While he’s been a Brooklyn resident for more than a decade, Inoussa Campaore’s inspiration for his business’s name derives from his childhood memories in Burkina Faso, where he and his family sold baskets to tourists. The name “Zaca” means “house” in Moore, one of the common spoken languages in Burkina Faso. It’s also a reference to Zaca Restaurant, a restaurant in Burkina Faso which played live music every night. When Inoussa would befriend a curious tourist, this is the spot he would show them.
Now that he has found a new home in Brooklyn, Inoussa wants to bring the tourists and locals alike to another spot: his very own restaurant. It will only be a matter of weeks before Zaca Café opens and the neighborhood, quite literally, cannot control their anticipation. On a Sunday afternoon, as Inoussa washes windows beneath the inviting Zaca Café awning, he is approached every few minutes by a curious passerby inquiring about the café’s opening.
A Culinary Passion
For several years, it has been Inoussa’s dream to take his passion and skills for cooking to the next step and open up his own restaurant. His culinary passion was realized at his first and only job upon moving to the United States at Choice Market, a café in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn where he began as a dishwasher. After a few years, he was given the opportunity to begin cooking. It was this experience, along with the extensive mentorship he received from his boss, that allowed him to realize his passion for cooking and his dream of starting his own business. Inoussa saw how much the customers loved Choice Market and the positive impact that a local café with a wide menu selection had on the neighborhood, and realized he wanted to bring this sort of atmosphere to his own neighborhood in Bedford Stuyvesant. His boss at Choice market, who provided consistent encouragement and guidance, became a role model for Inoussa to start his own café. After 12 years of working at Choice Market, Inoussa felt ready to embark on his entrepreneurial dream.
“I love cooking. I love everything about it. I like to create something: a menu, my own recipe. I’m really happy when I create something and the people love it and ask for more.”
Despite Inoussa’s strong culinary skills and passion for cooking, he still needed help with the technical side of running a business. This brought him to CAMBA, who provided him with one-on-one guidance on how to develop his business plan through extensive research and analysis. After completing his plan, Inoussa felt ready to take the next steps in putting his dream into action, and CAMBA referred him to Accion so he would be able to receive the financial support he needed to do so.
Putting a Plan into Action
From Accion, Inoussa received an SBA 7a Community Advantage loan of $118,000. Inoussa used the loan to pay for construction and supplies, factors he emphasized had been the primary obstacles in getting the business underway. “There were also a lot of expenses that came up along the way,” Inoussa explained, “it’s hard to calculate everything – even if you plan it out, you’re still spending like crazy.”
While the name is a testament to his childhood, Zaca Café’s menu is inspired primarily by Inoussa’s later years living in Brooklyn. Inoussa is dedicated to giving the people in his neighborhood the exact kind of food they’ve been wanting. The menu will feature a regular morning breakfast selection, including coffee, pastries, oatmeal, and egg sandwiches, amongst many other savory choices. The café will also offer lunch, dinner, including salads and burgers, and a variety of draft beer and wine options. The 800 square foot space, which also includes a takeout counter, is designed to fit 30 people. Along with owning and operating the establishment, Inoussa will also work as the head chef, and plans to have seven other employees. Inoussa is thrilled to finally have the culinary responsibility and independence he has been dreaming of. “I want to be in the kitchen every day,” he said.
While there is still work to be done, the café’s cozy, neighborhood feel is already tangible through decorative overhanging light fixtures, the menu selection written out in chalk across the wall, and of course, the owner’s vibrant and welcoming demeanor. Inoussa is excited for the future, with plans for a grand opening in the upcoming weeks, and grateful for the support he has received along the way. “I think Accion is very good for people who want to start a business,” he said, “I like the way they work and they help out people a lot.”