Hi, we’re the Esendemir (a-send-a-meer) Sisters, Fusun (fee-soon), Gonca (gun-ja), and Arzu (r-zoo). Thanks for stopping by our personal page! We’re three Turkish sisters who grew up in poverty and started a fresh casual Mediterranean restaurant concept, Flatbread Grill®, almost a decade ago as a means to support our parents. We are professional restaurateurs, passionate foodies and motivational speakers. We are currently working on expanding our restaurant into an international global lifestyle brand. We’re here to share our entrepreneurial and personal journey with you, including the good stuff, the bad stuff, the mistakes we make, and the things we accomplish.
Everyday brings with it a new set of challenges, obstacles and accomplishments. Everyday as female entrepreneurs, we navigate some tricky tough terrain that brings with it pretty awesome payoffs, as well as some ups and downs. As entrepreneurs, we are on a roller coaster ride that never stops and always keeps us guessing. We stick together, we have each other’s backs and we support one another no matter what. We are all very different, but we were raised with the same values and integrity that keeps us focused and determined. We’ve been through some pretty rough things growing up, but we took all that adversity and turned it into opportunity. We are living proof that anyone can overcome any kind of circumstance in their life if they are just willing to believe and work for what they want hard enough.
We started up our first business, Flatbread Grill®, at the height of one of America’s greatest economic recessions. After our older sister, Fusun, was let go from her job as a technical engineer because she was taking too may days off to care for our sick parents, she made the decision to start her own business. She asked Arzu, our youngest sister, who had just graduated from Montclair State University with a degree in Business and Finance, if she would like to help start a restaurant. Both Fusun and Arzu approached Gonca, the middle sister, who was in her last semester as a senior in the BFA Filmmaking program at Montclair State University, if she’d like to be a part of the restaurant idea that was brewing in their minds. All of us agreed to join forces to make this restaurant a reality, so we could take care of our sick parents and afford to buy them health insurance. Starting a restaurant combined two things we were all mutually passionate about: food and family! So, we rented what used to be an old Carvel ice cream shop on a quiet, suburban street with no foot traffic, and took our chances on turning it into a restaurant. Our father took out a second mortgage on his property, told us restaurants were tough businesses and we should re-consider, and he also warned us if this failed, it would leave our parents in a difficult financial situation. Then, we pooled together all of our savings and we jumped into what would be the adventure of a lifetime. It was 2006 when the idea for Flatbread Grill® was developed.
Building our first restaurant was no easy feat. It was one of the most challenging and difficult experiences of our lives, but we pushed through to make our dream a reality. We built every corner of the business using our own experiences growing up in our parents’ restaurants and our experience working in food service to put ourselves through school. We were inspired by our own passion for food and came up with the menu using traditional Turkish recipes we grew up with. We created the brand identity, developed the menu, came up with the original bread recipes and managed the restaurant from open to close. We did everything from cooking for 100+ customers at a time, to baking 1,000 pieces of bread, to designing our own signage, to mopping the floors, carrying giant boxes of inventory, cleaning the bathrooms, wiping the tables, serving the customers, and washing the dishes. Every single aspect of our first restaurant was overseen and operated by us. Word of mouth drove our business because we had no money for marketing. We worked day in and day out and never gave up on our hustle no matter how bad things got or what obstacles were in our way. We were the underdogs in an industry that was extremely sensitive to changing economic times and almost completely dominated by big chains with big money. We survived and we thrived because we were committed to delivering an exceptional experience that not only represented our passion, but our family values. There were no shortcuts to be taken at any time. No matter how much rising food costs threatened to put businesses like ours to rest, we stayed committed to serving great food. Some people made fun of us, looked down on us and some even wrote us off as a novelty because they didn’t believe we were actually running Flatbread Grill®. They thought there was some sort of cover-up and a business man in an expensive suit was behind it all, but alas, it was just the three of us putting in the work, hustling day in and day out, no matter what.
Fast forward to almost a decade later and here we still are, carrying on and growing the business we started to support our family. We still live and breathe our business because it’s an extension of ourselves. We are still (and will always be) dedicated to excellence and believe that everyone, no matter who they are and where they come from, should be able to experience and enjoy delicious, healthy food in a comfortable, clean and casual environment. Flatbread Grill® was started out of love, devotion and passion. We love food, we love our family and we love our customers! We are currently opening up another Flatbread Grill® in our beloved hometown of Hoboken, NJ, where we were born and raised and, as well as sharing our journey in the hopes that others out there can take something positive away from it. We hope you find something in our journey that helps you along this crazy, beautiful and sometimes insanely chaotic life. No matter what you set out to do, there will always be obstacles, critics, rejection, and challenges. We made it here because we didn’t give up and we can only hope that you find the strength to do the same, to keep going when all the odds are stacked against you, all the doors are closed, and there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel.