A City concierge for small busineses The City of Minneapolis Small Business and Innovation teams are helping entrepreneurs connect with the resources they need to grow their businesses

The City’s new Small Business Team has helped Minneapolis entrepreneur Tomme Beevas navigate the regulatory and permitting process as he expands his popular Eat Street restaurant Pimento Jamaican Kitchen.

In turn, Beevas has also provided great tips and insight for City staff about ways to better streamline processes for small business owners.

He has recently expanded Pimento’s kitchen, added a patio in the back of the restaurant at 2524 Nicollet Ave. S. and plans to open a Jamaican rum bar in the space next door to his eatery. He also signed a lease for another Pimento Jamaican Kitchen in St. Paul. He runs the business with his younger cousin Rohan Hugh and former neighbor, Yoni Reinharz.

Beevas, a former Cargill executive who lives in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood, has worked closely with Zoe Thiel, a program manager for the City’s Innovation and Small Business teams. Even for someone with an MBA and a strong business background like Beevas, assistance from Thiel has proven beneficial to better understand the City’s rules for restaurants.

Tomme Beevas and Zoe Thiel next to the Pimento Jamaican Kitchen food truck.

“There is no reason business owners need to know the intricacies of the City’s internal organizational chart,” Thiel said.

That’s one of the roles of the Small Business Team—to help connect startups with key City staff that can help them quickly get the approvals they need to get their businesses up and running. It can be especially challenging for food businesses to launch since they need to meet with several different City departments.

The team has also been doing direct outreach to businesses in the community, providing information about the City’s Sick and Safe and Municipal Minimum Wage ordinances and collecting feedback about common challenges small business owners face.

“It’s really important for business owners to have a human face to the City,” Thiel said.

Thiel helped Beevas gather key City staff members who needed to weigh in on Pimento’s patio expansion so he didn’t have to meet with each person individually. Beevas initially applied for a license for a 20-seat outdoor patio for Pimento Jamaican Kitchen in May and got approvals in August.

“We’ve transformed the space into a really cool oasis in the heart of the city,” he said.

Beevas got the idea for Pimento Jamaican Kitchen in 2004 while living in Washington, D.C. He wondered why it was so easy to find Indian, Thai and Chinese restaurants, but not Jamaican food. So he got to work on a business plan to make the food more universal with the recipes inspired by his grandmother Sylvia “Baby Lue” Jones who taught him how to cook in her West Kingston kitchen.

“I’m taking my grandmother’s basic recipes and using chef-inspired techniques,” he said.

Beevas launched the business venture with his neighbor Yoni Reinharz in 2012. They got their start at the Bryn Mawr Garage Sale, giving away free food in exchange for people following Pimento Jamaican Kitchen on social media and providing feedback.

“We’ve been building a grassroots social media campaign ever since,” he said.

One year later, the business got cast in Food Network’s reality show “Food Court Wars” and won the competition. As a result, the restaurant got its first location rent-free for a year in Burnsville Center and $10,000 for other capital expenses. Beevas was also able to leave Cargill and focus on his passion full time.

The restaurant moved to the Nicollet location in 2016.

Tomme Beevas inside the future home of the Jamaican rum bar next to Pimento Jamaican Kitchen.

“Pimento has been the type of business that allowed me to test it out slowly,” he said. “So when I was able to step away from Cargill, the car was already running and all I had to do was jump in.”

Beevas has provided helpful suggestions for the City through his work with the Innovation and Small Business teams. For one, he’d like to see small businesses fill out less paperwork. “I would love to see a simple one-page application form,” he said.

“Pimento’s collaboration with the city has already helped identify ways to make the lives of small-business owners much easier,” Beevas said. “One such example is the new Small Business Portal that makes it far easier to figure out where to get the answers to start or expand a business in Minneapolis.”

The City’s Innovation Team just launched the new Small Business Portal, an online tool with startup guides for six common types of businesses in the city – restaurants, cafes and bars; daycare centers; catering businesses; contractors; food truck and carts; and barbershops, hair salons and nail salons. The portal includes information in English, Arabic, French, Hmong, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese.

The City's new Small Business Portal -- business.minneapolismn.gov

The guides include information about creating a business plan, finding a location for the business, registering it and securing the appropriate licenses and permits, among other things.

“It’s rare to live in a city so committed to improving how it partners with business. The Innovation and Small Business teams can really help make Minneapolis the best city in which to do business globally,” Beevas said. “This unique public-private partnership puts Minneapolis on the cutting edge of working with small businesses. The employees on the front lines as well as those in administrative roles are showing their commitment to working smarter together.”

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