On the cusp of graduation, many of us have no idea what’s next for us. There are so many options, and so many people breathing down your neck asking “So what’s next?” It’s hard to figure out the following step once the cap and gown come off, but for some of us… this is only an opportunity to dream.
For Janine Ray, that answer to her post college future came in the form of a family owned restaurant in Brooklyn, NY. Fresh out of Spelman, she found herself running a community centered establishment, with the help of her grandfather.
How did you end up with your own restaurant?
Emeline’s was originally my grandfather’s idea, but I immediately jumped in and put forth as much effort as I could in order to help turn this dream into a reality. My grandfather saw a need in the community for a comfortable place for locals to enjoy breakfast and lunch. Spending time in Brooklyn helped me realize just how important these community spaces can be, and I decided to continue to work on this goal instead of going the traditional route of summer internships and jobs. The process started during my sophomore year of college and it has been nothing short of amazing to see everything come together and to be part of something so wonderful.
You work closely with your family. Has that been easy?
Working so closely with family has definitely been interesting. I learned very quickly that it is wildly different from working with any other group of people – even friends. It certainly has not been a cakewalk, but starting a business will have its bumps along the way no matter what. There have been plenty of moments of frustration, but I wouldn’t trade that for anything else.
What’s a normal day at Emeline’s look like?
A normal day at Emeline’s is one full of good food and lots of laughter. Our staff works hard to make sure our customers have a great experience each time they come in. Our customer base is mostly people who live in the neighborhood, and I love getting to know these customers and being able to chat with them about their lives.
We also see people come in from around the world and have had customers from Norway, Australia, and Spain, among other places. These customers make every day a different kind of interesting, and often come in for breakfast more than once during their stay in New York City and leave us with something to remember them by on their way out. Regardless of where a customer comes from, a normal day ensures that they know there will always be a seat for them at Emeline’s table.
As a student in college did you imagine yourself doing this after graduation?
When I first started college I had very little idea of what career I wished to pursue after graduation. I was much more intensely focused on getting to graduation and put almost no thought into what would happen after crossing the stage. As I got more settled into college life, I began to think about the options, but I do not remember feeling particularly compelled to any one thing.
Then, my grandfather started talking about wanting to open a restaurant, and I fell in love with the idea. Even still, the restaurant industry is difficult to break in to, and I did not know for sure that being part of the restaurant team would be an option post-grad. My family members worked hard to keep the energy going and by senior year, I was confident that I would be able to jump right back in and help create something special in Brooklyn.
Being a young entrepreneur can be tough. How do you stay motivated?
Staying motivated can be difficult at times, and there have been moments of temptation to throw in the towel because it would be easier. Usually, any of that is muted by an amazing customer experience or seeing a new breakthrough that encourages me to continue to move forward and work to create a community space. I am also motivated by knowing that I would not leave any other job feeling fulfilled.
I find satisfaction and pleasure in working so directly towards my own dreams. Working in the service industry can be horribly exhausting, but the little moments make the big picture worth it. I also read about and connect with other young entrepreneurs, because it serves as a reminder that if they can make it to where they are, there is absolutely no reason why I can’t achieve the same level of success. Other young entrepreneurs also understand the frustrations that come along with starting or running a business and how different it is from the frustrations of choosing another path. Having people to talk to who have been there or are currently experiencing the same thing is one of the best sources of motivation.
What’s next for you and Emeline’s?
There is a lot of possibility in talking about what’s next. For Emeline’s, I want to see it grow even more, and become an important part of the community. What’s next for me is refocusing my other talents and interests to make 2017 a successful and happy year in more areas of my life than just the restaurant. I plan on relaunching my YouTube channel and giving it the dedication and effort it deserves. From there, I have some other plans up my sleeve, all mainly centered on developing my culinary talents and putting forth content to share what I know.