When Willy Wang and Stacy Tang moved to the Bay Area, Willy had a job in San Francisco, and Stacy was trying to decide what career she wanted to pursue in the U.S. They found a supportive landlord and their current space at 412 22nd Street in Oakland. The space had previously been designed for a Taiwanese restaurant, but construction was only half finished. Willy and Stacy decided that if they could get a loan, they would launch their business.
Willy and Stacy started with traditional banks, then went to smaller community banks, and they were finally referred to Main Street Launch after being turned down several times. “The roster of iconic restaurants supported by Main Street Launch is impressive: Luka’s, Pican, and Commis are successful and well-known businesses that Main Street Launch funded. There are also a lot of up-and-coming restaurants that they’ve funded, which made us feel excited to work with them,” says Willy.
“Main Street Launch was the perfect fit,” remembers Willy. “Our conversations at banks ended quickly since we were first-time restaurant owners and our business wasn’t established yet. At Main Street Launch it was the first time someone asked us about what kind of food we wanted to serve. Their support and backing gave us more confidence that we could actually make the business successful.”
Now with 12 employees, Taiwan Bento is a popular fast-casual Taiwanese restaurant with a California flair serving Uptown Oakland. When they first opened in August 2014, they were lunch-only, primarily serving people working in the neighborhood. Since then, they’ve expanded to evenings and Sundays, serving a crowd that travels to Oakland from all over the Bay Area. “The East Bay has some Taiwanese options,” says Willy, “but what we offer is different, and I think that appeals to our customers.” Because of the business’ growth, in June 2015, Willy began working at the restaurant full-time.
Taiwan Bento works to bridge a lot of cultures, creating an environment that everyone feels comfortable in. As a business owner, Willy advises new businesses establish a good financial cushion: “Restaurants are high risk/high reward. If you really want to pursue it, secure financing that will give you some runway. When you run out of money, you run out of options, so it’s critical to have money available. It can be hard, but this is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”