How Jon Bon Jovi’s Restaurants Are Making a Big Difference

Jon Bon Jovi is a world-famous rock star with numerous albums that have sold millions of copies.  But there’s another side to him that some fans may not know.

He’s also a social entrepreneur who is dedicated to fighting hunger.

The 54-year-old Bon Jovi and his wife, Dorothea Bongiovi, just opened a second location of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen, whose mission is to feed people in need and make them feel empowered. Soul Kitchen’s newest location is in Toms River, New Jersey (Bon Jovi’s home state), an area devastated by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012.  The restaurant’s first location opened in 2011 in Red Bank, NJ.

Soul Kitchen is a community restaurant with a unique model.  Once seated, guests may find themselves next to someone they don’t know.  The menu has no prices.  Those in need can bus tables, wash dishes or do other volunteer work in exchange for a nutritious meal.  Paying customers donate toward the cost of the volunteers’ food by purchasing a “Pay It Forward” certificate.

The Toms River Soul Kitchen is in the B.E.A.T. (Bring Everyone All Together) Center, a one-stop facility that includes a food distribution center, a production kitchen for at-risk children in after school programs, a food pantry and a culinary skills training program, among other resources.

The center is the latest of several initiatives undertaken by the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation to assist struggling families. The foundation also has built hundreds of affordable housing units and shelter in 10 states for low-income or formerly homeless people.

Bon Jovi took on the issue of hunger because it’s an area where he could make a real difference.

“We didn’t need scientists to find a cure,” he says in this Associated Press article. “There are so many wonderful causes and so many passionate people that are addressing them. We have been inspired by so many of our in-need neighbors who have come seeking help.”

Maybe Soul Kitchen will inspire others to find ways to pay it forward within their own communities.  For a better idea of what the restaurant is like, check out this video.

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Life is Sweet for this 60-Something Entrepreneur

When Carolyn Hartz of Perth, Australia started her business 14 years ago, she didn’t exactly fit the mold of an entrepreneur. She had no business experience. She had been out of the workforce for 25 years raising a family. She had no idea how to send an email or turn on a computer.

On top of everything else, she was 55 years old.

What she did have, however, was confidence, optimism, drive and a strong work ethic.  Ultimately, those personality traits and her passion trumped her initial lack of business know-how.

Today, Hartz is the exclusive Australian distributor of xylitol, a natural sweetener that tastes and looks like sugar. Her company is SweetLife, which offers baking mixes, jams, dental care items, a nasal sinus spray and other products made with xylitol.

As explained in this Sydney Morning Herald article, Hartz began educating herself on sugar-free eating after receiving a diagnosis of pre-diabetes. In 2000, she accompanied her husband to a conference in New York and met a woman who told her about xylitol.

After that chance meeting, Hartz contacted the U.S.-based company that sold xylitol and made a deal. She brought the first xylitol shipment to Australia in 2002. It sold out within three months. From there, SweetLife started growing and hasn’t looked back.

The journey hasn’t been easy, however. Hartz has had her challenges, including a huge learning curve.  She took a computer course and a three-year-online business course while running her business.

“I was often at my home desk from 7:00 am to 2:00 am at least five days a week and many weekends. I was truly out of my comfort zone, but had little time to think about it. Everything was challenging, but also exciting. I was on a mission,” says Hartz in this article.

Last October, Hartz released a book, Sugar Free Baking, in response to customer demand for recipes. Her main reason for starting the business wasn’t to make a lot of money. It was to help others who, like herself, forgo sugar but still want to enjoy the sweet things in life.

Now in her late 60s, Hartz sees her age as just a number.

“It is true that you reach a point in life – usually in your 40s – when there are two ways you can go,” she says in the Herald article.  “You can go one way, or you can choose to own your own life, be positive and choose that path.”

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Nine Business Book Takeaways That Can Help Your Startup

Whether you’re new to entrepreneurship or been at it for a while, these ideas from noted business books can help you reach your goals:

1) Don’t try to win by competing in an already crowded market space. Create an uncontested new market space that makes the competition irrelevant. — Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim

2) An effective advertisement depends upon using the right appeal. The wrong advertising can actually reduce the sales of a product. – Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy

3) A critical question is not whether you’ll have luck. It’s what you do with the luck that you get. Great by Choice by Jim Collins

4) Thinking big can get you somewhere. But combine it with thinking long and you have a recipe for greatness. – Never Too Late to be Great by Tom Butler-Bowdon

5) When we resist something, it can seem harder than it really is. But when you decide to stop dreading a chore and focus on getting it done, it won’t seem nearly as painful. – The Nonfiction Book Marketing Plan by Stephanie Chandler

6) If you excel in a particular area and can channel it into a business, chances are you are going to do it better than your competition. – The Pampered Chef by Doris Christopher

7) Followers want someone who will tell them the truth, be with them when the going gets tough, give them optimism and hope in the future, and keep the ship on even keel. – Positive Leadership: The Game Changer at Work by Steve Gladis, Ph.D.

8) Anytime you’re tempted to upsell someone, stop what you’re doing and “upserve” instead. Don’t try to increase what they can do for you. Elevate what you can do for them.  – To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel Pink

9) Building a great business isn’t about the destination. Enjoy the journey. You’ll be sorely disappointed if you’re racing to get to the end. – Traction by Gino Wickman

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From Secretary to Handywoman

Jo Ellen Soesbee used to spend her days answering phones and filing papers. Now she sports a hard hat and wields a power drill.

Soesbee, 58, is the owner of the ToolBox TomGirl, which offers home and business repair services as well as facility maintenance services. She opened her Pasadena, Maryland-based business in 2013.

As reported in this Costco Connection article, Soesbee was a secretary for over 20 years. She stumbled upon her passion for home improvement while taking a college class with an assignment to write a business plan. Hers was about a handyman business that would handle small projects and offer other hard-to find services.

The business plan led Soesbee to launch her first company, Reliable Repairs, in 2004. Eight year later, when Soesbee and her husband went their separate ways, Reliable Repairs closed and ToolBox TomGirl was born.

Soesbee also teaches at Anne Arundel Community College where she is on the adjunct faculty for the Women’s Institute. Her LinkedIn page points out that Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects aren’t just for guys. Says the ToolBox TomGirl: “Women are just a capable and it is my quest is to empower women to do things around their homes themselves.”

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Professional Football Players Who Became Entrepreneurs

Super Bowl Sunday is just around the corner — which got me thinking about National Football League players who start businesses later in life.  Here’s a look at some of them:

Mike Lodish, Pat’s Gourmet – Lodish, who played in six Super Bowls (four with the Buffalo Bills, two with Denver Broncos), launched his candy business in 2011. The 48-year-old’s company makes peanut brittle from his mother’s recipe.

Dan Marino and Damon Huard, Passing Time winery – The two quarterbacks were Miami Dolphins teammates. Now they’ve teamed up to produce great wine. Marino, 54, and Huard, 42, thought about the idea of a winery for 15 years before finally launching Passing Time in 2014.

Ron Jaworski, Ron Jaworski Golf Management – Jaworski was a quarterback for several teams during his NFL days. Now he has a company that manages golf courses in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Jaworoski, 64, also is an NFL analyst on ESPN.

Al “Bubba” Baker, Bubba’s Q World Famous Bar-B-Que & Catering – For a long time, Baker dreamed of national distribution for his patented De-Boned Baby Back Rib Steaks. In 2013, the former Cleveland Browns defensive lineman – who’s now 59 — took a big step toward that goal when he appeared on “Shark Tank” and struck a deal with FUBU clothing line founder Daymond John.

John Elway, multiple businesses – Elway spent his entire career with the Denver Broncos before retiring at age 38. He now serves as the team’s executive vice present of football operations. He also owns or co-owns a couple of car dealerships and has a couple of steakhouses.

Mark Moseley, Five Guys franchise owner – Moseley, a former Washington Redskins kicker, was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1982. After football, Moseley went into real estate and later launched Mark Moseley’s Travel, Mark Moseley’s Famous Fries and other business enterprises. Now 67, Moseley owns several Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchises and serves as the restaurant chain’s Director of Franchise Development.

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Eight Notable Quotes from 2015

Here are eight quotes from posts that appeared on this blog last year. I hope they provide a useful perspective as you set goals for 2016.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy New Year —



1) “I’m no longer afraid to put myself out there as the worst thing that can happen is I get told ‘no.’ I’ve learned not to take that as a personal rejection, which I would have in my younger years. Now, ‘no’ just means to try again.” — Samantha Judd, founder, Flip Lid Lunchbox

2) “The thing I’ve learned most about being an entrepreneur is to not be afraid to fail…I make 10 mistakes practically before I get out of bed every morning, and I’ve learned much more from my failings than I have from my successes in my life.” – LeVar Burton, co-founder of RRKidz and one-time host of PBS’ “Reading Rainbow” television program

3) “When you wake up and dread going to work, thinking, ‘I can’t do this for another second,’ it’s time to change.” – Andrew Brill, sportscaster (Brill interned for WABC-TV New York when he was in his 40s)

4) “You’ve always seen me as a successful businessman and now you’ve seen me on my butt. Now you’re going to see how I get back up.” – George Zimmer, founder, zTailors Generation Tux and Men’s Warehouse (Zimmer left the men’s clothing retailer in 2013)

5) “Your forties are the moment when you start to become aware. It’s just the beginning. I’ve always believed that to confirm your way of thinking takes time. It takes experimenting. You have to confront different chapters of your life.” — Giorgio Armani, fashion designer and founder of the Armani business empire

6) “I was an overnight success alright, but 30 years is a long, long night.” – Ray Kroc, creator of the McDonald’s hamburger chain

7) “Being in a creative industry, it’s quite natural that one comes up with harebrained ideas. And I have come up with a few in my time. I started looking at this amazing world of ours with a different lens.” – Megan Sanders, Pineapple Heads children’s hair care products

8) “Average people place blame. Successful people take responsibility.” – Craig Valentine, 1999 Toastmasters International Public Speaking Champion

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A Men’s Clothing CEO Gets Fired – And Starts Two Businesses

At age 66, George Zimmer, the founder of Men’s Wearhouse, has two new businesses.

One is zTailors where customers can rent tuxedos online and get them delivered to their homes. On its website, the company says it “gives everyone an opportunity to look their best with just a tap of their smartphone.”

The other business is Generation Tux, an online rental service for tuxedos and suits. Customers shop online via the GenTux Studio, enter measurements and receive their items. After the event, everything goes back in the shipping box and returned.

As reported in this MarketWatch article, the two businesses are a good fit for Zimmer, who opened the first Men’s Wearhouse more than 40 years ago. Zimmer’s fame arose from the clothing retailer’s commercials and his baritone-voiced delivery of its tagline: “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”

Zimmer and Men’s Wearhouse parted ways in 2013. On the day he was fired, Zimmer had a heart-to-heart talk with his family over dinner.

“You’ve always seen me as a successful businessman and now you’ve seen me on my butt,” he said. “Now you’re going to see how I get back up.”

With zTailors and Generation Tux, Zimmer has found a way to combine his clothing experience with the Internet – and have fun at the same time. On New Year’s Eve, he will marry a couple in New York Times Square. Generation Tux will be the official tuxedo for the Big Apple’s annual ball-dropping event.

Apparently, retirement isn’t in the cards for George Zimmer, described by the Generation Tux website as “an entrepreneur, business leader and a bit of a hippie.” Says Zimmer: “If you’re fortunate to do something you love, retiring is punishment.” That may be a bit extreme but we get the idea.

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