'Why can't you just stay home and make soup?'

susan_bukacek.top.jpgSusan Bukacek, 45, Racine, Wisc. Then: Communications director at a financial-tech firm. Now: Owner of The Soup, a lunchtime eatery. By Josh Hyatt, contributor


(MONEY Magazine) -- Susan Bukacek's business idea sprang from the lips of her daughter Helena, then 5, one day in fall 2009. "Why can't you just stay home and make soup?" the little girl begged.

At dinner the night before -- at which Bukacek served homemade soup -- the divorced mother of three had shared what she thought was good news: Two months after being laid off, she'd found a job.

But when the kids heard she'd be commuting three hours a day and hiring a nanny, she says, "they were not excited."

Her daughter's plea got the avid home cook thinking about alternatives. Two days later, she began hunting for retail space.

The Soup, which opened last September, serves five options a day (one unusual recipe: Corona Beer Cheddar).

At its current pace, the six-employee shop should gross $200,000 in 2011, Bukacek says, adding, "sometimes I have to sit back and let myself feel the awe."

How she's doing it

1. By borrowing smart.

She funded the startup with loans of $140,000, using her home and stocks as collateral. Working with an accountant, she created a plan to pay off the debt within 36 months. Until then, she's halted college savings and cut back on spending.

2. By hunting bargains.

She bought a rundown building for $76,000, then got her uncle, a retired mason, to oversee renovations. Bukacek also purchased equipment at auctions and furniture from rummage sales: "I got everything for pennies on the dollar."

3. By stretching her severance.

Bukacek, who had formerly earned $100,000 a year, got $40,000 in her exit package. Along with child support, this has largely covered the family's living costs. Next year she hopes to pay herself at least $50,000.  To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.94%3.91%
15 yr fixed3.05%3.07%
5/1 ARM3.05%3.14%
30 yr refi3.94%3.97%
15 yr refi3.10%3.12%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 18,122.75 -40.24 -0.22%
Nasdaq 5,096.29 -10.30 -0.20%
S&P 500 2,120.46 -3.02 -0.14%
Treasuries 2.13 -0.00 -0.05%
Data as of 2:47pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Broadcom Corp 55.75 -1.41 -2.46%
Bank of America Corp... 16.62 -0.11 -0.69%
Avago Technologies L... 140.71 -0.78 -0.55%
Apple Inc 131.66 -0.38 -0.29%
Boston Scientific Co... 18.34 0.35 1.95%
Data as of 2:32pm ET

Sections

GoPro offers system that can shoot virtual reality images using a six camera ball, and says it also plans to offer drone early next year. More

Renewables now account for 9.8% of U.S. energy use, the highest level since the 1930s, when people used a lot more wood. More

Lunchcruit is a new startup that facilitates lunch between employers and prospective employees in a relaxed, zero-commitment environment. More

Karlos Dansby, a linebacker with the Cleveland Browns, is bringing his winning strategy from the football field into the startup arena. More

If social security isn't enough steady income to carry you through retirement, an immediate annuity might be for you. More