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Joe and Jonna St. John, co-owners of Joe’s All American Tap Cafe in Vero Beach, Florida.

“We used LivePlan for everything, every little detail that we could come up with.”

The motto at Joe St. John’s new business is, “We’re your hometown bar, wherever that hometown might be.”

Community means everything to Joe. The retired army helicopter pilot spent years away from home while serving, and as he transitioned back to civilian life, he knew that whatever came next would involve his family.

That opportunity came when he closed on a deal to buy a restaurant in Vero Beach, Florida. With his wife, Jonna, and son, Trey, as co-owners, Joe re-opened the business as Joe’s All American Tap Cafe in February 2024.

“I was trying to find something that had a high volume of customer interaction, that provided a service, and a product that helped build community,” Joe said. “It would be the anchor point that allowed my family and me to provide something, a quality service and product for our community, and just build a sense of belonging here.”

Key to turning Joe’s bar and restaurant dream into a reality was his business plan. He had retirement savings, but knew he would need a bank loan to secure the financing needed to cover the typical startup costs for a restaurant.

That’s where LivePlan came in.

Using LivePlan to write his business plan, Joe took the plan to banks. In just a few weeks, he was approved for a $225,000 business loan.

“LivePlan was instrumental in our approval process,” he said.

Step-by-step prompts make creating a polished business plan easier

Joe’s entrepreneurial journey dates back to 2016, when he was working toward his MBA at Florida Institute of Technology.

His capstone project involved pitching an actual business idea, using a basic business planning tool to try to determine if the idea was practical. Thinking of his pilot experience, he considered starting a sea plane-based dive charter business that would include a restaurant and bar for guests.

“LivePlan helps to make your ideas a reality. It’s highly valuable to the planning process.”

After graduating, it was time to give his business proposal a more serious look — starting with the software he would use to validate his idea.

“I was searching for something more robust than what I had used before. That’s how I came across LivePlan,” Joe said. “It’s fantastic. It gave me all the prompts I needed to create my business plan. And the formatting was spectacular.”

Using LivePlan’s pitch, plan, and forecast features, Joe was able to run various scenarios for his proposed business. Between those calculations and conversations with friends experienced in the charter plane business, he determined that, while an exciting opportunity, the charter flight business would be both risky and cost-prohibitive.

But the other aspect of his plan, the restaurant and bar, held promise. So Joe got to writing his business plan, using LivePlan to answer all the questions that lenders would have when he was ready to ask for funding.

“LivePlan helps to make your ideas a reality. It’s highly valuable to the planning process. I don’t know where to start. My MBA was very helpful, but if you have an idea for a hot dog cart, or a sea plane dive charter service, whatever it might be, invest in LivePlan, go through the process, fill in the blanks. They’ll ask the right questions. You might have to do some research, but it’s going to take care of you.”

Joe St. John in front of his business, Joe’s All American Tap Cafe in Vero Beach, Florida.
Joe St. John wrote the business plan in LivePlan, and got approved for a bank loan in just several weeks. They opened for business in February 2024.

LivePlan brings an entrepreneur’s market research and cost projections into focus

At first, Joe’s plan was to go into business with an associate from his military days. But when that partner extended his active duty service, Joe started considering other options.

He got assistance from the Florida Veterans Business Outreach Center, a branch of the U.S. Small Business Administration that provides resources and training to veterans who want to start their own businesses or acquire an existing business. By late summer of 2023, Joe and Jonna were settling on purchasing a business and opening a restaurant and bar concept catering to families.

“The personal things that I wanted to add really made it a much easier process once banks got involved.”

Joe used LivePlan to run the numbers. His son would step in to help manage the business, but he would still need to account for their salaries and the costs of hiring other key personnel like a chef and a front end manager. He researched the industry, and put his best educated guesses about his startup costs and projected revenues into LivePlan, creating monthly sales and expenses reports to project how the business would perform.

“We used LivePlan for everything. Every little detail that we could come up with, all of our market research, all the information compiled about our competitors, was put into our plan via LivePlan’s prompts,” Joe said. “The tables, charts, formatting, and being able to add my logo and personal touches really made it a much easier process once banks got involved.”

Speeding up the loan review process with LivePlan

Joe and Jonna started scouting restaurants around Vero Beach in early September, around the same time Joe was finishing writing his business plan. By mid-October, they’d narrowed down their locations to two restaurant locations that were looking to sell.

They started gathering financial data from the previous business owners of one of the locations, a former restaurant nestled in the heart of downtown.

“We got approved pretty quickly. I was kind of shocked”

With data from the previous owners, Joe completed his business plan in LivePlan, and started contacting banks about a loan. But he wouldn’t have to wait long. Lenders were impressed by the thoroughness of his plan — so much so that he was able to close on an SBA-backed loan in November, just weeks after they started looking.

“We got approved pretty quickly. I was kind of shocked,” he said.

Fast-forward a few months, and Joe’s All American Tap Cafe is serving up cold drinks, hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches, plus specials from the grill and taps.

With his wife and son helping to run the business, and his daughter and daughter-in-law planning to join, Joe feels like he’s got a piece of the dream that ignited his entrepreneurial spark.

LivePlan has helped Joe achieve something even more enduring than his own business. He’s got a legacy for his children to inherit.

“I’ve been doing a lot of stuff in my life where I’ve been away from my family with the military. And we’re secure with my retirement per se, but I’m wanting to leave something for my family. I’m not counting the days off or anything like that. I just want to leave something I can pass on to my kids, something they can own.”

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Joe’s Tap Cafe

Learn how Joe used LivePlan to receive a $225,000 bank loan and start his business.