Hey Guys, I am really excited to introduce to you an amazing entrepreneur who has taken his time to share with us his entrepreneurial story, a story which you would agree with me really shakes you up, gives you that extra believe that your ambition is possible.
Hope you enjoy the interview.
Hi Jonathan, welcome to YHP, I’m so pleased to have you here today.
Joseph thank you for having me it’s a real honour and a pleasure
So how are you doing?
I’m doing great aside from the fiasco that has been going on in Europe, business overall has been going pretty well.
Can you quickly give us some background information about yourself?
Sure, I am 25 years old and live in New Milford, CT. I own a food company which I started in college roughly 5 years ago. I’ve been a serial entrepreneur since middle and love entrepreneurship.
So what does your company do and what role do you perform in it?
My company is what I like to refer as a virtual manufacturer which focuses on the sales and marketing of our own proprietary brands through retail, food service and club store channels of distribution. My flagship brand is called “Jonathan’s Q” which is an all natural line of bbq sauces, marinades and vinaigrettes. With $10k I launched the brand nationally into more than 3,000 retail locations. I tend to wear a lot of hats since I am a one man operation. God gives me a ton of strength to be able to manage the business and keep my sanity.
How was it growing up, especially at college, did you always know that you was going to start a business?
I grew up with amazing parents who always supported and encouraged me to take chances, learn from mistakes and experience life to the fullest. I always had a strong relationship with God which has been the backbone to many of my success and failures. In college I worked 3 jobs and went to school full-time, I’ve always been a hard worker and always waited for the right opportunity to start my own business.
How did you maintain balance in college whilst running a business?
It was extremely difficult but I was no stranger to working 100 hour weeks and I had the energy and determination to do what it took to make it happen. I was also surrounded by a supportive family, a slew of advisors and professors at Western CT State University which helped me make it happen.
Did you feel any extra pressure to succeed?
Not from people around me but more so pressure which I myself had created. Being young and immature we tend to set high expectations and visions of grandeur. It’s not until reality sets in do we really understand ourselves and grow both personally and professionally.
What inspired to start a business? What’s your start-up story?
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial personality and a very strong work ethic. I guess you could say I was never afraid to jump at an opportunity especially if I felt it was viable. While a senior in college a professor approached me about my senior marketing project. He challenged me to develop my own brand and put a marketing plan together for it. So I began doing extensive research and ended up developing “Jonathan’s Q” which is an all natural, gluten free line of BBQ Sauces, Marinades and Vinaigrettes. After it was completed I decided to take a chance invest my savings which was about $10,000 and start the business. I began aggressively building out the business model, securing manufacturing relationships and calling on retail and distribution accounts. I was learning so quickly and it felt like things were going at light speed. Within 6 months I was in 1,000 stores, by my second year I was in 2,500 stores and by year 3 I was in 5,000 retail locations.... It was a traditional bootstrap scenario, rubbing nickels together to make ends meet, maxing out credit cards and borrowing some money from parents but I was able to really accomplish a lot on a shoe string budget.
How has the journey been so far?
It’s been a roller coast ride, especially the past 2 years with the global economy and the recession I’ve been putting out back to back fires. I’ve gone through manufacturers filing for bankruptcy to label manufacturer issues, filing law suits against vendors to losing key accounts. But thank God I’ve been able to steer the business straight through it all and we’re in a good place now.
Whats was your most memorable experience?
Back in 2007 I was at a tradeshow for one of my larger national distributors; here I was 22 years old with a little booth sampling BBQ sauce in Dallas, TX. Everyone was busting my chops since I was the youngest guy in the building. Towards the end of the show I noticed a man walking up and down the aisle he didn’t have a badge on so I had no idea who he was. I flagged him down and offered him samples of my product as I was grilling chicken and began to share my story. When I finished, a huge smile came across his face and he said “Jonathan, I’d love to do business with you” I replied “ I’m sorry I didn’t know you were a customer I thought you worked at the convention center” and he replied “Not quite, I’m actually the grocery director for Wal-Mart.” I took a leap back in total shock, he showed me his badge and within 8 months I was in 225 Wal-Mart super centers across the U.S.A.
Did you ever feel like giving up, what motivated to keep going?
Quite a bit especially over the past few years when things looked the worst and all of the weight of the issues were on my shoulders. It was a real challenge but ended up being a test of my will and character. At the end of the day I always came out appreciating, learning and maturing from my experiences.
Who has been your greatest inspiration so far?
My father without a doubt, I really respect him and appreciated all that he sacrificed to give me a better life than what he had. He’s always been someone who believed in me, supported me and was there when others turned their back. His work ethic, morals and values made me become a better person and strive to make him proud which he always made sure to let me know I was.
What would you say has been the key to your success so far?
It would have to be my family and all of the people I’ve meet over the years that if even for a moment took me under their wing to share, teach and guide me in the right direction.
What are your hobbies?
I like to work out, play golf and basketball. I enjoy following the stock market, keep up to speed with all of my social networking activities and networking. I am definitely a foodie so anything that involves trying and taste new and unique cuisines is a lot of fun. On the weekends its family time and reflecting on the past week on Sunday during church.
What should we be expecting from you in the next 5 years?
Most likely approaching my 30th birthday with a few extra gray hairs
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I would tell anyone who is aspiring to be an entrepreneur to follow their dreams and not let anyone tell them otherwise. Work hard, stay true to yourself and always take the high road. It may be the road less travelled but when you get to where you’re going you’ll look back and noticed you’ve blazed a trail for generations to follow.
Thanks for your time Jonathan
Thank you Joseph! Keep it Saucey!
Don't forget to Follow them on Twitter