities. I'm a bit of a freak about learning, so being in control of my time means I get to pick what I learn and when.

BND: What's the biggest mistake you've made as an entrepreneur?

MY: Getting too far ahead in major work and massive organizational effort, incurring expense, without a contract in hand. I no longer move forward substantially without a contract in place. If it's not written down, it doesn't exist.

BND: What was your main motivation in starting this business?

MY: I wanted to control my own time and have the opportunity to build something meaningful. I love growth, development and learning, so being an entrepreneur was the perfect vehicle to meet those needs. I wanted to be of service to my family, associates, guests and communities. I love the idea that I'm able to set up something of value with a lasting impact today and in the future. How fulfilling!

BND: What previous experiences helped you in that journey?

MY: Without question, graduating from college — even though my degree isn't directly relevant to the restaurant industry — taught me to proceed with plans, outlines, revisions and, ultimately, to persist to meet deadlines. I learned how to start, improve and finish a project. Additionally, my work in politics and public relations over the years helped me understand and meet the needs of other people and to be of service to them.

BND: What was the biggest challenge you encountered, and how did you overcome it?

MY: We were surfing with the whole nation and riding the big waves until the economic tsunami, which began in 2007, nearly drowned us in 2008. We had to re-evaluate our entire business situation, and gear up for even better systems and efficiency. I personally negotiated our debt, satisfying every single creditor, and set up payment plans, being kind and courteous all the while. We paid hefty tax consequences for settling our debts, but we made it out the other side with greater appreciation and respect for both aspects of the economic equation.

BND: What is the best bit of advice you have for other entrepreneurs?

MY: Here are a few:

  • Be thankful and appreciative right now, regardless of your situation. Find and focus on the things in your life and business that are going well, and express your gratitude today, now. Gratitude is attractive.
  • Put leadership success on your agenda. If you actually put your learning and leadership growth on your calendar, making time to grow, you can become a better leader in your company. My mentor, John Maxwell says, "Everything rises and falls on leadership," and I know it to be true.
  • Pay attention to your operations. Systematize everything. If the business isn't turnkey, if it can't run without you, it's a glorified job. Make systematizing and training your associates a priority. Work on your business, and get out of working in it.
  • Your financials are critical. Unless you're a CPA, get them prepared by a professional regularly, and review them. Pay constant attention to your prime cost, the nonfixed costs of your business; set and achieve your targets. What gets measured and reported improves the fastest.
  • Your products or services must be reliable and consistent. Serve your guests, clients, customers, patients — whatever you call them — with courtesy, appreciation, respect and kindness.
  • Be smart at marketing. Use multimedia tools to timely communicate in relevant, meaningful ways.

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.