The hometown poke hero
Miguel Garza noticed a lack of healthy and exciting food options in his hometown, so he decided to create a new and unique food experience.
Miguel Garza graduated from UT Austin with an undergraduate degree in Biology, and he is currently a medical student at UTRGV School of Medicine. Miguel is passionate about bringing healthy, creative food to his hometown. He founded Makai Poke House to provide more options for the residents around the Valley area in Texas.
We interviewed Miguel about his experience creating Makai Poke House as a part of our Longhorn entrepreneur series.
How did you come up with the idea?
MG: I spent most of my life living in South Texas where healthy food options were not always accessible. One time I went to a poke shop in Austin and tried my first poke. At that moment, I realized that there were so many healthy options I could bring to my hometown and engage the people there to try and eat more healthily. I believe that consumers have the right to consume quality food and know what is in the food they put into their bodies.
How did UT play a role in your journey?
MG: In February 2019, I did some self-research on the market of poke. I went to different poke restaurants and took notes while talking to people about why they liked poke. Then, I heard about the Food and Beverage Practicum course offered at UT Austin. I decided to give it a try and register for the course. I got so many useful and enlightening resources from my professor, Marissa. The course helped me develop a much clearer concept, what product I want to present, pricing, fundraising, etc. It was one of the three best courses I have taken throughout college.
Why did you decide to start the company?
MG: I wanted to introduce a new wave of food poke to the valley so people there could enjoy it outside of their regular food options. Another main reason was my desire to develop the concept from my project back in the Food and Beverage Practicum into an actual business.
What advice would you give other aspiring food and beverage entrepreneurs?
MG: Business is difficult, but it is definitely doable! Passion is the key to starting a business and driving you through the hard moments. At the same time, being open to failure, mistakes, and challenges will drive you in the long run. Another piece of advice would be keeping track of the financials. For example, you can think about it from various standpoints: for example, keeping costs as low as possible while maintaining the quality of the product you provide. That might help you prioritize saving costs from small projects like painting the wall, choosing your plates options, etc.
How does COVID-19 impact your current business from an innovation standpoint?
MG: COVID has impacted our business a lot. We had to quickly establish a set of protocols to protect both our staff and customers while providing high-quality food. Our sales went down when Texas declared a state of emergency, but we slowly caught up with our sales by starting contactless delivery and curbside pickup. Even though people could not sit in our restaurant and eat their food, they still got to enjoy the poke bowls we served.
Miguel and his family currently operate the restaurant together, offering an experience unique to their hometown of Pharr, Texas, with “fresh, premium ingredients and delicious flavors.” Their goal is to offer fresh fish in vegetable-forward bowls that take “healthy fast food to new heights.” According to their website, Makai Poke House is “dedicated to helping you live the healthiest lifestyle possible.”
Get inspired by other Longhorn entrepreneurs innovating in the food and beverage space.