Ella Jesmajian

Co-Founder of Honey & Roses Coffee Co.

Ella Jesmajian co-founded Honey & Roses Coffee Co., an ecommerce marketplace offering craft coffee, baked goods and handmade cutlery from artisans and independent businesses across the nation. Prior to Honey & Roses, she held several leadership positions in hospitality and e-commerce. Her skills in photography, content creation and social media have been instrumental in connecting Honey & Roses to top-tier roasters, bakers and craftsmen throughout the nation. She is an expert in the social media marketplace with a proven track record of scaling platforms to hundreds of thousands of followers. And has extensive experience in product design and development which has helped the homeware collection come to fruition. Ella is a native to New York, where she is currently based.

Where did the idea for Honey & Roses Coffee Co. come from?

We had discussed several ideas for a few months, but the idea for Honey & Roses came from a problem that we were personally facing — which was finding a great coffee nearby. Exceptional coffee wasn’t easily accessible to us at the time. We both lived in upstate New York, and we were driving long ways just to find amazing coffee. In fact, I was driving 45 minutes to Queens every other week just to get a few bags of my favorite coffee. We found ourselves commiserating about our problem, and suddenly, the idea was born. Fast forward to today, and we are a growing ecommerce marketplace bringing the cafe experience straight to people’s doors. We are so proud to serve thousands of customers alongside our partners throughout the country.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I keep everything in a planner. I write a to-do list the night before each day. I wake up early in the morning and I keep my phone off for at least an hour before starting my day. This helps maintain my sanity. Once I start working, I check emails, social media, create video content and work on photography that’s needed for the day. When my meetings begin in the early afternoon, I’ve already accomplished the main “to do” items for the day. By the late afternoon, I always take a walk or workout. The early evening is used to plan for the week and catch up on last-minute things. Ideally, I turn my phone off and stop working, but that’s not always the case. I’m trying to create more structure — so that’s my end goal.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Once an idea is formed, we connect with our team and have a brainstorm. This is our process to let our creative ideas flow so we can expand on them and assess them properly. If we decide to move forward with an idea, we create an action-based plan and timeline. Our team is well-balanced with many different strengths, which helps us think outside the box and explore new opportunities.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Small business and sustainability have become cool. Not too long ago, it was all about big brands, franchises, designers and popular stores. Now, people care more about who they are supporting, what’s in their products, how their food impacts the environment. People have more of a social responsibility and local support now — allowing small businesses to focus on sustainability is innovation. The possibilities are endless.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I have a strong morning and evening routine. Working out and taking walks are major parts of my daily life. These mini breaks keep me centered, balanced and motivated. I also avoid looking at my phone the second I wake up, and I turn it off in the evening. It’s difficult to do when running your own business, but the strict work-life balance makes me productive and focused when I am working. It prevents burnout and promotes mental health.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be kind to yourself. Things are constantly changing and there will always be challenges. Be grateful for the challenges and successes rather than dwell on the negatives. They are all learning experiences that lead to self improvement.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Handwriting everything. I believe that this is typically a better and more personalized approach rather than defaulting to online apps.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Challenge, research and think critically. My business partner and I constantly challenge each other — even with our very different skill sets. Sometimes this means we bicker, but it’s our way of ensuring everything is assessed holistically. Separately, there are so many headlines across the internet promising easy money like. I’ve seen everything from “start a business with no money” or “I made $10,000 in my first month of selling.” Read these, but take it with a grain of salt as they are largely false promises. Of course, there are a lucky few that really do have a windfall, but there is no such thing as easy money. Do something you are passionate about! That way you are always motivated to hustle and grow everyday!

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Most traditional businesses suggest approaching their customers as ‘they’ and as an ‘the entity.’ In my experience, we found far more success with a more personalized approach. We always talk in first person with customers. This is important to us and it’s a major part of how we approach business. We own our interactions personally.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I would say inertia. It’s very difficult to continue hustling, when something isn’t working for your business. I have had previous business ventures that failed, but it was all part of the learning experience. The fear of failure can often be paralyzing for entrepreneurs; it often causes us to stay put and not move forward. Especially now with social media. We see countless stories on social media claiming overnight successes. I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve seen where businesses say they have made thousands in 1-2 months. The best ways to keep moving forward is sheer willpower, coupled with your own research. Seasoned entrepreneurs like those on Shark Tank say the same thing. You will always be working and it will be difficult. It’s not easy, because if it was, everyone would be doing it! However, I think this is what makes the successes that much more rewarding.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

About a year ago, I was desperately trying to invent a tool that could peel an onion without making me cry? If someone can execute that, they have their first customer right here!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

It might not be glamorous, but we recently purchased a thermal label printer. I can’t even begin to express how thankful I am that we made this investment. Printing hundreds of labels on a regular printer is torture.
Also investing in a ton of wicker storage baskets has been a game changer. They help organize our coffee and products. It’s so much easier to be productive when you’re organized and everything has a place

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

We recently started using Asana. We’re still getting the hang of it, but it helps us have a central point to share information and what we are working on. It helps us keep track of what we have coming up.
Also, I love using social media planning apps. They are immensely helpful when planning social feeds and campaigns. I can’t recommend them enough for brands — no matter the size

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi. Hands down, it’s my favorite cookbook. I am an avid traveler, and Jerusalem is a melting pot of culture and cuisine. This cookbook makes it accessible from home — kind of like what Honey & Roses is doing with coffee, baked goods and handmade cutlery.

What is your favorite quote?

“Your success and happiness lies in you,” by Helen Keller. I love this quote because it reminds me that we can take control of our lives. We can spend our entire lives wondering what could be different or how it could have been better. Instead, we should feel empowered to take action, create change and ultimately, be grateful for what we do have. It’s an important reminder.

Key Learnings:

  • Don’t believe all the “success stories” you read! Starting a business is incredibly difficult, and building one doesn’t happen overnight. The entrepreneurial pursuit is met with many hurdles to overcome. If a success story sounds too easy and good to be true, it probably is.
  • Keep pushing yourself. We are capable of so much more than we realize. There are always obstacles, but it’s important to keep pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.
  • Don’t be a perfectionist and get started. If you are constantly trying to get the perfect ad, perfect product, perfect website — you will never move forward. Get something out to the market and allow your customers to guide you as you innovate, refine and scale your product.
  • Get comfortable with “failures” along the way. This is always easier said than done, but failures help us grow and evolve. Risk and failures are necessary when founding a new business. If you never take a risk, you will never unlock your product’s full potential.