One of the hardest things in entrepreneurship is branching out from your first location. It's home, you know it up and down, you know your audience and what it takes to be successful. A second location, a second concept, a second anything can be the springboard from which you build the confidence necessary to tackle anything.
But you know, as an entrepreneur, even achieving one successful venture is insanely tough. Once you have it, once you're proven the opportunity to see if that translates elsewhere will become available.
In fact, places are growing more interested in taking successful concepts from other locations or mediums and seeing if they translate. And it makes sense.
The movie industry has spent the last 15 years creating franchises and sequels with built-in audiences. The thought being that something with a proven track record of success somewhere else will be an easier sell than a brand new concept.
What it takes to create a second location.
When MGM launched its complete redesign of the Monte Carlo earlier this year, the millennial-focused Park MGM made a bet on Los Angeles entrepreneurs. Massively successful nightclub creators The Houston Borthers and food truck all-star Roy Choi were plucked to create the 2700 room casino's signature club and restaurant respectively.
And I met with both of them in January, as they opened, to understand just what goes in to building off your own success.
Choi was one of the founders of the gourmet food truck movement. Kogi quickly became an institution in Los Angeles, levaraging social media to tell people where it would be and create a loyal following of short-ribt taco and kimchi quesadilla enthusiasts.
Choi's Las Vegas, sit-down location is called Best Friend. The visible first part looks like a Korean grocery complete with real everyday items for sale and tacky souveneirs. Walk through a curtain though and it's a 90's hip-hop themed restaurant with a DJ and menus that look like an old high school yearbook from the 90's.
Of course the food is great but the concept, intentionally low key, is a welcome departure for Las Vegas.
"Best Friend was an attempt to use my whole life until that moment as a prism to a larger context of relatability for immigrant and quirky Los Angeles," Choi told me. "Could a restaurant serve as a poem in the most unexpected of places, the Las Vegas strip, and make people smile and be sentimental and love? I'm finding out the answer to that is, yes."
Las Vegas, especially Park MGM, is looking to change the very expectation of what you think it is. Eataly, with now 37 global locations, is the flagship as you walk in to Park MGM. It's the first downtown grocery on the strip, along with multiple small restaurants like each of their locations. But the most important detail is a giant clock that hangs above its entrance. Another first in Vegas, notorious for never letting you know what time it is.
The biggest key is knowing exactly what your audience will expect.
Jonnie and Mark Houston are incredibly friendly fraternal twins that have built over a dozen successful club and speakeasy concepts in Los Angeles from Good Times to Dirty Laundry.
"People have a misconception that we're in the business of selling alcohol, but the reality is we're selling an experience," said The Houston Brothers. "Expanding into any new city allows us to tap into a new group of people and learn from them. Vegas creates a unique challenge for us because we have to find the balance between catering to a local community as well as a global audience of tourists consisting of so many palettes."
As they showed me their first concept outside of Los Angeles, the punk rock themed On The Record, their was a passion in every detail. From a bar that flips in to a stage to lockers that hide private karaoke rooms to a complete hidden bar behind a wall of cassettes. You could see the passion in creating an experience translates to any location or venue.
And that's the common thread that connected both of these entrepreneurs. They are supremely confident in the audience they know. They have a gut feel for what that audience will expect from them and also what will surprise them.
It shows the power that having an audience can bring. Park MGM is betting on Choi and the Houston Brothers to draw not only from Los Angeles but nationally. From the packed rooms I saw in January, the early returns are positive.
If you're looking to eventually expand your operation, everything starts and stops with experience. If you know how to create the right one for the right audience, it will translate anywhere.