Alumni Success Story: Ron Brigel, '97 Management

The Brigels Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Hyde Park, just a few blocks from where my restaurant is now located.

What prompted you to choose UIC? Did you enroll knowing you'd major in business?

I chose UIC because of the great value of education offered at competitive prices.  In UIC I saw a $4,000 per year school (at the time) whose degree was respected as well as the $20,000 per year schools. 

I knew I would be a business major.  At that point in my life I went to college for one reason - to increase my potential earning power. 

Is there a stand out moment, class, or professor you still remember often?

There was a marketing class where as part of a group project I dressed up in a super hero mask and tights to play "Waste Management Man" for our commercial.  It was pretty funny. I kept a copy of the tape for years after and could always get a good chuckle out of whoever I showed it to.

What did you do after graduation?

After I graduated I realized the corporate world did not have much appeal to me.  I stayed working at my current job (juice bar manager at the time) and kept growing the wholesale distribution business that I started when I was 19. This move didn't bring the same money as a corporate job, but I had a very high quality of life.

Where did the idea behind B'Gabs come from?

I had over 10 years of experience in managing and owning juice bars. I had just recently started distributing organic herbs for resale.  Meanwhile, my wife had left the corporate world and was growing a raw vegan food business. Everything that she made me was outstanding and I knew it would be a hit if introduced to the public. While she was looking for a storefront we realized that combining raw vegan food with a juice bar and organic herb teas and spices would be a powerful combination.  My wife chose to open in Woodlawn because she wanted to bring healthy food to an area that is a food desert and under-served. It was important to us that all people should have access to real food. In our short time here we have proven that if you provide healthy options for communities, they support it.

What is your favorite menu item?

My favorite dish is a play on nachos. My wife creates this amazing dish by starting off with fresh chopped kale, then adds tomatoes, red onion, and red pepper. She makes a nacho "meat" out of nuts and seeds and gives a generous helping spread out on top.  The final touch is our home made cashew cheese and home made corn tortilla chips. All raw, soy and gluten free, of course.

What advice would you give students and alumni looking to start a new business?

I would say go with what you know. By that I mean before venturing out on your own get as much experience as you can.  Make your mistakes and gain experience on somebody else's dime.  Being an expert in the field will help with every aspect of stepping out on your own. Experience will help minimize initial start up costs, give you an existing client base to tap into, and deal with all the variables that arise in day to day operations.

To learn more about B'Gabs visit their website at