By Jensen Toussaint, Al Dia
Entrepreneurship was a path that Daniel Hernandez saw for himself starting at a very young age. As a middle school student, he used to sell candy to his classmates for $0.25, embarking on a venture that would plant the seeds to his career destination today.
Whether it was selling candy, having a paper route or later working at a restaurant, Hernandez envisioned ways he could both make money and also help his community along the way.
“Ever since I was in middle school, I always knew that I was going to be starting a business,” Hernandez said in an interview with AL DÍA.
Fast forward just over a decade later, and Hernandez is a successful entrepreneur who operates with the targeted goal of helping small business owners.
Most recently, he launched The Apptopus, a startup virtual management platform that brings online orders, delivery services and prepaid phone order processes in a simple and efficient manner to help small business owners and restaurateurs maintain services and increase revenue.
The endeavor was heavily influenced by Hernandez’s personal experiences and journey.
From Mexico to Santa Cruz
Hernandez was born and raised in Mexico, before being brought to the United States when he was seven years old, settling in Santa Cruz, California.
His family held previous ties to the Bay and nearby areas, as his grandfather was one of the contracted braceros from Mexico, who worked in agricultural labor all over California during the 1940s and 1950s.
Both of Hernandez’s parents are small business owners. His mother started a house cleaning service, which at one point expanded to 40 residences and offices. Hernandez, along with his father and younger brother, would often help out.
However, while the housing cleaning business brought about success, her passion was in another area.
“My mom has always had a gift for making food,” said Hernandez, especially praising her Oaxacan dishes.
“She always had a dream about opening a restaurant and being able to get a lot of people into her restaurant and feed them, so that they can enjoy her food,” he added.
Oftentimes, Hernandez would accompany his mother to events where she’d set up booths and make food for people to buy. Experiencing that made Hernandez also fall in love with cooking, later opening the door to his entry into the restaurant business.
Eventually, Hernandez’s mother decided to sell her house cleaning business to follow her dream of opening a restaurant.
Hernandez’s mother officially opened the doors to her own restaurant in early 2020, with her son’s help.
However, just weeks after her grand opening, the COVID-19 pandemic started making waves across the globe.
“That really kind of almost took her out because she couldn’t even get any people into the restaurant. She was struggling … [and] it was a brand new location, too,” said Hernandez.
With takeout and delivery as the only options during the onset of the pandemic, Hernandez’s mother had to adjust.
Initially, Hernandez advised her to utilize third-party delivery companies, such as DoorDash, Uber Eats or GrubHub to help increase revenue. However, it proved challenging.
Hernandez noted how these companies would often upload the wrong menu, not include the restaurant’s contact number and provide very little instruction in how to set everything up properly.
“It wasn’t a very good process,” said Hernandez.
So, he decided to step in and help out.
“I learned that she was not the only one facing these problems,” he said. “A lot of restaurants out there are also facing the same issues.”
While the third-party delivery companies were generating a lot of orders, restaurants were losing revenue as a result of commission fees, erroneous charges and other deductions.
He recalled one time his mother was charged $250 in erroneous fees alone, while only making about $1,000 in total for the week.
While working to help his mother work through those challenges, Hernandez started getting requests from other Latino restaurant owners in the community.
“All of a sudden, I kept getting calls and I think in a matter of like 30 days, I ended up getting 20 restaurants that needed this help,” said Hernandez.
After getting overwhelmed with having to do all the various tasks on his own, Hernandez began to form a team of individuals with strengths in different areas who could help him provide the necessary help to the restaurant owners.
“I managed to get a couple other people to help me build a software so that we could … manage everything from a consolidated dashboard,” he said.
“That made it a lot easier to be able to onboard restaurants onto our software and then pull and send data over these platforms, so that we can manage their restaurants and configure them in a way that would make them not lose money,” Hernandez added.
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