Meet Mychel 'Snoop' Dillard, who became a mom at 15, graduated from Vanderbilt at 20, opened a restaurant with 2 Chainz, and plans to build a seafood takeout empire
- Mychel "Snoop" Dillard is an entrepreneur famous in
Atlantafor her "flashy lifestyle" and for the lounge she co-owns with 2 Chainz.
- Business Insider spoke to Dillard about her journey from teen mother to one of the most high-profile Black
- Dillard opened up about how being forced to temporarily give up custody of her daughter to foster care and losing her job as a financial advisor in the 2009 recession gave her the motivation to pursue her passion and succeed in entrepreneurship.
- After a series of failures and several successes, Dillard opened up Escobar with 2 Chainz. Dillard told Business Insider that Escobar's association with 2 Chainz brings good and bad attention, and the lounge recently came under fire for not following social distancing guidelines.
- "I'm very proud to be a Black business owner right now," Dillard said, saying she's felt very supported by her Black community, and she intends for her daughter to take over her business empire someday.
In Atlanta, the most notable Snoop isn't Snoop Dogg. It's Mychel "Snoop" Dillard, a restaurateur and self-described "serial entrepreneur" who's famous for Escobar, the lounge that she co-owns with 2 Chainz.
Part of the appeal of Dillard's establishments, in addition to the celebrity sheen of 2 Chainz's part ownership, is Dillard and her playboy persona.In July, Dillard plans to host a "Playboy Mansion Pool Party" as "Snoop Hefner" with topless bartenders and a swimsuit contest. The advertising for Escobar frequently features attractive women. And a recent Instagram ad for "Seductive Saturdays" at Escobar advertises "the sexiest ambiance in Atlanta."
"A lot of people want to be like her," said Bea Lewis, an Atlanta-based chef and entrepreneur who considers Dillard a mentor. "All of her cars are over a hundred thousand. She wears a lot of expensive jewelry. If you follow her on Instagram, you will see she has a very flashy lifestyle. People know who she is."But life wasn't always gold and glitter for Dillard. Dillard's journey to success has been defined by hardship and adversity. At 15, Dillard gave birth to a daughter she was forced to give up to foster care for four years. She often ran into trouble with the law in her early twenties and was arrested several times. And as a gay black woman, she's faced discrimination at every turn.
Dillard grew up in a single-parent household. She spent her childhood in Detroit, Michigan, before her mother moved the family to Nashville, Tennessee, to get away from her father. "My father was not really involved," Dillard told Business Insider in an interview. "He was a drug dealer, in and out of rehab."
Dillard describes her childhood as sheltered. Her mother was determined to send Dillard to college and encouraged her to focus on her education instead of socializing. As a tomboy, her only social interaction was playing basketball in high school. "I only remember one or two times ever even doing something as simple as going to the movies with a bunch of friends," Dillard said.
Then, at age 14, Dillard got pregnant, and at age 15, she gave birth to her daughter."It made me grow up rather quickly," Dillard said. Eventually, she had to give her daughter to foster care. "Once I was able to go to college, kind of be on my own, I really grew up and got to socialize more and learn more about life."
At 16, she fulfilled her longtime dream of getting into Vanderbilt University, and at 20 she graduated with an economics degree. She credits her desire to regain custody of her daughter as motivation to obtain her degree. And one week after graduation, she did reunite with her daughter. "It was something that I had looked forward to and thought about for so many years," Dillard said.
Following graduation, Dillard landed a job as a financial adviser for Ameriprise, which was then part of American Express. She said that the job taught her how to handle investments, real estate, and insurance — all business skills she'd later apply to her entrepreneurship career. But in the 2009 recession, Dillard was laid off.Finding herself unemployed, Dillard decided to dive headfirst into starting her own businesses. She started Wet Dymes, a sexy calendar business that eventually fizzled out. At the same time, she discovered her passion for promoting clubs, sometimes even deejaying for them. Finally, she went all in and opened the G-Spot Lounge in Nashville in 2009. The G-Spot was what she calls a "teaching failure." She lost all $35,000 she had invested in it.
"I always had this itch to get back into promoting and owning my own restaurant," Dillard said. So she opened The Hookah Hideaway. This time, she'd learned from the mistakes she'd made when opening The G Spot in Nashville, and The Hookah Hideaway became a financial success. "I became more by the book, and I had more experience from some of the failures and was able to turn them into success."Soon, Dillard started looking to open up a new venture. At the same time, 2 Chainz had told his realtor he was looking for a business partner to open a restaurant with. In 2016, Dillard's realtor and 2 Chainz's realtor connected the two, and Escobar was born.
When Dillard and 2 Chainz first opened Escobar in Atlanta, Dillard said that people flocked to the place because of the celebrity association. "The good is the media attention that you can get from time to time," Dillard told Business Insider. "But then, you get a lot of flack because of the celebrity association."2 Chainz's fame can sometimes overshadow Dillard's work. "You have to be very humble because they're going to get a lot of the credit for the work that you do," Dillard said. And Dillard said that as a gay Black woman, she's had to overcome a lot of prejudice to establish each business.
"I've got businesses that are in several residential neighborhoods, and whenever I'm going for my liquor licenses or different licenses that the neighborhood is able to vote for, it's always a no for me. But another similar business will come up and it'll be owned by somebody that's white and they always pass theirs through," Dillard said.
Dillard and 2 Chainz recently came under fire for their decision to reopen Escobar in late April as soon as Georgia restaurants were allowed to reopen dining rooms, a decision they quickly reversed after public backlash. Then, when Escobar reopened again in May, Georgia State Patrol and the Department of Public Safety reportedly shut it down twice for violating capacity limits.
"When we first opened the first two weeks, it was super busy," Dillard said. "We had to turn a lot of people away so that we wouldn't be too overcrowded. And now business has just kind of leveled off, but it's still about double what we were doing before we closed."
June Instagram videos of crowds at Escobar and Members Only, another lounge Dillard and 2 Chainz co-own, show packed spaces with people dancing in close proximity, often without masks. In those videos, the party is very much alive — and not very socially distanced. Escobar is also facing a $10 million trademark lawsuit from Roberto Escobar, the brother of late Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. But, Dillard said, "the name of the restaurant is not why people are drawn to the restaurant." Instead, she said, people come for 2 Chainz — and for her.Bentley Didier, the director of operations at Dillard Hospitality Group, attributes Dillard's success to her community presence.
Overall, Dillard said she thinks the Black community is going out of its way to support Black-owned businesses. "I'm very proud to be a Black business owner right now.""I'm a Black female, I have two younger African-American brothers, and I understand the frustration because these incidents have been happening for years. And a lot of times, these police officers are going unpunished," Dillard said about the ongoing protests against police brutality. But she said that in addition to protesting, people need to make sure they get out and vote.
For other Black women with dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, Dillard advises repurposing the prejudice they face as fuel for their ambition. "We need more people in the position that I am in to be able to show other Black women that, hey, this is necessary."Next, Dillard plans to open a seafood takeout chain. She'd been planning to launch a seafood takeout concept since before the pandemic but has since sped up her plans. Dillard said that pivoting to a focus on takeout and delivery will make her better prepared in case of future pandemic-related shutdowns. "The pandemic has changed how I look at things and changed some of my goals," Dillard said. "But I still plan on being a rockstar in the restaurant industry. People still want to go out. People still want to go out to eat."
As for her daughter? "She works for the businesses," Dillard said. "She looks forward to running them and taking them over one day."
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