Justin Rosenberg is the Founder and CEO of Honeygrow, a privately owned restaurant that focuses on healthy eating and growing the local economy. As a first-time entrepreneur, Justin was able to gain the attention and interest of local investors all while taking one restaurant to three in less than three years.
How did he do it? Justin did it by working smart, working hard, and surrounding himself with great people. That’s the short version. Of course, there’s a lot more that goes into it. In the interview below, Justin offers us the truth about entrepreneurship and what it takes to succeed. Enjoy.
Concrete Cakes: A lot of people look at entrepreneurship as a way to eventually live a free lifestyle. Is there a point in the process where the machine is built and you can kind of take a step back to enjoy the fruits of your labor?
JR: Yeah but you never stop worrying incessantly. People see me and think, “Oh, this guy’s got the life” but it couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s constant worry, it’s constant thinking about things and you’re just constantly trying to make it work—at least someone who really cares. But what helps me scale back a little bit from being in the stores all the time like I used to be, is finding great people. You have to recruit great people, you have to train them and you have to assess them. People want feedback. It’s like a river. You have to help create the path for the river to flow or else they’re not going to know where to go. So right now, that’s the big thing that we’re working on—people development.
CC: What other things have you been doing to help employee retention and employee-engagement? There
are companies like Starbucks who offer health insurance for every employee, even the part time employees. Are you looking at stuff like that or do you focus more on intrinsic motivation?
JR: We actually offered all our employees health benefits in the beginning but only four non-managers decided they wanted it and they didn’t even stay with the company. They ended up either finding another opportunity or going back to school. And that actually blew me away because it was a really good plan and the same one that I have. We paid for 75% of the cost so it came to around $25 per paycheck that they would have to spend but I guess that was a big deal to some people. So I think the best way to retain people is to constantly develop them, challenge them and promote teamwork. People want to work for a place where they like the people.
We want people to be a part of a team and we want people who are looking to develop. If they’re here for a year or two, at least the goal was to develop great knife skills, great hospitality skills, a great work ethic, discipline and teamwork. And that constant challenging through quizzes and me coming in and asking questions about what’s in a particular dish keeps them sharp. And raises and bonuses are based on that. Honeygrow is a meritocracy. The people who get the raises are the people who work the hardest—the people who know the menu cold, who help others learn, who can come in and help out no matter what. That’s what I call exceeding expectations.
CC: Since Honeygrow is a new privately owned restaurant, what things are you doing to market the brand in order to stay competitive with franchises?
JR: Sometimes we’ll tweet #MoodyMonday and have our followers tell us about their bad day. If they’re having a bad day—they failed a test, they got dumped—we’ll tweet to them and say, “Hey come to Honeygrow and we’ll hook you up with a $10 gift certificate.” So it’s more real. We want people to know that we’re actually reading things and we’re engaging them and we’re not like a newspaper ad, saying “come here.” That’s almost gimmicky—no offense to anyone who does it—but we wanted to do some things differently. And I think the best way to do that is to make people think. It’s the same reason for using the name Honeygrow. It really doesn’t make any sense. What the heck is a Honeygrow? Well it sparks 15 seconds of conversation to talk about what it is. It’s a play on words – honest eating and growing locally. So we try to find a lot of different ways to market our product and different ways to engage people. We also do this thing called Honeygrow Heroes where we highlight people in Philadelphia who we see going above and beyond. That’s marketing.
CC: So let’s backtrack a little bit. What were you doing before you launched Honeygrow?
Want to learn where Rosenberg was at in his life when he decided to launch Honeygrow, how he made it happen and his personal tips for entering the food industry?
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