Jonnetta Patton spent her career calculating trends and striving to be innovative in order to be successful. But there was no way she could have predicted her most recent endeavor; or that the endeavor would lead to her having the best time of her life.
After 17 years of working in the entertainment industry, spending much of that time orchestrating the success of her son Usher Raymond IV as his manager, Patton, 61, called it quits. She loved the entertainment industry, still does; but she realized for 17 years she had sacrificed herself.
“I rarely did anything for me because I was working so hard helping others to achieve their growth and desires,” Patton told Ms. X Factor.
“I really enjoy assisting others. But when I retired I did things I wanted to do for a change. I traveled, saw places I always wanted to see – I did me.”
She found herself looking for something to do with her time and endeavors to invest after eight years of retirement. While talking with her personal chef about the pitfalls young chefs and chefs of color face in the culinary industry, Patton decided she wanted to help.
“For a lot of chefs, their businesses fail almost as soon as they launch them. In most cases, their businesses fail because they are not sustainable,” Patton said. “In other words, the business is not built properly. The chefs end up doing everything. Accounting. Cooking. Publicity. They have the skill to cook, but they don’t know the business.”
Chefs of color face a number of challenges that create obstacles to their success. In some instances, said Patton, they even lack the necessary documentation to get ahead; simple things like insurance, permits, business licenses, etc.
To help, Patton launched J’s Kitchen Culinary Incubator in the spring of 2016. J’s Kitchen is a 2,100 square foot, shared kitchen and facility designed to assist startup culinary entrepreneurs in advancing their careers.
Opening a shared kitchen was actually her chef’s idea. “One of my chefs one day was like, ‘Why don’t you open up a shared kitchen?’” So she did her research on shared kitchens in Detroit, California, New York. Quickly she realized that if she were to launch such an effort, hers had to be different. And it had to be different because of what she had personally observed with chefs she knew.
“I wanted to add the business side of it. There are shared kitchens that cater to chefs, catering companies and the like, but there was no business component to help them grow their businesses,” she said. “J’s Kitchen is an incubator, it is a shared kitchen with business services.”
The chefs are afforded a three-year business curriculum where they are taught how to build a solid foundation for their business. Year one, Patton said, is about getting things right which also means doing self-work.
From the beginning, the chefs are provided a life coach to help develop a mindset of success and achievement. “Many have failed not just because of their business acumen, but also because of fear. They are so afraid of failing sometimes that they limit themselves and in a lot of instances are more comfortable with helping someone else get rich rather than getting rich on their own,” Patton said. “I want to see them on their own which means their mindset has to be changed.”
In addition, they are coached on business development – business plans, hiring a CPA, attorneys, and business managers; even owning their own space. “There are so many buildings in foreclosure right now, but most chefs are intimidated with the idea of owning their own,” Patton said. “And I get it.
When I was in music, I learned very quickly that I had to create my own lane. I was woman in a male dominated business. A lot of times they set me up for failure.
I started building wealth. I bought my own building where we are working now. I learned the business.”
Through helping these chefs, Patton said she is having the most fun she has ever had.
“Chefs are artists just like musicians in the entertainment industry. They are particular. They are passionate about their food. They have the same egos. They have the same game. There really is no difference other than it being a different industry,” she said. “But doing what I am doing now, I say every day, this is not work. It’s not work. Helping others have their own in the same way I did for myself.” And in the same way she did for her son’s career.
“Watching theses chefs achieve their goals is like seeing my son becoming one of the largest entertainers in the music industry,” she said.
“It is joy. Every time I turn on the radio and hear one of his songs, I know I had a part in that. Whenever I walk into Kroger and see a jar of chicken salad dressing, knowing I was part of that – that’s rocking chair money. It is pure joy.”
And, she said, what she is doing now she can do in her sleep.
“I am really having fun. This is not work for me. I work with some really phenomenal chefs. I am having that kind of fun where I do not mind getting up in the morning,” she adds. “I don’t mind going into the office because it is mine.”