Dan Lagueux was born and raised in Quebec. After serving in the Canadian Army as a drill sergeant, meeting his wife and starting a family, he came to the United States to join his brother-in-law’s business, selling granite countertops.
“It’s a natural progression,” Lagueux joked. “Many restaurant owners start out in countertops.”
So, how do you go from selling them to serving on them?
One night, Lagueux came home from work and paused as he was passing his daughter’s room. Hearing her crying, he opened the door to ask what was wrong. Tears in her eyes, she told him that her friends had made fun of her when she’d told them her dream was to become a famous soccer player one day. Dad-mode kicked in and Lagueux sat down to console his little girl, reassuring her that her friends’ opinions shouldn’t stop her from pursuing what she wanted to do with her life.
Then came the moment which would change everything.
Looking up at Dan, his daughter asked with all the simplicity and gravity in the world, “What’s your dream?”
He told her that it was to open a restaurant.
“Then why aren’t you doing it,” was the question – the challenge.
Floored, Dan went back downstairs and started drawing up a business plan that night.
As any entrepreneur will know, while taking that first step in going from dream to reality is one of the most important, what follows is the beginning of a process of learning and experimentation that will continue on for the rest of their careers.
Launching New England’s Tap House Grille in Hooksett is what Dan started his entrepreneurial journey with.
He applied every ounce of elbow grease he had to researching the ins and outs of owning a restaurant. Observation is key, he noted. He watched what others in the industry were doing, how they appealed to their clientele and what it was that made their businesses special. Yet, he knew there was more to it that he wouldn’t be able to figure out on his own.
He started searching for mentorship. After finding SCORE’s website, he reached out and they paired him with Dick Kuhl. At their first meeting Dan laid out exactly what he was looking for.
“I don’t want a yes-man,” he said. Looking Dick in the eye, Dan stipulated that their partnership would only work if his mentor was willing to take all his plans and tear them to shreds. He wanted someone to point out every flaw, every crazy idea that would be bad for his business. Dick agreed to Dan’s terms and together they tackled a business plan.
Working with open-minded investors, building relationships and growing a community to bolster support, bluffing when he had to and making sure promises were delivered upon, Dan made his dream come true.
Within three years he’s built a strong, viable business. His portfolio of beers has become iconic, embracing a distinctly New England lineup. He even built a new farming business in order to supply the kitchen with fresh, high-quality organic produce.
After deciding to establish a farm, Dan went back to the process of research and learning. Once again, he called on SCORE and teamed up with mentor, Glenn Boston, to figure out what he didn’t know he needed to know.
In 2018, Hip Peas Farm was launched and the produce Dan grew began to be plated up at New England’s Tap House Grille. Not only was he able to ensure the quality of the restaurant’s ingredients, getting into the farming industry allowed him to expand his comfort zone and tap into a growing appreciation and respect for environmental stewardship through sustainable practices.
“I enjoy life in creation,” Dan said. “If I go to the beach, I build a sandcastle.” And built he has, though he’s certainly not done. For an entrepreneur, the creation process isn’t ever truly complete and Dan embraces it.
He looks to inspire others with dreams and the drive to take that step towards making them reality. Looking around at what he’d created, he shared the most significant nugget of wisdom gleaned from working hard to start not one, but two successful businesses:
“Ask, ‘where do ya wanna be,’” he said. “If you don’t know what you’re going for, no one can help you.”