Born and raised in Berkeley CA, brothers Oliver and Leo Kremer ’07 started Dos Toros Taqueria to bring a taste of Bay Area burritos to NYC. Armed with a passionate love for burritos, but no actual restaurant industry experience, Leo and Oliver spent over a year developing recipes, finding a location, designing the menu and the restaurant, and hiring their team. Dos Toros opened its first location in late 2009 and will be opening its ninth location in two weeks, in Manhattan’s financial district.
Cal alum Leo took time to answer a few questions from Berkeley Innovators about how he and Oliver went from Berkeley entrepreneurs to New York restaurateurs.
Q. What have you carried from your Berkeley experience to your work in innovation/entrepreneurship?
My time at Berkeley was very focused. I had taken a few years off after high school to pursue a music career, but I ultimately decided to go back to school at a community college and then transfer to Cal. I was able to create my own major through the inter-disciplinary studies program, and I think that was a nice taste of the responsibility of creating structure and defining a goal for yourself.
Q. Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently at Cal, or what programs/activities/etc. would you have taken advantage of to prepare for your career in innovation?
I would have focused more on the people and connections I was making. There are so many fascinating people who attend Berkeley and having a broad network of friends and acquaintances is a huge asset when starting any new business.
Q. What advice would you offer students just beginning their careers in the startup world, either as founders or as early team members?
Don’t worry too much about your title or official responsibilities, worry about helping to solve thorny problems, large and small, that will help move the company forward.
Q. As an entrepreneur, what have you learned from your startup experience that informs which ideas you choose to pursue as opportunities arise? What can aspiring entrepreneurs do to increase their ability to succeed in the startup world?
I think it’s important to have a strong sense of why you’re doing what you’re doing and then distill that down to the simplest most powerful mission you can. Then you can use that as a lens through which to view new opportunities or ideas and decide if they’re worth focusing on.
Q. What is the hardest thing about your work in a growing company? What keeps you up at night?
The larger your company grows the more people you feel a responsibility to. You want to make sure that your decisions impact the team in a positive way, and that can be a lot of pressure
Q. How did you bounce back from your early failures and use those experiences to fuel your later successes?
I think you learn that life goes on despite setbacks, so you learn to stay on a more even keel and not overreact. That goes for successes as well.
Q. As an entrepreneur, you're told to push through barriers and face down rejection. How do you know when it's time to pivot or sunset a project you're working on? That can be hard.
Typically your gut starts telling you something doesn’t feel aligned or isn’t making sense. Run the situation by someone you respect and by the end of the conversation you’ll typically have more clarity, even just through listening to yourself explain the problem.
Click here for more on Leo and Oliver's story and the unique Dos Toros culture.