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Women’s History Month Small Business Spotlight: An Interview with Jennilee Morris of North Fork Roasting CO.

An Interview with Jennilee Morris of North Fork Roasting CO.

Jennilee is a committed lifelong learner and works to continue her education classes in all fields of hospitality. She has earned a degree in both Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management from the award-winning Institute of Culinary Education and received a scholarship from Les Dames de Escoffier for her achievements in the hospitality industry. Jennilee travels widely and often to augment her training and experience and has taken numerous courses with the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). She completed Union Square Hospitality’s business course which teaches hospitality as a business strategy and she strongly embraces those principles and techniques with her current restaurant culture and business. She is currently the co-owner of North Fork Roasting Co., a small-batch, specialty coffee roasting company located in Southold, NY that aims to make sure every coffee bean roasted is the best it can possibly be.

What advice would you give about starting a business?

The truth is, starting a business is scary, there are a million ways you can do things wrong and make mistakes and it truly takes learning and fumbling to gain the experience you need to make something work. A quote that has always resonated with me is, “inefficiencies start businesses and efficiencies keep them.” You need to find a part of yourself that can be fearless but practical. You need to give yourself space for learning and making mistakes. It’s part of the process. Also understanding the many hats you must wear and not getting discouraged at finding weaknesses in some of those roles.

How would you recommend setting goals/achieving goals?

At first it’s really hard to know what goals to set. Especially if you have no history to compare your business. At the beginning you really need to just “Shoot…then aim…then shoot again.” As you start to understand your business, you’re going to want to set goals constantly which is great, but the key is staying consistent and realistic with your efforts to get there. Saying you want to make a million dollars this year won’t mean anything unless you make an action plan to get there. The HOW is an important part of any goal and then staying consistent and diligent to achieve it.

Do you have any experience/advice regarding funding? Overhead? (keeping low/investing in what is necessary? Setting sales targets/budgeting?)

Funding is one of the hardest parts of business. In business school they will teach you the importance of having enough working capital to start up and the alarming number of businesses that fail because they are underfunded. Not everyone has the resources to start in a strong financial position but it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It just takes longer and you have to work harder. This is my third coffee company and it took me 14 years to get here with many bumps in the road. I bought my first coffee roaster by cashing in my retirement fund and with a small loan from my mom. I was always buying used equipment and working with what I had. I was roasting coffee out of my garage and it took me a very long time before I finally opened a shop

Do you have any personal advice on how you were able to overcome challenges and persevere?

At the beginning it was resilience. It was a fire in my gut knowing I couldn’t fail and never willing to give up. Eventually…I failed, a few times even, but I got back up and each time I got to the other side of my mistakes I knew something inside of me shifted and I learned and I continued to trust myself knowing that part of this path includes set- backs and it includes mistakes. That’s how you get good…and the better you get, the better you better get.

Often times it is thought that as an entrepreneur business & personal life don’t exist…it’s just life. In your experience how do the two affect one another & how do you find balance?       

For a very long time there was no separation between the two for me. I did not have balance. I wound up having a tumultuous year where I was forced to surrender and slow down. I realized that my business had become too tightly wound up with my identity and I stepped back. I empowered others and I took time for myself and to be with my family. After doing that I noticed a new strength within myself and a new joy. I was able to see my business more clearly and I was able to not get wrapped up in the stress of making everyone happy. I focused on my own health and happiness and the ripple effect has been beautiful for my family, friends and employees. I always used to think I could only be successful if I work harder and longer then anyone else regardless of what I had to give up on a personal level. Now I know success is not just about what you do, its about what you get done.

What are some tools, tips and tricks have you used and felt were helpful in your entrepreneurial experience? 

Never stop learning. I’ve had periods of time where I’ve felt stagnant, uninspired and living with the uncertainty of what’s next for my business. By investing in myself educationally and attending conferences or taking classes of any sort I’ve regained inspiration and confidence during those lulls.

From your experience, how and when is it the right time to make the switch from just keeping your business going to growing & expanding it through advice, tips, & others? 

I’ve wasted so much time chasing opportunities that weren’t right for me. It actually wasn’t until I shifted my priorities to align with having a healthier work/life balance that the universe presented me with the right opportunity in the form of opening a second location. Through the entire process of deciding to open a new location it never felt forced and that’s how I knew it was right. My practical side was finally balancing out my fearless side and I was able to expand my business because it made actual sense. Not just because I wanted it to make sense. 

As you were building your business, did you ever experience challenging thoughts, such as imposter syndrome or lack of confidence?

I’m not sure there’s an entrepreneur in the world that doesn’t have challenging thoughts. I battled lack of confidence mostly after my first business venture failed. I made a very young, inexperienced deal that didn’t work out for me and I wound up having to sell my restaurant. I think before that, I had too much confidence and after I had to dig deep to think I was worthy enough to try again. My lack of confidence mostly showed up in how relentlessly hard I worked after that. Not smart work…hard work. That got me where I am now which I’m grateful for but that type of head down, daily grind can only get you so far. You miss a lot when you don’t pick your head up.

Have you ever experienced roadblocks during your entrepreneurial journey? If so, what were some of the roadblocks you’ve experienced and what are some solutions that helped you overcome them?

There is a roadblock at almost every corner. I learned all the back roads. I bought maps. I ask advice. I keep an extra gas tank now. I charge my phone. I pack snacks. I keep warm blankets with me. But most importantly, I believe in myself, I take care of myself and that helps me take care of others.