Sports

NFL star Saquon Barkley visits South Beach restaurant owner prepping Super Bowl tailgate, and gets inspired

Key Points
  • Small business owner Stephanie Vitori put it all on the line when she purchased a burger joint.
  • She's overcome adversity to become one of Miami's hottest burger restaurants today, and will be catering the NFL's official tailgate party at the Super Bowl.
  • New York Giants star Saquon Barkley visited her restaurant and was inspired by what he saw, saying, "I want my daughter to have that mindset that she can do anything she wants if she puts her mind to it."
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Saquon Barkley's small business experience

Small business owner Stephanie Vitori has gone from burger delivery girl to owning one of South Beaches most buzzed about burger joints. Vitori is the owner of Cheeseburger Baby, a frequent hot spot for celebrity clients that include Beyonce, Kanye West, Diddy and Gabrielle Union.

"We have a large celebrity clientele. Once the word got out that this is the spot to go to and that we are open until 6 a.m., we've just been growing and growing," said Vitori.

As thousands of fans and sponsors flock to Miami for Super Bowl LIV, Cheeseburger Baby is preparing for the world stage as the restaurant will be catering the NFL's official Tailgate Tropicale party.

"It's an exclusive event with more than 10,000 people attending," said Vitori. She says this could be the biggest weekend for her business in its history.

While business is booming today, it was a long road to success for Vitori. She started working at Cheeseburger Baby when it opened in 2001 delivering burgers on a beat up scooter that had a lawnmower engine and a leopard print seat.

In 2004, the original owner put the restaurant up for sale. Vitori decided to risk her life savings and drop out of college to take over ownership.

"I knew the potential of it so that's why I ended up buying it," she said in an interview.

Today, the business has grown to include two food trucks and catering, and it turns a steady profit.

But Hurricane Irma nearly destroyed her business in 2017. Destruction to the restaurant and area caused business sales to decline 30%.

Another roadblock? Five Guys Burger chain opened right across the street adding new competition.

"We always say, it shouldn't take five guys to make a cheeseburger baby," she said.

As a woman, the road to becoming a small business owner was often frustrating, Vitori said. She frequently felt invisible despite the blood, sweat and tears she put into the business.

"I want to empower other women because I've been in that position where I've been the top dog and never been seen as the top dog or passed over for that raise or promotion," she said.

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Cheeseburger Baby owner Stephanie Vitori on being a female entrepreneur

"I don't want anyone to not feel empowered. It is important that I speak on this topic. It has given me confidence as a small biz owner."

Vitori's success and celebrity buzz caught the attention of Visa. The payment processing company launched "She's Next," last January. The initiative has reached more than 6,000 women entrepreneurs through workshops and events and tools to build their businesses.

According to the company, women-owned businesses make up nearly half of the U.S. market, with women opening small businesses at a rate 1.5 times higher than men. Yet they receive less than 3% of funding.

Saquon Barkley
Source: Visa

As part of an event with Visa recognizing women small business owners, New York Giants star Saquon Barkley stopped by Cheeseburger Baby to see the restaurant in action and meet its female owner.

Saquon Barkley
Source: Visa

Barkley said it was motivating to him to see how Stephanie got her start and how she responded to adversity.

"For me, I have a daughter, this is the kind of thing you love to see because I want my daughter to have that mindset that she can do anything she wants if she puts her mind to it and this is the perfect example."