There are many ways to describe failures, but even more ways to grab ahold of wins, even if they are small packages.
Jessica is the wife of an Electrical Engineer in Silicon Valley and was a stay at home mom of two beautiful girls up until 2 years ago. She is now the owner of Just Right Family Café, in Campbell CA. The area’s one and only Parent Focused Specialty Coffee Shop. She credits her vision to her girls who inspired her to do something about the growing concern for family gathering places that actually target parents.
Jessica comes from a single-parent family, and often found herself moving from place to place and attending multiple schools starting even in elementary. By the time she graduated high school she had attended 3 different institutions. Escaping into books and finding joy in learning helped her to get through the lonely times. By her senior year and longest stay at any one school, she finally found a good set of friends, a wonderful mature boyfriend, and was on her way to college the following year.
Unfortunately, not all high schools equip their students for the financial burdens that come with college tuition AND housing costs. Although she qualified for partial financial aid she couldn’t actually pay for the living fees. By the time she made enough money for the dorms deposit, she was told that there was no longer any space.
She turned to her college boyfriend for help. He told her that about rolling admission schools that are still accepting applications. The nearest school was in Menlo and accepted her almost immediately. Unfortunately, she was again unable to pay the last minute $3,000 fee and had to put off her enrollment to the following semester. For six months she worked and saved and made it in, only to find the campus not what she expected. Full of rich kid’s taking their education for granted made her feel that working so hard to get in was just not worth doing again. The following year she was attending Ohlone College, accepted the Guaranteed Admission path for entrance into San Jose State University and changed her major from Sports Management to Hospitality Management.
At the age of 21, Jessica married her then boyfriend of 4 years. In 2012 after years of industry experience and a few months from graduation, she had come to realize that if she wanted to be a mother, Hospitality was actually the worst career path she could have chosen. A year later she had turned to the education field and in 2014 she gave birth to her first child. After returning from a short maternity leave, she quickly realized being third place to her husband and mother, was not the mother she wanted to be and decided being a stay at home mom was her new destination. It is what has led her into creating the most unique space out there that actually caters to the parents, and not just to the satisfaction that bigger is better which seems to be the ongoing vision for more and more children play spaces
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Just Right Family Café came to mind while I was a stay at home mom of my then 2 ½ year old and 6-month-old girls. I was over exerting myself by taking the two of them out on a regular bases, most of the time solo. I kept wondering why it was getting harder instead of easier as I was growing use to taking them out, and knowing what craziness I was about to put myself through, but it was still hard.
I realized all I wanted was to take them some where and not feel anxious the whole time. I didn’t want to confine them the whole time I was out and about either because that defeats the purpose. Especially because my 6-month-old was now a full-on crawler. There was no place safe enough for her to be able to crawl and get out some of her ever-growing energy. So, the question became, what’s the point? I want to take them out, but I also need to be able to refuel and release as well. Release my tension, whether through conversation, as that is how most women function, or a good meal I didn’t have to cook, or even just a good cup of coffee. No more drive thru, pod coffee, I wanted the real deal. No, what I needed was a space that felt “just right” for both me and my energetic toddlers.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
• 4am: Alarm goes off (Snoozed til 5am on a bad day)
• 5:30 – 5:45am: Departure (after kissing sleeping kids and hubby (Yep. We are that family that sleeps in one bed)
• 6am: Arrival at Local Cash & Carry (Inventory Management is tough for a new owner)
• 6:30am: Arrival @ Café to begin opening procedures
• 7am: Open Shop, restock, serve, clean, check emails.
• 9am: Café starts to pick up as mom after mom (and sometimes dad) arrive with their little ones.
• 1pm – 3pm: Nap Time Slow Down at the Café = Break time – I either take a quick cat nap, have a meeting, or distract now 4-year-old as best I can.
• 3pm: Return to café operation mode- help clean, take inventory notes, and get ready for the 3:30 rush that typically comes in.
• 7pm: Close down and head home by 8pm
• 9pm: Complete Crash
How do you bring ideas to life?
As a former event planner, typically if I come up with something that doesn’t require the use of technology, I can get it done pretty quickly. Planning and executing ideas that just takes myself and maybe one other person is pretty simple. It is when I have to involve others that often cause me to delay quite a bit of ideas. Especially now a days when I am stuck working in my business instead of on it. My next biggest challenge is to find a business partner. I realize that if I want to take my business to the next level. I cannot do without one.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Right now, specialty coffee is super exciting to me. One that is barely reaching the Silicon Valley. It is such a fascinating and fickle product that at any stage in its production it can easily be ruined, especially in the hands of a barista. At the same time, it is the only product I know that requires not just human touch, but true tenderness and love to craft the perfect cup of coffee. Specialty coffee is truly a special product and its more than just being a “coffee snob” it’s about knowing what you are putting in your body and why there is a difference in quality versus the American “norm”.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m honestly not sure I have one yet. I have this habit of forgetting small things, so if I don’t do it right then and there, it won’t get done, or if I write it down on a list, somehow the list almost always ends up missing. Thank goodness for smart phones. Most of the time I end up getting distracted because I am like, “Oh, yeah, I need to do that,” and drop whatever I am in the middle of doing. Which is the opposite of productive. I think that’s why so many people hire personal assistants.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Form good habits! Taking care of yourself is ok. Good eating habits, exercising regularly, and taking care of my hair and skin is not a waste of time or money. So just do it and make it apart of your daily routine so as to not feel so old at such a young age. Haha. I feel like I was just yelling at myself. But it’s so true. People really like to look at women owners and expect them to look great all the time. First of all, it’s really hard to do that when you are raising children under 5. Second of all. Well. It’s expensive.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Sticking to specialty coffee is not a mistake. My peers want to forgo the specialty coffee route because the ticket item is not as big as the food items. However, I have been trying to get them to see that once our space catches on, it will make a difference in whether someone comes to our space one time a week or every other week even, or if they come in at least two or three times a week. It’s about what specialty coffee houses represent. In places like New York, specialty coffee houses are the place to go to connect to other human beings, not about creating a bubble, but bursting it and letting someone see your vulnerabilities a little. As I mentioned, specialty just hasn’t caught on in our area yet, so to most people, Specialty is just expensive coffee. (But seriously, that third shot into a 16oz cup is what turned your $5 beverage into an $8 beverage – 2 Shot, 12 oz is all you really need.)
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Seek help! It’s so important to ask the experts for help, and there are free resources to do it. As owners, we need to be both jack of all trades and experts all at the same time, it’s impossible. But having someone who is an expert in things we just are not good at is truly the way to turn your product into something great!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Word of mouth is strong in our community. So, I think it’s really important to be honest with your customers because they are seeking genuine products and services these days. With our customers if they ask, I tell them what it means to really run a business. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems on the surface. For example, if they want to know why we charge what we charge, I tell them straight out. Rent is expensive in the Bay Area. If you think it’s costly to have a home in the Bay, try leasing a commercial unit.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In the beginning social media scared me. I have never been tech savy and relied a lot of help on my friend who I was really hoping to bring on full time one day when my business had boomed. (Now I’m sure I couldn’t afford her even if that did happen.) When her actual career became more rigorous I could no longer rely on her, so I turned to the only option I had at the time. Social media marketing with a big firm who was out of touch with what my community is about. I really wish I hadn’t done that. It cost me
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Someone really needs to build a family focused shopping center. Like a real one that’s safe, convenient, and just awesome! Haha. I would be happy to be on that committee; my head is filled to the brim with ideas.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Wow. I never thought this would be the hardest question I would have to answer today… um… Oh. I recently bought my girls some really pretty and informative Children’s Bibles. They are really a site to behold. I really hope my girls will one day come to appreciate them as much as I do, and learn how good they are in God’s eyes. Even when the world wants to say otherwise.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Besides Google, which I use for everything including my email, document and photo sharing, and the calendar capabilities. I love Spark Adobe. It’s been a huge help with my social media game these days, and so simple even I can use it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Oh how I wish I had time to read again. These days if it’s not short and sweet, it gets a quick two line read before a little one comes rushing in to see what I am up to. I did enjoy the old school version of Winnie the Pooh a couple of years ago. It was a chapter book…
What is your favorite quote?
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
- It’s ok to ask for help, you don’t know what you don’t know.
- Never give up, because once you do, there is no where else to turn. When you have fallen, you just have to get up. And if you keep getting knocked down, pretty soon, you will learn how to dodge whatever it is trying to push you down again. Just keep going.
- There are many ways to describe failures, but even more ways to grab ahold of wins, even if they are small packages.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.