Fast 15: Omar Kasim

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 2,784 views 

Class of 2021 Omar Kasim Owner Kasim Ventures Management

Born and raised in Tulsa, Okla., Omar Kasim completed his studies at the University of Arkansas in only three years. He was a magna cum laude graduate in May 2015 from the Sam M. Walton College of Business with a business management degree focusing on entrepreneurship. As a senior, he was a Walton College Ambassador and a senator on the UA’s Student Government Association.

After initially considering law school, Kasim changed course. He put into action a business concept he developed for his honors thesis. Eight months after graduation, he opened a fast-casual fusion taco restaurant called Con Quesos on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Fayetteville.

His day-to-day involvement ended abruptly in April 2017 when he was forced out by an investor. When the business struggled to near insolvency, Kasim repurchased it one year later and went to work immediately to restore the venture to profitability. Having done so, he’s also opened two other fast-casual restaurants — a cold-pressed juice bar called Juice Palm and a Plomo Quesadillas. That concept initially started as a “ghost kitchen” but now thrives on Dickson Street, especially among the college crowd.

“Omar is constantly thinking, constantly experimenting with things,” said Mark Zweig, executive-in-residence teaching entrepreneurship at the Walton College. “When that is your nature — combined with hard work and a willingness to sacrifice — you have a great formula for entrepreneurial success.”

Kasim said 2020 was filled with uncertainty due to the pandemic but not without success. Year-over-year restaurant sales were up a combined 23% last year. Kasim credits the pre-pandemic management style with Con Quesos for adapting to the pandemic realities.

“We were equipped [for 2020] because of the crises of the previous years,” he said. “We were already thinking outside the box to pull in an extra buck.”

Kasim aspires to expand the restaurants to a regional group operating between Northwest Arkansas, Tulsa and Dallas. His business interests also include real estate investing, particularly in downtown Springdale, where he plans to open another Con Quesos location.

Kasim teaches an undergraduate class on entrepreneurism at the Walton College. He also travels regularly as a way to escape toiling in the startup grind. To date, he’s visited 26 countries.