Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011
The Road to Palm Springs
When Hossein Hagigholam arrived from Iran in 1975, the 16-year-old teenager barely spoke a word of English. But he had a vision of owning his own restaurant and rolled up his sleeves, literally, to make it real — starting as a dishwasher.
Hagigholam quickly moved up the ranks, working the breakfast, lunch and dinner shifts, and eventually saving enough money to open his own restaurant, a hamburger joint. In short order, he’d saved enough to attract even more capital, $250,000, which he used to open the first Mamacita’s in Kerrville, Texas.
Mamacita’s soon became the busiest Mexican eatery in town, prompting him to open more establishments in nearby cities, culminating with the chain’s largest, in San Antonio, a busy 20,000 square foot establishment. All Mamacita’s restaurants are in high-traffic areas — accessible by at least two main streets.
What sets the restaurant apart is its emphasis on a family atmosphere, healthy fare and quality service. He’s kept prices low during the recession — the average plate costs $10 — even as commodity prices rose over the last two years. He also refused to lay off staff, many of whom have worked at Mamacita’s for 15 years or more. As a result, Hagigholam’s restaurants have kept revenues stable compared to other area restaurants that suffered significantly lower sales.
He’s also felt compelled to give back to the community that helped him achieve his dream, giving 20,000 meals to local high schools and funding Kerrville’s annual fireworks display.