New Cape Girardeau Restaurant Recognized by Missouri Business Development Program

Photo of Steve Mills

Steve Mills, with his wife Catherine (not pictured), owns the new Joey’s Seafood and Grill of Cape Girardeau.(Scroll down to see a larger photo)

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

March 7, 2006 – The University of Missouri’s Business Development Program recently recognized Joey’s Seafood and Grill of Cape Girardeau, Mo., at their second annual Client Showcase and Legislative Breakfast.

The restaurant’s owners, Steve and Catherine Mills, were honored along with representatives from more than a dozen other outstanding Missouri companies at the breakfast on Feb. 9 in the State Capitol Rotunda in Jefferson City, Mo.

The Millses are clients of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Southeast Missouri State University. Southeast holds a contract from the University of Missouri for its Small Business Development Center program.

Larry Cooper, SBDC business specialist at Southeast, nominated the Millses for the recognition, which is made by the Business Development Program annually to acknowledge clients’ outstanding achievement in business management throughout the state.

At the event hosted by Missouri Small Business Development Centers, the Millses and other honorees met with legislators, including Sen. Jason Crowell and Rep. Nathan Cooper, to discuss their products and services, and were recognized for their contributions to the economic development of the state of Missouri.

When the Millses opened the door to Joey’s, a franchise, on March 6, it was the culmination of a year-long process devoted to hard research and financial planning.  

Venturing into the depths of a new franchise business isn’t foreign to the couple. They’ve already successfully owned and operated a franchise tax service, but a restaurant was a new type of business.

“A restaurant was Steve’s dream,” says his wife Catherine. “Neither of us have much experience in the restaurant industry, but we both have considerable management experience.”

Steve worked at Biokyowa, Inc. for 22 years, most recently as operations manager. The Millses bought the local franchise of Jackson Hewitt Tax Service in 1997. Catherine managed the office full-time for the past four years until they sold it last September. Proceeds from that sale have helped them pursue their plans for the restaurant.

“We knew that we wanted a franchise for our next business, regardless of what industry that might be in,” Catherine explains. “We had worked with a great franchise system in the past and knew what a benefit that was. Of the franchise opportunities available, a restaurant made the most sense for us.”

Back in September 2004, Steve and Catherine attended “Discovery Day” in St. Paul, Minn., the U.S. headquarters for Joey’s, a Canadian-based company. The Millses were impressed with the details they uncovered including start-up costs and the training program. They also “mystery shopped” several St. Paul locations to learn about Joey’s from the customers’ point-of-view.

“We were blown away. The service was fast and friendly and the food was phenomenal,” Catherine said.

Finally, to make sure we didn’t let our excitement sign the franchise agreement, I called every Joey’s franchisee or general manager in the country to make sure that it also made business sense. Fortunately, there were only about 15 franchises at that time.”

So, on to the next step: financing. But they needed help to prepare for this stage. That’s when they sought the services of Cooper and the Small Business Development Center at Southeast Missouri State University.

“I needed help writing a business plan and applying for an SBA (Small Business Administration) guaranty for a loan,” says Catherine. “I had never written a business plan before or even applied for a business loan.”

Cooper reviewed Catherine’s initial effort on the business plan.

“He gave suggestions on what to change, which was most of it, and what I needed to support better, which was the rest of it,” she recalls. “He quickly identified areas that I hadn’t even thought to research and gave me tips on where and how to find that information.”

Her SBDC guru also assisted with the financing paperwork and the SBA guaranty application.

“After seeing that package of forms and what was required to fill them out, I am not sure that I would have ever gotten the SBA guaranty without his help,” Catherine says. “I really believe that it was Larry’s experience and expertise that made the entire process so flawless.”

After the SBA provided the guaranty and the bank made the loan, Cooper had one final piece of advice for his clients.

“He said that now that I had spent a year gathering information and creating my budget, it is imperative that I stick with it: if one expense goes up, then you have to make up for it somewhere else,” she recounted. “That’s one of those common sense things that you write down and tape to your computer or you’ll lose sight of it at the first turn.”

What does Cooper think about his client’s future as Cape Girardeau’s newest seafood restaurateurs?

“I’m confident in their abilities, and I know Catherine and Steve are very grateful and relieved that this opportunity developed the way it has, so they can get back in a situation where they are working together,” Cooper says.

And not only will they be working together at their Cape Girardeau restaurant, they plan to open Joey’s restaurants in Paducah, Ky., and Carbondale, Ill., over the next three years. Joey’s Seafood and Grill in Cape Girardeau is located at 155 Seimer’s Drive, Suite 8 in Lambert Plaza.

For more information on the services of the Missouri SBDC program, contact Larry Cooper at (573) 986-6084 or ljcooper@semo.edu.

Missouri State Sen. Jason Crowell, left, congratulates Steve and Catherine Mills of Cape Girardeau, owners of the new Joey’s Seafood and Grill of Cape Girardeau. The Millses are clients of Southeast’s Small Business Development Center and were recently recognized at the second annual Client Showcase and Legislative Breakfast of the University of Missouri’s Business Development Program.

(View a larger photo of the Millses and Senator Crowell)