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Entrepreneurs: Sandra Wilkins expands from tech to food, development

Who: Sandra Wilkins, owner and CEO of Systems In Inc., owner of Raclettes restaurant and Buffaloaf bakery, and co-owner/developer of 537 Main St.

What she's doing: Wilkins, a 53-year-old Niagara Falls native, took over her husband's 23-year-old computer software development firm in 2000 but after years of creating customized databases and other programs, she has turned her attention to new ventures. She and her husband bought the three-story former Greever's Florist building at 537 Main St. and spent four years renovating it into her new French restaurant, Raclettes, on the first floor and a residence upstairs. Buffaloaf will open in another building around the corner.

Why she defines the entrepreneurial spirit: Wilkins has effectively started or grown four businesses in three different industries over the past 20 years, and has done a lot of the work herself, including cleaning bricks and laying tiles for the building renovation. She and her husband also took a risk on the building and the restaurant before much of the Main Street activity had picked up, even financing the renovation themselves.

Advice for the new entrepreneur: "Your spouse or your partner, they have to be right there with you, because it is a time-consuming thing when you're starting a company. Don't be afraid once it gets hard. No matter what business you start, it's going to be challenging in the beginning. Don't give up."

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